If you look at the top-selling vehicles in America, three of the top seven are full-sized pickup trucks. This week I have one of those, the 2013 Ram 1500 Crew Cab 4x4. This is a much-anticipated addition to the truck wars, where fuel economy is rapidly becoming a major consideration for pickup buyers.
The big news for the Ram is the new engine/transmission combination. The 2013 now offers a 3.6-liter V6 that is producing 305-horses. The big deal is this is the first truck entry with an 8-speed automatic transmission. This combo replaced an anemic 215-horse V6 with a 4-speed automatic and trust me on this, it is a major improvement. I had concerns that the 8-speed automatic would be erratic, but that is not the case. The transmission shifts so smoothly you can’t feel it.
This engine comes with start/stop technology, that kills the engine when you stop, but lets the accessories run. I have not decided if I like this or not, but there is no gearshift on this truck. You take it out of park with a dial to the right of the steering wheel. It certainly takes some getting used to, and is unique. There were some minor changes to the front end of the 2013 Ram, but they don’t jump out at you. Chrysler made major changes to the interior, especially the dash and it is much improved and easy to operate.
My test truck is a loaded one with the SLT package. It has some really enjoyable extra cost options, including a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot to run computers, a great 8” color touchscreen monitor, rearview camera, and parking sensors. It has a terrific navigation system, Bluetooth, and a 500-watt Alpine stereo. It also has remote start, a nice feature on these cold winter mornings.
This truck has a 4-corner air suspension system that will give you a 4” span to raise and lower the truck, and will automatically level the truck when towing. This is a great feature for off-roaders and people who tow. A byproduct of this feature is a very good ride on rough roads, you can tell you are riding on air. Another cool feature is the power central locking system, that locks the doors, but more impressive it locks and unlocks the tailgate at the same time.You can bet Ford and Chevy are trying to figure out how to copy this system. The Ram drives really well although it doesn’t seem to have as short a turning radius as the Ford and Chevy, making it a little harder to park, but you can live with it.
The interior is much quieter than in years past, and overall this 2013 feels like the best Ram truck ever, you get no feeling that they cut corners on quality. Even the doors feel good when you close them, something the old Dodge trucks couldn’t say. The fuel economy in this truck is impressive. It is rated at 16 in town and 23 on the highway.
The two-wheel drive version will do 25-mpg on the highway. I am easily achieving the estimated mileage with no effort. The fuel economy comes at the cost of towing capacity. This truck has a 3:21 rear axle ratio which is geared for gas mileage, not towing. The truck has a 6500-pound capacity, which puts it woefully behind the Ford and Chevy entries.
Here’s where it gets weird: the pricing. This truck is super loaded except for a moonroof. One major missing item is leather seating. It has a cloth bench seat with a large, fold down armrest. I cannot imagine why they would offer a truck with all these cool options and not have leather seats, but oh well. Worse, although nice material, the Premium cloth seat comes at a charge of $900. Another problem: 17” wheels. REALLY? I’m driving a big ‘ol 4x4 Ram with cheap looking 17” wheels. That is a real downer for me.
Most car reviewers only give you technical data, but I am in a position to know how a vehicle stacks up price-wise with its competition. As good as this truck is, it will remain #3 in the pickup sales race due to pricing. As Chrysler tends to do, they give you a low base price, then slam you on the options. This truck jumps from a $36,740 base price to a total MSRP of $44,930 and remember, this truck has cloth seats, cheap little wheels, and no running boards. The air suspension system runs $1595 alone. It’s a great truck, no doubt about it, but it is going to need some hefty rebates to make it a good value.
What I liked most: The fuel economy, the 8-speed automatic, and the ride.
What I would change: The price and standard wheels. MSRP: $44.930
Fuel Economy: Getting 18 in town, 25 highway and 21 overall.
Warranty: 3 years/36000 mile bumper to bumper, 5 years/100,000 miles powertrain and roadside assistance.
2013 Ram in a few words: The best Ram ever, and very fuel-efficient.