The Ram 1500 half-ton pickup trucks are wearing the familiar-looking exteriors, but the 2013 models have an impressive list of improvements and an extensive lineup. Nine models are available to fill the needs of a variety of consumers.
Models and starting prices for 4x2 trucks with regular cargo boxes are: Tradesman ($22,640); Express ($25,200); SLT ($27,700); Sport ($32,985); HFE ($28,250); R/T ($32,985); Lone Star/Bighorn ($33,360); Outdoorsman ($34,560); Laramie ($38,665); and Laramie Longhorn ($44,325).
Highlighting the 2013 Ram's improvements is better fuel efficiency. Making gas station stops less frequent required the Ram team to address fuel economy in two areas -- the powertrains and the vehicle side.
The Ram's new 3.6-liter V-6 with variable-valve timing (standard on SLT and high-efficiency HFE models), produces 305 horsepower and 269 lb.-ft. of torque -- 42 percent more horsepower, 13 percent more torque and at least 20 percent better fuel economy compared to the previous 3.7-liter V-6. It gets up to 18 miles per gallon city and 25 mpg highway. A 4x4 version is offered with this higher-torque V-6. Its mate is a new V-6-standard eight-speed TourqueFlite 8 automatic transmission, which boosts drivability and fuel efficiency with about double the gears, creating smaller gear steps and smoother operation.
The V-6's towing capacity is 6,500 pounds -- 2,600 pounds better than its predecessor -- and it sends the pickup from 0-60 mph in 7.5 seconds. The HFE regular-cab model, fitted with an aero-enhancing tonneau cover, is available with a stop-start feature that increases city fuel economy by 1 mpg.
The 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 also is available with the new eight-speed transmission for $500 -- a six-speed automatic is standard. The V-8 with the fuel-saving cylinder shut-off produces 395 horsepower and 407 lb.-ft. of torque, and with an estimated fuel economy up to 14 mpg city, 20 mpg highway with the six-speed automatic -- 15/21 mpg with the eight-speed. Maximum towing for the V-8 is 9,250 pounds.
Replacing the Ram's traditional gearshift lever on models with the eight-speed is a more-civilized rotary e-shift. Located on the center stack, its dial enables quick transitions from reverse to drive. The pickup features electric power steering that eliminates the burden of a power steering pump to increase fuel economy by 1.8 percent.
The 2013 Ram sits on a new-design frame, with reduced weight and improved rigidity. Weight also gets shaved with front-suspension aluminum upper and lower control arms, 18-pound-lighter steel wheels, a 26-pound-lighter aluminum hood and lighter front bumper.
Also boosting fuel efficiency, as well as improving off-road capability, entry, exit and loading, is an air suspension that's available on Quad and Crew Cab models. It features automatic load leveling and four selectable ride positions covering a 4-inch range.
The front-end design includes a redesigned grille and active grille shutters, which can close to boost aerodynamics. The grille received a fresh interpretation of the signature Ram cross-hair design with more-sculpted bars and an updated Ram badge. Grille texture also is more eye-grabbing and varies with models.
The front bumper and airdam have been redesigned, and new vertically oriented fog lamps have a greater output. The quad headlamps are a new design with improved light spread and distance. Taillamps are upgraded with a premium look standard on Sport (black-chrome inner bezel) and Laramie Longhorn models.
Fresh front-end sculpting contributes to improved aerodynamics. Also enhancing aerodynamics and functionality are optional chrome "wheel-to-wheel" side steps, priced at $600, which afford easier access to the cargo box.
Crew Cab models are offered with a 6-foot-4-inch bed with the RamBox Cargo Management System for $1,295. RamBoxes can be locked, along with the doors and tailgate, with a single push of a remote button.
Interior upgrades on all models borrow from top-line Laramie Longhorn luxury. Door handles, gauge cluster and center stack are more integrated, and color, trim cloth and use of leather have improved. Comfort and tailoring of the Laramie Longhorn's seats, clad in premium filigree leather, are notably good.
A 3.5-inch vehicle information center screen, which displays vehicle operating functions, is standard on all but Sport, Laramie and Laramie Longhorn models. These top-line Rams are fitted with a customizable, multi-view premium 7-inch gauge-cluster screen. The Sport, Laramie and Laramie Longhorn also feature the next-generation Uconnect Access system with 8.4-inch touchscreen, which provides a range of features and connectivity options, including Wi-Fi hotspot capability.
Sophistication teams with fuel efficiency and capability to make the 2013 Ram a strong choice for those shopping the half-ton-pickup market.