Could 2019 be the year of the truck? Ram, GMC and Chevrolet are each launching all-new versions of their light-duty pickup trucks, so the signs are there.
But Ram is beating its General Motors counterparts to the punch by getting the 2019 model out to dealers first. Revealed at the Detroit auto show in January, the Ram 1500 will be in dealers this spring, while Sierra and Silverado won’t hit the market until fall.
During a recent press preview, we were able to put the 1500 through its paces, and these are the most-important things to know about this new truck. For more information, be sure to read our full first-look review.
In an attempt to eke out as much efficiency as possible, Ram has introduced mild hybrid to the pickup truck segment. The system, called eTorque, combines a belt-drive motor generator unit with a 48-volt battery pack to enable auto stop/start engine functionality.
While I’m typically not a fan of the stop/start feature – and didn’t have the opportunity to test it during my first look – engineers stated the system should turn the engine back on within a half a second, which should be fast enough to avoid any hesitation or delay when accelerating from a stop.
The eTorque system will be standard on the base 3.6-liter V-6 engine and available on the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. While the system will not allow you to drive in electric-only mode, it will add up to 90 pound-feet of launch torque to the V-6 engine and 130 pound-feet of launch torque to the V-8.
This translates to better passing, towing and hauling capability.
The designers at Ram paid particular attention to details in the new 1500. Even at the base level, you should notice soft-touch surfaces and premium materials. But once you start leveling up, you really notice the impressive available features.
We had the opportunity to drive the Longhorn model, and it was the epitome of high-end luxury. We’re talking reverse stitching, etched scrollwork on the metal accents, up-level leather surfaces, Berber carpets and the much-vaunted 12-inch display screen on the center stack. Every item is well finished – and even though we were driving pre-production vehicles, the cabin was meticulously finished.
As we were driving through Arizona, I had to continually remind myself that this was a pickup truck. While I wouldn’t say this was Aston Martin level luxury, it was certainly on par with quality I’ve seen in certain German luxury vehicles.
Chockfull of clever features
Throughout the cabin, designers gave a lot of thought to how and who would be using the Ram 1500. From families to “dudes heading to a worksite,” the storage spaces and unusual amenities will please driver and passengers alike.
The back seat, which is oft forgotten, got a lot of attention for 2019. In addition to a flat load floor and in-floor storage bins, the back has available features such as reclining rear seats, stadium folding seats with grocery hooks on the underside of the seats and 2 additional USB ports. When you get into the up-level trims, you can even opt to get heated and cooled rear outboard seats.
Up front, the 1500 comes standard with 3 USB ports and a very flexible center console. You can move the cup holders fore and aft. Then underneath everything, there’s enough room to hold a 15-inch laptop.
Apple CarPlay/Android Auto are included with the 8.4-inch Uconnect system, which is available at the Big Horn trim and standard on the Laramie. The Apple system works fairly well, as long as you don’t try to operate your phone outside of the prescribed environment – like trying to use Waze when you’re in CarPlay mode.
The Bluetooth phone paring is seamless, and voice commands make it easy to stay hands free. As an added bonus, the in-car microphone picks up both the driver and front passengers voices quite well, which enables you to make a phone call and have both parties heard on the other end of the line.
6 trims, seemingly infinite cabin/box/drivetrain combos
For 2019, Ram 1500 will have six trims: Tradesman ($31,695), Big Horn ($35,695), Rebel ($43,995), Laramie ($40,690), Longhorn ($51,390), Limited ($53,890).
At a base level you’re looking at a 4X2 model with a Quad Cab and a 6-foot 4-inch box. This is actually the standard base configuration up through the Longhorn and Limited trims, which are only available with Crew Cab. The 5-foot 7-inch box is standard in both the top two trims, but the 6-foot 4-inch bed is available.
The Crew Cab with the 5-foot 7-inch box is available in every trim, and the Crew Cab with the 6-foot 4-inch box is available in every trim except the Rebel.
While 4X2 is the standard drivetrain across the board, 4X4 is available across all trims for $3,500.
Segment-first 12-inch display screen
Tesla was the first automaker to break the infotainment display screen mold with its tablet-sized panel on the center stack. We next saw the overlarge vertical screen in the Toyota Prius Prime.
Now Ram is the first automaker to bring it into the truck segment. And while some of my followers on social media think it’s too large, I think it’s just right for a vehicle of this size.
The 12-inch screen has multiple configurations, allowing an owner to split the screen into two areas or have one large display area that shows climate controls, audio controls or a full-sized navigation map.
While a screen this size does take away some of the redundant controls with the 8.4-inch screen, Ram makes it easy to scroll through the display screens and configure your favorite menu items at the bottom of the display.
From the design integration to the ease of use, Ram did a great job with this screen. It’s easy to find what you want, and I particularly appreciate the pinch and zoom functionality on the map.
However, if you don’t want it, you don’t have to get it, unless you opt for the top-tier Limited trim. Outside of that specific model, this is an available feature starting at the Laramie trim.