Beginning our year-long review
Ram Truck called it a refresh, but the improvements made to the ’13 Ram 1500 were no ordinary mid-cycle refresh with fancy new taillights or a fresh sticker package. The changes were done to major components. These included an all-new eight-speed transmission, electric-assist power steering, and self-leveling air suspension among other things. With this refresh the Ram 1500 took home numerous awards for 2013, including our coveted Four Wheeler Pickup Truck of the Year. It’s no wonder that all but one of our test drivers chose the ’13 Ram 1500 as the vehicle they would want to drive home at the end of the competition.
If you’re looking for a work truck that’s still fun and comfortable to drive, there’s a lot to love about our ’13 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman Crew Cab 4x4. Our base truck is priced at $37,300. We added the 395hp 5.7L Hemi MDS VVT V-8 engine ($850), TorqueFlite 8HP70 eight-speed automatic transmission with rotary shifter ($500), Customer Preferred Package ($2,195), which includes numerous functional and creature comforts such as a Class IV hitch receiver, body-colored grille, fog lamps, and the entire Outdoorsman Group with a transfer case skidplate, a limited-slip rear differential, power 10-way driver seat, remote start, and much, much more. We also added the Comfort Group ($395), Uconnect 8.4AN Premium Nav/Radio ($500), 506-watt Alpine Surround speakers with subwoofer ($300), Active-Level 4-Corner Air Suspension System ($1,595), ParkSense Rear Park Assist System ($250), ParkView Rear Back-Up Camera ($200), RamBox Cargo Management System ($1,295), Trailer Brake Control ($230), and the Spray-in Bedliner ($475) for a grand total of $47,080 including a $995 destination charge.
Our original OTY tester came with the six-speed transmission in front of the 5.7L Hemi V-8 because the eight-speed was unavailable at the time of testing. We ordered our long-term truck with the eight-speed to get a better feel for the two extra gears offered, and we can tell you that it makes an incredible difference on- and off-road. The 8HP70 eight-speed transmission and Hemi 5.7L is an absolutely amazing combination. The shifts are quick, well-timed, and sporty. Under hard acceleration the transmission smoothly rows through the eight gears, keeping the 5.7L in the sweet spot. The tranny will shift four gears just powering through a large intersection. Having driven both the six-speed and eight-speed versions, we can say it’s like driving two completely different trucks. We’ll take the eight-speed hands down.
There is one eight-speed oddity, though. Rather than having a typical column or console shifter, the Ram 1500 uses a rotary knob in the dash to the right of the steering wheel. Our initial instinct was to reach for the shifter on the column, so it took some getting used to. Once you are familiar with the knob it’s not at all objectionable. In fact, shifting is made easier and more precise without having to look at the display through the steering wheel to find out what gear you’re in. Forward to Reverse to Forward parking-lot maneuvers are much quicker with the shift knob. Buttons on the steering wheel allow you to manually select gears should you choose to.
One of our most-used features, albeit very complex, is the Uconnect 8.4AN Premium Nav/Radio. This head unit can do a lot and we have only scratched the surface of its amazing capabilities. Unfortunately, not all of the features function with an iPhone. The built-in Wi-Fi hot spot works great and we’ve used it to feed smartphones, an iPad, and laptop computers. Internet music, such as Pandora, can be easily streamed through the truck’s Wi-Fi, into a smart phone, and played through the truck’s speaker system via Bluetooth without attaching a single cord.
As with other Ram Trucks we have tested, we absolutely love the RamBox option. We typically keep dirtier items such as tow straps, jumper cables, tie-downs and so on in our RamBoxes. New with the ’13 model year is the ability to lock and unlock the RamBoxes and tailgate with the key-fob. No more worrying about someone stealing your stuff or your truck’s tailgate. Also, there are so many great interior storage compartments in our ’13 Ram 1500 that we often forget what we are carrying. Folding up the rear seats allows you to secure large boxes and other items inside the cab.
From day one there has been a mystery hollow clunk, although we have not heard it in other ’13 Ram 1500s. Initially it sounded as though it was coming from the rear passenger interior, but upon closer inspection it seems to be emanating from the passenger-side front suspension. We’ll have it looked at during our first oil-change service.
So far we’ve only been on a couple of short off-road jaunts. The eight-speed connected to the Hemi V-8 really shined in the sand. With the tires aired down to 12 psi, our Ram 1500 was able to easily navigate all over the Oceano Dunes in California. We even pulled a stuck buddy out a couple of times. The air suspension provides a nice supple ride, but the rear shocks feel as though they need more rebound damping when the truck encounters larger bumps on- and off-road.
Keep an eye out for the remaining three quarterly reviews. We have plenty of off-road, cargo hauling, and trailer duties planned for our long-term ’13 Ram 1500.
Report: 1 of 4
Previous reports: None
Base price: $37,300
Price as tested: $47,080
Four-wheel-drive system: Part-time, two-speed, in-dash pushbutton.
Miles to date: 4,557
Miles since last report: First report
Average mpg (this report): 14.14
Test best tank (mpg): 16.71
Test worst tank (mpg): 10.76 (driving off-road)
This period: None
Problem areas: Strange clunk when suspension cycles, needs investigation
What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Eight-speed transmission, awesome storage solutions, built-in onboard Wi-Fi hotspot
Not: Head unit not fully compatible with iPhone, lowered aero-mode can be rough over bigger bumps, sat radio cutting in and out
“The nav radio hates my iPhone!”
“There are so many great storage spots that you forget what you’re carrying.”
“I think I’d rather have the 60/40 bench seat.”
“What is that clunking?”
“The eight-speed mated to the 5.7L Hemi is an awesome combination.”