2019 Ram 1500: A Look at the New Segment Disruptor
We see and drive Ram’s newest 1/2-ton
When the second-gen ’94 Ram 1500 was unveiled there was a collective gasp from the truck community. The exterior styling of the new Ram 1500 was a radical departure from its predecessor, and from all other 1/2-ton pickup trucks produced at the time—and in that area alone, it set the truck world on fire. Many of those gasps turned into purchases, and the new truck helped Ram 1500 sales skyrocket from 1993 model year levels.
It appears that history may be repeating itself. When the ’19 Ram 1500 was officially unveiled at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, the truck world went nuts. Social media lit up and people started talking.
Ram Trucks says the all-new fifth-generation Ram has shed 225 pounds of overall weight compared to its predecessor, and 100 of those are due to the truck’s new frame (which Ram says is the longest, lightest, most advanced frame in the 1/2-ton truck segment). The frame uses advanced materials and engineering including 98 percent high-strength steel, the side rails are taller and fully boxed, and the rear crossmembers are double shear-welded to the inside and outside of the frame for improved durability and roll stiffness. The frame also features noise-, vibration- and harshness-reduction measures. One of the most fascinating is the NVH-improving, new electronically controlled, side-frame-mounted active tuned-mass modules (ATMM) that work in harmony with an interior active noise cancellation (ANC) system on 5.7L Hemi V-8-equipped models to reduce ambient sounds down to a low 66.6 dB, which Ram says contributes to the quietest Ram 1500 ever. But that’s not all. Three new longer frame lengths are offered. There’s a 144.5-inch wheelbase on Crew Cab shortbeds and a 153.5-inch wheelbase on Crew Cab longbeds, both of which are four inches longer than their predecessors. The Quad Cab longbed has a wheelbase of 140.5 inches. Two important things: even though the frames are longer, Ram says that turning radius is improved over the previous model; and these frames help create the most spacious cab in the segment.
Ram says the new ’19 1500 is the segment’s most aerodynamic pickup at 0.357 coefficient of drag (Quad Cab 4x2), which is a nine percent score improvement over its predecessor. Several materials are used in the body panels and core structure of the new Ram 1500, and these help drop body weight by more than 100 pounds while improving durability. The tailgate is aluminum and it features damping and lift-assist. The assist relies on a nitrogen- and oil-charged strut to provide consistent operation in cold or warm climates through the entire tailgate swing. Additionally, the tailgate can be dropped with the interior switch; it can be operated remotely by the key fob or unlock/open with passive entry. Further, there’s a new class-exclusive “tailgate-ajar” notification in the gauge cluster.
There are three engine configurations available in the Ram 1500 and two feature Ram’s new eTorque system. eTorque is a mild hybrid system that combines a belt-driven motor generator unit with 48V battery pack to enable start/stop function, short-duration torque addition to the engine crankshaft in certain driving situations, and brake energy regeneration, which improves responsiveness and efficiency. Ram says the eTorque system allows the Ram 1500 to deliver significant fuel mileage gains. Additionally, eTorque adds up to 90 lb-ft of torque to the 3.6L Pentastar V-6 and up to 130 lb-ft to the 5.7L Hemi V-8. The 5.7L Hemi V-8 is also available without eTorque, and among other things it has a new 850-watt electric cooling fan to help eliminate parasitic loss and noise compared to a standard mechanical fan. Trucks equipped with the 3.6L Pentastar V-6 use an FCA-produced TorqueFlite 850RE transmission, while 5.7L V-8 trucks use an upgraded TorqueFlite 8HP75 transmission. Both of these eight-speed transmissions use the same gear ratios. Also of note is a reworked rear axle and the transition to six-lug wheel hubs.
There are also changes to the Ram 1500’s suspension. The front has lightweight upper control arms, aluminum lower control arms, and retuned geometry. The front and rear stabilizer bars are hollow to save weight and the front stabilizer bar is relocated behind the front tires, which is said to help improve roll stiffness by 20 percent. A new front coilover shock design is standard equipment on all Ram 1500s, regardless of configuration. Out back is Ram’s exclusive multi-link, coil spring rear suspension that was introduced in 2009, but it has newly designed progressive rate coil springs and more robust link bushings. The rear suspension helps contribute to the ’19 Ram’s maximum payload capacity of 2,300 pounds and towing capacity of 12,750 pounds. Affixed to all four corners of the truck are Frequency Response Damping (FRD) shocks. These dual-valve shocks automatically adjust for the type of vertical wheel input and basically allow the Ram 1500 to have what Ram calls a “sports-car-like” suspension for handling and a supple suspension on rough terrain. The four-corner air suspension is also available and it offers five modes including Normal Ride Height (NRH), Aero Mode (lowers 0.6 inches from NRH), Off Road 1 (up 1.2 inches from NRH), Off Road 2 (up 2 inches from NRH), and Park Mode (lowers 2 inches for passenger and cargo loading).
And speaking of off-road, there’s a new 4x4 Off-Road Package available on nearly every trim of the Ram 1500. The package includes a 1-inch suspension lift with or without the available four-corner air suspension; 32-inch tires on 18-inch or available 20-inch wheels; hill descent control; an off-road–biased rear suspension geometry; unique off-road–calibrated shocks; additional skidplate (transfer case, steering, engine and gas tank); towhooks; special 4x4 Off-Road Package identification; and off-road–calibrated dual-valve shocks for 4x4 Off-Road Package trucks fitted with the standard coil spring suspension. And for the first time ever in a production Ram 1500, an electronic locking rear differential is available. It gives the driver the ability to lock or unlock the differential on demand while traveling up to 10 mph. It’s standard on the Off-Road Package and Rebel and is available on other configurations as well. It’s also worth noting that the outstanding traction-enhancing Anti-Spin limited-slip differential is still available on most models.
For those who want the ultimate in Ram 1500 off-road capability with a collection of functional features combined with off-road-centric exterior mods, there’s the Rebel. The wildly successful nameplate has a list of accolades, including being crowned Four Wheeler’s 2016 Pickup Truck of the Year after a grueling series of tests. For the 2019 model year the Rebel is even more capable. The Rebel, now available in Quad Cab or Crew Cab configurations, comes with a standard coil spring suspension and a 1-inch factory lift. And for the first time ever in a production Ram 1500, Rebels equipped with the coil spring suspension feature remote-reservoir Bilstein shocks. The remote reservoirs keep the shocks cool and work with the Rebel’s unique rear suspension geometry to keep the tires in contact with the ground and making traction. The Rebel is also available with Ram’s Active-Level Four-Corner Air Suspension, which can be raised an additional inch to help create a respectable approach angle of 26.7 degrees, a departure angle of 23.8 degrees, and a breakover angle of 21.8 degrees in Crew Cab configuration. The impressive approach angle is also due to the Rebel-specific front bumper with integrated skidplate that increases bumper-to-ground clearance. Other functional Rebel features include hill descent control; black fender flares to keep dirt off the side of the truck; new 18-inch wheels; meaty and aggressive 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires; large towhooks with wide bumper openings to ease use; and skidplates on the transfer case, steering system, oil pan, and gas tank. The aforementioned 2.64:1 transfer case low range ratio combines with the Rebel’s standard 3.92:1 axle gearing to create a notable 48.7:1 crawl ratio.
The heart of the Ram 1500’s four-wheel-drive system is one of two electronically controlled BorgWarner transfer cases. The BorgWarner 48-12 offers part-time 4WD operation with 2-Hi, 4-Hi, and 4-Lo settings, and the BorgWarner 48-11 offers on-demand 4WD operation with 4Auto, 2-Hi, 4-Hi, and 4-Lo settings. The 4Auto set-it-and-forget-it setting provides full-time 4WD, which functions automatically to provide maximum traction in all road conditions. New for 2019, both transfer cases have a larger-diameter mainshaft and the chain and sprocket have been relocated for improved bearing support and improved lubrication. Also, the 48-11’s 4Auto on-demand system is enhanced for quicker response and higher front output torque capacity. Each transfer case is engaged via easy-to-use push-button controls, and each has a low-range ratio of 2.64:1, which helps create increased low-speed torque capability off-road.
Behind the Wheel
We recently had the opportunity to spend a day in Texas driving two completely different Ram 1500s. Both were fitted with the 5.7L Hemi non-eTorque V-8 and air suspension. The first was a Ram 1500 4x4 in Limited trim. As we wound our way through San Antonio, and its associated city noise, we were impressed at the incredibly quiet cabin, which came in handy because we had the man himself, Chief Interior Designer Ryan Nagode of Ram Truck, in the cab with us. The interior was so quiet we could play “Twenty Questions” in hushed tones. The dash, door panels, and armrests were wrapped in segment-exclusive 100 percent full-grain leather and the cabin also had real aluminum and wood accents. The textures and colors of the Limited trim truck were gorgeous and akin to a luxury SUV. And that goes for the overall driving experience too; less pickup truck and more like a luxury SUV. On curvy backcountry roads the Ram 1500 exhibited outstanding handling, the 5.7L V-8 pulled smooth and strong through the curves, and the eight-speed transmission seemed to read our minds when it came to gear selection. On the flat ’n’ straight the truck had a fantastic on-center feel and it was virtually effortless to drive. Visibility was great from the cab in all directions. We can’t help but gush about the new 12-inch touchscreen display. Ram calls it a “segment disruptor,” and it raises the bar. It has amazing functionality, ease of use, and stunning resolution.
Our destination was a ranch, where a collection of all-new Ram Rebels were waiting to be thrashed in the dirt. We just spent over a year with a ’17 Rebel and couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel of the new truck, and this is the model Ram 1500 we ended up spending the most time with in Texas. All of the Rebels at the ranch were fitted with the optional four-corner air suspension and non-eTorque Hemi V-8. Inside, the truck had the familiar, handsome Dark Ruby Red accents. The high-durability Black/Dark Ruby Red premium vinyl/cloth seats are new and they feature Goodyear tire tread mesh inserts. As we piloted the truck both slow and fast, we found it to be very familiar in overall feel and drivability. It gobbled up the trail effortlessly. We appreciated the 1.4-degree improvement in approach angle compared to the previous air suspension–equipped Rebel (at raised height), and the new rear electronic locking differential operated flawlessly, even as we made it a point to lock and unlock it quite often on the trail (our version of durability testing). The Rebel was impressive. It continues to be a truck that doesn’t need to be handled with kid gloves, thanks in part to its additional skidplating, rear locker, and Rebel-specific front bumper/skidplate.
In the end, it was clear to us that Ram appears to have hit their goal of vastly improving the Ram 1500. The truck is chock-full of the latest technology, its off-road skills have been increased, and its work proficiency has been enhanced. Overall we are impressed. We’re counting the minutes until we can get more seat time in the new Ram 1500. We’re anxious to experience eTorque, see what kind of real-world mileage the truck gets, log more hours in the dirt, and tow and haul with the truck. We’re also eager to experience the coil spring suspension–equipped Rebel with the new Bilstein remote-reservoir shocks. Stay tuned.
Quick Specs (as tested)
Vehicle/model: ’19 Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab
Base price: $47,495
Engine(s): 5.7L Hemi V-8
Rated hp/torque (lb-ft): 395/410
Transmission(s): TorqueFlite 8HP75 8-spd auto
Transfer case(s): BorgWarner 48-12
4WD system(s): 2-Hi, 4-Hi, neutral, 4-Lo
Low-range ratio: 2.64:1
Frame type: Ladder
Suspension, f/r: Upper and lower A-arms, air springs/five-link with track bar, air springs, stabilizer bar
Axle ratio(s): 3.92:1
Max crawl ratio(s): 48.7:1
Steering: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Brakes, f/r: 14.9-in vented disc, 2-piston caliper/14.8-in disc, single-piston caliper
Wheels (in): 18x8
Wheelbase (in): 144.6
Length (in): 232.9
Height (in): 77.6
Width (in): 82.1
Base curb weight (lb): 5,302
Approach/departure angles (deg): 26.7/23.8 (raised suspension)
Minimum ground clearance (in): 10.3 (raised suspension)
Payload (lb): 1,800
Max towing capacity (lb): 11,530
Fuel capacity (gal): 33.0
Fuel economy (EPA mpg, combined city/hwy/trail): N/A