Ram-bunctious!

2013-04-10T00:00:00Z Ram-bunctious!By Jim Gorzelany CTW Features nwitimes.com
April 10, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The redesigned Ram 1500 pickup comes in a wide variety of models, including a leather-clad version that’s especially ‘home on the range’

Us city folks don’t usually cotton to big pickup trucks as much as our country cousins, but we found this here Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn model we recently drove to be one mighty nice ride. We might even go so far as to holler, “Yee-hah!”

Ahem. Redesigned for 2013, the so-called “half ton” Ram 1500 full-size pickup truck retains its classic broad-shouldered styling – even a casual observer can discern a Ram truck from a Ford F-150 or Chevrolet Silverado pickup at first glance – but with a few curves added for the sake of improved aerodynamics.

As before, the Ram 1500 is available in a variety of configurations with multiple bed lengths. These include a two-door standard cab, extended Quad Cab with a smallish back seat and two small rear clamshell-opening access doors and Crew Cab models with a full back seat and a set of conventional rear doors. We tested the top-of-the-line Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab, which is Ram’s answer to the F-150’s King Ranch model. With enough headroom to accommodate a 10-gallon hat and more rear-seat legroom than J.R. Ewing’s limo, the Longhorn came all gussied up with western-embroidered premium saddle leather seats and dashboard trim that made us feel like some kind of urban cowboy.

A 3.6-liter 305-horsepower V6 is now the standard engine and is both more powerful and fuel-efficient and than the rather anemic version it replaces. A stop-start function automatically de-powers the engine while at idle (which can be disconcerting until you get used to the sensation) to help the base Ram 1500 achieve an estimated 17/25 mpg city/highway. A 4.7-liter 310-horsepower V8 is also offered, but it’s rendered largely irrelevant by the new base V6.

The better choice here would be the burly 5.7-liter 395-horsepower V8 that resided under the hood of our tester that can automatically shut down half its cylinders (imperceptibly, we might add) when not needed to help boost its fuel economy. A newly available eight-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and precisely; it’s operated via a rotary dial on the dashboard instead of a shift lever, which frees up center console space for a large and flexible storage area.

A 3.0-liter V6 turbo-diesel engine will be added to the line later in 2013 that promises V8-like acceleration and towing abilities with what’s claimed to be best-in-class fuel economy.

As before, the Ram 1500 remains the most maneuverable full-size pickup on the road, belying its sheer bulk with adept ride and handling abilities; these have been improved a notch for 2013 with the addition of a new independent front suspension and an electric power steering system. Four-wheel-drive remains optional for off-roading or conquering brutal winter weather, while a newly offered air suspension includes five ride heights for optimum ride quality, enhanced off-road abilities or easy access when parked.

The Ram 1500 is known for its clever and useful features and the 2013 vintage is no exception. These include a pair of optional weatherproof, remote lockable, illuminated and drainable RamBox storage bins built into the cargo bed rails that can hold anything from tools to an outing’s worth of beverages and ice. Power foldaway side mirrors are newly available and, as we can attest, are invaluable when parking on narrow city streets. A new Uconnect Access infotainment system not only allows users access to in-vehicle applications via the vehicle’s 8.4-inch touchscreen display or voice commands, it turns the truck into a rolling Wi-Fi hot spot for connecting laptop computers and other web-enabled portable devices.

While the high-falootin’ 4X4 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab model we tested broke the bank at well over $50,000, a basic – though still decently equipped – work-oriented Ram 1500 Tradesman regular cab version starts at about $24,000 (including a $995 delivery charge).

© CTW Features

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