By Derek Price
While electric and self-driving cars generate the most intrigue, pickups are selling in such huge numbers — and driving so much profit for their manufacturers — that car companies are pouring cubic dollars into creating ever more refined, capable and technologically advanced trucks.
Megabuck investment results in products like this: the current generation Ram 1500.
There are no weak half-ton pickups for sale today. Ford and General Motors have both poured resources, creativity and cash into building more compelling and capable products to justify the premium prices their trucks carry.
Even amid strong competition, though, the half-ton Ram stands out for its supple, luxurious ride and impressive breadth of configurations. They range from the basic Tradesman work truck to the sumptuous Limited and Laramie Longhorn versions that are palatial enough to be named “Luxury Car of the Year” by Cars.com for 2020.
Engine options include the base 3.6-liter V6, a 3.0-liter diesel, the beloved 5.7-liter HEMI V8, and a version of the HEMI engine with a mild hybrid system attached for better fuel economy.
One of the most unusual things about the Ram lineup is the fact that the base engine also includes the eTorque hybrid technology. It helps the 305-horsepower V6 get a reasonably thrifty 25-mpg highway rating.
The best fuel economy, though, comes from the diesel engine, which makes 260 horsepower and an impressive 480 pound-feet of torque. With rear-wheel drive, it’s rated for 22 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway. The 4×4 version drops those numbers down to a still respectable 21 and 29.
It’s also rated to tow more than any other half-ton diesel at 12,560 pounds, Ram claims. Gasoline trucks top out at 12,750 pounds of trailer towing and 2,300 pounds of payload.
Several innovative features differentiate the Ram from other trucks.
One is its unique air suspension. Not only does it offer a fantastic ride — the most comfortable of any half-ton truck for sale today, in my experience — but also better capability. It can raise the truck up higher for off-road driving, lower it closer to the pavement for getting better gas mileage at highway speeds and easing the entry and exit from the cabin, or help to level the truck when towing heavy loads. It’s versatile and comfy, and it surprises me that none of the Big Three has managed to copy it.
Another is its multifunction tailgate, which can fold down like normal tailgates or swing open like barn doors. In barn-door mode, it lets you step closer to the cargo and lean farther into the truck bed without a big tailgate getting in your way.
The Ram has some ingenious storage options, too, including the RamBox bins built into the sides of the bed, built-in storage under the back seats and a thoughtfully designed center console. With 151 liters of storage capacity, this truck has more than twice the available volume of its closest competitor, Ram claims.
Finally, it’s optional 12-inch touchscreen should be the model all trucks — and cars, for that matter — follow in the smartphone era. It can easily be configured in multiple ways to enter vehicle settings or run a thoroughly modern entertainment system
New this year are two appearance packages that cater to a modern trend some car and truck shoppers love: blacked-out trim.
The Night Edition, available on Big Horn and Laramie trucks, includes black wheels and badges to give it an evil-villain look. The Black Appearance Group does the same thing on the sporty, off-road-equipped Rebel model, with your choice of a red or all-black interior to match the theme.
Pricing starts at $32,145 for a rear-wheel-drive Tradesman and tops out at $57,415 for a 4×4 Limited, before options.
Wheelbase: 144.6 in.
Length: 232.9 in.
Width: 82.1 in.
Height: 77.6 in.
Engine: 5.7-liter HEMI V8 (395 hp, 410 ft.-lbs.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 17 city, 22 highway
Why buy it?
The Ram is the most refined and comfortable half-ton truck for sale today. It’s brilliantly engineered and has thoughtful technologies and cargo storage options built into the design.