Modern pickups appear like chameleons, capable of handling everything from economy workhorses to luxury cars with tremendous cargo ability. The 2019 Ram 1500 provides broad options, and if we were getting one for work-and-play double duty, we would sure go with the Big Horn with a handful of options — with one exception. If our “play” regularly has dirt roads, the Rebel would be the only wise choice.
The 2019 Ram 1500 is an all-new and redesigned but hasn’t abandoned its successes, which is a unique coil-spring rear suspension that offers a smooth ride without sacrificing towing or hauling capability. Perhaps the Ram 1500’s greatest feat is serving as a blank canvas to build your truck requirements around. From work truck to luxury truck, the Ram 1500 offers a broad skill set.
For 2019, the Ram 1500 has shed weight. Ram insist the new truck is nearly 225 pounds which is lighter than its predecessor despite adding stronger steel construction to its frame. Maximum payload and towing capacity also increase, while the class-exclusive air suspension receives fine-tuning for improved ride comfort, off-road capability and load-leveling.
A mild hybrid engine assist technology known as eTorque appears on this new Ram. Not a hybrid technology in the traditional sense of a gas-electric car, eTorque stores electricity in a lithium battery and assist the automatic engine stop-start system work more smoothly. It also offers a bit of extra power in short bursts. For now, the Ram’s previously available 3.0-liter diesel V6 isn’t available, but it could show up in the 2020 model.
Inside, the Ram offers new technology highlighted by an optional infotainment system with a massive 12-inch touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and multiple USB ports. (Ironically, a single CD player is optional only on higher trim levels.) The new Ram’s predecessor was one of the older designs among American half-ton pickups, but no more. Sharpened new design, additional technology, and increased capability vault the 2019 Ram 1500 back to its position as one of the top achievers in its class.
Trim levels & features
The 2019 Ram 1500 is a full-size pickup offered in a handful of body style, bed length and powertrain configurations. Most Ram 1500s land standard as a Quad Cab that can seat up to six passengers. The optional Crew Cab increases rear-seat legroom and gives full-size rear doors (Quab Cabs feature three-quarter-size rear doors). Quad Cabs have a standard bed size (6 feet 4 inches), while most Ram 1500 Crew Cabs give either the standard bed or a short bed (5 feet 7 inches).
The Ram 1500 offers seven trim levels: Tradesman, HFE, Big Horn, Rebel, Laramie, Longhorn and Limited.
Standard on all trims is a 3.6-liter V6 (305 horsepower, 269 pound-feet of torque). Optional on all but the HFE is a 5.7-liter V8 (395 hp, 410 lb-ft). Both engines pair with an eight-speed automatic transmission, a 3.21 axle ratio, and rear-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive is available on all but the HFE. Lower axle ratios (3.55 and 3.92) are also offered on most models.
The workhorse of the lineup, the Tradesman makes minimal concessions to luxury with 18-inch steel wheels, vinyl flooring and upholstery, and the Uconnect infotainment system with a 5-inch touchscreen display.
But it’s not completely devoid of conveniences or creature comforts. Standard features include automatic headlights, a locking tailgate, a Class III hitch receiver, trailer sway control, heated side mirrors, push-button ignition, cruise control, a 40/20/40-split folding bench seat, air conditioning, a rearview camera, rear-seat USB charge ports, Bluetooth, a 5-inch touchscreen, and a six-speaker audio system with dual USB inputs and an auxiliary audio jack.
The Tradesman can be upgraded with options that include a Class IV hitch receiver, trailer brake control, an electronic locking rear differential, towing mirrors, chrome exterior trim, a spray-in bedliner, cloth upholstery, a folding rear seat, satellite radio and a CD player.
The HFE is equipped like the Tradesman but provides increased fuel efficiency from its V6 engine. It’s offered only with rear-wheel drive. Ram had not yet revealed details on this specific trim level at the time of our review.
The Big Horn (called the Lone Star in Texas) includes more features such as 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, tinted windows, floor carpet, cloth upholstery, and a 60/40-split folding rear bench seat, but far more options are available for the Big Horn than the Tradesman. They include 20-inch wheels, an air suspension, LED headlights and taillights, side steps, power-adjustable pedals, dual-zone climate control, and Uconnect infotainment with the 8.4-inch touchscreen and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. Off-road underbody protection, larger fuel tanks and bed utilities are also provided.
The Rebel is geared more toward off-roading and comes standard with specialized off-road tires, front tow hooks, skid plates, fortified shocks and suspension, an electronic-locking rear axle, a 3.92 axle ratio, and hill descent control. It also mounts on the Big Horn’s features with a Class IV hitch receiver, LED headlights and foglights, a 115-volt power outlet, a power-adjustable driver seat, front bucket seats, a larger driver information display and satellite radio.
The Ram 1500 rams into luxury territory at the Laramie trim level, which adds to many of the optional features listed above with front and rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, power-adjustable 40/20/40-split bench front seats, heated and ventilated front outboard seats, driver-seat position memory, power-adjustable pedals with memory, a heated steering wheel and keyless entry.
Other upgrades include dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 115-volt rear seat outlet, two rear seat USB inputs (one is charge-only), the Uconnect infotainment system with a 8.4-inch touchscreen, a nine-speaker audio system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and emergency notification,
Moving deeper into creature comforts, the Longhorn adds 20-inch wheels, a spray-in bedliner, chrome side steps, power tailgate release, automatic high beams, automatic wipers, front bucket seats with upgraded leather upholstery, heated and ventilated reclining rear seats, a leather-wrapped wood steering wheel, a navigation system, and, yes, a CD player.
Note than the Longhorn comes with a short bed, but the longer bed is optional. The Longhorn can also be ordered without the spray-in bedliner.
The Limited trim caps off the amenities with a standard adjustable air suspension, chrome exterior trim, power-retractable side steps, premium-leather bucket seats, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
Many of a specific trim level’s standard features lands optional on the trim level below it. There are also several cosmetic appearance packages available, ranging from chrome to blacked-out grilles, exhaust tips and other accents. Options for all models include various bed utilities (adjustable tie-downs, bed lighting and RamBox bed storage), and parts for off-roading, towing and trailering. More select options, like 22-inch wheels, are kept for higher trims such as the Laramie and the Limited.
Optional advanced safety features (reserved for Laramie, Longhorn and Limited trim levels) include adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, a surround-view camera system and a self-parking system. An optional Uconnect package with a large 12-inch touchscreen is also exclusive to those trims.
Each car typically lands in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our First Drive of the Ram 1500 Limited Crew Cab (5.7L V8 | 8-speed automatic | 4WD).
V6 and V8 power output stays the same for 2019, but reduced body weight and smarter transmission response makes them feel more capable. We haven’t tested the eTorque system in new Ram yet, but we’ve discovered the same system in the new Jeep Wrangler presents smooth initial acceleration.
The Ram 1500 is still the only full-size pickup offering a coil-spring rear suspension. That contributes to its smooth, sedanlike ride, especially when fitted with the optional air suspension. Enhancements for 2019 result in more backseat room without sacrificing capability.
Already one of its signature achievements, the Ram offers some of the nicest cabin treatments among all full-size pickups. Trucks have no business being this nice inside, but we’re not complaining. Upgrades for 2019 include a massive, optional 12-inch touchscreen infotainment display.
Among the few knocks on last year’s Ram was its slightly lower payload and towing capacities relative to its rivals. But improvements for 2019 include bigger capacity on both fronts and now available the Ram 1500 ahead of its Chevy and Toyota competition and just behind its Ford rival.
Ram’s Uconnect infotainment is also among the best thanks to its many features and quick responses. For 2019, there’s an optional, massive 12-inch display interface. The midtier 8.4-inch screen is still greatly useful, although. Some advanced driver aids features are provided but are limited to higher trim levels.