Review: New Ram trades its baseball cap for a top hat
The premier vehicle in the 1500 range is still big and beefy, but the newly refined pick-up boasts style and substance as well
Pick-up trucks come in all shapes and sizes. Some you’d be less keen to see on your driveway, and others you’d have difficulty parking there in the first place. But as any hardcore fan of the rough-and-tumble breed would attest, the common perception of pick-up trucks has improved in recent years.
The Ram 1500 range, consisting of the Big Horn, the Laramie, the Rebel and the Limited, is arguably the best example of how impressions have changed for the better. The 2019 models have been given a complete redesign, including a more streamlined exterior, while Ram's marketing team have described the new vehicle as “the most luxurious truck ever”.
They may have a point. Each of the models are still big and beefy, but (whisper it) they now have an air of refinement rarely seen among their ilk. A vehicle more used to wearing a cap has been given a top hat.
Take the Limited’s roomy, comfortable cabin, for example. It’s a four-door, crew-style affair, which has ventilated bucket seats reminiscent of more expensive 4x4s, rather than the softer seats of pretend off-roaders, and an abundance of chrome and stitched leather adorns the various fixtures and fittings.
So far so good, but now we come to the kit, which is remarkably luxurious by truck standards. The highlight is a 305-millimetre Uconnect infotainment screen in the centre of the dashboard, offering split-screen capability that enables you to control a multitude of the truck’s electronic functions. There are also physical controls for many of them. The higher-spec models come with a 360-degree, surround-view camera system, which blends four external shots to create an image of what’s going on outside.
Other standard features on the Limited include LED headlamps with signature lighting; power running boards that handily extend automatically as you approach the cabin; aluminium wheels; power-adjustable pedals with memory; and a 10-speaker audio system. It also has a keyless enter-and-go capability, while height-adjustable air suspension is an option. The Limited is not short of driver support, either, with beeps aplenty to warn drivers of impending danger – not that you’d have to worry too much about other people noticing you in a vehicle this size.
It goes without saying that storage is plentiful, with several underseat and underfloor compartments around the cabin. Gone is the cheap fascia and inadequate attention to detail drivers bemoaned in certain US offerings of the past. The Limited cabin is simply a nice place to be, and you won’t want to get out again.
The downside to all this luxury is that the Limited cannot be considered the ideal vehicle with which to transport bags of cement, for example, or any one of the jobs a pick-up would be used for traditionally.
You could use it still as a work-related vehicle, but it wouldn’t take long to scuff up that nice interior (or exterior, for that matter), so you may want to stick with a rough-and-ready workhorse such as a Toyota Hilux, if you have any grittier jobs on the horizon.
The ride in the Limited is smooth and the engine is quieter than you might expect. The pick-up feels at home at the upper end of the speed limit, as well as the lower speeds required for city travel, with body roll kept to a minimum. Many of the people who buy this kind of vehicle want to know what it can do off the tarmac, and the Limited handles fairly rough terrain without any issues. Lighter trucks, such as those in the Ford range, are more responsive, but that’s only to be expected.
With a 5.7 litre V8 engine, the Ram was never going to be as fuel efficient as less bulky vehicles that are built with smaller drivetrains. The cost at the pump is probably not a primary concern when you’re buying a pick-up truck though, is it?
Similarly, the power is sufficient for everything you’re likely to need a vehicle of this sort for, but unless you’re into extreme modification, don’t expect to be taking it drag racing any time soon. The prices are, admittedly, on the high side for a US pick-up. You get a lot for your money, though, and American trucks are still inexpensive in comparison to vehicles produced in many other countries.
Some pick-up purists have spoken negatively about the new Ram’s more pleasant ride conditions, saying the improvements have removed a little too much truck feel. Others may well wonder why this is even considered a drawback.
After all, what’s the sense in sitting on a bench when there’s a more comfortable recliner available? Embrace the luxury and be thankful that the days when your pick-up truck could be opened with a screwdriver if you ever lost your keys are long gone.
Updated: April 14, 2019 09:40 AM