Auto Review: A state-of-the-art Ram

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Feb. 21, 2013
Contributed
- Contributed Photo

For those who aren’t regularly involved with the mechanical working partner known as the full-size pickup, it might surprise you to learn that while cars have been on the fast track in the implementation of new technology, trucks have likewise been going through big changes. The modern pickup has been revolutionized over the years, and the result has been greater hauling and towing ability, better fuel economy, improved ride quality, and creature comforts trucks of the past could only glimpse at when parked next to luxury cars. Even names have been changed, for Dodge trucks became Dodge RAM trucks and are now simply RAM trucks (although they are still part of Chrysler). For 2013, the half-ton 1500 series has undergone a substantial makeover and includes some very interesting upgrades, including a powerful yet thrifty powertrain we were fortunate enough to sample during the Blizzard of ’13.

Our RAM SLT 4X4 is almost becoming a rare bird, for it had a regular cab instead of an extended cab (called Quad cab in RAM-speak) or Crew cab. Our truck had a 140-inch wheelbase, and a 6’ 4” cargo bed. It also was equipped with the Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 engine with a robust 305-horsepower (and two V8s are also available). This formidable engine is mated to a unique 8-speed TorqueFlite 8 automatic transmission, which not only has two more speeds than most automatic gearboxes in pickups, but also an unusual dial selector on the center instrument cluster instead of a column or stalk-style shifter. It takes some getting used to, and to be honest, I’m not a big fan of it, but Chrysler claims, “This new design allows quick blind-shift transitions from ‘Reverse’ to ‘Drive’ when towing or navigating out of mud, snow or busy parking lots and crowded worksites.” Time will tell how owners like this intriguing feature, but shifts are smooth and power is plentiful.

Another unique feature included RAM’s optional RamBox Cargo Management System (lockable storage bins in the fenders over the rear wheel wells that are stout and well-designed). With the 3.21 rear axle ratio, maximum towing for our 4X4 is 4,550 pounds. Ride and handling are on a par with most of the competition, with added smoothness derived from the rear coil-spring suspension, and a new optional air suspension is also available. Also interesting is the all-electric power steering, which has a good feel and helps reduce parasitic power loss to the engine, since no belt is needed.

The upgrades continue into the cab, where the instrument layout is comprehensive and a menu system allows access to a wealth of information. The driving position is very comfortable for most, although the steering wheel just tilts – there is no telescoping adjustment. Like the rest of the truck, construction is solid and appears to be durable enough for a long working day.

The 2013 RAM 1500 SLT 4X4 Regular Cab is EPA rated 16 MPG city/23 highway and has a base price of $31,020. With options, our sticker came to $38,405. www.ramtrucks.com


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