Ram has heavily upgraded its 1500 pickup line for 2013 with a new base V-6 engine, an available eight-speed transmission, fuel-economy-enhancing technology, and a freshened interior. The new truck’s added refinement was put on full display at the 2012 New York auto show.
From the outside, the 2013 may not look all that different from the 2012, but trust us: The truck’s changes are the most significant it has received since 2009. Back then, this rig still had “Dodge” in its name—Chrysler had yet to spin off the Ram truck brand—and its biggest technological advancement was a coil-spring rear suspension instead of the (still) more common leaf-spring setup.
Something’s Different—Did You Get a Haircut? Although the majority of the 2013 1500’s changes lie beneath its skin, Ram subtly tweaked the truck’s styling for some freshness. The grille is taller and the front bumper is new, plus previously optional quad halogen headlights are now standard across the 1500 line, as are LED taillights. Also new is a headlight option that includes LED indicators and side markers. All eleven (!) of the 2012’s models and packages will carry over for 2013. Buyers will again have a choice of rear- or four-wheel-drive; regular, Quad, or four-door Crew Cabs; and short, medium, and long bed lengths. A new bed and cab configuration—the mid-length six-foot, four-inch bed with the four-door Crew Cab—and newly available rain-sensing windshield wipers, and power-folding mirrors round out the 1500’s exterior updates. Inside, Ram overhauled the cabin with new materials and claims to have improved fit and finish. Chrysler’s latest UConnect system with an 8.4-inch touch screen is available, as is a multifunction seven-inch TFT screen that replaces the gauge cluster. One particularly neat touch is the expansion of the truck’s central locking functionality from the doors to also include the tailgate and Rambox bed compartments.
Penta-Changes The big news for the 2013 Ram surrounds fuel economy and includes some major powertrain revisions and additional tech. At the low end, Chrysler’s Pentastar V-6 now handles base-engine duties. Compared with last year’s 215-hp, 3.7-liter lump of a V-6, the new engine makes 90 more hp and 34 additional lb-ft of torque for new totals of 305 and 269. The Pentastar comes mated exclusively to an equally new, ZF-designed eight-speed automatic transmission Ram has dubbed—with some historical pomp—the “TorqueFlite 8.” The 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 carries over for 2013, but nets an additional five hp for a new total of 395. The ancient, 310-hp, 4.7-liter SOHC V-8 will again be available as well. Both V-8s hook up to a standard six-speed automatic, but the Hemi will receive a version of the eight-speed as an option sometime early next year. Models equipped with the new eight-speed automatic dispense with column or console shifters, replacing them instead with a new rotary knob mounted on the center stack to the right of the steering wheel. Trucks with the six-speed automatic still get column shifters.
Ram also is rolling out several fuel-saving technologies. First up on the list is an active grille shutter that automatically opens and closes depending on the engine’s cooling needs and vehicle speed. We’ve seen these on several efficiency-minded sedans, but Ram’s is the first application on a pickup. A stop-start system that shuts down the engine when the truck comes to a stop will also be available, and Ram claims it improves fuel economy by up to 1 mpg in city driving.
Next is a new, four-corner air suspension, adapted from the one available on the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It has five ride-height settings: Normal, Aero, Off-Road 1, Off-Road 2, and Park. The Aero setting kicks in automatically at speed, lowering the truck 1.1 inches from Normal. Off-Road 1 raises the truck 1.2 inches, and Off-Road 2 brings a full 2.0-inch rise over the baseline Normal position. Park mode lowers the ride height 2.0 inches below Normal, giving occupants a lower step-in height and also providing easier access to the bed. Any of the five ride-height settings can be manually selected via dash-mounted buttons or the key fob from outside the vehicle. The air suspenders also perform load-leveling tricks, helping to maintain a steady ride height front and rear even when the truck is loaded up with cargo or a trailer. Ram does not yet know which 1500 models will be available with the grille shutters, stop-start system, or the air suspension; the features’ availability will be determined closer to the 2013 Ram’s on-sale date.