Driven! 2019 Ram 1500 eTorque Review

  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

can be reached at christianwardlaw@gmail.com
  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

can be reached at christianwardlaw@gmail.com
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Hybrid pickups are nothing new. General Motors offered an electrified light-duty truck in both Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra format, and on three different occasions since the 2005 model year. The trucks were never a hit, though.

Enter the redesigned 2019 Ram 1500, which comes standard with the same kind of mild-hybrid technology GM first employed almost 15 years ago. Called eTorque, its included with the Ram’s standard 3.6-liter “Pentastar” V6 engine and is available with the larger and more powerful 5.7-liter “Hemi” V8. Learn more about eTorque in our deep dive about the system.

Here, we’re going to review the Ram in its entirety. This is a terrific truck, my new favorite in the segment for its combination of style, comfort, quality, and overall sophistication. From the way it looks to the way it feels, to the way it drives, there isn’t much wrong with the redesigned 2019 Ram 1500.

You’ve Never Driven a Hybrid Like This Before

Red 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie
The redesigned 2019 Ram 1500 includes a standard eTorque mild-hybrid drivetrain when you get a V6 engine. Choose the optional V8, and eTorque is an additional upgrade. (Christian Wardlaw)

 

My Ram 1500 crew cab had Laramie trim, the optional V8 with eTorque, 4-wheel drive, and lots of options. The sticker price crested $64,000.

Fire up the Hemi, and the Ram rumbles in a menacing manner from the seductively “frenched” dual exhaust outlets. It sounds terrific, enticing you to burn rather than conserve gas as you accelerate from each and every intersection. When the traffic light turns green, there is a momentary delay as the V8 re-starts, but then you’re quite literally off to the races.

An 8-speed automatic transmission delivers the power to the drive wheels. You can run a Ram 1500 4WD in 2WD mode, or select Auto 4WD, which sends the motive force to the front wheels when necessary. Additional selections include 4-Hi and 4-Lo. I didn’t take this Ram off-road, because it has a front air dam that is susceptible to damage and because local weather made trail conditions mighty dicey. A few full-throttle launches on muddy road shoulders and a few churns through deeper muck convinced me of the Auto 4WD setting’s effectiveness.

As I reported in my eTorque story, I averaged 17.9 mpg on the loop that I use for every test vehicle. The EPA rating in combined driving is 19 mpg. Given that I drove the loop in Auto 4WD mode and certainly wasn’t shy about using the accelerator pedal, I’ll take my result as a win.

Better than the Ram’s eTorqued Hemi drivetrain, however, are the truck’s ride and handling characteristics. Starting with a frame composed of 98% high-strength steel (54% for the cab architecture), nary a shudder reverberates up from the road into the cabin. I’ve driven the redesigned Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, and you can’t say that about those two competitors. Like a rock? That’s the Ram.

Ram also uses a class-exclusive rear coil suspension design, instead of a traditional leaf spring setup. The company says this approach improves lateral support and reduces axle rotation, resulting in a better ride when the cargo bed in empty, reduced driveline vibration, and less friction than in trucks with a rear leaf-spring suspension.

I’ll say this much: Whatever hocus pocus Ram is applying to the 1500’s suspension, it’s magical. When the bed is empty, the ride quality is simply unmatched in the class, and my test truck didn’t have the optional air suspension upgrade, either. When you combine it with steering and braking components that perform exactly as you want them to regardless of the driving situation, along with 20-inch wheels and 275/55 tires, you’ll enjoy every minute behind the Ram’s steering wheel.

The Cabin Exudes Comfort and Quality

Black 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Interior
Comfort and quality are two key characteristics of the new Ram 1500. In Laramie trim with lots of options, it’s downright luxurious. (Christian Wardlaw)

 

It helps that the new Ram is exceptionally comfortable. Climb aboard with the help of the optional power-deploying side steps, and get comfortable behind the thick-rimmed steering wheel.

Equipped with lots of luxury upgrades, my test truck included heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, and a huge panoramic glass sunroof bathing the cabin in natural light. Open the windows, the rear sliding window, and the sunroof, and it’s a little bit like driving a convertible.

Supple leather and high-quality materials cover every surface. Even the hard plastic panels that are common to pickup trucks look and feel good, which can’t be said for some competitors.

The front seats are huge, separated by a giant center storage console. Rear seat legroom is utterly magnificent, and the Ram easily accommodates three burly people on its wide and supportive bench seat. Everywhere you look, Ram has carved out a space in which you can stash stuff, including innovative Ram Bins in the rear floor of the cabin.

One thing my test truck did not have is Ram’s new 12-inch touchscreen infotainment display, mounted vertically on the dashboard. It’s an impressive system, unmatched by any other truck in the segment.

Instead, I had to settle for the 8.4-inch touchscreen that is standard with Laramie trim. Aside from occasional surface reflections and glare on the display, this latest version of Fiat Chrysler’s Uconnect technology is easy and intuitive to use. Better yet, it responds quickly to physical inputs and voice prompts. Ram knows truck owners often wear gloves, so the volume and tuning knobs are oversized, as are the climate controls and much of the switchgear.

One thing my test truck did have, though, is the optional Harman Kardon premium sound system. With 900-watts of power and 19 speakers, it delivers a fantastic audio experience for a full-size, light-duty pickup truck.

Tows, Hauls, Keeps You Safe

Red 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Rear View
My test truck did not have several of the Ram 1500’s most appealing utility options, but when properly outfitted it can haul 2,300 pounds and tow 12,750 lbs. (Christian Wardlaw)

 

My test truck’s cargo bed came with a spray-in bed liner, LED lighting, adjustable tie-down hooks, a cargo divider, and a tonneau cover over the top. And it was still pretty basic.

You see, Ram offers additional upgrades in the form of exceptionally useful Ram Box locking, illuminated, and drainable storage bins embedded into the top side of the bed. You can also get handy kick-down corner steps at each end of the rear bumper. But the real treat is Ram’s new multi-function tailgate, which is split 60/40 and both drops down and opens to the sides.

Depending on the Ram you buy, it can haul up to 2,300 pounds of payload and tow as much as 12,750 pounds of trailer. Once you’ve got a trailer hooked up, the available blind-spot monitoring system will automatically account for its length, helping to make lane changes easier.

The new Ram is loaded with available driver assistance and collision avoidance technologies, from adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability to autonomous steering assist for parking in parallel and perpendicular parking spaces. You can also get a 60-degree surround view camera, lane departure warning and prevention, and SiriusXM Guardian with SOS emergency calling.

In my experience with this test truck, all of the driver aids work with the accuracy, refinement, and sophistication of many luxury brands. Because they’re so well calibrated and feel natural when they engage, you’re not inspired to turn them off.

Every company building light-duty, full-size pickup trucks offers something unique or special, giving their most loyal customers a reason to make their next truck, and their next truck after that, a Chevy, Ford, GMC, Nissan, or Toyota.

Ram does, too. But Ram also gives owners of these competing brands a mighty compelling reason to switch allegiance. And that reason is that the Ram is better.

Oh, and plus it’s a hybrid. Technically.


About the Author

  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

can be reached at christianwardlaw@gmail.com
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