It comes as no surprise that pickup truck sales continue to grow — up more than 13 per cent last year.
These big rigs have morphed from beast of burden to urban chariot. You are as likely to see a spotless example parked in front of an upscale boutique as a working unit at a construction site.
Pickups loaded with features that used to be the exclusive domain of luxury cars, with prices topping $75,000, are as common as folks with an opinion of the current U.S. president.
The $77,000 Ram reported on here is a perfect example of how sophisticated the pickup has become. The 2019 Ram 1500 Sport — a Canadian exclusive trim level — is bigger, more fuel efficient, loaded with technology and far quieter than its predecessor — which remains on sale for the current model year. On the working side, it is also capable of towing and carrying more.
The Sport lies in the middle of the seven trim levels: Tradesman, Bighorn, Rebel, Sport, Laramie, Long Horn and Limited. It carries a base price of $60,300 before freight. The test unit was crammed with $15,000 in options — the list so extensive it would make good bedtime reading.
The 2019 Ram rests on a stronger frame and rides on wheelbase that has been extended by 10 cm. Despite the extra size, overall weight has been reduced by more than 100 kilos, thanks to extensive use of aluminum.
That extra length has been utilized entirely for the crew cab with most going to the rear seat area where legroom is up 7.5 cm. There is more room back there for three big folks than in anything this side of a stretch limo. It is no wonder pickups like this have become so popular with families.
Nearly everything you see on the 2019 Ram is new. The exterior appearance is new front and rear. The front fascia is new; narrow LED headlights flank the grill — different for each trim level. There is a big bulge in the hood. The rear end features new LED taillights and a taller box, in the interest or aerodynamics.
That attention to how the truck plows through the air, combined with extensive insulation, results in an extremely quiet ride, 36 per cent quieter than the old model.
Contributing factors include: Thick acoustic glass for the windshield and front side windows, active noise cancellation, additional baffles and sealing. “Active mass modules” fastened to the frame eliminate vibrations as the engine goes from eight to four cylinders and back in search of fuel savings.
An air damn below the front bumper lowers at highway speeds and the Sport’s air suspension lowers the entire vehicle at these speeds.
The interior is worthy of a luxury car with fit, finish and materials all worthy of a luxury car. There is an astounding amount of room for people and packages. FCA says there is 151 cubic litres of storage capacity inside the cab; nearly double that of the nearest competitor.
The massive centre console alone offers up to a dozen configurations. Of course if the seats are full, and there is luggage involved, it will have to go in the cargo bed — exposed to the elements.
The rear seats are adjustable fore and aft and recline up to eight degrees. Folding them out of the way, reveals a flat load floor with integrated bins and tie-down hooks.
The new Ram comes with the fourth-generation of FCA’s (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) Uconnect system, satellite radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability and a 21- or 30-cm touchscreen. The driver can easily find a comfortable position thanks to the standard tilt/telescope steering wheel and power adjustable pedal set.
The ride is extremely pleasant, absent the head toss associated with rigid rear axle pickups. That’s because the Ram has the segment’s only independent rear suspension.
The Sport comes with an adjustable air suspension that provides up to 50 mm of lift for off road use or lowers the same amount, making getting people or cargo in and out more easily.
I made no attempt to sample the rig’s off-road or towing limits, but did fill the bed with paraphernalia for a day at the beach — chairs, cooler, boogie boards, etc., and the seats with five occupants. It is in this guise that the Ram and its competitors are most likely to be seen.
The drivetrain for the Ram has been carried over almost intact. There are some minor upgrades to the 3.6-litre V6 and 5.7-litre V8, the mapping for the eight-speed automatic has been updated, and full-time all-wheel drive is standard on this model.
The big news in this department is the availability of a supplemental electric motor. The optional system, dubbed “eTorque” is standard on the V6 and available as an option on the V8.
It consists of a belt-driven electric motor and 0.43 kWh lithium-ion battery behind the rear seats.
Serving as a starter motor for the standard start/stop function, it also adds a shot of added torque (90 lb.-ft. on the V6 and 130 on the V8) when accelerating from a stop.
The motor also acts as an alternator, using energy created by braking to recharge the battery.
The Hemi V8 is standard on the Ram Sport. While the tester had all that optional equipment, it did not have the electric motor.
The engine is ultra-smooth and quiet at idle and under normal conditions but emits a pleasant bellow under wide-open throttle.
Most automatic transmissions these days are programmed to get into and hold onto the highest gear possible in the search for maximum fuel economy.
I witnessed 11.8 litres/100 km on the highway and 18 in the city. This one shifts seamlessly under all conditions, with no hunting
The completely re-engineered 2019 Ram has improved in all the right areas to ensure it continues to be a major contender in Canada’s largest new vehicle segment.
- Model: 2019 Ram 1500 Sport Crew Cab 4X4
- Engine: 5.7-litre V8, 395 horsepower, 410 lb.-ft. of torque, mid-grade fuel recommended
- Transmission: eight-speed automatic
- NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 16.1 / 11.0
- Length: 5,916 mm
- Width: 2,084 mm
- Wheelbase: 3,672 mm
- Price: $60,295 base, $76,985 as tested, including freight
- Options on test vehicle: Maximum steel metallic paint, $245; power, heated and vented, leather-faced front seats, $1,695; customer preferred package (21-cm colour touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, auto-dimming mirrors, automatic high beams, electric transfer case, power-folding, heated exterior mirrors with turn signals, memory and courtesy lights; full-size spare tire, heated steering wheel, power adjustable pedals, rear window defroster, CD-player); Advanced Safety Group, $2,300 (adaptive cruise control with stop, advanced brake assist); Bed Utility Group, $200 (four adjustable cargo tie-down hooks, LED bed lighting); Level 2 Equipment Group, $1,025 (115-volt outlet, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear media hub with two USB ports, Park-assist system front and rear, keyless entry, remote start); front and rear auxiliary floor mats, $175; soft-fold tonneau cover, $650; anti-spin differential, $525; power dual-pane panoramic sunroof, $1,595; Sport Performance hood, $895; power running boards, $1,195; 124-litre fuel tank, $445; nine amplified speakers with sub woofer, $495; four-corner air suspension, $1,895; Uconnect navigation system, $770; 22-inch polished wheels, $670; Blind spot/cross path detection, $500; class IV hitch, $495; electronic trailer brake controller, $375; spray-in bed liner, $550