Remember back when pickup trucks were once designed to excel in functionality and utility, but often without too many creature comforts for their occupants? I still have memories of growing up alongside my brother, and going out on family outing and trips with my dad’s 1993 GMC Sierra SLE. It could haul all kinds of cargo, and the 4.3 liter V6 was a crude but stout beast. However, the blue cloth interior, cramped rear seat, and no frills layout did little to enhance comfort for passengers. This humble truck also highlights the rapid evolution that both the iconic pickup truck (and the broader market surrounding it) that has taken place over the past couple decades. Luxury appointments, fuel economy, and technology have all become key must-haves for a new generation of pickup buyers. The 2019 Ram 1500 aims to hit above its weight class, while still having the technology, and brute capability needed to fend off its rivals from GM and Ford. But can the Ram 1500 still retain the inner charm that has made it a popular entry among segment loyalists? Or does it still have ground to cover in the broader race for sales supremacy?
A Chiseled Yet Sleek Physique:
When we last met the 2019 Ram 1500, it was at the 2018 MAMA Spring Rally in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin where our brief exposure to the this beast gave us a glimpse of just how committed it is to shaking up the established pickup truck pecking order. Naturally, we were eager to spend more time with it at our stomping grounds in Metro Detroit to see if it maintained the strong first impression that it left on us during that first outing. When viewed from many angles, the exterior styling retains a lot of the crispness and subtle attention to detail that first caught our eye all those months ago. The crosshair grille of old has been pitched, but the new grille design that replaces it is much more cohesive, while still retaining much of the swagger that has come to define the Ram’s front styling. The front fascia changes greatly depending on what trim level is chosen, with Longhorn models like our tester preferring to adopt more chrome and sleek LED headlights to their visage. The Longhorn comes with plenty of badging, and like a thick belt buckle on a professional rodeo rider, the badging is big, bold, and really drives home the message that this particular trim delivers to passersby. Our tester featured Diamond Black Crystal paint that allowed our tester to have a hint of sinister undertones to its otherwise upscale presentation, with the equally slick LED taillights and handsome wheels rounding out things nicely.
A Cabin Fit For A Cowboy:
While the exterior styling of the 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn prefers to take a futuristic approach to its good looks, the interior is quite literally loaded with enough features and technology to resist the charms of even the biggest of lassos. Remember when older Rams had plasticky interiors, and inferior audio systems? Ram designers wanted to make sure that those memories were expunged from your memory, and have embarked on an admirable effort at pushing the cabin truly into executive class territory. Each trim level brings a unique approach to the cabin, and in the case of our tester, the echoes of the Wild West were boldly advertised. Yes, the saddle bag-esque seat pockets are a bit too gimmicky for our tastes, but we fell in love with other aspects of the interior. They included the attractive wood trim (with hand branded Longhorn logo,) the comfortable leather seats, and the barbwire accents on the floormats and even the gauge cluster. Controls are big and well marked which should please buyers that like to take their rigs out on the job site where gloved hands are a common sight.
Technology fans will arguably gravitate towards the 12.0 inch portrait style infotainment screen which is a very potent conversation starter. This massive screen is the biggest in the segment, and it is also highly configurable, with occupants being able to configure it to a setup that they like best. In our case we preferred to have the bottom half of the screen occupied by the map, while the audio layout was on the upper half. The screen delivers high quality graphics, but does not radically enhance functionality when compared to the smaller Uconnect 8.4 inch infotainment system seen on other Ram 1500 models. The bigger system also forces drivers to sacrifice ergonomics, with many of the hard buttons being replaced with various sub menus in the screen. This was very frustrating, especially when trying to access certain sections of the climate controls. Our tester also came with a 7.0 inch display screen mounted in the gauge cluster, which allowed us to access various menus via an easy to use D-pad that is located on the left spoke of the steering wheel.
Overall we like what we see here, and would actually prefer the Ram’s interpretation of design versus the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado, as well as the still competitive but aging F-150. The Ram has the edge in material quality, and offers more variety and distinction between trim levels than its two domestic rivals, while also being a noticeable step up over Japanese contenders like the Nissan Titan, and the Toyota Tundra.
A Still Potent But Aging Thoroughbred Of Muscle:
Performance for the 2019 Ram 1500 comes from a duo of engines (a new 3.0 liter diesel will rejoin the lineup later) with the 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 serving as the base engine. But for buyers that want more cylinders, low end grunt, and are not fond of hitting the powerband at higher rpms will be pleased with the 5.7 liter Hemi V8 that can be added to the Ram. This aging powerplant is still very potent after all these years, with the Hemi in our tester producing a very respectable 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque. Every flavor of Ram can be equipped with the eTorque mild hybrid system, with the V6 model having it as standard equipment. As for Hemi equipped models like our tester, it is a $1,450 option on top of the $1,195 fee charged by the V8 itself. Our tester did not have this particular option, but when equipped with this system, the engine gains 130 lb-ft of extra torque (versus 90 lb-ft for the V6.) Regardless, performance in our tester was still very stout, with the burbling V8 delivering good amounts of acceleration, and a fat powerband that is easily accessible. Our tester will not be mistaken for a performance offering like the long gone Ram SRT-10, but the amount of muscle on hand should be more than enough for the majority of Ram buyers.
An eight speed automatic is standard fare here, and like other FCA offerings with this transmission, shifts were delightfully crisp, and we rarely caught the transmission skipping a beat or hunting for a gear at an inopportune time. Despite weighting over 2 tons and being nearly 19 feet long, our tester never felt unwieldly or clumsy, with the electrically assisted steering rack doing a good job delivering reasonable amounts of feedback, while the air suspension did a good job soaking up the bumps and divots that dotted our daily commute. The air suspension can even lower the truck to a special “access height” that allows shorter occupants easier entry and exit into the luxury lined cabin. This setup replaces the coil overs in lesser Rams, and in our view is arguably the better choice when it comes to long distance comfort as well as towing. The latter is also important, with the air suspension having the ability to automatically level the rear end to compensate for the weight of the trailer. Our tester had the optional 3.92 rear axle ratio ($95) which allowed our rig to tow up to 11,290 lbs. This is 3,100 more than a Ram 1500 equipped with the standard 3.21 rear axle ratio, but is 910 lbs less than a four wheel drive 2019 Chevrolet Silverado.
Like other full-size trucks our tester’s fuel economy will never be mistaken for a Prius when it comes to outright fuel economy, with the thirsty Hemi V8 managing just 15 mpg in city driving, and an equally woeful 22 mpg on the freeway. For those that are curious, the V8 equipped Ram 1500 gets a combined 19 mpg which is still on the low side. These figures are also lower than the 355 horsepower 5.3 liter V8 found in the Chevrolet Silverado which produces 16 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the freeway, with the city figure being 1 mpg better than the Ram’s. We suspect that this is mainly due to the Silverado’s cylinder deactivation technology, which shuts off select cylinders in certain driving situations to enhance fuel economy. The Ram makes up ground, by offering an optional 33 gallon fuel tank ($445) which should deliver a cruising range just under 700 miles. This is in stark comparison to the smaller 24 gallon fuel tank in the Silverado which will ask to be fed long before that number is reached.
By now you might be noticing some of the prices scattered throughout this review, and that’s because the 2019 Ram 1500 can rapidly transform into a very pricey purchase when fully equipped. While the base Tradesman model starts at a modest $33,190, Pricing does jump noticeably when you climb through its various trim levels. Laramie Longhorns like our tester are one tier below the range topping Limited model, with our tester boasting a starting price of $53,695. Our rig’s extensive list of optional equipment as well as the $1,645 destination fee helped rapidly transform the final price to $66,650. This falls admittedly on par with rivals like the F-150 King Ranch and the Silverado High Country, but it might be a very bitter pill to swallow for some pickup buyers. Some of the sticker shock can be avoided by removing more mundane pieces of optional equipment, but we do recommend sticking with the $1,395 Advanced Safety Group package, the $1,795 air suspension, and the fore-mentioned 33-gallon fuel tank.
The Laramie Longhorn does trump its two main Japanese rivals when it comes to offering more bang for the buck, with the V8 only Toyota Tundra offering inferior interior and exterior design, and the Nissan Titan Platinum Reserve lacking some of the styling cohesion that is done so well on the Ram. The Nissan does have the Ram cornered currently when it comes to offering diesel power, but its much more expensive, and FCA recently confirmed that the Ram will get a diesel offering of its own in the near future to help it be on even ground with the fore-mentioned Nissan, as well as familiar adversaries like the F-150 diesel variant.
With a strong arsenal of tools at its disposal, the 2019 Ram 1500 is endearing to both newcomers as well as Ram loyalists. With the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado adopting controversial interior and exterior design, as well as the F-150’s preference for minimal updates, the Ram is arguably the attention grabber of the two, and while the Longhorn’s price tag might make eyes water, the Ram’s diverse model ladder (and the personalities that come with them) aim to deliver a perfect fit for any buyer which is ultimately a key buying point for this still potent disruptor.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.