Road Test Review – 2019 Mopar Ram 1500 Big Horn – By Carl Malek [Video]

With all the diverse talents that the 2019 Ram 1500 brings to the table, it’s no surprise to hear that sales as well as the 1500’s broader reputation in the segment are on the upswing. Once considered the perennial third place offering behind Ford and GM, FCA’s plucky pickup entry has completely shifted the status quo, and is clawing its way towards usurping the Ford F-150 from its throne on top of the pickup truck sales charts. But a key and often lesser known story is how important the vehicle accessory market has been in the Ram’s ongoing success story. FCA’s Mopar division has long been an icon in providing FCA vehicle owners a wide range of accessories and custom features for their vehicles, and with Mopar aiming to rapidly expand its vehicle accessory business over the next few years. We were keen to see what an infusion of Mopar magic could do in spicing up this venerable workhorse for eager customers. But with our brief encounter in Wisconsin only providing a brief glimpse of its charms, can this truck stand out in the long haul? We were eager to find out.


Bold Curbside Appeal And A Slick Coat of Blue Paint:

Th exterior styling of the Ram 1500 is already an elegantly crafted masterpiece of stylish functionality, but with the Ram 1500 being one of the most accessorized offerings in FCA’s vehicle lineup, Mopar engineers had to do their part to allow the Ram 1500 to be a very inviting canvas, with over 200 different accessories available for buyers to customize this truck to their unique tastes. In the case of our tester, Mopar designers chose to embrace an off-road focused theme, with the Big Horn trim being the focus of this particular transformation. Unlike our last encounter with the decidedly more upscale Laramie Longhorn model, the Big Horn was designed to appeal more to function oriented buyers, and the Sport Appearance package on our rig pitches a lot of the chrome trim for body color accents, with the Blue Streak Pearl paint on our tester giving it a ready to play appearance. A 2-inch lift helps give the truck a more intimidating profile, while also allowing bigger Goodyear Wrangler off-road tires to be fitted at the same time. The 18-inch bead lock wheels do their best Ford Raptor impression, while the fore-mentioned off-road tires provide plenty of traction when going off the beaten path.

But the list of upgrades on hand is just beginning, with our tester featuring several Mopar exclusive add-ons to spice things up even further. The most noticeable ones are the bed mounted Ram bar that helped give our rig a very sporty appearance. The addition of the Ram bar also allows the mounting of Mopar’s 5-inch LED off-road lights. These lights are very bright at night, and are designed to help improve lighting when doing night time driving on isolated backroads. During our time with the Ram, we also discovered that they make great impromptu doorbells, when we used them to illuminate the family room at Emily’s house before picking her up for trivia (much to the be-musement of her mother.) Other goodies include off-road focused wheel flares, and equally durable matte black running boards. We also appreciated the bumper mounted bed step that helps improve access to the bed, and how it tucks easily away when it’s not in use. Look for this feature to help make loading certain types of cargo much easier, especially bulkier items.


Custom Touches Highlight Luxurious Cabin:

Wheras the exterior of the Mopar Ram 1500 embraces the off-road lifestyle with gusto, the cabin prefers to coddle its occupants with functional luxury. The crew cab layout on our tester provides copious amounts of room to stretch out and relax, with rear seat passengers enjoying borderline limo-esque levels of comfort. Comfortable Katzkin leather surfaces adorn the typically cloth seats, while all-weather floor mats help protect the floor from copious amounts of dirt, grime, and mud. Meanwhile, owners that put an emphasis on having their mobile devices on the go can take note of the wireless phone charging kit that Mopar customizers installed in the truck, as well as the potent sound system that accompanies this particular feature. At the end of the day though, the interior is still based on a Ram 1500 Bighorn, which means that the core of its identity remains intact. There are clever storage spaces scattered throughout the cabin, and the big center console storage area is big enough to swallow an impressive amount of stuff, or a mobile appliance that you want to be kept out of sight. While the wood accents are replaced with black color accents this time around, they help provide a more athletic look, and further embody the dual identity that Mopar designers were trying to achieve with this truck.

Our favorite highlight centered around the Uconnect 8.4 infotainment system that came bundled with our tester. While it is not the segment busting 12-inch infotainment screen that is currently an option on higher grade Rams, the 8.4 is still a very potent unit in its own right. Lag time is virtually non existent, and the smaller screen still has a very high degree of clarity, and impressive screen resolution for it size. Look for this screen to also appeal more to the truck’s target audience since the smaller dimensions allow more redundant controls to appear, and some of those can be easily controlled with thick gloves on.


Bring On The Noise:

With the custom touches that are abundant throughout our tester, it should comes as no surprise that the Ram’s performance hardware has also seen its fair share of upgrades. In addition to the fore-mentioned off-road focused upgrades that Mopar designers installed on our rig, the engine has also undergone some minor revisions to help it be a rung above other Ram offerings. Our tester featured the familiar 5.7 liter Hemi V8 which brings 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque to the venerable Ram. A Mopar sourced cold air intake (Dubbed the Ram Airflow in Mopar speak) helps improve air flow into the engine, and is responsible for a slight horsepower increase. No eTorque system was on hand this time around, but even without the assistance of that particular green focused piece of technology, the big V8 still had enough muscle to help our tester have commendable levels of performance, and the assertive muscle needed to conqueror some of the light off-roading trails that we threw at it during its brief stay with us. An eight speed automatic transmission delivers smooth and assertive shifts.

Handling in our tester proved to be the biggest surprise of all. Unlike other off-road conversions where improper upgrades often drastically affect vehicle handling, the 2-inch lift and bigger tires on our tester did not blunt handling in any discernible way. While the bigger tires do affect the amount of turns needed for the steering wheel to go from lock to lock slightly, daily commuting revealed that the truck is still a very manageable instrument, especially for a vehicle that is tailored to go off-roading when it is not undertaking the grind of weekly driving to work and back. Take the truck off-road however, and the lift’s charms can be truly appreciated. The increased ride height helps the truck easily clear large divots and holes, and the suspension still manages to keep things very smooth on any surface outside of a crater filed stretch of trail or a true washboard surface.

But it wouldn’t be a proper custom truck without having the proper soundtrack needed to stand out from a crowd, and Mopar engineers delivered with the installation of a custom cat back exhaust system. This exhaust features revised piping that aims to improve the overall soundtrack, helping it achieve a better growl as well as a more assertive baritone note. This particular feature is a popular addition to other custom trucks, and its good to see that Mopar engineers have constructed a response to this popular trend in vehicle customization. In practice, the exhaust proved to be a very potent attention getter for the truck, and we appreciated the noticeable snarl that came out of the tail pipes when we mashed the accelerator. With the Ram TRX currently in the development stages as we speak, we look forward to hearing the soundtrack for that particular off-road beast considering the welcome starting point that Mopar offers with this exhaust system.


Value Quotient:

When it comes to this particular category, it’s important to remember that pricing is a two tiered affair, with the custom add-ons making their financial presence felt after the vehicle in question is purchased. In this instance, Ram Big Horn models like our tester have a base price of $42,240 which is roughly in the middle of the broader Ram pricing ladder. Our rig arrived with several pieces of optional equipment, including the $1,195 Sport Appearance Group package, the $2400 Level 2 Equipment Group, and the $1,395 5.7 liter Hemi V8, which caused the default MSRP to balloon to $52,585. Adding the $1,350 2-inch lift kit, the $1,710 cat back exhaust system, and other Mopar goodies tacks on a $6,000 separate admission fee, and when added together, the final price rounds out to $59,305. While this may seem a bit pricey at first glance, it is a relative bargain when compared to how much customers would pay for a similarly equipped truck from a third party, or even rivals like Ford and GM. It also shows just how diverse Mopar’s range of accessories is, with customers having the option to either install them all at once, or gradually add them on in stages to help preserve precious cash flow.


With an iconic history of providing customers with the custom performance parts and accessories that help add a bit more character to their FCA purchase, Mopar has proven time and time again to not only be a viable weapon in FCA’s broader sales aspirations, but also as a key tool to help enhance the relationship between FCA and its loyal fan base. With the Ram 1500 and the Jeep Gladiator being a very successful duo for FCA, look for Mopar custom parts and accessories to help enhance what they bring to the table for customers, and in the process, enhance the core values that make both of these entries a winning combination for their lucky buyers.