2021 Ram 1500 Classic

2021 Ram 1500 Classic Review: Cheap But Not Nasty

Many customers were confused when Ram decided to continue selling the previous generation of the 1500 - now badged the 1500 Classic - alongside the much more modern, all-new 1500. But it only takes a quick look at the starting prices of these two generations of large trucks to see why. Beginning at just $28,700, the 1500 Classic represents a saving of nearly $4,000 over the cheapest 1500 you can buy. At the end of the day, although the newer 1500 is a better and more sophisticated truck, there are shoppers who need a big pickup but don't want to break the bank, so the Classic remains another year to serve their needs. Like other Ram trucks, the 1500 Classic offers a comfortable ride and a range of powerful engines, topped by a 5.7-liter V8. Three cab styles and three bed sizes cater to most needs. A lack of safety features and a worryingly high number of recent recalls are concerns, but with 2019 being a record year for Ram truck sales, the 1500 Classic proved it has a place in the lineup beyond its expiry date. Its lifeline has now been extended to 2021.

2021 Ram 1500 Classic Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Ram 1500 Classic?

For the 2021 model year, no SLT and SSV models are listed anymore. There have been minor changes to the standard available paint colors. Hydro Bue has been replaced with Hydro Blue Pearl. Olive Green is now a very similar Olive Green Pearl and is offered on all trims, whereas its Olive Green predecessor used to be unavailable on Warlock trim in 2020. The palette of low-volume colors has been slashed from 19 choices to only nine for 2021. Shades such as Construction Yellow, Bright Red, and Hills Green are no longer offered. Towing capacities have been slightly revised for 2021, the maximum falling from 10,680 lbs to 10,610 lbs. Payloads are slightly different too, the maximum increasing from 1,920 lbs to 1,930 lbs. The Uconnect 3 infotainment system with a five-inch touchscreen is now standard on all models, not just on the Warlock as before.

Pros and Cons

  • Strong on value
  • Comfortable ride quality
  • Spacious and logically designed cabin
  • Powerful engines
  • Feels solidly built
  • Only available in three trims
  • It is hard to resist choosing the newer 1500 instead
  • Not the best towing capacity in the segment
  • Doesn't offer the latest driver-assist technologies
  • Questionable reliability record

Best Deals on 1500 Classic

2021 Ram 1500 Classic Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Tradesman
3.6L V6 Gas
5.7L V8 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$28,855
Express
3.6L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$28,855
SLT
3.6L V6 Gas
5.7L V8 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$32,695
Warlock
3.6L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$37,245
SSV
5.7L V8 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
$41,885

1500 Classic Exterior

The 1500 Classic has understandably dated as the years have gone on, but it's still quite a handsome truck, especially in sporty Warlock trim. The entry-level trim is as simple as it gets with halogen headlamps, a black grille, and 17-inch steel wheels. Moving up to the mid-range Express adds a body-color surround for the grille and 17-inch alloy wheels, while the Warlock has front LED fog lamps, bifunctional halogen projector headlamps, heated and power-folding mirrors, and 20-inch black-painted wheels.

2021 Ram 1500 Classic Front View FPI Studios
2021 Ram 1500 Classic Rear View FPI Studios
2021 Ram 1500 Classic Front Angle View FPI Studios
See All 2021 Ram 1500 Classic Exterior Photos

Dimensions

With regular cab, quad cab, and crew cab options, the 1500 Classic's dimensions differ depending on the body style you go for. The shortest length of 209 inches applies to the regular cab with the 6'4" box, while the crew cab with the same-sized box is the lengthiest at 237.9 inches. Similarly, the shortest wheelbase of 120.5 inches applies to the regular cab with the smaller box, increasing to 149.4 inches for the crew cab with the 6'4" box. All versions share a width of 79.4 inches, while height varies between 74.4 inches for the 4x2 regular cab with the eight-foot box to 77.7 inches for the 4x4 quad cab. Only the crew cab can be paired with the smallest 5'7" box.

For the most space to carry a load, you'll want the regular cab with the eight-foot box which has a bed length of 98.3 inches. The bed width between the wheel housings works out to 51 inches across the range.

In terms of curb weight, the lightest version of the 1500 Classic is the 4x2 regular cab with the 6'4" box which weighs in at 4,520 pounds, while the 4x4 crew cab in Tradesman trim with the 6'4" box is a much heavier 5,375 lbs.

  • Length 209.0 in
  • Wheelbase 120.0 in
  • Height 74.6 in
  • Max Width 79.4 in

Exterior Colors

There's no shortage of color options for the Ram 1500 Classic. On the basic Tradesman regular cab, there are over ten monotone colors but only Bright White and Flame Red won't cost extra. For $100, you can also select Diamond Black Crystal, Patriot Blue Peral, Hydro Blue Pearl, Delmonico Red Pearl, and Olive Green Pearl, while $200 extra avails Maximum Steel Metallic, Granite Crystal Metallic, RV Walnut Brown Metallic, and Billet Silver Metallic. A range of 19 low-volume colors used to be available, but these have been reduced to nine for the 2021 model year and cost $450 each. They include Detonator Yellow, Omaha Orange, Light Green, and other bright shades that seem better suited to a Dodge Challenger. The Express and Warlock trims don't have access to the low-volume color palette, which is reserved for the Tradesman.

  • Delmonico Red Pearlcoat
  • Diamond Black Crystal Pearlcoat
  • Hydro Blue Pearlcoat
  • Olive Green Pearlcoat
  • Patriot Blue Pearlcoat
  • Olive Green Pearlcoat, Build Out:10/19/2020
  • Delmonico Red Pearlcoat, N/C - credit will be applied when configured
  • Diamond Black Crystal Pearlcoat, N/C - credit will be applied when configured
  • Hydro Blue Pearlcoat, N/C - credit will be applied when configured
  • Maximum Steel Metallic Clearcoat
  • RV Match Walnut Brown Metallic Clearcoat
  • Billet Silver Metallic Clearcoat, N/C - credit will be applied when configured
  • Granite Crystal Metallic Clearcoat, N/C - credit will be applied when configured
  • Billet Silver Metallic Clearcoat
  • Granite Crystal Metallic Clearcoat
See all 60 colors

1500 Classic Performance

When 2019's Laramie trim fell away, the EcoDiesel engine that came with it vanished from the lineup as well. That left two gas engines to power the range from 2020 onward: a 3.6-liter V6 and a more powerful 5.7-liter V8 with a stout 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque. This remains the same for 2021. Both 4x2 and 4x4 drivetrains are available. These trucks are more about capability than outright speed, and there are quicker trucks in the segment. The V6 struggles more because it doesn't offer as much low-down torque, so if you can, it's better to stretch to the V8, which is less affected when lugging a heavy load and provides brisker acceleration. With the V8 engine and 4x2, the 1500 Classic can tow a maximum of 10,610 lbs. With the V6 engine, maximum towing capacity drops to 7,660 lbs. By comparison, the newer Ram 1500 can tow 11,650 lbs when properly equipped.

2021 Ram 1500 Classic Rear Angle View FPI Studios
2021 Ram 1500 Classic Wheel FPI Studios
2021 Ram 1500 Classic Badge FPI Studios

Engine and Transmission

Starting off the range is the well-known 3.6-liter V6 Pentastar engine which produces 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. It's mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The bigger 5.7-liter HEMI V8 generates a more muscular 395 hp and 410 lb-ft - it is also fitted with an eight-speed auto. 4x2 is the standard drivetrain on all models, but 4x4 can be optioned.

When not heavily laden with passengers and/or cargo, the V6 does a reasonable job of contending with the 1500 Classic's bulk and is pleasingly responsive, but it's the V8 that you want when towing heavier loads or need to pass slower traffic with more urgency. The eight-speed automatic transmission does a good job of working through its ratios smoothly and is a solid pairing with both engines.

  • Engines
    3.6L V6 Gas, 5.7L V8 Gas
  • Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    4X4, RWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

The 1500 Classic's standard rear coil springs endow it with improved lateral stiffness and better control. As a result, the 1500 Classic has a really comfortable ride, even when put up against more modern alternatives in this segment. The shimmies and shudders that often befuddle trucks' ride quality are much less noticeable here and on the highway, the Classic feels stable and the cabin remains pleasantly subdued. It's one of the main reasons to still consider the 1500 Classic over newer and more expensive trucks. The steering also comes to the party with its accurate feel and a clear sense of what the front wheels are doing. Although you can hear the engine when it's working hard, it's not an unpleasant sound, especially the powerful HEMI V8 which emits a meaty roar when extended. For snowy climates, the available anti-spin rear differential detects wheel slippage and greatly improves traction.

1500 Classic Gas Mileage

The most efficient Ram 1500 Classic is the 4x2 with the 3.6-liter V6 engine, which returns EPA-rated estimates of 17/25/20 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. Not far behind is the 4x4 V6 with figures of 16/23/19 mpg. The 4x2 V8 is expectedly heavier with figures of 15/22/17 mpg and the 4x4 V8 uses the most fuel in the range, managing just 15/21/17 mpg. By comparison, the newer 1500 is quite a bit more efficient, with its turbodiesel engine allowing it to return a best of 23/33/26 mpg. The Chevrolet Silverado also has a turbodiesel engine option and manages a best of 23/33/27 mpg when equipped with this powertrain.

While most variants make do with a 26-gallon gas tank, a 32-gallon tank is found on models with the largest eight-foot bed. Taking this into account, the maximum range will be about 640 miles on the 4x2 with the V6 engine and the larger gas tank. On the other end of the spectrum, the V8 4x4 paired with the smaller tank will only manage 390 miles in the city.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    26.0 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 17/25 mpg
* 2021 Ram 1500 Classic Tradesman 2WDRegular Cab 6'4" Box

1500 Classic Interior

Although the new 1500 has moved the game on in a big way when it comes to its interior, the 1500 Classic still has a comfortable, well-built, and spacious cabin. The controls are easy to use and the Uconnect infotainment system works well, even if the touchscreen measures just five inches, which is tiny by today's standards. In the crew cab, space for rear-seat occupants is excellent. The Tradesman feels utilitarian, however, as it comes with heavy-duty vinyl seats and black vinyl floor coverings, but this does mean it'll be easier to maintain. This trim has a ParkView rearview camera, six airbags, and manual air conditioning. Higher up in the range, the comforts extend to power windows/locks, carpeted floor coverings, cloth upholstery, a folding rear seat, and available dual-zone automatic climate control.

2021 Ram 1500 Classic Dashboard Ram
2021 Ram 1500 Classic Front Seats FPI Studios
2021 Ram 1500 Classic Speaker Ram
See All 2021 Ram 1500 Classic Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

While the regular cab obviously seats just three occupants on the 40/20/40-split bench seat, the quad cab and crew cab configurations expand the total seating capacity to six. However, on the Warlock, a five-seater configuration is optionally available which replaces the middle front seat with a full-length floor console. In general, the seats are well-padded for all occupants and provide good comfort. There is a good use of space, too, with enough leg- and headroom wherever you sit and particularly generous rear legroom in the crew cab. Ingress and egress are simple due to doors that open wide and the fitment of well-placed grab handles in front. Thanks to big wing mirrors, the driver has a good sense of awareness and clear visibility in all directions.

  • Seating capacity
    3-seater
  • Front Leg Room 41.0 in
  • Front Head Room 39.9 in

Interior Colors and Materials

On the base Tradesman and mid-spec Express, a Black / Diesel Gray interior color scheme and the use of heavy-duty vinyl upholstery make it clear that this is a work truck. However, cloth upholstery is offered on these variants - a no-cost option on the Express but requiring extra-cost packages to be selected on the Tradesman. The cloth seats can be had in either Black / Diesel Gray or plain black. All models have a steering wheel finished in urethane, but this can be upgraded to a leather-wrapped rim. On the Warlock, Black/Diesel Gray cloth seats are standard and premium cloth bucket seats are available, which also adds power adjustment for the driver's chair. All in all, it's a thoroughly functional environment, but not an especially luxurious one.

1500 Classic Trunk and Cargo Space

Three different box sizes will obviously lead to a varying ability to accommodate cargo within the 1500 Classic range. The crew cab is the only version to offer the smallest 5'7" box, which has a cargo volume of 50.3 cubic feet. The 6'4" box available on all body styles measures 57.5 cubes, while the biggest eight-foot box - only available on the regular cab - measures 74.7 cubes. As far as payload capacity goes, the 4x2 quad cab with the V6 is the best bet with a figure of 1,930 lbs.

In the cabin, there are several practical options for storing smaller items. The 40/20/40-split front bench seat has integrated cupholders for when the middle seat isn't in use, along with an extra floor-mounted storage tray, but only on the crew cab. Go for the front bucket seats on the Warlock, and you'll also get a full-length floor console. A 60/40 split-folding rear bench is available with under-seat storage. On the Warlock, dual gloveboxes are fitted.

2021 Ram 1500 Classic Side View FPI Studios
2021 Ram 1500 Classic Charging Ports Ram
2021 Ram 1500 Classic Badge 1 FPI Studios

1500 Classic Infotainment and Features

Features

With the discontinuation of several top trims that were offered until 2019, the 2020 and 2021 Ram 1500 Classic range is lighter on features than before. On the Tradesman, you get manual air conditioning, a 3.5-inch black-and-white driver-information display, a locking tailgate, quad-halogen headlamps, trailer-tow wiring with four- and seven-pin connectors, tire-pressure monitoring, and a ParkView backup camera. The quad and crew cabs also have power windows and locks. Moving up to the Express adds body-color exterior trim but not much else. The Warlock gains cloth upholstery, ParkSense rear park assist, two-stage door unlocking, a passenger vanity mirror, vinyl door inserts, and a rear sliding window. Available features include heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, remote start, LED bed lighting, dual-zone climate control, and an enhanced touchscreen system, while the Warlock gains exclusive access to a power sunroof.

Infotainment

It's here that the 1500 Classic really shows its age compared to the newer 1500. Whereas the latter has a massive 12-inch touchscreen on higher trims, the best that the Classic can offer as standard is the five-inch touchscreen found as part of the Uconnect 3 system. This system includes Bluetooth connectivity, but in order to get access to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you'll need to upgrade to the Uconnect 4 system which introduces a larger 8.4-inch touchscreen. The lower trims have to make do with a basic AM/FM radio, a USB port, and an auxiliary input jack, but fortunately, they can be upgraded to the superior Uconnect systems. SiriusXM, HD Radio, and navigation are available as options with the top-tier Uconnect 4C NAV system. All models come with a six-speaker audio system by default, but on the Warlock, the audio system can be upgraded with nine Alpine speakers and a subwoofer.

1500 Classic Problems and Reliability

So far, the 2021 Ram 1500 Classic has been affected by one recall for a master-cylinder pushrod that may disconnect, preventing the driver from applying the service brakes and increasing the likelihood of a crash. The 2020 model was affected by four recalls. One of these was for an issue with the Occupant Restraint Controller, which could lead to the airbags becoming disabled. In another case, a lingering rearview image on the display could distract the driver, and the third was a recall for windshield wipers that don't operate as they should, affecting visibility. At least this is vastly better than the 2019 model year 1500 Classic, which has amassed 19 total recalls. The Ram 1500 Classic's 2021 J.D. Power score is 83 overall, with 85 for quality and reliability, the same as 2020 and much better than 2019's 80 and 77, respectively.

Should anything go wrong - and based on its recall history and another eight brand-new complaints lodged with the NHTSA in 2021, a lot can - the Ram 1500 Classic is covered by a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Roadside assistance is also covered for 60,000 miles or five years, and there is an unlimited-mile rust-through warranty for five years.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles

1500 Classic Safety

Not every body style of the Ram 1500 Classic has been fully tested by the NHTSA for crashworthiness, although the agency did give the crew cab a four-out-of-five star rating for the frontal crash and a three-star score for the rollover test. However, both the regular cab and quad cab have an overall four-star safety rating from the agency. The IIHS tested the 1500 in 2018, which is essentially the same truck as the 1500 Classic we have today, and the results were distinctly average - the truck achieved only Marginal ratings for roof strength and the small overlap front driver-side test.

US NHTSA crash test result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Key Safety Features

Again, safety features - both standard and optional - reveal the 1500 Classic's age. All versions come with six airbags, electronic stability control, tire pressure monitoring, four-wheel antilock brakes, and a rearview camera. Moving up to the Warlock adds the ParkSense rear park assist system. On all trims, you can get trailer-tow mirrors and trailer brake control. However, after that, the 1500 Classic seriously lags behind the segment leaders. Features like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and lane departure warning aren't available at all.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Ram 1500 Classic a good Truck?

With its wallet-friendly price, powerful engine options, and continued availability of three body styles, the Ram 1500 Classic still makes a lot of sense for buyers who aren't willing to stretch to the newer 1500. The interior is spacious and comfortable and it also rides more smoothly than many newer trucks on the market. But the gulf between the 1500 Classic and several modern alternatives is now even more apparent. Not only are its crash scores average, but it is way behind the pack for innovative driver-assist features. The number of recalls that have affected the 1500 Classic in recent times is extremely concerning and with no turbodiesel engine available since last year, the range has lost its most efficient engine choice. If value for money is a top priority, the 1500 Classic still makes sense. But we'd be tempted to go for an almost brand-new Chevrolet Silverado 1500 or the newer Ram 1500 instead.

🚘What's the Price of the 2021 Ram 1500 Classic?

The Ram 1500 Classic starts off with the Tradesman at an MSRP of $28,700, excluding a destination charge of $1,695 as well as taxes, licensing, and registration costs. This represents a price increase of $500 over last year's base model. Next up is the Express at $30,200, and finally the Warlock at $36,945.

These prices all represent the trims in their cheapest configurations (regular cab with the 6'4" box for the lower two trims and quad cab with the same-sized box for the Warlock), but of course, the price can quickly escalate. On the base regular cab, for example, upgrading from 4x2 to 4x4 will cost $4,570 and opting for the bigger V8 engine adds another $1,450. Taking the average customer into account, the most expensive Ram 1500 Classic we could spec is the Warlock 4x4 with the V8 and every option - the final price exceeded $62,000.

2021 Ram 1500 Classic Models

For 2021, the normal Ram 1500 Classic range is only available in three trims: Tradesman, Express, and Warlock. We review the special-services SSV model separately. All versions come fitted as standard with 4x2 and the 3.6-liter V6 engine, but can be had with 4x4 and a bigger 5.7-liter V8 engine. An eight-speed automatic is standard across the range.

Starting with the Tradesman, it's identifiable by its black grille, black bumpers, and 17-inch steel wheels. It comes with heavy-duty vinyl upholstery, manual air conditioning, a six-speaker audio system, quad-halogen headlamps, six airbags, a backup camera, and a class IV hitch receiver.

The Express adds body-color bumpers and a body-color grille, 17-inch alloy wheels, and the availability of the Express Black Accent Package, which adds 20-inch black wheels, black headlamp bezels, and more.

The Warlock isn't available as a regular cab, only as a quad cab and crew cab. It comes with bi-functional sport halogen projection headlamps, 20-inch black alloy wheels, a bespoke grille, the Uconnect 3 infotainment system, and a rear sliding window.

See All 2021 Ram 1500 Classic Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

As spartan as the base Tradesman regular cab is, Ram at least provides a decent number of upgrades for this variant. The Chrome Appearance Group at $695 adds some much-needed shine to the exterior in the form of 17-inch alloy wheels, a bright grille, and bright bumpers. The $695 Electronics Group ($795 on the quad and crew cabs) adds the much-needed infotainment upgrade to the 8.4-inch screen and a seven-inch color cluster display. The most expensive package is the Tradesman SXT Package at $2,895 which adds 20-inch alloy wheels, floor carpeting, a bright grille and bumpers, a SiriusXM radio, and more.

On the Express regular cab, similar upgrades are available but the $595 Express Black Accent Package is unique to this trim and adds 20-inch black alloy wheels, black exterior badging, and more. The Express Value Package at $2,160 includes carpet floor coverings, a six-month SiriusXM radio subscription, dual exhausts with bright tips, and a cloth bench seat.

Moving up to the Warlock trim avails the $795 Luxury Group with an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a seven-inch TFT color driver's display, power-folding mirrors, and more. At $595, the Heated Seats and Wheel Group adds heated front seats and a heated steering wheel.

🚗What Ram 1500 Classic Model Should I Buy?

As with any truck, your needs will dictate whether you go for a three-seater regular cab or the six-seater quad/crew cabs. The same goes for the engines, although we think that the cost of upgrading to the V8 is worthwhile. Because the 1500 Classic is supposed to be a wallet-friendly truck, we'd go for either the Tradesman or the Express, with maybe one or two options to keep the price low. Although the Warlock looks good, it's priced at the same level as the new Ram 1500 in Big Horn trim, and we'd much rather get behind the wheel of Ram's newer truck.

Check out other Ram 1500 Styles

2021 Ram 1500 Classic Comparisons

Ram 1500 Ram
Ford F-150 CarBuzz
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Ram 1500 Classic305 hp17/25 mpg$28,855
Ram 1500 305 hp20/25 mpg$32,795
Ford F-150 290 hp20/24 mpg$29,290

2021 Ram 1500 Classic vs Ram 1500

Ram took a big step up with the 1500, which is sold alongside the more budget-conscious 1500 Classic. Inside and out, it's easy to see which is the newer and more modern truck. The handsome 1500 now has the most luxurious cabin in this segment, easily outshining the Classic in this area. The 1500 also has a more responsive V6 powertrain with eTorque mild hybrid tech, along with a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel. It can tow more than the Classic and is more efficient, too. The 1500 is also far more advanced with a superior infotainment system and the availability of safety features like blind-spot monitoring and a surround-view camera system. The newer 1500 easily outclasses the 1500 Classic, but the latter does start at nearly $4,000 less and, if you want a regular cab worker truck, well, it's your only choice, as the newer 1500 doesn't have this option.

See Ram 1500 Review

2021 Ram 1500 Classic vs Ford F-150

The brand-new 2021 Ford F-150 is a big improvement on the 2020 model and range has sharp pricing, the XL starting at only $240 more than the Ram 1500 Classic Tradesman. It is a far more modern offering and weighs a lot less thanks to its aluminum construction. It can tow much more than the Ram, it offers a diesel option, the gearbox has ten ratios on all models, and hybrid drivetrain options are offered. Even comparing entry-level, naturally aspirated V6 offerings, the Ford offers driver-assist technologies such as pre-collision assist, as well as driver-selectable driving modes, which is not available on any Ram 1500 Classic. The infotainment system on the XL also measures a far bigger eight inches. The new high-value F-150 may be the last nail in the Ram 1500 Classic's coffin as the Ford offers a more modern, safer, and better-equipped alternative that demands much the same money.

See Ford F-150 Review

Ram 1500 Classic Popular Comparisons

The most popular competitors of 2021 Ram 1500 Classic:

22
Photos
$28,855 - $45,080
Price Range (MSRP)
Ram 1500 Classic
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