2019 Ram 1500 First Look Review: Electrify Your Life

First Look

Ram's new eTorque hybrid system comes as standard to boost torque by up to 130 lb-ft.

After essentially selling the same pickup for the last decade, FCA’s Ram brand has finally collected enough couch-cushion change to give its 1500 series light-duty truck a full redesign and a fighting chance. Gone is the crosshair grille from the previous generation, replaced with the letters R A M in big capital letters across the truck’s forehead. Gone also are the cut-down front fenders that gave Ram’s truck its bulging, powerful hood. But the Ram’s improvements are far more than skin deep.

Ram’s latest truck gets a reworked eight-speed automatic with more powerful computers, but the biggest news from the 2018 North American International Auto Show was the addition of hybrid power to the 1500 series trucks. The 3.6-liter V-6 and 5.7-liter V-8 gasoline engines themselves are carryover mills from the current model, producing 305 to 395 horsepower and 269 to 410 lb-ft of torque, but they now get some assistance by way of Ram’s new eTorque hybrid system. Pickup hybridization is nothing new; GM has been doing it one way or another since the 2005 model year, when it introduced a mild-hybrid setup on the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.

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Even today, you can buy a full-size GM pickup with eAssist, but its availability is limited to a single cab and engine configuration on just a handful of trims. Ram is taking a different approach: the eTorque hybrid system is standard equipment on both engines, though buyers can opt out of its installation on 5.7-liter V8 trucks. The belt-driven system replaces the alternator to perform both start-stop duties and to give the engine a torque-filled boost in certain conditions. That means an up to 12 horsepower and 90 lb-ft of extra twist for V6 models, 16 horsepower and 130 lb-ft on V8 trucks. To power the system, the 2019 Ram 1500 harvests energy usually lost during braking and stores it in a 12 cell, 48 volt, 0.43 kWh, lithium-ion battery pack.

Further aiding fuel economy, Ram has stripped out some 225 pounds from the 2019 Ram 1500, with 100 pounds of that total coming from the frame and another 20 pounds from other chassis components. The company has also employed the use of aluminum, but stopped short of using the metal for the entire truck body like Ford has done with the F-150. Instead, Ram said it used aluminum where practical, like for the tailgate, engine mounts, some suspension components, and in the truck’s steering system. Aside from weight reduction, Ram has given its truck fuel-saving grille shutters, numerous body enhancements, a lower front air dam, and other aerodynamic trickery to make it a more slippery, fuel-efficient block of brawn.

The new hybrid system isn’t meant to simply save fuel. The extra torque will aid those who haul and tow, especially when combined with Ram’s air suspension, which can automatically detect loads and level the truck when necessary so as to avoid blinding oncoming traffic with your headlights aimed toward the sky. The one downside of eTorque is it reduces maximum towing figures from anywhere between 50 pounds to over 150 pounds. That seems like a small price to pay, but it’s a price nonetheless. Speaking of capacities, the 1500’s diet has resulted in greater maximum towing and hauling figures.

Depending on configuration, the Ram can haul up to 2,300 pounds of cargo in its bed, while Ram’s Max Tow Package can boost trailering strength up to 12,750 pounds. Those who use the bed regularly will be met by bed rails that are 1.5-inches taller than before, which help fuel efficiency but also make it more difficult to fling cargo over the truck’s side and into the bed. Thankfully, Ram has made its truck easier to load from the rear with a tailgate that’s damped when dropped, provides assistance on the way back up, and can be opened from inside the cab or via your key fob at a distance. Those who use their trucks for work will also be pleasantly surprised by a 115-volt power point in the bed's RamBox.

Not all truck owners want to haul and tow. For those who just want to get dirty, the 2019 Ram 1500 comes with an off-road package that includes a 1-inch suspension lift, a locking rear differential, specifically tuned shocks, hill-descent control, skid plate protection, tow hooks, and 32-inch tires wrapped around 18- or 20-inch wheels. The Ram Rebel gets similar off-road -ready kit, but wears 33-inch tires instead. Meanwhile, all trucks—regardless of trim—are fitted with six-lug wheels and hubs for that extra bit of durability.

Inside, the Ram offers a new, larger cabin and even larger amenities. Ram claims its new truck has almost double the interior storage of its nearest competitor, which is a bit difficult to verify from our perspective. What’s not difficult to see is the Ram 1500’s class-leading infotainment system. FCA has fitted the 1500 with its fourth-generation Uconnect infotainment system and spread its pixels across 12 inches of touchscreen real estate. The screen can either run a single application or two in split-screen mode. Even with all that touchscreen taking up a considerable amount of surface area on the dash, Ram has stuck with physical knobs for volume, radio tuning, and HVAC controls to our delight.

Ram puts that large screen to good use with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and what Ram calls the most powerful audio system ever fitted to a pickup: a 19-speaker Harman Kardon stereo with a 900-watt amplifier and 10-inch subwoofer. Talk about living large and loud. On the safety front, Ram has fitted the truck with numerous cameras to produce a 360-degree top-down view of the truck when parking or mudding, a much welcomed feature as trucks grow and grow. Meanwhile, Ram wasn’t afraid to throw a little shade Ford’s way, stating, “The strongest Ram 1500 frame ever produced includes the same impact countermeasures across all configurations.”

Other safety equipment coming to a Ram truck near you includes forward collision warning and assist, lane departure warning and assist, parking assist for parallel and perpendicular parking spots, and trailer sway control. When the 2019 Ram 1500 starts hitting dealer lots later this year, it will be offered in seven trims, 12 different colors, with six distinct grille designs, wearing your choice of 16 different wheel designs between 18 and 22 inches, and with three different types of headlights and tail lamps depending on your chosen trim. Pricing has for the 2019 Ram 1500 has not yet been announced but will be available closer to launch.