The advertising cliche "new and improved" would certainly fit the 2013 Ram 1500, which puts most of its upgrades under the sheet metal and shows the truckmaker upping its game across the model line. New for '13 are a stronger yet lighter frame, a fuel-sipping V-6, standard 8-speed automatic transmission and available air suspension. There are nine trim levels for the 1500 — from blue collar to luxury, as well as cab and box options.
Appearance: There's no mistaking the Ram with its muscular look: a huge forward-tilted grille flanked by horizontal headlights and a tall, oversized hood. Very macho. For 2013, tweaks add LEDs under new headlights and upgrade the grille texture. Our tester's Sport trim, which gets less chrome, has 20-inch polished wheels that stand out against the exterior with body-color bumpers. The performance hood and darkened head- and taillights give it an even more menacing look. The optional and practical RamBox offers storage compartments above the wheel wells (think grocery runs, tools or even an ice chest) and can now be locked/unlocked with a remote. Also available is the spray-in bed liner, which we recommend.
Performance: The 5.7-liter V-8 HEMI in our tester puts out 390 horsepower and 407 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with the 8-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly throughout the gear range and well serves that HEMI power. (New to the engine lineup is the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, which Ram says knocks Ford's Ecoboost off the podium for best-in-class fuel economy at 17/25.) We found the ride to be anything but trucklike, which no doubt is helped by the coil-over rear suspension. Active grille shutters and an air suspension system help to reduce drag at highway speeds. The air suspension also adjusts payload balance. The maximum towing capacity of our tester is 10,000 pounds and the max payload is 1,348 pounds.
Interior: There's a lot to like in the comfortable cab: lots of head- and legroom, plush leather seats (especially the 10-way driver's seat) and plenty of storage nooks. As with its Chrysler cousins, Ram continues to refine its interiors, improving fit and finish and surface quality. The dashboard instrument cluster has a 7-inch color screen in the center for detailed driver information. The other gauges are crisp and easy to read. Lyra thought the rotary shifter on the dash was cumbersome, but the advantage is that it opens up the console for more storage space. The large 8.4-inch console touchscreen is one of our favorites, and uses Chrysler's Uconnect infotainment system. It's intuitive, with a user interface that's like a tablet with icons, and has one of the better voice-recognition systems we've used. Some dislikes: Steering wheel controls can be confusing, especially the buttons behind the wheel, and the location of the lock button on the door handle makes it easy to trigger accidentally.
Our 3 favorites
Tough look: The unmistakable Ram grille can make even a weekend warrior feel macho.
Hot hood: The performance hood with air scoops adds to the aggressive look.
We agree: Lyra is right on with her three favorites below.
Rambox 2.0: Storage bins are now wired so you can lock/unlock them remotely.
8-speed transmission: Shifts are fluid and lively. Better fuel economy, too.
Touchscreen: Interface for the huge 8.4-inch display is more like a tablet and user-friendly.
The bottom line: Yes, Chevy and Ford drivers: Ram wants you. Its trucks keep on getting better, but with all the available options, prices can get into luxury levels quickly.