Ram 1500 pickups have roomy cabs with excellent ergonomics, cubby storage galore, and giant touchscreens that are easy to operate. Ram Box bed storage, an adjustable suspension that kneels for easier ingress, and active grille shutters add to its appeal.
The Ram 1500 competes with the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, Toyota Tundra, and Nissan Titan. All but the Ram have been recently redesigned.
The Ram compares very well to the competition and is the most distinctive among a group of distinctive trucks. Ride quality is dependent on suspension, tires and other packaging choices, but the Ram 1500 models generally tend toward the smoother end of the class, vying with Chevrolet and GMC.
The 2016 Ram is a fourth-generation product, introduced as a 2009 model. 2014 brought a diesel engine and some styling updates.
For 2016, a turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel engine is available that achieves an EPA rating of 20/29 mpg City/Highway while delivering 420 pound-feet of trailer-pulling torque. Also new for 2016: the rugged Ram Rebel and the luxurious Ram Laramie Limited. Otherwise, the Ram 1500 lineup continues unchanged.
A range of engines is available for the Ram to suit the wide variety of needs and missions that characterize light-duty pickups. Among them: the new 3.0-liter V6 EcoDiesel, the 3.6-liter V6 that comes standard on all models, and the 5.7-liter V8 Hemi. All come standard with an 8-speed automatic.
Regular Cab, Quad Cab, and Crew Cab versions are available, the latter most popular for their roomy back seats. Bed lengths range from 6-feet, 4-inches or 5-feet, 7-inches on Crew Cab and Quad Cab models to the full 8 feet with Regular Cabs.
Interiors range widely by trim level, with upper levels outfitted in handsome fabrics and leathers with impressive attention to detail, making them very nice vehicles in which to spend time.
The Ram 1500 lineup really begins with the SLT, which comes with cloth upholstery. Big Horn, Lone Star, Laramie, Outdoorsman, Sport and other models upgrade seats, cloth and features. Tradesman models are members of the Ram Commercial line trimmed to be work trucks with vinyl seats, black vinyl floors, manual windows and locks.
The Ram is the most distinctive of the full-size pickups, looking a bit like a miniature Freightliner.
Nearly every trim level of the Ram 1500 gets its own grille treatment. The mainstream designs look better to our eyes than the black grille on the Ram Rebel or the nostrils on the Limited. Upper-level models are further distinguished by LEDs and exhaust faired into the rear bumper.
The Ram Box is a big decision. It doesn’t improve the appearance of the truck but could add utility for owners who need lockable bed storage. Ram engineers say owners who have the Ram Box wonder how they ever did without it. The Ram Box can be unlocked with the remote key fob, a handy feature, and drains in the boxes allow them to be used as ice chests, making the Ram a great choice for a tailgate party.
On some trims, that tailgate includes a Ram logo as large as the Hollywood sign. LEDs
Regular Cab, Crew Cab, Quad Cab along with the various bed lengths are important decisions. Most find the Crew Cab to be the most useful, but even the Regular Cab offers storage behind the seats.
HFE high fuel-efficiency models feature active grille shutters that close for improved aerodynamics or open when needed for cooling, along with aerodynamic side steps, a seal between cab and bed, and a rear spoiler on the tailgate. HFE comes with a Stop/Start feature that some drivers like for its fuel economy, others find an annoying distraction. HFE only comes on Regular Cab versions and improves fuel economy only slightly.
The Ram cab is ergonomically excellent with easy to use controls. Big knobs make adjusting temperature and sound easy, even when wearing gloves. A big touchscreen is available that is both easy to read and easy to operate, better than the Ford screens.
The upper trim levels show great attention to detail, some of which may not be noticed immediately. The Ram Rebel, for example, features a delightful mix of materials and design, including a tread pattern on the seats that matches the tread design of the Toyo all-terrain tires. Deluxe two-color stitching and interesting graphics add charm and the rear-seat area is trimmed just as nicely as the front.
The Laramie Longhorn has handsome stitching and fine wood grain trim.
The Ram 1500 is an enjoyable truck to drive and comfortable for long drives. It rides smoothly and steers well, benefitting from responsive electric steering. Performance and driving character are, of course, affected by equipment choices.
The 3.0-liter diesel is the fuel efficiency champion, with an EPA rating of 20/29 mpg City/Highway. The turbocharged diesel generates 240 horsepower, but more important, it produces 420 foot-pounds of torque, that force that propels the truck up hills while pulling a trailer. A Ram with the diesel can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 8 seconds, according to Ram, which reports tow ratings up to 9,200 pounds. It is quiet for a diesel, with just a faint clatter that is pleasing to the ear of diesel lovers. As always with diesels, it is a pricey option.
The 3.6-liter V6 engine is the standard engine and a popular choice for drivers who need a pickup bed to haul but want good fuel economy. Using Regular 87-octane gasoline, the V6 is EPA-rated at 17/25 mpg City/Highway, or 16/23 mpg with four-wheel drive. The V6 generates 305 horsepower and 269 foot-pounds of torque. It will haul a load without much effort, though it sounds a bit strained at higher rpm. The V6 is rated to tow up to 6,500 pounds but is not the best choice for owners who tow anything heavier than a bass boat. The 8-speed automatic works well with this engine.
The 5.7-liter V8 generates 395 hp and 407 foot-pounds of torque, growling enthusiastically at full throttle. Ram says it is capable of launching the truck from a standstill to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds. The V8 is the best choice for towing, offering a rating as high as 10,650 pounds in some configurations. We recommend a Ram Heavy Duty for anyone regularly pulling heavy trailers, however. It makes sense to have a healthy margin between your truck’s towing capacity and the fully loaded weight of your trailer.
Four-wheel drive is available. Part-time 4WD is the standard setup, but an on-demand AWD system is available with V8s. The former is generally better for rugged terrain, the latter is generally better for snow, ice and inconsistent road conditions.
Among the full-size pickups, there are no bad choices. We recommend against basing a purchase decision purely on towing capability or cargo capacity. If there is a brand you prefer, we recommend concentrating on selecting the configuration that is best for your needs and desires.