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The 2019 Ram 1500 is all-new, including a lighter-and-stronger frame and markedly larger cabs (image: FCA).

All-new 2019 Ram 1500 launches with a bed-load of innovations

FiatChrysler’s Ram 1500 pickup doesn’t top the fullsize-pickup sales charts (never mind the Detroit Three automakers still insist on obfuscating what to everyone else should be clear delineation between light- and medium-duty pickup sales) and seems to be perpetually scrounging for a share of the market’s adoration of the Ford F-150. But in some respects, the light-duty Ram has in recent years emerged as the thinking-person’s choice—you know, the one you buy because it does things differently, the one you buy if you don’t want to follow the crowd.

That notion just got amplified with the all-new 2019 Ram 1500. Buckle up, Ford and GM, because the latest Ram is working another big dose of “we’ll zig when you zag.”

Frame game

Ram engineers cite a 225-lb (102-kg) weight savings for the all-new 2019 Ram 1500 versus a comparable outgoing model, although the company did not provide curb weights in its initial press information. But one of the most vital takeaways pertains to the frame, where 98% of the all-new design is comprised of high-strength steel—saving 100 lb (45.3 kg). The new design also features unique “splayed” rails that enhance energy absorption in all frontal-crash impact modes.

Special frame-mounted tire blockers also are placed behind the front tires to force wheels outward in an impact. More strength comes to the frame from side rails that are taller and fully boxed. Rear cross members “are double sheer-welded to the inside and outside of the frame for improved durability and roll stiffness,” FCA said.

Other weight-saving measures include a special one-piece D-pillar at the bed edge that cuts 9 lb (4 kg). An acoustic-glass windshield and front side windows cut 5.5 lb (2.5 kg). The tailgate now is aluminum, but the bed resolutely remains steel, said chief engineer Mike Raymond.

Or how’s this for a weight reduction: a new electronic parking brake cuts a remarkable 20 lb (9 kg), helping to offset newly enlarged front brake rotors of 14.9 in (378 mm) that Ram claims are the segment’s largest.

The new frame supports increased length for all three cab/bed configurations: a 144.5-in (3670-mm) wheelbase for crew cab short beds and a 153.5-in (3899-mm) wheelbase for long-bed crew cabs, both of which are 4 in (102 mm) longer than the outgoing Ram 1500. Wheelbase for the long-bed quad cab is 140.5 in (3569 mm). Despite the size increases, the new Ram 1500 is 9% more aerodynamic than the outgoing model. There is a variety of aerodynamic enhancements, active and passive, the chop the drag coefficient to a quite un-trucklike 0.357—36 “counts” better than before. Almost half of the improvement comes from a new active front air dam.

The 2019 Ram has revised components for the front suspension, including a new upper control arms with a composite shell that cuts weight, aluminum lower control arms and a revised coil-over shock design for all models.

This marks the third generation of Ram to use its class-unique coil suspension, famous for making the truck’s unladen ride so creamy. For 2019, new progressive-rate coils deal with an increased maximum payload of 2300 lb (1043 kg). Four-corner air suspension remains available as well, and thanks to the new frame and other upgrades, the Ram’s maximum towing capacity is hiked to 12750 lb (5783 kg).

There now is an off-road suspension package available for each of the new six-trim 2019 Ram lineup that comprises Tradesman, BigHorn, Rebel, Laramie, Laramie LongHorn and Limited. The package consists of a 1-in (25 mm) suspension lift, electronic-locking rear differential and 32-inch on/off-road tires on 18-in or optional 20-in wheels.

Familiar powertrainswith a charge

For the 2019 Ram 1500, the base engine remains the corporate Pentastar V6, tuned for the Ram to generate 305 hp and 269 lb·ft (365 N·m). But standard for the V6 is the new eTorque belt-driven starter-generator that imparts mild-hybrid capability. It is optional for the Ram’s Hemi 5.7-L V8.

The eTorque system enables the engine’s start/stop function, can deliver 90 lb·ft (122 N·m) of launch torque to the V6—130 lb·ft (176 N·m) for the V8—charges the 12-volt battery and recovers braking energy. The system supplies 48-volt current to a 300-Wh lithium-ion nickel-manganese cobalt (NMC)-graphite battery mounted inside the cabin on the rear bulkhead.

Perhaps equally important, the system’s ability to input torque to the crankshaft enables a wider range of functionality for the V6’s variable valve timing and the Hemi’s cylinder-deactivation system. Engines equipped with eTorque were not available for the early press-introduction drives of the 2019 Ram; the system is slated for progressive availability following the new truck’s showroom launch that starts in the late first quarter of 2018.

Cost for eTorque? The system is standard for V6 models; the Hemi V8 itself an $1,195 upgrade and the Hemi with eTorque is an extra $1,995. To be decided is the potential payback: the company had yet to release official fuel-economy ratings, but said to expect perhaps a 10% increase in city-cycle fuel economy, where eTorque and the companion start/stop system demonstrate the most impact.

For the 2019 Ram, the Hemi V8 is rated at 395 hp and 410 lb·ft (556 N·m). Either engine is backed by FCA’s TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic transmission, the V8s using the heavier-duty 8HP75 variant. The company said both transmissions use new-generation controllers to coordinate transmission operation with the eTorque system.

Bridging the driveline-chassis realms is what FCA said is an industry-first “thermal axle” that routes engine coolant to rear axle to warm or cool its gear oil. The company said the system—for now only for 2-wheel-drive models—enhances axle efficiency and keeps temperatures under control during heavy-use trailering or hauling.

Any which way you can

With two 4-door cab configurations (the 2018 Ram stays in production for customers seeking a 2-door cab), two bed lengths and six trim levels spanning a price range from $31,695 to $53,980, there is the expected high degree of build combinations for the new 2019 model. Automotive Engineering test-drove the base Tradesman and the opulent Long Horn Trim, both with the 5.7-L V8. The Tradesman was perfectly comfortable and more than adequately refined and the Hemi V8 moves this large truck without fuss.

With 4 in (102 mm) more cab length for all 2019 Rams, the back seat has an almost decadent amount of legroom and cabin width is of course generous; the company claims either cab style is the largest in the segment. The cabin’s second-row features 8 deg of slide-recline and 45.1 in (1146 mm) of legroom.

Although the cabin trim is upgraded noticeably in most trim levels, the layout and styling remains broadly connected to the outgoing models, although there is one exception regarding the cabin architecture: upper trim levels offer the availability of a Tesla-rivaling 12-in (305-mm) fully configurable touchscreen that incorporates FCA’s still-excellent Uconnect user interface. The entire touchscreen can be occupied by a single function such as the navigation map or the screen can be divided in half to display two applications. To augment this fantastic expanse of electronic real estate, a toggle-switch bank below the screen provides physical control of specific features.

There is a total of five USB ports in the Ram’s center console, three for front-seat users and two for the rear seats; three of the ports, including one for the rear seats, are collaborative the Uconnect interface. Two three-pronged 115-volt household plugs can be found in the first and second row and an additional 115-volt plug is located in one of the RamBox exterior cargo containers.

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