First drive: 2019 Ram 1500 in the UAE
Redesigns for American pickup trucks come about only once in a blue moon. However, Ford’s F-150 and GM’s Silverado/Sierra twins are raising the bar by reducing the time between redesigns and facelifts, as both have undergone notable changes over the past decade. In that time, the Ram 1500 has remained relatively stagnant, save for a couple of minor under-the-skin upgrades and a brand-name change (remember when it used to be the Dodge Ram? Some people still call it that). There is finally an all-new model for 2019, on sale in the Middle East for a couple of months already, and we got some wheel-time in a couple of variants.
Available only in the four-door crew-cab body style for now, the new Ram 1500 is offered in Big Horn, Rebel, Laramie and Limited trims for the GCC region. On the drive event in Dubai, we tried out the Limited on-road and the Rebel on-road as well as off-road.
The exterior styling is a departure from the Ram’s previous three generations’ “big rig” looks, with a selection of grille designs and headlight configurations based on the trim you buy. The top-dog Limited features the most chrome, and also comes with 22-inch wheels and electric-folding side-steps. The Rebel gets a black plastic-cladded look with 18-inch wheels, slightly lifted ride height and fixed side steps.
Inside, the abundantly-spacious Ram features stitched-leatherette on the dash, doors and sides of the centre-console as well as a huge 12-inch touchscreen in the Limited version. The screen is fairly responsive, and there are still physical buttons for the main a/c controls along the sides. The Rebel gets an 8.4-inch touchscreen.
Aside from the wonderfully-configurable centre-console storage and two glove-boxes, there are also underfloor and underseat storage compartments in the rear-seat area, although there is no space to put the awkwardly-large tool-kit bag anywhere, so it’s just left on the rear seat bench (we have the same standard bag taking up valuable boot space in our Chrysler 300 SRT). The useful lockable RamBox feature in the bed is carried over from the previous model and remains optional. The bed itself has LED lights and the tailgate is damped so it doesn’t slam open.
Still powered by a 395 hp 5.7-litre “Hemi” V8 with 552 Nm of torque and mated to a knob-controlled 8-speed automatic (with gear-limiter buttons on the steering wheel!), the Ram is adequately powerful for daily driving, but the linear power delivery will never make it feel particularly quick. The motor has cylinder-deactivation tech, and fuel economy hovers around 17 litres/100 km (5.9 km/l). A 305 hp 3.6-litre V6 will be offered later on the base trim.
Underneath, the Ram’s ladder frame is held up by coil-spring rear suspension in contrast to rivals’ rear leaf springs. Height-adjustable air suspension is optional, as is a locking rear differential, although neither make a huge difference if you don’t intend to do anything more than minor offroading.
We drove the Limited on rocks and gravel, where it drove over minor obstacles without issues, although the ride is harsh with the 22’s on pointy-stoned surfaces. We jumped into the Rebel later and it rides smoother offroad, while confidently managing the rally-like sand trail we drove through at moderately-high speeds, managing understeer and oversteer on sharper turns easily with the ESP off.
The Ram is reasonably smooth on the highway, with or without air suspension, and while the Limited is fairly quiet at highway speeds, the Rebel suffers from road noise due to the aggressive tyres.
Handling is respectable, and it can take long corners at good speeds with minimal body roll, but the steering is truck-like rubbery and lacks feedback, so you don’t feel like pushing it too hard. The brakes are pretty decent, and noticeably better than before.
The Ram 1500 remains a strong contender in the closely-fought lifestyle pickup segment, and while there is a mild improvement in the way it drives, what may sway buyers away from Ford and GM may be the styling and cabin features in the better-specced models.
Incidentally, if you prefer your trucks to be slightly more old-school, the previous version is still around and on sale in every body style, as the Ram Classic.
For price updates, keep track of the Ram buyer guide.
Photos by FCA Middle East.