New pickup drives like a dream

by Kelly Taylor  . Nov 30 2018
FCAThe 2019 Ram Limited may look similar to previous renditions on the outside, but inside, new features such as the iPad-sized touch-screen console set it apart.

FCA

The 2019 Ram Limited may look similar to previous renditions on the outside, but inside, new features such as the iPad-sized touch-screen console set it apart.

It is, easily, the single most profitable segment of the automotive industry. Margins for manufacturers selling pickup trucks are huge, especially at the popular top end of the segment. Case in point, the 2019 Ram 1500 Limited, which as-tested tips the scales at $85,000.

All those profits make this an extremely competitive segment, and you can see that in how the various manufacturers keep upping the ante in both luxury and capability.

For 2019, Ram has softened some looks, hardened others and gone on a diet, which improves two key capabilities for trucks, payload and towing.

To get a sense of what’s improved from the previous generation, who better than someone who has driven one every day for just over a year? I reached out to my friend Erik Wanhella, whose 2015 Ram 1500 is still in excellent condition, and who also drives a big rig for work.

“If I close my eyes, I can feel like I’m driving mine,” he says, without actually closing his eyes.

We are headed into north Transcona down Day Street from Springfield Road, a favourite of mine as the various rail crossings give the suspension a good workout.

It’s intended as praise.

“What I like about the Ram,” Wanhella says, “is you’re not bouncing around all the time.”

Indeed, one of the Ram’s strengths is you can ride at the top of the springs — we had no load but ourselves — without feeling as though you’re riding at the top of the springs.

Rivals ride really nicely with some load, when the truck’s suspension settles to somewhere within the springs’ travel, but can feel a bit bouncy when empty.

You can thank the coil springs at the rear for that: the switch, which Ram introduced in the previous generation, might sacrifice a bit of capacity but makes up for it with a more supple ride than the rear leaf springs of the Ram’s competitors. Indeed, the multi-link coil setup of the rear suspension wouldn’t be out of place on a sporty SUV. The Limited also features the four-corner air suspension.

Technical upgrades include improved fuel efficiency from the 5.7-litre HEMI V-8, upgraded payload and towing capacity thanks to 225 pounds of weight reduction, 10 extra centimetres of cab room and larger in-floor storage bins.

The 5.7-litre V-8 can be equipped with the mild hybrid eTorque system, while the 3.6-litre Pentastar V-6 comes standard with eTorque. That system offers an additional 90 pound-feet of torque.

Where Wanhella notes the biggest difference from his truck is the interior, with its iPad-sized touchscreen display, open-pore wood trim and accents stitched into the various pieces of leather trim.

“Well, that opens a lot nicer,” he says, having pushed the button to open the upper of two glove boxes on the passenger side. “On mine, it’s this big, clunky door that pops up.”

Other cool touches inside include four USB ports in the centre console, each offering the choice of standard USB-A ports, as well as the newer USB-C design.

Also, the huge centre console can swallow a small child, or a good amount of stuff. Handy shelves inside and a two-piece cover — to provide for quick access to smaller stuff — show someone put some thought into the design.

A shelf for a smartphone not only includes rubber clips to hold the phone in place, it’s also a Qi wireless charger if your phone is so equipped. Those rubber clips include gaps so if your phone isn’t wireless, you can place it in the clips while plugged in.

The tester provided was the Limited, and the English language lacks sufficient superlatives to describe how attractive the interior really is. The Argent open-pore wood trim is right-sized: big enough to be noticeable, small enough to not be overpowering. With light-grey pinstripes, it’s a very classy look.

One thing Wanhella and I agree on is there are so many controls embedded into the touchscreen display that if it dies, you lose access to a good number of otherwise unrelated features. For example, you use the screen to direct air to vents, windows or feet; to select entertainment options; to view the map or enter navigation commands; and to control the automatic mirror dimming feature.

As well, unlike with standard buttons and knobs, there’s no way to find the control you need without taking your eyes off the road, and using the touchscreen while wearing gloves can be hit and miss.

As we drove, we also discuss the A-pillars: the pillars themselves are huge, but the base of each pillar is massive. “I lost an entire Honda Civic behind one,” I say. Perhaps there’s a better way to mount the side mirrors to provide more visibility.

It can’t go unsaid that this particular Ram, the Limited with a number of options, tips the scales at nearly $86,000. In other words, it had better be good.

Nobody buys these trucks for fuel efficiency, but everybody appreciates a smaller gas bill, too. And this truck delivers. It arrived from Calgary averaging around 15 litres per 100 km, and after a week of city-highway driving in Winnipeg that number had crept up to 16.5. Still, that’s better than a previous Ram I drove a number of years ago, which hit nearly 25 litres per 100 km.

kelly.taylor@freepress.mb.ca

FCAThe redesigned interior offers plenty of storage in the centre console with two compartments.

FCA

The redesigned interior offers plenty of storage in the centre console with two compartments.

FCAThe 2019 Ram 1500 has shed some weight, increased fuel efficiency, added new features and extra cab room.

FCA

The 2019 Ram 1500 has shed some weight, increased fuel efficiency, added new features and extra cab room.

Kelly Taylor / Winnipeg Free PressErik Wanhella is a fan of Rams; he’s been driving one more than a year now. When he tested the new Ram 1500 Limited, he said it feels just like driving his, but the updates don’t go unnoticed.

Kelly Taylor / Winnipeg Free Press

Erik Wanhella is a fan of Rams; he’s been driving one more than a year now. When he tested the new Ram 1500 Limited, he said it feels just like driving his, but the updates don’t go unnoticed.