I was not surprised by the ease with which the extensively redesigned 2019 Ram 1500 barged through the off-road courses' deep sand and nasty ruts. This was, after all, the Rebel model, the sporty Ram 1500 modified for serious off-roading.
What did surprise me was amount of ride comfort and quietude that accompanied that rough riding.
After recently driving the 2018 Ram, I was able to fully appreciate the 2019's significant advances in ride and handling, as well as the technology and refinement. The new model will come on the market at the end of the month,
The extensive improvement won't amount to glad tidings where Ford and Chevy's full-size pickups are built. Ram sold nearly 7 million of the current model in 2017, according to Jim Morrison, head of the Ram brand. That's not far behind the Chevy Silverado and the perennial big pickup sales king, the Ford F-150.
It's true that the extraordinary brand loyalty of big pickup buyers will probably keep Ford on top. But this new Ram is good enough to be a real cause for concern in Dearborn, Mich.
The new Ram, which I drove on- and off-road at a recent press introduction, is lighter, stronger, longer and wider than the vehicle it replaces.
A total of 225 pounds was shaved off through a greater use of high-strength steel and aluminum in both the cab and the extensively revised frame. The frame, in fact, is now 98 percent high-strength steel.
The four-inch increase in the length of the cabin of the Crew Cab model (there's also a smaller Crew Cab called the Quad) creates a very roomy interior. The back seat has 46 inches of legroom. That's more than any sedan I've been in. Three NBA bigs can get comfy back there.
The new truck also boasts an increased payload (3,200 pounds) and towing capacity (12,750 pounds).
The Ram is now the most aerodynamic vehicle in its segment and, for my money, possessed of the most pleasing proportions. I find the front-end design just a tad busy, but after that, this truck is right on the money.
The Ram sports 15-inch front brake discs, the largest in the segment. The Ram also can be equipped with a battery of options, ranging from an air suspension to wireless charging and a new off-road package that includes a 1-inch suspension lift, an electronic locking rear axle, tuned shock absorbers, and hill-descent control.
Perhaps the niftiest option is the blind spot alert that uses a camera-sensor to account for the length of both the truck and the trailer it's towing.
The base, 3.6 liter V-6 will be more economical and powerful, thanks to a new mild hybrid system. That eTorque hybrid system setup will also be available on the 5.7 liter V-8s. (Speaking of engines, a diesel will be available in 2019.)
The Ram 1500 is available in six levels: the Tradesman, the base truck, which starts at $31,695; the Big Horn, the expected top seller at $35,695; the Laramie, $40,690; the Rebel, $43,995; the Longhorn, $51,390, and the Limited, $53,890.
I drove the Crew Cab versions of the Rebel off-road and the Big Horn and Laramie on-road. (I easily pulled a 5,900-pound boat trailer with the Laramie.)
I found a wealth of storage in the Ram, including dueling glove boxes and a huge, versatile console whose lid underside included tables for converting fractions to decimals and standard to metric wrench sizes.
The driving was pleasant going. Lots of room, visibility and quietude, the latter thanks, in part, to acoustic glass and frame-mounted canisters that deaden drive-train sounds and vibrations.
The 395 horsepower V-8s in the testers provided good guts, and the revised 8-speed automatic gear boxes were seamless. The steering was nicely weighted and precise.