It’s always a treat when you get to test out a new vehicle. It’s even better when representatives from the manufacturer are there to show the way around these cutting-edge rigs. We got a dose of both this week as we went to the City of Angels – Los Angeles, California – to discover what’s coming around the bend for Ram.
As we all know, the 2019 Ram 1500 is a hotly anticipated pickup. It’s going to be the first Ram to ditch the trademark “crosshair” grille in over 20 years, and that’s not all. With this truck, the leadership is trying out all sorts of new ways of thinking: chassis and frame approach, interior design, and even the powertrain are all getting a shake-up with the next-gen 1500.
They say change is good, but is the 2019 Ram 1500 going to be too much of a good thing? That’s what we were determined to find out at this press-only event.
Understanding The New Way From The Inside Out
Sitting at the Smog Shoppe in the Art District of L.A., we were treated to some refreshments as the presentation began. Up first was Ram’s chief interior designer Ryan Nagode. “The key things we went for were storage, functionality, and technology,” he began.
The long and short of the differences was that the 2019 Ram would feature updates to the HVAC system, infotainment display, seats, floor and storage area, and sunroof. Of note were the changes to the rear compartment, where the tunnel is now gone, providing a totally flat rear footwell and storage area.
One thing Nagode stressed again and again was the bevy of trim packages. Per his description, the design team actually went out and searched for unique hammers that would define the aesthetic of the trims. The idea here was that there was a “hammer for every job,” and hence, a trim package for every lifestyle. These went from the everyman “Tradesman” all the way to the high-class “Limited.”
For sound, a premium Harmon Kardon 19-speaker sound system is planned for the Limited 1500. It will make use of specialized noise-cancelling elements, too, which will cancel out both bumps in the road and noises from the engine when it switches from eight-cylinder to four-cylinder mode. This also ties into changes to the frame, which have dampers that cancel out vibrations from small bumps in the road.
On to the exterior, the Limited truck touts LED headlamps and AFS, which lets the headlights pivot left and right in accordance with steering input from the driver. There’s even an automatic stepboard that pops out, putting the aftermarket on notice. Bed heights on all trims are raised 1.5 inches, allowing for more storage space and even improved aerodynamics.
The mast antenna is gone, replaced by the more modern shark fin antenna. The tailgate is dampened and assisted, making its deployment soft and smooth.
With that, we had gone over the interior and exterior highlights. It was now time for FCA’s chief engineer, Michael Raymond, to teach us about the nitty gritty of the 2019 Ram 1500.
Engineering A Better 1500
“I’m really excited about what we’ve been able to deliver with the 1500,” said chief engineer Mike Raymond. “We were asked to provide more while also not compromising the truck.”
Technology, comfort, efficiency, ride dynamics, and capability have all gone up a notch, according to Raymond. There are quite a few notable features that went into the new 1500 – far too many to list here – but the bigger ones include revised front frame rails, Active Forward Lighting System (pivoting headlights that correspond with the driver’s steering input), and even a form of radar housed around the rearview mirror.
Adaptive Cruise Control is now controlled by said radar, and will adjust speed to the flow of traffic ahead of the 1500. Lane Keep Assist is also here, and is helped by cameras with a 360-degree view of the vehicle. Forward Collision Mitigation is here as well.
For the efficiency front, Raymond was proud to report on the next-gen 1500. Overall weight was reduced by 225 pounds, with 100 of those pounds coming out the cab alone. Aluminum has now been incorporated into the truck, with the hood and lift gate being the changed over to the metalloid, as well as a couple of the chassis crossmembers. An active air dam is also available on some trim levels, improving the drag coefficient.
Even cylinder deactivation and – gasp – auto start-stop will be found on the 1500. However, these will be canceled out audibly and by way of active noise cancellation, and frame-mounted “active tune mass modules” that nullify vibrations; all in the name of comfort.
One of the biggest changes coming on the next-gen 1500 is a mild hybrid powertrain, both on 3.6-liter V6 and 5.7-liter Hemi engines. Everyone’s ears pricked up at this news.
“Underhood, there will be a motor generator unit, or MGU,” explained Raymond. “On the 5.7-liter V8, it’s a 16hp electrical motor relying on a 48-volt battery located behind the backseat. It will produce an additional 130 lb-ft of supplemental torque to the engine. The 3.6-liter V6 will get a 12hp motor with 90 lb-ft of torque.”
Unfortunately, the MGU was not on any of the next-gen 1500s shown to us in L.A. Per Raymond’s report, it will arrive sometime in the future, later than 2019 model years.
Taking The 1500 For A Spin
From a pool of five 1500s, we had our pick of a Tradesman, Big Horn, Rebel, Laramie, and Longhorn. Naturally, yours truly went with the off-road-minded Rebel, though our driving route would be strictly asphalt (darn it!).
Nevertheless, the Rebel showed itself as a quite capable machine with great road manners. In place of a column or floor shifter was a dial, with buttons to activate two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive. Our particular Rebel even had air ride suspension, which we could switch from low to medium to high height.
The seven-inch UConnect infotainment center housed all of the goodies one could want from a 2019 truck. Phone calls, radio, navigation, and A/C were all controlled here. Down from that was yet more electronics in the form of a wireless charging station, USB ports, and USB-C ports.
Meanwhile, the console is quite possibly the biggest ever in a half-ton. It has nearly two cubic feet of useable storage, and a sliding organizer that can move back and forth.
In our short time looking over the 2019 Ram 1500, we could only come to one conclusion – the design and development team has outdone themselves with this next-generation half-ton. We’re excited to do a full review on the truck in the coming weeks as the Rebel becomes available. Stay tuned!