All-new Ram im­proves in all the right ar­eas

The Labradorian - - Editorial - BY RICHARD RUS­SELL WHEELS

It comes as no sur­prise that pickup truck sales con­tinue to grow — up more than 13 per cent last year.

These big rigs have mor­phed from beast of bur­den to ur­ban char­iot. You are as likely to see a spot­less ex­am­ple parked in front of an upscale bou­tique as a work­ing unit at a con­struc­tion site.

Pick­ups loaded with fea­tures that used to be the ex­clu­sive do­main of lux­ury cars, with prices top­ping $75,000, are as com­mon as folks with an opin­ion of the cur­rent U.S. pres­i­dent.

The $77,000 Ram re­ported on here is a per­fect ex­am­ple of how so­phis­ti­cated the pickup has be­come. The 2019 Ram 1500 Sport — a Cana­dian ex­clu­sive trim level — is big­ger, more fuel ef­fi­cient, loaded with tech­nol­ogy and far qui­eter than its pre­de­ces­sor — which re­mains on sale for the cur­rent model year. On the work­ing side, it is also ca­pa­ble of tow­ing and car­ry­ing more.

The Sport lies in the mid­dle of the seven trim lev­els: Trades­man, Bighorn, Rebel, Sport, Laramie, Long Horn and Lim­ited. It car­ries a base price of $60,300 be­fore freight. The test unit was crammed with $15,000 in op­tions — the list so ex­ten­sive it would make good bed­time read­ing.

The 2019 Ram rests on a stronger frame and rides on wheel­base that has been ex­tended by 10 cm. De­spite the ex­tra size, over­all weight has been re­duced by more than 100 ki­los, thanks to ex­ten­sive use of alu­minum.

That ex­tra length has been uti­lized en­tirely for the crew cab with most go­ing to the rear seat area where legroom is up 7.5 cm. There is more room back there for three big folks than in any­thing this side of a stretch limo. It is no won­der pick­ups like this have be­come so pop­u­lar with fam­i­lies.

Nearly ev­ery­thing you see on the 2019 Ram is new. The ex­te­rior ap­pear­ance is new front and rear. The front fas­cia is new; nar­row LED head­lights flank the grill — dif­fer­ent for each trim level. There is a big bulge in the hood. The rear end fea­tures new LED tail­lights and a taller box, in the in­ter­est or aero­dy­nam­ics.

That at­ten­tion to how the truck plows through the air, com­bined with ex­ten­sive in­su­la­tion, re­sults in an ex­tremely quiet ride, 36 per cent qui­eter than the old model.

Con­tribut­ing fac­tors in­clude: Thick acous­tic glass for the wind­shield and front side win­dows, ac­tive noise can­cel­la­tion, ad­di­tional baf­fles and seal­ing. “Ac­tive mass mod­ules” fas­tened to the frame elim­i­nate vi­bra­tions as the en­gine goes from eight to four cylin­ders and back in search of fuel sav­ings.

An air damn be­low the front bumper low­ers at high­way speeds and the Sport’s air sus­pen­sion low­ers the en­tire ve­hi­cle at these speeds.

The in­te­rior is wor­thy of a lux­ury car with fit, fin­ish and ma­te­ri­als all wor­thy of a lux­ury car. There is an as­tound­ing amount of room for peo­ple and pack­ages. FCA says there is 151 cu­bic litres of stor­age ca­pac­ity in­side the cab; nearly dou­ble that of the near­est com­peti­tor.

The mas­sive cen­tre con­sole alone of­fers up to a dozen con­fig­u­ra­tions. Of course if the seats are full, and there is lug­gage in­volved, it will have to go in the cargo bed — ex­posed to the el­e­ments.

The rear seats are ad­justable fore and aft and re­cline up to eight de­grees. Fold­ing them out of the way, re­veals a flat load floor with in­te­grated bins and tie-down hooks.

The new Ram comes with the fourth-gen­er­a­tion of FCA’s (Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­biles) Ucon­nect sys­tem, satel­lite ra­dio, An­droid Auto and Ap­ple CarPlay ca­pa­bil­ity and a 21- or 30-cm touch­screen. The driver can eas­ily find a com­fort­able po­si­tion thanks to the stan­dard tilt/tele­scope steer­ing wheel and power ad­justable pedal set.

The ride is ex­tremely pleas­ant, ab­sent the head toss as­so­ci­ated with rigid rear axle pick­ups. That’s be­cause the Ram has the seg­ment’s only in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion.

The Sport comes with an ad­justable air sus­pen­sion that pro­vides up to 50 mm of lift for off road use or low­ers the same amount, mak­ing get­ting peo­ple or cargo in and out more eas­ily.

I made no at­tempt to sam­ple the rig’s off-road or tow­ing lim­its, but did fill the bed with para­pher­na­lia for a day at the beach — chairs, cooler, boo­gie boards, etc., and the seats with five oc­cu­pants. It is in this guise that the Ram and its com­peti­tors are most likely to be seen.

The driv­e­train for the Ram has been car­ried over al­most in­tact.

There are some mi­nor up­grades to the 3.6-litre V6 and 5.7-litre V8, the map­ping for the eight-speed au­to­matic has been up­dated, and full-time all-wheel drive is stan­dard on this model.

The big news in this depart­ment is the avail­abil­ity of a sup­ple­men­tal elec­tric mo­tor. The op­tional sys­tem, dubbed “eTorque” is stan­dard on the V6 and avail­able as an op­tion on the V8.

It con­sists of a belt-driven elec­tric mo­tor and 0.43 kWh lithium-ion bat­tery be­hind the rear seats.

Serv­ing as a starter mo­tor for the stan­dard start/stop func­tion, it also adds a shot of added torque (90 lb.-ft. on the V6 and 130 on the V8) when ac­cel­er­at­ing from a stop.

The mo­tor also acts as an al­ter­na­tor, us­ing en­ergy cre­ated by brak­ing to recharge the bat­tery.

The Hemi V8 is stan­dard on the Ram Sport. While the tester had all that op­tional equip­ment, it did not have the elec­tric mo­tor.

The en­gine is ul­tra-smooth and quiet at idle and un­der nor­mal con­di­tions but emits a pleas­ant bel­low un­der wideopen throt­tle.

Most au­to­matic trans­mis­sions these days are pro­grammed to get into and hold onto the high­est gear pos­si­ble in the search for max­i­mum fuel econ­omy.

I wit­nessed 11.8 litres/100 km on the high­way and 18 in the city. This one shifts seam­lessly un­der all con­di­tions, with no hunt­ing

The com­pletely re-engi­neered 2019 Ram has im­proved in all the right ar­eas to en­sure it con­tin­ues to be a ma­jor con­tender in Canada’s largest new ve­hi­cle seg­ment.

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

The 2019 Ram 1500 Sport fea­tures a Cana­dian ex­clu­sive trim level and an in­te­rior on par with a lux­ury car. Also ca­pa­ble of tow­ing and car­ry­ing more.

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