A look at the 2019 Ram 1500

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Phoebe Wall Howard

I loved own­ing a tiny lit­tle pickup truck.

Mine was a Toy­ota. It didn’t have a fancy name. And when I drove the stick shift, I lis­tened to the gritty sound of gears chang­ing. The ve­hi­cle was well-worn. I bought it used and felt like it could take me any­where for­ever.

I drove down dusty farm roads through the Cal­i­for­nia heart­land and I helped friends haul stuff when they moved. That was decades ago.

Now, many of my friends have a full­size pickup truck. Those in the city. Those in the coun­try. Those in the suburbs. Ex­ec­u­tives. Con­struc­tion work­ers. Doc­tors. Welders. Mom­mies run­ning er­rands.

But never have I seen a full-sized pickup move grown men to tears. Tears of envy.

This is what hap­pens with a Ram 1500. Have a box of Kleenex handy.

One of the most mem­o­rable mo­ments for me dur­ing my week driv­ing a new Ram: When a build­ing con­trac­tor slid into the pas­sen­ger side and just had to have a quiet mo­ment. He ca­ressed the sup­ple leather seats and leather-wrapped grab han­dles. He touched the enor­mous video screen. He sighed.

“Omigosh,” he said, shak­ing his head side to side.

He had a truck. He owned more than one, ac­tu­ally.

But he didn’t have the 2019 Ram 1500.

“This is too beau­ti­ful. I don’t know that I could use it the way it’s built to be used,” the con­trac­tor whis­pered.

The shifter is a spun alu­minum knob that felt cool to the touch.

Gone are the days of un­com­fort­able, un­heated vinyl or cloth spring seats. Climb­ing into the Ram 1500, a pickup truck loy­al­ist takes a deep breath and sa­vors the aroma. It’s like a base­ball glove with beau­ti­ful stitch­ing.

Not many pickup trucks win awards for best in­te­rior de­sign. The Ram 1500 does.

There’s a rea­son Mo­tor Trend just named the ve­hi­cle its truck of the year. Most bet­ting peo­ple have their money on Ram 1500 to win North Amer­i­can Truck of the Year, too.

It has a fancy stereo sys­tem, flaw­less adap­tive cruise con­trol that speeds up and slows down with traf­fic, au­to­mated backup trailer as­sist with mul­ti­ple cam­eras, blind spot mon­i­tor­ing, an out­let to plug-in tablets. A wire­less phone charger keeps mo­bile de­vices juiced. Kids I shut­tled around in the back­seat said they didn’t care about the ab­sence of TV screens be­cause they pre­ferred hold­ing de­vices in their laps any­way.

The el­e­gant de­sign of this ve­hi­cle might leave your av­er­age con­sumer with the idea that it’s meant to haul $100,000 horses to eques­trian com­pe­ti­tions along with rich and fa­mous rid­ers like Jes­sica Spring­steen (daugh­ter of Bruce), Ge­orgina Bloomberg (daugh­ter of Michael) or Eve Jobs (daugh­ter of Steve).

Well, yes and no.

While the Ram 1500 would blend nicely at hunt clubs in, say, West­port, Conn., and San Juan Capis­trano — its use isn’t lim­ited to the valet set.

I took the thing over the rocks and through the woods in the snow of North­ern Michi­gan. Yes, I even drove along two tracks in a re­mote area filled with deer hop­ing to sur­vive hunt­ing sea­son.

The Ram 1500 drove like a Benz. It was smooth, baby.

Like a vin­tage Ma­callan sin­gle malt scotch whisky.

The Ram 1500 cruised re­spect­fully past the Amish bug­gies rolling along the roads of Lake County, Mich., just south of Cadil­lac.

It car­ries a fam­ily of five — yes, FIVE — com­fort­ably. Tall 11-year-old twins — a com­pet­i­tive fig­ure skater and a com­pet­i­tive swim­mer — praised the leg room in the back­seat. They had no de­sire to move up front and, if not for a new Eng­lish Set­ter puppy in an­other pickup truck, may never have got­ten out.

On the high­way, the truck ac­tu­ally low­ers it­self au­to­mat­i­cally. Like when you’re go­ing down a hill on a bi­cy­cle and you duck to im­prove your aero­dy­nam­ics. Also, when you want to load gro­ceries and not stand on your tip­toes, the bed can be low­ered with the press of a but­ton. A mom who rode with me said she loved that fea­ture.

Trucks often need a heavy load to get a de­cent ride. Not the Ram 1500. The coil spring or op­tional air sus­pen­sion feels more like an SUV. The truck stays planted.

This is the ve­hi­cle for some­one who lives off a dirt road in Ken­tucky or Texas. It’s per­fect for the opera, a Kenny Ch­es­ney con­cert, deer hunt­ing or fish­ing.

A re­cently re­tired law en­force­ment of­fi­cer said he re­mains loyal to Ram be­cause the abil­ity to lower the truck made it easy to get his 80-year-old fa­ther into the ve­hi­cle dur­ing hunt­ing sea­son. When not in the woods, the for­mer fed­eral agent takes his pickup from his home near Clark­ston to a sec­ond-ca­reer job in down­town De­troit.

He’s the typ­i­cal Ram owner, us­ing the truck for work and play.

When I parked the Ram 1500, a hunter who owns a Ford F-150 walked over to check things out. He voiced envy for the Ram Box, locked stor­age that works like sad­dle­bags, which seem per­fect for hold­ing tools, guns, fish­ing poles or base­ball equip­ment.

Still, while the Ram 1500 seems to wow even the most sea­soned pickup owner, Ford F-Se­ries has dom­i­nated the seg­ment for decades. An­drew Frick, Ford di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing, said, “The real war in pick­ups is not for No. 1 but for the No. 2 po­si­tion” now held by Chevro­let Sil­ver­ado.

Thing is, pickup truck own­ers are loyal. And opin­ion­ated. Many say they want a rugged no-frills man-ride.

“Drove great, but the (Ram 1500) ex­te­rior didn’t ex­ude tough­ness/worker and had a city slicker boy im­age to me. Also, the in­te­rior was a lit­tle too Wayne New­ton/Ve­gas for me,” wrote a critic on au­tospies.com.

But then that same critic also said, “And FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, HOW” could the truck “not have mas­sag­ing seats as an op­tion?”

So there you go.

An all-new Ram 1500 runs from $33,390 to $70,000-ish.

It has a solid crash rat­ing from the In­sur­ance In­sti­tute for High­way Safety.

As for tow­ing, you feel like you could tow a three-bed­room house.

Pot­holes feel like thim­bles. Cof­fee doesn’t even splash in the cup hold­ers.

Con­sole space is the stuff of fe­male fan­tasies. Big purse? Bring it. I ac­tu­ally dropped some­thing down there and wor­ried it might get lost.

Oh, by the way, don’t call the ve­hi­cle a Dodge Ram. It’s Ram Truck. Fiat Chrysler split Ram from Dodge years ago. A tiny but im­por­tant de­tail. Such a com­mon mis­take, though, that most con­sumers and even po­lice agen­cies use the old moniker. (If you search “Dodge Ram” on­line, it’ll show that more than 258 mil­lion other searches.)

As some­one who feels per­fectly com­fort­able in a Mini Cooper or a Fiat 500, the han­dling of this full-size pickup is truly ef­fort­less.

The Ram 1500 proves you don’t need to choose be­tween strength and beauty.

FCA US LLC/TNS

The 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel mud pack test at Chelsea Prov­ing Grounds in Chelsea, Mich.

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