2015 1500 New Car Test Drive
The Ram 1500 pickup serves the half-ton pickup truck market, among the most contested in all motor vehicles. Permutations are numerous with three engines, two fuels, three cabs, two types of suspension, three bed sizes and almost all of them available in 2WD or 4WD.
The 2015 Ram 1500 is changed little over 2014 when Ram got a diesel engine and some styling details.
Ram's 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel is shared with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and in the Ram 1500 garners EPA ratings of 20/28 mpg City/Highway, higher than any other half-ton or mid-size pickup.
Gasoline engines include a 305-hp 3.6-liter V6 and a 395-hp 5.7-liter V8 Hemi. Ram V6 (gas and diesel) use an 8-speed automatic transmission, the V8 uses a 6-speed or an 8-speed automatic. Unlike the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, Ram offers its biggest engine in Regular Cab models.
The Ram 1500, considered a half-ton, can carry loads of stuff and can tow trailers similar to what the competition will, though GM and Ford have notably higher maximum trailer-weight models. Maximum load and tow ratings among the major manufacturers change faster than mobile-device operating systems. However, if you plan to tow near those maximums, our recommendation is to turn your attention to the Ram Heavy Duty and its competitors.
The Ram 1500 offers a full air suspension, with automatic leveling, entry/exit mode for easier cab access, and variable ride heights for on- and off-highway travel.
On the outside, Ram continues with its imposing stature. Like many Dodge cars, the Ram's front end has a forward tilt, but it remains aerodynamic. Detailing for the 2013 model year lowered the coefficient of drag (one aspect of total aerodynamic resistance) from 0.386 to 0.360, and both the diesel and HFE use grille shutters.
Ram competes primarily with Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra and, to a lesser extent, Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra.
The Ram 1500 is a conventional full-size pickup truck, but it differs in rear suspension and powertrains from its competitors. Underneath, where for decades pickup trucks have had a live axle in back with leaf springs, Ram's rear axle is suspended by coil springs and located by four trailing links and a lateral Panhard bar. Basic front suspension design, steering and brake systems parallel other half-ton pickups.
Inside, the Ram offers seating for three to six people, in-floor storage on Crew Cabs, and environments that span working-grade vinyl and rubber to creamy leather with ventilated and heated seats.
Brand loyalty in pickup trucks makes sports rivalries look like civilized debate, and many will recommend only one. The fact is, there are no bad full-size pickups. Shopping is made more difficult by so-called competitive comparisons we've seen online that imply drum brakes are better than disc brakes (we disagree) or 300 horsepower is superior to 400 pound-feet of torque (ditto). To choose the best truck for you, we recommend avoiding any buying decision made purely on brand or maximum cargo or tow rating. On the other hand, if you are loyal to a brand then focus on choosing the configuration knowing you'll end up with a great truck.
With so many versions there is no shortage of Rams to choose from. Compared to the competition, the Ram's suspensions are unique and the styling is less conservative. GM has three gas engines and Ford half-tons offer four but none has a diesel and only the GM 6.2 V8 has an 8-speed automatic. The Nissan Titan is the only half-ton that offers a full eight-foot long-bed with a Crew Cab, and Titan is being redesigned for 2016. (Ram Heavy Duty 2500 and 3500 pickups are covered in a separate review.).
The 2015 Ram comes in Tradesman, Express, SLT, Big Horn, Lone Star, Sport, Outdoorsman, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn and Laramie Limited trim levels. Some of these, such as Big Horn and Lone Star, are primarily cosmetic and packaging and available only in certain regions. Cab choices include a Regular Cab with short (6.3 feet) or long (8 feet) bed, four-door Quad Cab with short bed (6.3 feet), and the Crew Cab with a short bed (5.6 feet) or long bed (6.3 feet). Note Ram terminology can be confusing: Some long and short beds are the same length, depending on cab, so shop by tape measure, not Ram's labels.
Ram Tradesman, SLT, Sport, Outdoorsman, Big Horn and Lone Star are available in all body styles; all others are restricted to certain cabs. Prices are MSRP for the least-expensive of that trim level, not including options. For rough calculation add $3200-$3800 for 4WD, $300 for a longer bed, $3500-$4000 from Regular to Quad Cab and $2000-$3000 from Quad to Crew Cab.
Ram Tradesman ($25,060) models come with the gas V6 and 8-speed automatic; a 6-speed automatic is available as credit-delete option. Gas V8 and diesel engines are offered, the long-bed regular cab the least-expensive diesel choice. Tradesman models are workhorses with standard vinyl floor, manual windows and gray vinyl 40/20/40 bench seat. However, they do include air conditioning, stability/trailer sway control, tilt wheel, cruise control, trailer hitch, variable intermittent wipers, locking lift-assist tailgate, spray-in bedliner, trailer plugs, 6-speaker AM/FM stereo and USB port, power windows and door locks on four-doors, and under-floor storage (Crew Cab). Options include chrome wheels and trim, fog lamps, bed cover, Uconnect 5.0 with Bluetooth, CD player, backup camera, sliding rear window, power and trailer mirrors, carpeting, cloth seats, block heater, 32-gallon fuel tank and air suspension.
Ram Express ($26,195) models, available in all cab styles, come with the V8 and 6-speed automatic, and add visual cues such as 20×8-inch wheels, body-color trim, dual rear exhaust and fog lamps; interiors get carpeting and floor mats.
Ram SLT trim ($29,685) is mainstream, with cloth upholstery, power windows/locks/mirrors, dual gloveboxes and so on. SLT offers the widest array of options, if not the ultra-lux features of a Laramie Limited.
Ram Big Horn and Ram Lone Star ($30,590) add more powertrain and mirror choices and on-demand 4WD, chrome grille, 20×8-inch wheels, 115-VAC outlet, upgraded cloth upholstery with power driver 40/20/40 seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear floor storage bins (Crew Cab), power sliding rear window (on four-doors), Uconnect 5.0 with Bluetooth, and many more option packages.
Ram Sport ($35,105) includes the 5.7-liter Hemi and 8-speed automatic, high-back bucket seats, body-color bumpers and mirrors, fog lamps, LED interior lighting, power adjustable pedals, audio system upgrade, rearview camera, projector headlamps in black housings, 20×9-inch wheels and most convenience features of Outdoorsman and Big Horn/Lone Star. The Sport R/T Regular Cab 2WD short bed gets a 3.92:1 rear axle with limited-slip differential, sport hood, and 285/45R22 tires on forged aluminum wheels but will still tow 4900 pounds.
Ram Outdoorsman ($38,180) adds a 32-gallon gas tank, smaller front air dam, gray painted bumpers and fender flares, auto-dimming inside and power heated outside mirrors with signals, two-tone paint, limited-slip differential with 3.92:1 axle ratio, skid plates on 4WD, LT265/70R17E all-terrain tires on painted aluminum wheels, tow hooks, 7-inch TFT configurable screen, rubber floor mats, illuminated visor mirrors, 8.4-inch Uconnect Access via Mobile, and remote start.
Ram Laramie ($39,025) is four-door only and comes with leather heated and ventilated 40/20/40 power front seats, vinyl trimmed 60/40 folding rear seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, driver memory system (driver seat, mirrors, pedals, radio presets), chrome grille and mirrors, LED rear and door lighting, two-tone paint, woodgrain trim, heated steering wheel and 10-speaker sound system.
Laramie Longhorn ($46,935) builds on Laramie with French-stitched leather high-back bucket seats, ash wood trim, leather trimmed console and heated rear seats, wood-and-leather steering wheel, SiriusXM with Travel Link and HD radio, navigation, front and rear park sensors, unique instrument graphics, tow hooks, 20×9 polished/white gold wheels, white gold painted bumpers and chrome mesh grille.
Laramie Limited ($49,430) gets black Natura Plus leather bucket seats with contrast-stitching and Ram embroidery, premium leather 60/40 folding rear seat, air suspension, leather wrapped assist handles, rain-sensing wipers, smartbeam headlamps, keyless entry/start, leather trimmed dash and door panels, argento wood trim, unique instrument graphics and satin carbon wheels with chrome accents, body-color bumpers and wheel-to-wheel side steps.
Options vary by trim but there are plenty of choices. Among the 1500 line: 8 grilles, 8 exterior mirrors, 12 single-color paints, 13 wheels, and 11 seat/upholstery arrangements. Where not standard, a spray-in bedliner, trailer hitch, trailer brake control, side steps, power trailer towing mirrors, smoker's package, limited-slip differential, sliding rear window, CD player and engine block heater are available; a moonroof is offered for any four-door Big Horn/Lone Star and higher.
Safety features include dual front multi-stage, side impact and side curtain airbags, three-point belts in all seating positions, LATCH child-seat anchors, child-protection rear door locks, electronic stability control and traction control and four-wheel anti-lock brakes. A rearview camera, rear park sensors and 911 Direct are optional.