RAM introduces new 1500 for 2013

It’s a rarity for a new truck to be unveiled at the New York Auto Show — usually that honor is reserved for events like the State Fair of Texas. The production scheduling for the 2013 Ram 1500 made it necessary to make the introduction earlier this month at the New York show. I saw a preview of the truck at Chrysler’s December event for auto journalists but was embargoed from releasing anything.  Break an embargo and it is practically death for an auto writer, but I have been itching to talk about it.

Fred Diaz, President and CEO of RAM Truck brand and Chrysler de Mexico at the NY Auto Show

This is a beefier, more robust, yet more refined pickup, and it will be an immediate hit with traditional RAM buyers, and — although truck buyers are the most loyal in the business — there should be considerable conquest sales to truck people who are excited about where RAM is going.

RAM is currently in the third place among the six rivals in the 1/2-ton category. Ford is a perennial first place market winner with Silverado second. But that is only part of the numbers game. In January of 2012, the 1500 increased market share by 3.4% (a huge jump) helping it to solidify its position is a very competitive marketplace. For 2011 and 2012, Fred Diaz, President/CEO of RAM trucks and president of Chrysler de Mexico — Chrysler Group, LLC, had announced incremental improvements in the brand, including a nicely-appointed 1500 for under $30,000, the RAM Express. (Since the Express is not currently part of the press fleet, Chrysler has offered to build on specifically for us — a first from any vehicle maker — and we will be reviewing it as soon as it comes in.) Fleet vehicles are generally loaded with extras and we want to give you a story on one which is less a dream truck and more of an affordable truck for the average guy.

From the outside in, the 2013 model has a fresh look with all of the bells and whistles. There is a more domed hood and the grille is broader to reach the edges of the grille surround.  The badges have been relocated and there is a new front bumper and headlight style, but the big changes are under the hood and on the interior.

New engines and transmissions

A new 3.6L  Pentastar V-6 engine with variaval-valve tioming offers best-in-clasds standard 305 horspower with 269 lb.-ft. of torque and best fuel economy for V-6 trucks.  This translates to 42% more horsepower, 13% more torque and at least 20% better fuel economy when compard with the previous 3.7/V-6 combination.  A new class-exclusive 8-speed automatic (TorqueFlite 8) will be standard with this engine for double the number of gears for improved drivability and enhanced fuel efficiency. 

 The new 8-speed will also be available with the 5.7L V-8 HEMI. This engine/transmission combination 8 with VVT provides 395 hp, 407 lb.-ft. of torque and at least a 10% improvement in fuel economy.  The HEMI is rated at 11,500 towing and 3,125, which RAM describes as best in class.

When the 5.7L is mated with the new transmission, it will feature a dash-mounted rotary e-shift dial enabling quick blind-shift transitions from reverse to drive when towing or navigation out of mud, snow or busy parking lots.  On this model, this easy to use and understand ststem provides control of the 8-speed transmission to replace either column or floor shifters.

This is RAM’s approach to electronic shifters already in use on Class 6-8 trucks. The new rotary e-shift also provides more functional and usagle storage in the console.

 RAM will also continue to offer the 4.7L V8 that delivers 310 hp and 330 lb.-ft. of torque. The current six speed will be standard with this power plant.

New technologies

For the first time in a pickup truck, the new 1500 features stop-start technology for fuel savings.  This feature increases fuel efficiency by shutting the engine off electronically when the truck comes to a complete stop.  The driver need do nothing to reactivate it when the light turns green, for example, but when idling at a light it will reduce fuel use to almost nothing.  Radio, gauges, hvac continue to operate making the stop-start invisible to the driver.  Just release the break for seamless acceleration.

Fuel savings is about one mile per gallon to the city mpg rating.  Enabling components have been upgraded for heavy-duty operation on models equipped with stop-start. 

Before you panic, this technology is already available on a range of high end vehicles and, I expect, will become fairly standard over the next few years since it really does work.

Active grill shutters are desigbned to shut off airflow to the engine when not needed and this, too, adds measurably to fuel economy and performance.  Improved aerodynamics and subtle styling changes have yielded a 6% improvement in the vehicle drag coeffients compared to the 2012 models.

Borrowing from the highly successful air suspension adopted for the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee (which I just spent two weeks in), this new RAM has their best-in-class ride and handling.  The new suspesion system features five height settings for optimal ride and aerodynamicsw with active technologyh adjusting height while moving.  Supported for four-corner air springs, the new system adds up to 4″ of lift span for step-in height of 21″ and ground clearance of 10.7″ (both best in class).

Another benefit to the new air suspension is load-leveling acapability which automatically detects load on the suspension from trailer or payload.  The air pressure increases until the vehicle reaches normal ride height, leveling the truck to improved the loaded ride.l

A separate button on the key fob gives the operator the ability to manually lower the truck for ease of passenger entry and reduced tailgate lift-over height.

Interior evolution

On the interior of the 2013 RAM, new features and technologies feature new material upgrades, improved fit and finish and all new interior themes, HVAC controls and state-of-the-industry multimedia systems.  Premium soft-touch materials are used in fr0nt and rear seating areas.  There is a next-generation 8.4″ Uconnect system with background screens coordinated to RAM models.  The cener stack is upgraded to make space for the new screen. 

HVAC controls on the pickups have taken a cue from the company’s other Uconnect applications in other vehicles for improved function to meet the highest Human Machine Interface (HMI) standards.  The redundant architecture allows the driver to use either the touchscreen or manual controls to adjust the truck’s environment.

The Uconnect media center provides a built-in cellular connection so occupants are automatically connected to a vairiety of new services and the Internet with WiFi hotspot capability.  Smart phone apps are also accessible and RAM owners will receive regular v ehicle health reports as well as beinbg able to remotely lock or unlock doors, start the vehicle and flash lights from any distance.

Uconnect access also offers HD Radio, SiriusXM satellite radio with the new SiriusXM Latino channels, hands-free mobile phone operation, navigation, texting and more with compatible phones.

Customization of the instrument cluster and display is exceptional, and other new feature include available Keyless Enter ‘n Go which allows doors to be unlocked and the ignition started without touching the key fob.  Remote central locking includes the RamBox cargo management system and tailgate power locks for the first time.

This list of standard or optional features is only the tip of the iceberg.  The 2013 RAM 1500 will be available in late 2012 or early 2013.  Pricing will be announced closer to the release date.

I suspect that the RAM folks will do their utmost to have the new trucks at the Texas Auto Writers Association Truck Rodeo in early October.  Named Truck of Texas in 2010, they lost that coveted spot to the Ford F-150 last year.  Fred Diaz and his team are planning to win it back this year.  Add in the Silverado, GMC, Nissan Titan and the Toyota Tundra and it should be a great contest.

More more info (RAM hasn’t given us any feature photos yet) check it out at http://www.ramtrucks.com/ where I suspect there will be lots more posted before the new pickup reaches your dealer.