On the Road Review: Ram 1500 Limited

Stepping up to the plate right after the recent Ford F-150 Limited is FCA’s (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) all-new Ram 1500 Limited. With a host of similarities, not the least of which is their lofty prices, premium cabins and impressive wow factor, these two high-end pickup trucks now define the top of the class until the next new truck debuts, which could be the GMC Sierra’s new Denali, or, Chevy’s new Silverado High Country. Each is starting to appear at dealerships right now. Let the comparisons begin.

The Ram Limited ($56,197 to start, $68,390 as shown) uses the venerable 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine with 395 hp running through an eight-speed automatic controlled by a rotary knob on the dash. There is a “mild-hybrid” 48-volt version of the Hemi that will help city fuel economy, which would be a good thing. Running 3.92 gears that increase tow ratings and low-end grunt, the Ram loved to visit Shell stations.

The Ford Limited relied on the turbocharged Ecoboost V-6 and made 375 hp using a 10-speed automatic. These trucks are powerful. They are very quick. They cruise effortlessly. They bump up against their artificially low speed-limiter in a blink.

As with most full-size trucks, and a host of other vehicles, best fuel economy results are achieved with a maximum “highway” speed of 60 or 65 mph. After that, fuel economy tumbles. The heavier Ram’s 17/22/19-mpg EPA estimates are improved for 2019, but are still a click behind the Ford. Pounding up and down a cold interstate for 80 percent of the Ram’s visit (1,000 miles), the Limited returned 15 mpg, two miles per gallon less than the Ford driven under similar conditions. Notably, the Ford’s engine runs 400 rpms slower than the Ram at the same highway speed.

Normally outfitted with rear coil springs, the Ram has been the class leader for ride compliance. Our Limited used the adjustable height air suspension package, which produced a supple pickup ride. Edge stays with the Ram.

Both trucks featured limousine-like rear seating with flat floors for additional cargo space. The Ram added deep in-the-floor bins under rubber and carpeted floor mats that can be separated for cleaning — very clever. The Ram also came with the brand’s crafty lockable cargo boxes — fender compartments that no rival has. Add a power release tailgate, LED cargo lamps and a cargo restraint system and the Ram is scoring points.

Each of these luxury-level trucks had powered running boards to ease ingress and egress. Each had a massive dual-panel sunroof. Each had a power sliding rear window, surround view camera, adaptive cruise, memory leather seating, power pedals, lane departure system, forward braking assist, remote starting and 20-inch rubber — check, check, check. Neither truck uses a heads-up display, however.

The Ram’s seat fit me better, but the Ford had a massaging seat — draw. Yet the Ram’s heating elements in the seats (rear too), plus the steering wheel, were faster and much hotter than the warmers used by Ford. The Ram Limited was quieter at highway speeds than the Ford, the Ram has more power sockets and USB ports, but each has a humongous center console that could be considered overkill.

We used to buy high-priced cars to get the interiors offered here, as each of these top-end “work trucks” had exquisite detailing. The textures, the surfaces, the trim detail are all first class and not only offer eye candy for buyers, but clear distinction from other trucks. The Ram and the Ford stand out right now.

The Ram also packs the largest touchscreen in the class — a massive Tesla-like 12-inch vertical U-Connect screen that offers crisp graphics and clear contrasts that dwarfs the competition. Using side-bar buttons and large on-screen icons, the U-connect beats everyone else, easily. Combined with the best audio steering wheel audio controls, plus concise placement and labeling of other controls, the Ram Limited shows not only the advancements engineered in by FCA, but how this lineup has made great ergonomic strides in a profitable category.

Loved driving the Ram Limited; it’s power, sound, feel, visibility, comfort and controls are commendable. Loved using the Ram; the heated wheel, the remote starting, the aids on the touchscreen, the rear seat space — all difference-makers. Did not love, however, feeding the Hemi and its 33-gallon fuel tank.

So far in 2018, Ram sales are only 9 percent behind the Silverado, as Ram sales rapidly increase with the new truck’s production now ramping up to meet demand. Ford’s F-150 is far and away the sales leader here.

Everyone who climbed into the Ram was awed by the truck’s presentation and comfort. That is generally the goal of any automaker’s halo vehicle — to change perceptions. The Ram Limited certainly exceeds that goal.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.
Tim Plouff

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