Behind the 2019 Ram 1500’s muted styling update lies a wholesale rethink of the full-size pickup.
We’ve already previewed the Ram 1500, but we sat down at the 2018 Detroit auto show after the new truck’s debut with some of the automaker’s engineers and spokespeople to find out more.
Here’s what we learned.
FCA hopes to erase the outgoing Ram’s lackluster safety record, but Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles’ truck division has done more than just slap on safety features and call it a day. Yes, the Ram is finally available with the kind of safety gear we’ve come to expect on new vehicles: automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and active cruise control.
Yet Ram took a more wholesale approach than simply reaching into the proverbial parts bin. For one, the truck’s new ladder frame features a pair of octagonal rails that support the front bumper structure. Instead of jutting directly away from the engine to hold the bumper, they sprout out toward the corners. They’ve been designed to bend away from the wheel wells in the event of a collision.
If the wreck is severe enough to push the wheels toward the cabin, new “tire blockers” jut out of the frame to reduce cabin intrusion. That last feature isn’t new, but it’s standard on every Ram—something Ford controversially didn’t do when it fitted something similar to certain versions of its F-150 and sent them to the IIHS for testing in 2015.
Ram spokesman Nick Cappa told us that it’s this kind of innovation, “that will allow body-on-frame trucks to exist in the future.”
Hybrids for (almost) everyone
The 2019 Ram 1500 comes standard with a mild-hybrid system that the automaker says will reduce fuel consumption will simultaneously adding a noticeable amount of torque. Fitted to the 3.6-liter V-6 engine that’s standard equipment on the base Ram configuration, the mild-hybrid system adds 90 pound-feet of initial roll torque thanks to a 48-volt battery and a starter-generator that also acts as the alternator.
A similar system is optional with the Ram’s available 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, where it adds an impressive 130 lb-ft of torque at low rpms. Cappa told us that V-8s without the system will be marketed toward budget-conscious fleet and commercial rather than consumers.
The Ram’s eTorque Assist, as the automaker brands its system, isn’t fundamentally different here than it is in the 2018 Jeep Wrangler with the optional 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine. eTorque Assist-equipped vehicles can’t be driven on electric power alone, but the system provides some boost that should reduce fuel consumption, allows accessories like air conditioning to operate with the engine off at stop lights, and even balances torque to make the 8-speed automatic’s shifts a little smoother.
Ram locates the 48-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack on the cab’s back wall. One additional efficiency-minded upgrade on all 2019 Rams is a system that uses heated engine coolant to warm up the transmission and rear differential gear oil on certain models. This lowers the viscosity of the gear oil, which means that the trucks won’t have to work as hard in cold weather. It should also reduce wear and tear, Cappa told us.