Armed with advanced features and exceptional fuel economy, the 2013 Ram 1500 SLT 4x4 pickup is the first V-6-powered full-size pickup that doesn't sneer "cheapskate" every time you start the engine.
The Ram 1500 is the artist formerly known as the Dodge Ram pickup. Chrysler split the old Dodge lineup into two brands. Ram consists of pickups and a line of upcoming commercial vans. Dodge will concentrate on sporty and family vehicles, from minivans and crossovers to the Challenger and Dart compact sedans.
The 1500 arrives at a crucial moment in pickup trucks' evolution. New technologies and lightweight materials are about to boost pickups' fuel economy to unprecedented levels.
Until now, V-6 pickups were generally low-priced base models with little power or appeal. The Ram changes that, with a long list of advanced features and a correspondingly high price.
Like most full-size pickups, the 1500 offers a dizzying array of combinations of cab and bed size, drivetrains and towing capacity. There are three cab sizes -- regular, quad and crew. Regular cabs have two doors and either bucket or bench seats. Quad cabs have the same choice of front seats, plus rear doors and a rear bench seat. The crew cab seats up to six with more passenger space than a BMW 750Li luxury sedan.
Thanks to its exquisite eight-speed automatic transmission and Chrysler's jack-of-all trades Pentastar V-6, the 1500's fuel economy, features and capability far exceed other V-6 full-size pickups. Correspondingly, its price can escalate beyond what Chevy, Ford and Toyota ask for their V-6s.
The Ram's worth the money, but there are some trade-offs.
On the plus side, the rear-drive V-6 rated 17 mpg in the city, 25 on the highway and 20 combined in EPA tests. The V-6 1500 can tow up to 6,500 pounds -- 6,250 for 4x4s. I towed a 4,000-pound speedboat around the Tennessee hills with ease in a rear-drive 1500.
The V-6's horsepower compares reasonably well to most other automakers' smaller V-8s. It can't match their torque, however. That leads to somewhat challenged acceleration on the highway and at midrange speeds. It's one of the truck's few shortcomings.
The 1500 was comfortable and quiet on a long drive. The optional air suspension absorbed bumps and kept it securely planted on the highway and curving mountain roads. The roomy interior featured good seats, plenty of storage, straightforward controls and a pleasing design.
2013 RAM 1500
Base price: $22,590
Price as tested: $45,325, excluding destination charge
EPA fuel economy: 17 mpg city, 25 highway
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6 in base model
Power: 310 horsepower
Towing capacity: 6,500 pounds
Bottom line: Top-notch fuel economy, but at a price.