Reviews

2015 Ram 1500 Walk Around


Everything on the Ram looks big, yet the truck takes up no more real estate than its competitors. The illusion comes from the shape and the most aggressive grille on the market.

From the outside the Ram looks fairly clean and tidy but some of the badges can get big and gaudy. Re-shaped bumpers (for 2013) are substantial yet more wind cheating, the grilles vary from simple dark colors of base trucks, through horizontal themed Sport, to chrome mesh on top-line trucks. Behind those grilles on some powertrains are shutters that automatically adjust the amount of air going through the coolers.

Some side mirrors stand off from the door glass, the sides are fairly flat, and the tailgate spoiler and windshield are both rounded for improved aerodynamics. Seen from behind where the tires appear almost flush with the body panels, the truck looks quite trim.

There is no large seam between the front bumper and the grille and lights, and models that do not come with fog lights do not have the outline marks in the bumper that show it’s missing something. The large rear bumper has half-round openings for the sport exhaust on trucks so equipped, and both seven- and four-pin trailer plugs are fitted adjacent to the rear license plate. The tailgate has a lock (that works with the central locking system) and a torsion bar system that cuts apparent tailgate weight in half for ease of lowering and raising it; lower it slowly to avoid the big thud.

On upper trim-level variants the mirrors have LED puddle lamps and the headlamps are projector-beam units with LED signals; they are complemented by LED brake lights, turn signals and tail lights in the back. Some headlamp housings have RAM molded into the lens or background.

Some versions come with two-tone paint with monochrome an option, a few vice versa. Many have aluminum wheels, where not standard they’re optional; some have chrome plated plastic covers while others have painted inserts in different colors.

The RamBox Cargo Management System is now offered with many bed/cab configurations. A pickup box with a rectangular interior and no wheel-well intrusions, it measures 49 inches wide inside so it can accommodate a 4×8 sheet of building material flat on the floor. Moving the interior walls inward results in sidewalls with much thicker sections, and in the tops of the two sides of the RamBox are two locking bins, capable of holding 120 standard 12-ounce cans on the left side (where the fuel fill is located) and 130 on the right in short box and up to 143 cans on the 6-foot, 4-inch box, or anything else of that same volume, such as dirty clothes, tools, recovery equipment, fishing tackle and so forth. These boxes have locking lids, drains, lights and 90-degree opening lids; together the volume exceeds that of a 55-gallon drum. You can fill them with ice and beverages for tailgate parties and camping. They might even hold trailer sway control equipment, though the heavy bars may be pushing the weight limits of the boxes. The RamBox has some trade-offs. It reduces total cargo box capacity and it adds weight, which comes off the payload capacity. Because the lids for the cargo bins open upwards, a RamBox is not compatible with camper shells, cargo caps, some bed covers and many racks.

Interior

We rank the Ram cabin at or near the top of the class.

The seats come in a durable fabric that you won’t stick to you in summer heat or be crusty and chilly in a blizzard. They offer good support and plenty of room. We swapped through a few Ram models back-to-back to compare the trim levels and found the seat in the base model is the same design as in the top-line models, and we had no complaints after a full day of driving.

We found we could sit in the back of a Quad Cab for 20-minute jaunts, but a six-foot passenger will be happier in a Crew Cab where rear dimensions are essentially the same as the front. The rear seat has a nominal center headrest and a short cushion length, so it’s really suitable only for kids, short adults or child seats.

Full instrumentation includes a tachometer, with myriad other data (transmission fluid temperature, etc) in the display between the primary gauges. Lower-line models have an iPod-size display much like the predecessor, while higher lines get a 7-inch display with more than 300 choices in the display/configuration menu. On these trucks one side of the tachometer has further displays inset, and at some point you may find it information overload. Try it for a while, configure to your liking and stick with it is our advice.

Gear shifting is based on model and transmission. Some have a conventional lever on the column, and some a rotary PRND dial on the center dash complemented by small pushbuttons on the steering wheel for gear up/down. The rotary dial is not our favorite (it looks too much like a navigation system controller) but it does free some space and gives the cabin a more open feeling. Displays also vary by screen and whether or not you’re shifting or letting the truck do it; one shows a large number in half-tone light, the other letters/numbers along the bottom for gears selected and available. Some of those displays that use half-shade numbers are hard to see with polarized lenses.

Common operating controls such as lights and wipers are on column-mounted stalks, with plenty of redundant controls on the wheel including stereo controls on the back side. The primary switch-bank at the bottom of the center dash has functions along the top (tow/haul mode, stability control, etc.) and comfort (seat heat/ventilation, steering wheel heat) along the bottom. Each of the four dash vents may be closed separately.

Upper models may be ordered with bucket seats and a fixed center console that houses storage areas. The only drawbacks to this arrangement are the loss of one seating position and the space under the central dash. Other trims use a 40/20/40 bench seat, but as in back the center position has a shorter cushion, limited foot space and is best used for compact adults: no youngsters because of the airbags.

With so many trim levels to choose from you should be able to find one that meets your requirements. We found the basic Tradesman quite impressive, not decked out like a Longhorn, but $20,000 cheaper as well. Entry-level pickups long had a tendency to be penalty boxes lacking any amenity beyond a seat cushion and an ashtray (now part of a smoker pack option), but we didn’t feel penalized at all in the Tradesman. Plastic door panels are easy to clean and fairly scuff resistant, the standard radio does a good job in light of the budget-conscious price and the low noise levels will calm after a long day with power tools.

As trims and prices rise so too do standard goodies and optional extras. The key goes in the dash on base trucks but others have pushbutton start, and mid-grade trucks add a voltmeter and an oil pressure indicator. A palette of choices for interior materials and colors includes real wood on Longhorn and Limited, and plenty of contrasting colors and matte finishes. The only one that annoyed us was a Laramie console with lots of glare-generating chrome.

The 8.4-inch screen infotainment system on upper models is very good: Lots of choice with no EE degree required. It may be the best of the bunch, currently, vastly superior to the small screen on the Ford models, which is hard to read. The voice-recognition worked quite well, even when trying to confuse it. One thing certain to be a hit with instant-gratification cold-climate residents is the ability to touch the seat and steering wheel heaters to on before wading through the cautions about driving while distracted. The rearview camera image is not as good as what’s available from the other brands, however; the image is grainy and jumps, sort of like using a satellite phone to talk to someone on the other side of the planet. But it’s a whole lot better than nothing and is useful when parking or hooking up trailers. The rearview camera can also help the driver spot a small child or pedestrian when backing up.

Storage in all models is good, including double glove-boxes or one plus a bin. On the Crew Cab, bean-counters will get bored determining which there are more of: storage areas or Ram logos and badges. On some four-doors you can get under-floor insulated storage compartments, which are a clever idea but, perhaps intentionally, hard to reach from the driving position. The Crew Cab has a pair of AC vents mounted low in back, far from ideal but better than nothing. Coat hooks will handle plastic hangars. Cupholders are in the center armrest, but there are no reading lights in back. The tunnel hump in the floor is just a couple of inches high yet plenty wide enough for the center rider to have both feet on the same level. The Regular cab has a sizable bin behind the seats and anchors for two child seats.

We found we could converse in normal tones at highway speeds back seat to front, with less than average wind, exhaust and tire noise from behind. Both the gas and diesel V6 are free of fatiguing noise and vibrations. Maneuvering a lot at full steering lock is quieter with the electric-assist steering.

The new Ram Laramie Longhorn cabin goes head-to-head with Chevy’s Silverado High Country, GMC Denali, Toyota’s Tundra 1794 and Ford’s King Ranch in a slightly more understated way.

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