Arguably the last bastion of American dominance in the automotive world, the pickup is a carefully fostered and nurtured segment, and it continues to evolve. Formerly known as the Dodge Ram 1500, Ram has been promoted from model name to brand. But don’t worry, you’ll still be heading to the Dodge dealer to find your ride. What you’ll see for 2013 is a full-size pickup truck whose slightly altered looks hide extensive changes underneath.
In the interest of losing weight and boosting fuel economy, a new frame sheds 30 pounds, a redesigned bumper is lighter by four pounds, and an aluminum hood cuts out 26 pounds. A slippery body shape and low-rolling resistance tires help the Ram boast best-in-class fuel economy of 18 city and 25 highway. To get those numbers, you will have to forgo the bragging rights that come with the V-8 Hemi option and get the V-6. But the new 305-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 is as strong as V-8s were just a few years ago. An excellent eight-speed automatic, a feature usually exclusive to imported luxury sedans, makes the most of the V-6 and helps stretch every gallon. Of course, the Ram’s Hemi V-8 is also available. It produces a glorious sound and an equally splendid 395 HP; the eight-speed automatic will eventually make its way to the V-8 models, but for now there’s a six-speed automatic.
Fuel economy is clearly a priority, but so is luxury. The Ram’s cabin already had lofty aspirations, but now it could legitimately be considered a luxury truck. Soft materials that look rich and feel expensive abound. To select gears, the Ram has a rotary knob similar to one found in Jaguars. There’s an 8.4-inch touchscreen available that handles the radio, climate controls, navigation, and phone integration. To keep the ride smooth, optional air suspension smothers bumps, lowers the car to make getting in and out easier, and can raise itself to increase ground clearance.
Ram also made another great decision by not pricing the 1500 like a luxury vehicle. Prices start at $23,585, but if you’re lavish on the options and want to up the door count, add four-wheel drive, and select the butt-kicking V-8, every option will leave you with a truck that rings up at around $50,000. That price puts it up against some serious luxury cars, but none of which can tow a trailer, venture off road, or hold a gun rack with any sense of authority. At its most or least expensive, this truck is about as tough as it gets—but you’d never know it looking at the inside.