From the outside, the 2013 Ram 1500 may not look all that different from the 2012, but trust us: The truck’s changes are the most significant it has received since 2009. Back then, this rig still had “Dodge” in its name—Chrysler had yet to spin-off the Ram truck brand – and its biggest technological advancement was a coil-spring rear suspension instead of the (still) more common leaf-spring setup.
Ram has heavily upgraded its 1500 pickup line for 2013 with a new base V-6 engine, an available eight-speed transmission, fuel-economy-enhancing technology, and a freshened interior. The new truck’s added refinement was put on full display at the 2012 New York auto show earlier this year.
Something’s Different—Did You Get a Haircut?
Although the majority of the 2013 1500’s changes lie beneath its skin, Ram subtly tweaked the truck’s styling for some freshness. The grille is taller and the front bumper is new, plus previously optional quad halogen headlights are now standard across the 1500 line, as are LED tail lights. Also new is a headlight option that includes LED indicators and side markers. All eleven (!) of the 2012’s models and packages will carry over for 2013. Buyers will again have a choice of rear- or four-wheel-drive; regular, Quad, or four-door Crew Cabs; and short, medium, and long bed lengths. A new bed and cab configuration – the mid-length six-foot, four-inch bed with the four-door Crew Cab – and newly available rain-sensing windshield wipers, and power-folding mirrors round out the 1500’s exterior updates.
Inside, Ram overhauled the cabin with new materials and has improved the fit and finish. Chrysler’s latest UConnect system with an 8.4-inch touch screen is available, as is a multifunction seven-inch TFT screen that replaces the gauge cluster. One particularly neat touch is the expansion of the truck’s central locking functionality from the doors to also include the tailgate and Rambox bed compartments.
The big news for the 2013 Ram surrounds fuel economy and includes some major powertrain revisions and additional tech. At the low end, Chrysler’s Pentastar V-6 now handles base-engine duties. Compared with last year’s 215-hp, 3.7-liter lump of a V-6, the new engine makes 90 more hp and 34 additional lb-ft of torque for new totals of 305 and 269. The Pentastar comes mated exclusively to an equally new, ZF-designed eight-speed automatic transmission Ram has dubbed—with some historical pomp—the “TorqueFlite 8.” The 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 carries over for 2013, but nets an additional five hp for a new total of 395. The 310-hp, 4.7-liter SOHC V-8 will again be available as well. Both V-8s hook up to a standard six-speed automatic, but the Hemi will receive a version of the eight-speed as an option sometime early next year.
Models equipped with the new eight-speed automatic dispense with column or console shifters, replacing them instead with a new rotary knob mounted on the center stack to the right of the steering wheel. Trucks with the six-speed automatic still get column shifters.
Ram also is rolling out several fuel-saving technologies. First up on the list is an active grille shutter that automatically opens and closes depending on the engine’s cooling needs and vehicle speed. We’ve seen these on several efficiency-minded sedans, but Ram’s is the first application on a pickup. A stop-start system that shuts down the engine when the truck comes to a stop will also be available; this will improve fuel economy by up to 1 mpg in city driving.
Next is a new, four-corner air suspension, adapted from the one available on the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It has five ride-height settings: Normal, Aero, Off-Road 1, Off-Road 2, and Park. The Aero setting kicks in automatically at speed, lowering the truck 1.1 inches from Normal. Off-Road 1 raises the truck 1.2 inches, and Off-Road 2 brings a full 2.0-inch rise over the baseline Normal position. Park mode lowers the ride height 2.0 inches below Normal, giving occupants a lower step-in height and also providing easier access to the bed.
Any of the five ride-height settings can be manually selected via dash-mounted buttons or the key fob from outside the vehicle. The air suspenders also perform load-leveling tricks, helping to maintain a steady ride height front and rear, even when the truck is loaded up with cargo or a trailer. Ram does not yet know which 1500 models will be available with the grille shutters, stop-start system, or the air suspension; the features’ availability will be determined closer to the 2013 Ram’s on-sale date.
The list of fuel-saving tech that Ram has declared will be standard includes new electric power steering, a variable-speed engine-cooling fan, and lighter-weight chassis and body components. The 2013 Ram 1500 gets a revised frame that’s stronger and 30 pounds lighter thanks to more-extensive use of high-strength steel. A new aluminum hood shaves 26 pounds of fat, new cross-members in the box floor of the bed save seven pounds, and four pounds were trimmed from the front bumper.
Additionally, the front suspension benefits from lighter aluminum upper and lower control arms. The eight-speed auto will come with a thermal-management system that heats up the transmission fluid after engine start-up, reducing parasitic losses from less-viscous cold tranny fluid until the fluid reaches normal operating temperature.
“For 2013, we looked at available technology and aligned systems with the goal of greatly improving fuel economy,” said Fred Diaz, President and CEO, Ram Truck Brand and Chrysler de Mexico — Chrysler Group LLC. “The Ram 1500 continues to build on segment exclusives, providing everything customers expect in a modern truck, while delivering best-in-class fuel efficiency, more technology, innovation and features.”
Pricing and availability of the aforementioned fuel-efficiency-boosting tech will be released closer to the updated truck’s on-sale date later this year. Of course, your Virginia Dodge Ram Dealer will keep you right up to speed.