Watching pickup truck manufacturers do battle is like Predator Week on Nat Geo Wild — plenty of bloodthirsty marauders vying to outflank each other in their never-ending hunt for more customers and a bigger share of the highly profitable pickup market.
A favored tactic is to pile on more power, more technology features, more luxury-vehicle appointments and megawatt audio systems and larger displays.
Which brings us to the new 2019 Ram 1500. (Not to be confused with the 2019 Ram 1500 Classic, a carry-over of the 2018 truck that’s based on the previous eight-year-old platform. Ram is aiming the Classic, which it will sell alongside the new truck, at entry-level and commercial customers.)
Back in January, Ram’s fifth-generation bread-and-butter full-size pickup was unveiled during the North American International Auto Show — one of the automotive world’s glitziest stages.
Who knew the hoopla would last most of the year — and maybe even beyond. Meet eTorque, a key piece of Ram’s reimagined half-ton that’s apparently ready for prime time. The mild hybrid electric motor assist for Ram’s workhorse Hemi V8 arrived at dealerships in July and the V6s should reach dealer lots soon.
We spent time behind the wheel of both powertrains in the verdant rolling hills of Kentucky horse country just outside Lexington and were impressed by what we didn’t notice. Whether V6 or V8, Ram’s eTorque works so seamlessly that you can easily forget the vehicle has a stop/start system at all.
The 2019 Ram 1500 is quieter and cushier than some luxury cars and the stretched wheelbase and bigger crew cabs mean there’s plenty of room for passengers and cargo. With our extensively optioned four-wheel-drive/crew cab test trucks — a Big Horn Sport and Laramie Longhorn — sporting MSRPs between fifty-five and sixty-five grand, shoppers in this league have a right to expect a lot. These new Ram 1500s deliver.
The 2019 Ram 1500 is available in six grades starting at $31,695 for a Tradesman 4x2 to the $57,890 Limited crew cab 4x4.
Ram’s eTorque fuel-pinching power-adder is centered on a belt-driven motor generator unit (MGU) that replaces the conventional alternator. During normal engine operation, the MGU feeds 48-volt current to an air-cooled, 12-cell 430 watt-hour battery that, in turn, uses a DC-to-DC converter to knock the 48-volt juice to 12 volts for the pickup’s accessories as well as the Ram 1500’s conventional 12-volt battery.
eTorque will be standard on every 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that goes into the new 2019 Ram 1500. Although the final EPA fuel economy numbers for the V6 aren’t yet available, the improvements realized in the V8 application make somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 mpg city / 26 mpg highway for the rear-wheel-drive V6 2019 Ram 1500 seem plausible.
The updated V6, which makes 305 horsepower and 269 lb.-ft. of torque on 87-octane unleaded gas, is the standard engine on the Tradesman, Big Horn and Rebel trim. In motor mode, eTorque contributes up to 90 lb.-ft. of torque to the Pentastar V6.
Customers can replace the standard V6 with the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 for an additional $1,195 or Hemi eTorque for $2,645.
The V8 is standard in the higher-priced Laramie, Laramie Longhorn and Limited versions but eTorque is an $800 option on the Hemi, which features cylinder deactivation and makes up to 395 horsepower and 410 lb.-ft. of torque.
Although Ram’s specifications list regular 87 octane fuel as “acceptable,” mid-grade 89 gas is recommended and is what was used to produce its 4x4 fuel economy rating of 17 mpg city, 22 highway and 19 overall. Rear-wheel-drive 2019 Ram 1500s with eTorque are rated at 17 mpg city, 23 highway and 19 combined.
Compared to the conventional Hemi, the hybridized trucks show a 13 percent gain in city fuel economy for both two- and four-wheel-drive. The gain in highway fuel efficiency is on the order of 4.5 percent.
The V8’s eTorque system, while similar to the V6’s, supplies up to 130 lb.-ft.
eTorque captures some of the energy that’s normally lost during deceleration and braking. The eTorque motor helps restart the engine and get the truck in motion, smoothens some shift transitions and keeps the V8 engine in fuel-saving four-cylinder mode more often. In fact, Ram suggests that drivers think of eTorque as its next generation stop/start system.
Though similar to the V8’s, the V6 eTorque’s motor generator is liquid cooled and mounted to the front of the engine.
A neat little visual aid Brian Spohn, vehicle electrification manager, produced at the briefing on the new Ram was a small glass of liquid equivalent to the 1.7 fluid ounces of gas that’s not burned every 90 seconds that the Hemi eTorque-powered pickup uses stop/start.
But the mild-hybrid system is just one factor behind the 2019 Ram 1500’s improved fuel efficiency.
Ram’s engineers put the new 1500 on a diet, using new materials where appropriate. Though longer and more rigid, the Ram 1500’s redesigned frame is up to 120 pounds lighter. Aluminum is used for the tailgate, engine mounts, front suspension and transmissions cross members, and, on 4x4 models, the front axle center section. Including other measures like an acoustic windshield that shaves another 4.5 pounds, the 2019 Ram 4x4 winds up as much as 220 pounds lighter.
A tall full-size pickup truck may appear to have the aerodynamics of a shoebox, but that didn’t stop Ram from tweaking things to reduce its wind resistance by 9 percent.
Unless it’s the off-road-oriented Rebel version or a truck equipped with the four-corner air suspension, the Ram 1500 has a standard active air dam that extends downward 2.5 inches as the truck nears 35 mph. There are also active grille shutters that close when unneeded for cooling. In the closed position, the shutters deflect air that would otherwise enter the engine compartment and create turbulence.
Subtle improvements include a raised hood for smoother, quieter airflow while a slight notch at the rear of the roof improves the aero. Mike Raymond, chief engineer for the Ram 1500, pointed out that making the sides of the cargo box 1.5 inches taller cut drag and increased the cargo area’s volume. Ram offers a lockable tri-fold tonneau cover for $695 that the manufacturer said improves fuel efficiency by 0.8 percent.
Even the tires can play a role. The 275/55R20 all-season tires that most Ram 1500s will be equipped with have lower rolling resistance.
Pickup trucks provide loads of entertainment these days — literally and figuratively. Stay tuned for the third-act in the all-new Ram half-ton saga when the EcoDiesel version arrives next year.