The full-size Ram pickup, revamped for 2013, still has its Hemi V-8, but a new and impressive V-6 with best-in-class fuel economy and towing might is getting all the attention.
The 3.6-liter, double overhead cam V-6 is naturally aspirated and mated to a first-ever-in-a-full-size-pickup eight-speed automatic transmission.
Its 305 horsepower and 269 foot-pounds of torque at 4,175 rpm are up appreciably from last year’s 3.7-liter V-6, which produced 215 horsepower and 235 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm.
Some Ram passengers might not realize they’re in a V-6 truck because the burly Ram just seems like a V-8 kind of truck and because the new V-6 power can come on easily, smoothly and with strong sounds.
A 2013 Ram two-wheel-drive model with the V-6 carries a government fuel rating of 17 mpg in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway. Last year, the best rating for the Ram with a V-6 was 14/20 mpg.
As new Rams start traveling to showrooms, consumers are debating online whether a V-6 can win over hard-core, full-size truck buyers who value utility and ruggedness and are accustomed to V-8 power.
The newly efficient 2013 Ram has appeal, however, and that’s before looking at the truck’s well-styled interior, special exterior Rambox storage areas and pricing.
The starting price, including destination charge, for a base Tradesman Regular Cab model with two-wheel drive, short bed and carryover, 310-horsepower, 4.7-liter, single overhead cam V-8 is $23,585. That V-8 comes mated to a six-speed automatic, not the new eight-speed.
There are dozens of configurations of Ram that provide for crew cab seating or full-out, roomy Quad Cab six-passenger seats, plus beds that stretch 8 feet long and a third engine, a 395-horsepower, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8.
The model variety and Ram’s in-your-face, Kenworth semi front styling have propelled Ram to third best-selling pickup, after the Ford F-150 and Chevy’s Silverado. The 2013 Ram keeps the aggressive look but has mild-to-the-eye changes that most people won’t notice.
Stretching at least 17.4 feet ll, with a raised hood that’s at chest height on most people, the 2013 Ram is an imposing presence, even when it’s just a two-door regular cab with short bed, as was the test truck.
The tester with 20-inch wheels fit nicely inside a home’s two-car garage, though a worried driver stopped to ensure there was clearance for the tall truck’s roof.
The new power-folding outside mirrors handily provided walk-around space inside the garage, where the truck parked neatly next to another vehicle.
Attracting attention were the Ramboxes – two not-too-deep, plastic-lined, narrow storage spots atop the sides of the pickup bed. Even short people can reach in and get items out of these boxes.
These optional Ramboxes have locks linked to the truck’s central locking system, so when doors lock, the boxes automatically lock, too. A driver doesn’t have to walk from one side of the bed to the other to manually lock them.
The truck moved with spirit up hills and through traffic. The ride was quieter than expected, though strong engine sounds came through during hard acceleration.
The tester got only 15.4 mpg in travel that was mostly in city traffic.
There’s no shift lever for the eight-speed transmission. Drivers turn a rotary dial to shift gears, which is weird-feeling.
Though the regular suspension kept the sharpness of most road bumps away from passengers, the ride still was bouncy. The truck responded quickly to steering inputs and felt centered but felt big in its handling. The turning circle for the regular cab tester with 20-inch wheels was nearly 40 feet.
Ram offers a new air suspension system that raises the truck body for off-roading over obstacles and lowers the body for aerodynamic highway travel.