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2019 Ram 1500 review: A pickup with style and substance

The full-size Ram 1500 is a comfy, techy, powerful truck.

Emme Hall Former editor for CNET Cars
I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.
Emme Hall
5 min read

There used to be a time when pickup trucks were just work machines. You'd get a bench seat up front, a manual transmission and a big ol' bed for hauling. Sure, low-spec work trucks still exist, but customers today have a healthy appetite for fancy trucks, loaded with enough premium amenities and tech to embarrass a six-figure luxury car.


2019 Ram 1500

The Good

The 2019 Ram 1500 can be had with a mild-hybrid eTorque system that gives it extra power on demand and better efficiency.

The Bad

Like all trucks these days, it can get pricey very quickly.

The Bottom Line

The 2019 Ram 1500 is the truck we'd spend our money on.

Take this 2019 Ram 1500 for instance, seen here in straight-outta-Texas Laramie Longhorn trim. It has etched scrollwork on its metal trim, belt buckle closure straps for the seat pockets, beautifully stitched leather surfaces and barbed wire-style embossing on the floormats. This truck also comes packed with a huge touchscreen infotainment system, and all the comfort and convenience features you could ask for.

Of course, none of that comes at the expense of capability. And this Ram's got an extra ace up its sleeve.

2019 Ram 1500
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2019 Ram 1500
Emme Hall/Roadshow

eTorque power

The is the only truck in its class to offer mild-hybrid assist. Standard on the truck's 3.6-liter V6 and optional on the 5.7-liter Hemi V8, the 48-volt eTorque motor-generator can offer short bursts of extra power -- 130 pound-feet of torque, in fact. Add that to the already healthy 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque from my test truck's V8 and you've got plenty of extra chutzpah for off-the-line acceleration and highway passing, not to mention supplemental power for running car systems at idle.

The other benefit of the eTorque powerplant is efficiency. Granted, it's not a lot of efficiency, but this electric assist is still good for 19 miles per gallon combined, compared to the 17 mpg combined rating of the standard, non-eTorque V8. However, after my full week with the 1500, I net only 16.4 mpg.

Trailer testing

When properly configured, the Ram 1500 can tow up to 12,700 pounds. This particular tester, however, has a maximum towing capability of about 8,000 pounds -- still more than most people need. Coincidentally, my test of the Ram 1500 coincides with a trip to the California desert for my first competition in my new-to-me race car. With the car in the trailer, I'm looking at pulling about 6,000 pounds -- a total cinch in this Ram.

2019 Ram 1500
Enlarge Image
2019 Ram 1500

6,000 pounds of trailer is easy-peasy for the Ram 1500.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

On the road, the truck's integrated trailer brake and sway damping control makes towing easy, even over long distances on the highway. The rear end does squat a bit with the trailer hooked up, only because my test truck doesn't have the optional four-corner air suspension that can automatically level the pickup's rear when it detects a heavy load. Fold-out mirrors give me extra visibility down the length of the trailer, and the Ram's blind-spot monitoring system accounts for the added length, giving me more peace of mind while changing lanes.

For other hauling needs, the Ram 1500 has a maximum payload rating of 2,300 pounds; my Laramie Longhorn 4x4 is rated for 1,750. The four spare tires I throw in the bed don't even register on that payload scale, and if in-bed hauling is a frequent occurrence, you'll appreciate the new 60/40 split-swing tailgate that's coming to the Ram 1500 later this year.

Road trippin'

The Ram 1500 is the most comfortable truck for long-distance driving, largely thanks to its sophisticated five-link rear suspension setup. Said another way, the 1500 has the least "trucky" ride of any full-size pickup. The 5.7-liter eTorque V8 and eight-speed automatic transmission are a wonderful pair, with lots of power delivered in a totally smooth fashion.

Here, I'm thankful for the Ram's full-speed adaptive cruise control, taking some of the stress away on the long drive back to San Francisco. The lane-keeping assist also helps keep the Ram tracking straight on the freeway, and its level of assist can be dialed back if you so desire.

Inside, the Ram is a comfortable place to while away the hours; the cabin is quiet and nicely appointed. Rear seat passengers get an upgrade this year, too, with 3 additional inches of legroom and a seat back that can recline up to 8 degrees.

There are plenty of cubbies scattered about the cabin, and the center console is big enough to hold a laptop and a six-pack of Diet Dr Pepper. For larger items, the rear seats flip up, revealing a flat load floor for carrying taller items.

Go west, young trucker, in the 2020 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn

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Techy truck

Ram's available 12-inch, vertically oriented Uconnect infotainment screen is unlike anything else in the full-size pickup segment. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is a Wi-Fi hotspot. The screen responds quickly to touch inputs, and it's easy to navigate with its large icons and crisp graphics. The screen can run two functions at once, so I can have access to, say, climate control at the same time as audio or navigation data. Of course, it's also really cool to have the huge nav map taking up the entire big-screen layout.

There's no reason for any device to run out of power when you're in the Ram, thanks to the plethora of charging options available. My tester has five USB Type A ports, four USB-C outlets, a wireless charging pad, a 12-volt outlet and two 115-volt ports. Bring all your smartphones !

How I'd spec it

The 2019 Ram 1500 comes in a wide variety of trim levels, with two- or four-wheel drive, Quad or Crew cabs and two different bed lengths. Pricing starts as low as $31,795 for a lowest-spec Tradesman model, and climbs to $53,240 before options for the range-topping Limited. The Laramie Longhorn you see here, which is a step below the Limited, costs $66,755 as-tested, thanks to a whole host of options.

For me, I'll take the most badass-looking and off-road-ready Ram 1500 Rebel, which starts at $44,940. From there, I'll upgrade to the 5.7-liter Hemi engine with eTorque, and I'll take the air suspension, as well. I definitely want the upgraded, 12-inch Uconnect screen, and I'll take the $995 Ram Box in-bed storage system, and the $400 trailer brake control, too. All in, my perfect truck is $58,155, including $1,695 for destination.

A near-perfect pickup

The Ram 1500 has a lot going for it, with a sophisticated air suspension and the absolute best in-cabin tech in the segment. But that doesn't mean other pickup trucks aren't bringing the heat. The Chevy Silverado offers two different V8 engines and a turbocharged I4 on the base end. The can even be had with a powerful-and-efficient 3.0-liter diesel V6, and tons of driver assistance tech.

But in the end, the Ram 1500 feels like the most well-rounded option. It's comfortable, capable and not bad to look at, either. With its smattering of tech and luxury in spades, this is the pickup most Roadshow staffers would want to drive home every day.


2019 Ram 1500

Score Breakdown

Performance 9Features 9Design 8.5Media 9.5