We're a long time removed from the days when stuntin' on the neighborhood required a European luxury sedan. The pickup zeitgeist has elbowed its way into the fold, blending work and play in the form of high-dollar trucks that let drivers luxuriate while dragging around full trailers. The 2021 Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn's aesthetic of choice might not be everyone's cup of sarsaparilla, but it's hard to deny that this trim is a 21st-century redefinition of the good ol' fashioned luxury car.
From the outside, the 2021 Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn hides its fanciness. With the exception of trim-specific badges on the sides and rear, this pickup looks pretty darn pedestrian. Its 20-inch alloy wheels look proportional to the body, rather than the flashy 21-plus-inchers seen on some big trucks and SUVs. There's a mess of chrome on the outside, but most every Ram 1500 has that.
There are a few visible upgrades if you know what to look for. The Delmonico Red (yes, like the steak) paint job is optional, but at $100 it's surprisingly affordable. The locking RamBox storage solution, which is great if you need a small trunk in addition to the bed, asks for another $995. Ram's clever split tailgate, which can swing open like French doors as well as do the usual up-down stuff, is part of a $1,220 10th Anniversary Limited Longhorn package that also zhuzhes up the interior with upgraded bucket seats and a unique gauge cluster theme.
And then there's the interior, which is pushing into the realm of caricature. Make no mistake: It feels damn plush with real leather, metal and wood pretty much anywhere your eyes and hands can wander. Yet it also looks like it's trying just a smidge too hard, with simulated sawblade marks and hot-iron branding on the wood, rough-cut suede strips between dashboard layers and intricate carvings on the metal trim. If you've ever been to the Cow Palace in Amado, Arizona, it's a lot like that: a shiny cowboy veneer over traditional fare. It's not my taste, but I cannot deny that it's very well-executed and will not only make its owners very happy, it'll provide an aspirational trim for younger truck-buyers to work up to. If this is your only vehicle, you won't be left wanting for anything -- as it should be, considering the Limited Longhorn represents the lineup's pinnacle.
In addition to the high-cost fripperies, this Ram 1500 crew cab proves solidly capable for workers and families. There are cubbies, drawers and other hidey-holes for every occupant. There's so much legroom in the back that you can splay all day, and if you need more (or drier) storage than the bed affords, the rear seats hinge upward, uncovering a flat floor with trays to keep things from rolling around.
Pickup trucks boast oodles of capability right out of the box, so it's no surprise the Limited Longhorn doesn't add anything beyond aesthetics. But its current setup is more than ample.
My tester rocks the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 mated to a 48-volt eTorque mild hybrid system, a $1,995 upgrade over the base 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and just a couple hundred bucks more than the 5.7-liter sans eTorque. A motor-generator and a small battery pack seek to boost usability, eschewing a desire for monster peak torque figures and instead working as a 130-pound-foot torque fill at low revs when you need to, for example, pull a boat out of the water. It also extends the engine's stop-start capability, which is smooth as warm butter in this iteration. Honestly, most of the time you won't even know the system is working, which is high praise for any mildly electrified vehicle.
However, the mildness of the hybrid means it doesn't move the needle on fuel economy. The feds peg the 2021 Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn at 17 mpg city and 22 mpg highway with four-wheel drive, whether or not there's more electrons in the mix. Those figures aren't too bad for a V8-powered steel ingot, and I have no problem meeting them in real-world use.
Since the Ram 1500's eTorque stuff doesn't affect peak figures, the 5.7-liter's output remains at 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft, which is more than enough to roast the rear tires with an unladen bed if I'm too hard on the throttle while turning onto a fast road. The standard eight-speed automatic transmission is a peach, making its way up or down the gears with ease.
While the Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn may possess luxury-car levels of interior quality, ride quality is a little tougher to match. You can't really hide body-on-frame construction, so even the highest of trims will still incur shudders over harsh bumps and highway operation remains boaty-floaty, although the optional air suspension may smooth some of that out. On gently curved roads in the manifold forests of Michigan, though, the Ram is a smooth operator. Visibility is good, but bear in mind there's no getting around the absolute monstrous dimensions of modern crew-cab light-duty pickups: Expect near-constant vigilance, lest an errant breeze send your fenders over the dashed white lines. The throttle and brake are tuned nicely, making for soft stops and starts that prioritize comfort.
If you want to get some Truck Stuff done, Ram's more than happy to let you pay more money to make that happen. My tester includes the $995 Trailer Tow Group package that adds reverse steering control, trail tire pressure monitoring and an integrated brake controller. There's also a $840 Off-Road Group package that throws in a locking rear axle, hill-descent control and a buttload of skid plates. Kit it out right, and you can drag more than 11,000 pounds behind you -- or throw nearly 2,000 pounds of whatever in the bed.
Uconnect. That's it; that's the tweet. Stellantis' long-running infotainment system gets better and better with every iteration, and the story stays the same for the 2021 Ram 1500. Its honkin' 12-inch portrait screen is a year or two old now, but it's no less impressive or capable, displaying multiple pages onscreen simultaneously and offering straightforward shortcuts between various corners. You can even drag and drop stuff onto the dock at the bottom of the screen, in case you're like me and want one-touch access to a surround-view camera. And yes, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both accounted for.
The only bummer is that it's not cheap. The 8-inch Uconnect getup is standard, but the big boy can be optioned individually for $1,395, or it can be found as part of the $3,895 Longhorn Level 1 Equipment Group package that also includes a 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, power running boards, ventilated rear seats, wireless device charging and blind-spot monitoring. Why it's not standard on a $56,875 pickup truck is a question for the bean counters.
Gone are the days when trucks would show up at dealerships completely devoid of newfangled safety technologies. Most now carry at least some standard safety systems, and in the Ram 1500's case, that includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking and parking sensors. The good stuff is tucked away in a $1,695 Advanced Safety Group package that adds full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, automatic parking assist and a surround-view camera system.
The 2021 Ram 1500 most closely resembles a luxury car when your eyes are pointed at the window sticker. The Limited Longhorn is the second most expensive trim, starting at $56,875. With all the bells and whistles mentioned above, its out-the-door price is a staggering $71,400 -- and don't forget, almost none of that money goes toward boosting capability. In fact, I'm not quite sure where that money goes. Yes, the leather is very fancy, but at the same time, the window switches are unchanged from when they first appeared in the Dodge Journey years ago.
The Limited Longhorn trim leans hard on Western aesthetics, but it's not like that's a unique choice in the segment. The Chevy Silverado has its High Country trim, but its interior design is hella dated and feels nowhere near as luxurious as the Ram. The Ford F-150 King Ranch has about the same level of over-the-top campiness. Unlike any other competitor, though, it's available as a full-on hybrid and not just a mild one.
In all honesty, a lot of truck-buyers have their minds made up already as the tribalism involved in picking a light-duty pickup seems to stretch beyond enthusiasts. What I can say, then, is that if you're looking for a Ram 1500 that can serve as both a proper work machine and a vehicle cushy and fancy enough behind the wheel to make you feel special, the Limited Longhorn is more than up to the task.