2019 Ram 1500 eTorque first drive review

The most refined, luxurious, best-driving pickup on the market is ... a hybrid

The Ram 1500 is easily the most refined, luxurious, innovative, and best-driving truck available today.
The Ram 1500 is easily the most refined, luxurious, innovative, and best-driving truck available today.
The Ram 1500 is easily the most refined, luxurious, innovative, and best-driving truck available today.

Highs

  • Smooth, quiet, and refined drive
  • Function of 48-volt system does away with annoying auto engine stop-start lag
  • The best driving pick-up truck on the market
  • Upscale interior, even on the less luxurious versions
  • Still a capable full-size pickup

Lows

  • Can get pricey when you load up the options
  • Dial transmission selector needs some getting used to
  • Odd standard and optional equipment arrangement

If pickup trucks are a bit distant to you and all seem pretty much the same, that wouldn’t be an unfair assessment. But despite just being welded girders with wheels, an engine, a cab, and a bed all mounted on top, they all have their own personalities and behave a bit differently. Ram stands out with more innovation and upscale features.

Despite what strongly opinionated, loyal, hardcore pickup truck enthusiasts say, Ram reps have recently been claiming its pickup trucks have the highest customer loyalty and retention factor over its competitors, even the Ford F150, the best-selling vehicle in America for over 30 years. And after driving the newest 2019 Ram 1500 eTorque around horse country, better known as Lexington, Kentucky, we could see why.

The 2019 Ram 1500 is the fifth-generation model and is one of the latest and greatest pickups to flood the market, next to the new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, and the aging Ford F150.

The Ram 1500 can be configured with a wide variety of trims, cab and bed sizes, and with V6 or V8 gas engines. Most of the trucks tested at the press drive event featured crew cabs and specifications that were at least midgrade. As such, prices varied from $41,000 to as high as $58,000 on the sticker. But we’re most interested in the influx of innovative tech featured in the Ram 1500.

Interior and tech

The insides of a Ford F150 or a Chevrolet Silverado might feel a bit too much like a copy-and past affair, resembling the same experience as their full-size SUV siblings. The 2019 Ram 1500, on the other hand, has no SUV counterpart and its interior feels significantly more unique and upscale than any of its competitors’. Given the truck’s gradual and upward trend of improving build quality, the latest Ram 1500’s insides clearly move upmarket, especially as you climb up to the upper trim level tiers. And yet, even the more basic models such as the ones with cloth seats had pliable yet sturdy plastics.

2019 Ram 1500 eTorque First Drive
Chris Chin/Digital Trends

As pickup trucks became nicer and much more luxurious over the years, more people began picking them up (no pun intended) as a one-vehicle solution. And it’s very clear the latest and greatest Ram 1500 has the nicest interior of them all, especially when buyers venture into the upper echelons of the trim structure like the Longhorn Edition.

Being a pickup truck, the Ram 1500 can be configured in wide variety of ways, from a utilitarian stripper model to a fully-loaded luxo-truck. The end of the spectrum you’re buying at determines the size of the Uconnect infotainment system’s screen.

The 2019 Ram 1500’s interior feels significantly more unique and upscale than any of its competitors.

Base models get Uconnect 3 with a five-inch display with the basic satellite radio and Bluetooth audio connectivity. Climbing up the ladder gets you a Uconnect 4 system, which enlarges the screen to 8.4 inches while integrating Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with a dealer option for sat-nav for the middle tier. Next step up is the same 8.4-inch display but with added functionality of a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, sat-nav with real-time traffic, Uconnect smartphone app connectivity, and voice command. The top-spec system gets a ginormous (and segment-exclusive) 12-inch display with all of the above.

Also depending on the model, there are varying levels of safety equipment with the usual range of blind spot warning, lane-keep assist, automatic braking, radar guided cruise control, adaptive headlighting, a 360-degree camera system, and a bespoke trailer-sway damping assist.

Driving experience

While the 2019 Ram 1500 is an all-new truck, what we’re most interested in is its 48-volt electrical system. As of late, automakers have been developing a new internal vehicle electrical system to supplement the already standard 12-volt used to power all electronic functions of an automobile. By adding an additional, more powerful 48-volt system to supplement, cars can now have greater computing power to do more cool things.

With all said and done, the Ram 1500 easily takes the title as the best-driving full-size pickup truck on the market without sacrificing capability.

The system utilizes an additional motor/generator unit that sits on top and outboard of the engine like all other ancillaries driven by the main serpentine belt. Its initial purpose is to supply the car with a 48-volt electrical source – basically, it’s a heavy-duty alternator that’s attached to the crank pulley by its own belt. In electrical mechanical engineering, a generator can generate electricity from kinetic energy and convert electricity into kinetic energy, or motion. As a result, the generator not only doubles as supply of electricity, but a small electric motor as well. It’s similar to how an EV or hybrid vehicle uses an electric motor to propel the vehicle and recharge the battery via regenerative braking.

The 2019 Ram 1500’s eTorque system, when equipped, generates a 48-volt electrical supply from the kinetic energy of the gas engine and acts as an electrical motor to start and drive the gasoline engine briefly during takeoffs from a standstill. As result, the 2019 Ram 1500 eTorque gains the status of a mild-hybrid pickup truck. It essentially takes the stop-start function of a traditional hybrid vehicle, like a Toyota Prius, and supplements it to either the Ram 1500’s 305-horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 or its 397-horsepower 5.7-liter Hemi V8.

The result is what engineers call a solution to the annoyances of automatic engine stop-start systems that turn the engine off when the vehicle is at a stop and restart it automatically. No longer do Ram 1500 eTorque drivers have to worry about the lag period of waiting for the engine to restart before one can start going again, especially for rushed driving styles like in New York City.

It also solves a major issue with the modern automobile and fuel consumption: idle time. A vehicle is most fuel efficient when it is in motion and sitting a standstill does nothing but burn fuel. Thanks to the mild-hybrid capabilities of the 48-volt system, the Ram 1500 eTorque essentially combines the hybrid benefit of idling on battery power with the engine off, and the smooth takeoff of an electric motor before imperceptibly transitioning to all-gas power.

The Ram 1500 also offers an incredibly smooth and refined ride that’s free of the usual chassis shudder exhibited by full-size pickups, particularly with its competitors. That can be attributed to the Ram 1500’s innovative multi-link coil and solid-rear axle arrangement, specially designed frequency response damping shock absorbers, optional adaptive air suspension with various modes, as well as a diet of around 225 pounds thanks to the inclusion of aluminum. With all said and done, the Ram 1500 easily takes the title as the best-driving full-size pickup truck on the market. And it does so without sacrificing capability. The Ram 1500 eTorque still maxing its tow capacity at nearly 13,000 pounds depending on the model and configuration.

Official EPA fuel economy figures aren’t available just yet. But Ram predicts a sizable increase on the city rating.

Warranty

All Ram 1500 models are covered by a three-year/36,000-mile basic bumper-to-bumper limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile policy on the engine, transmission, and drive system with free towing to the nearest Ram Truck dealership. The warranties are also fully transferrable.

How DT would configure this car

We’d spring for the 2019 Ram 1500 with 5.7-liter Hemi V8 and eTorque system with four-wheel drive, the standard 3.21 rear axle ratio for fuel economy and everyday driving (a higher 3.92 rear axle ratio is optional for serious off-roading and towing), the adaptive air suspension, all wrapped up in the luxurious Laramie Longhorn Edition to get the top-notch 12-inch Uconnect system, Harmon Kardon high-definition audio system, and sat-nav. It’s a shade less-expensive than the top-spec Limited model, and yet, it still comes with all the niceties to complete the Ram 1500’s refined and high-class experience.

Conclusion

Despite its similar construction to every other full-size pickup available on the market, the Ram 1500 easily takes the title as the most refined, luxurious (when properly equipped), innovative, and best-driving truck on the market today. But not only does it combined the comfortable and smooth experience of an opulent full-sizer, the Ram 1500 also features a ton of innovation that makes it such a pleasant brute to drive.

Its 48-volt mild-hybrid system gives it the fuel-saving benefits of a gasoline-electric vehicle without sacrificing the Ram 1500’s truck capabilities. It also rids the truck of any annoying and laggy automatic stop-start system and allows the Ram 1500 to be one of the most technologically advanced pickups ever made. Quite simply, it’s the one we’d spring for.

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