When we get to test a pickup truck, it's usually for week during which we drive it, at most, a couple of hundred miles and report to you what it's like from our limited experience with it. But now and then, we like to plan a longer voyage in a test vehicle to get a better feel for what it's like. These longer trips also provide the chance to find out what kind of real-world fuel economy it can achieve.
The new 2019 Ram 1500 wowed us at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, stunning everyone with its clean, futuristic yet surprisingly conservative exterior lines and show-stopping high-quality interior. The new 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 might have been more impressive from an exterior styling and powertrain standpoint, but the Ram was the one we chose as the Detroit Best in Show, for the aforementioned reasons.
I had a road trip planned from Ann Arbor, Mich., to the in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., before I knew that a new Ram would be gracing my driveway. Yeah, I drove a Ram to a Titan event. Yes, Nissan was as thrilled as you might imagine. But with the opportunity to drive it to Tennessee and back followed by a few days of touring Detroit with some visiting friends from the United Kingdom, I knew I had the perfect chance to get to know the Ram a little better. One week and more than 1,300 miles later, I became pretty familiar with the new model.
The 2019 Ram 1500 that showed up that May morning was a mid-level Laramie model — not the Laramie Longhorn super-luxury trim, but the more common, more reasonably priced trim. I say reasonably priced, but the sticker on my V-8-powered, crew-cab, 4×4 model was still a whopping $55,325, which is a crazy amount of money for a pickup truck, especially one that's not a range-topping trim. The base price was still a hefty $48,535 (both prices include an increasingly onerous destination charge of $1,645). But, like all pickups, you probably won't pay anywhere near this price for one, thanks to generous incentives and competition.
These early 2019 Ram 1500s only come with the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine, which is likely limiting sales but is allowing Ram to get the rest of the powertrains right before unleashing them to the public. We expect to drive the eTorque-equipped Pentastar V-6 and eTorque Hemi V-8 models later this summer; the new EcoDiesel won't arrive until 2019. But that's OK, the Hemi remains as good as ever, equipped with cylinder deactivation and mated to the smooth eight-speed automatic transmission. It rumbles appropriately, provides seemingly endless torque and the cylinder deactivation is nigh undetectable.
On the highway, it's smooth and silent. In fact, the Ram 1500's overall quietness is quite remarkable and a tribute to the aerodynamicists in Ram's employ. The smoother flanks of the big truck allow air to flow better over the skin, impressively minimizing wind noise. The ride is exceptional as well, thanks to Ram's coil-spring rear suspension. There's no bounciness or choppiness to the ride quality, even when the bed is empty, as I've experienced in competitor trucks.
So how did it do on a road trip? My total voyage to Tennessee and back plus two days of playing tour guide through southeast Michigan saw me put 1,367 miles on the Ram 1500 at an observed 17.4 mpg combined. That's considerably better than the calculated 15.6 mpg that the truck's computer told me I was getting. That's not bad, considering this is a full-size, V-8-powered, crew-cab 4×4 pickup. I was regularly getting more than 20 mpg during highway driving through the flat countryside of Michigan and Ohio, but was unable to maintain that in the hills of Kentucky and Tennessee. I kept my speed to within 10 mph of the posted speed limit as well, but I was in no way babying the throttle — my goal was to see how it worked when used normally, not when attempting to hypermile it. EPA estimates for the 4×4 2019 Ram 1500 are 15/21/17 mpg city/highway/combined, so the Ram pretty much hit those marks.
It also compares favorably to the last official mileage test we performed on a 2015 Ram 1500, during the . Then, the Ram turned in an observed 16.4 mpg rating over our test loop, so it looks like the improved aerodynamics, retuned V-8 and lighter weight of the 2019 model will pay off. It makes us even more eager to see what the eTorque system does for the V-6 and V-8 models, and to see what the new EcoDiesel delivers when it finally arrives next year.
Cars.com graphic by Paul Dolan; manufacturer image