Review and photos by Lesley Wimbush

2013 Ram 1500
2013 Ram 1500. Click image to enlarge

It’s a long way down from an elephant’s back. In order to make dismounting easier, the rider, known as a “mahout”, prods the beast with a giant hook known as an “ankus” until it consents to kneel.

Fortunately, my 2013 Ram 1500 tester this week accomplishes the same move with the touch of a button. Its slick new air suspension renders ingress and egress no more difficult than the average crossover vehicle. You may find such a feature laughable, but if you’ve ever looked with dismay at the drive-through ATM far below, you’ll realize its value.  And it sure makes it easier to get at that gigantic hood at the coin wash.

Like every other segment, the truck market has become very competitive. Not only do buyers expect durability and reliability as a matter of course, but manufacturers are vying for those hard-won dollars with increasingly diminishing fuel consumption. The new Ram 1500 introduces several fuel-saving technologies, including start/stop on select vehicles, thermal management on all eight-speed equipped trucks (which heats fluids, reducing viscosity at start up), electric power steering that reduces parasitic loss and a “pulse-width modulated” fuel pump – which varies the amount of fuel delivery as needed.

Originally, the plans for the Ram called for just a simple refresh – but Chrysler decided that a more significant update was in order. According to designer Jeff Aneiros, the Ram was already the “best-looking truck in the segment” and while they didn’t want to mess with that, the front end was updated while still maintaining its signature character. That huge blunt prow now tilts forward in a shark-nosed style – rather than a dumb beast of burden, it now appears more alert and aggressive. Vertical fog lamps cast a wider swath of light, and premium trims receive projector beam head and tail lamps with 18 LEDs. Of course, with fuel consumption being paramount, most of the changes reflect better aerodynamics – including the wheel-to-wheel running boards, and “active grille shutters” that close to improve air flow when not needed to cool the engine bay.

2013 Ram 15002013 Ram 15002013 Ram 1500
2013 Ram 1500. Click image to enlarge

My tester’s badge declares it to be an “Outdoorsman” and it lives up to the stereotype with tweedy cloth upholstery. Roomy and comfortable, the interior is rugged and features plenty of thoughtfully placed storage cubbies. The cloth seats are broad and accommodating – designed for backsides of a somewhat larger scale, they left me feeling somewhat perched. But they’re heated, have power lumbar adjust and the 60/40 split rears fold up to reveal a rugged, vinyl mat clad floor.

For those desiring a higher level of pampering, there’s the kind of material choice once reserved for luxury sedans. Top trims boast premium leather, and the Laramie Longhorn features wood sourced from French cattle ranch fencing. Apparently the wood’s distinctive burling is a result of barbed wire having rusted away, leaving behind an intricate pattern.

The multi-media UConnect interface features a huge 8.4-inch touchscreen, voice recognition, real-time fuel price display, wifi hot-spot recognition, satellite and navigation, iPod and other media compatibility. There’s a slick new seven-inch integrated gauge cluster with a different start-up theme for each trim level. Steering wheel controls allow the driver to display information in a variety of configurations, including: fuel economy, speed, trailer tow information, compass direction and vehicle info.

2013 Ram 15002013 Ram 1500
2013 Ram 1500. Click image to enlarge

The storage compartments on either side of the truck’s bed would make a rum-runner envious. Roomy enough to accommodate the tools of your trade (laptop bags, jackets and camera paraphernalia in my case), they lock and unlock with the key fob.

The technology and creature comfort list is impressive, but of course, the big news is the new Pentastar V6 and eight-speed transmission drivetrain and the available air suspension system.

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