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

Review and Photos by Justin Pritchard

“Well, that’s slick,” my dad said with a curious smirk on his face.

I had backed the RAM 1500 up to his garage to unload a work bench, and lowered the suspension at the touch of a button. After a few moments, the truck’s big grey body had hunkered-down to its wheels, meaning less of a reach to unload the bench.

The air suspension sure is slick. Ditto the space-saving rotary dial used to control the new eight-speed automatic transmission, which I also told dad about.

“EIGHT gears?!? Really? What’s next?”

Dad’s never owned a pickup truck. He’s a Subaru Legacy GT station wagon sort of guy – but he does love the look of the Ram and can’t deny the wholesome usefulness of pickup truck ownership. Someday, he’ll buy a truck like this and hook a trailer to it and go off camping for weeks at a time.

But he’d never get a HEMI, because he figures he doesn’t need the gas bill that comes with running the better part of 400 hp, most of which would go wasted, most of the time, in Chris Pritchard’s custody.

So, I figured he might like the tester – because to that eight-speed automatic is bolted Chrysler’s new Pentastar V6 engine. The Wards 10 Best Engine’s award winner promises good real-world mileage thanks to a variety of the latest fuel-saving implements.

Typically, when you buy a V6-powered pickup truck, your friends gather and reflect, offer condolences, share a meal, and probably have a small service to help properly mourn the death of your manhood. They’ll also offer you a pink-frosted raspberry cupcake.

This new Pentastar does make 305 hp though – which is more than many a pickup-truck V8 engine not long ago.

The V6 looks lonely under the hood all by itself, but it’s a cutting-edge little piece. In other applications, I’ve noted its smoothness, quiet character and eager low-end torque. For RAM duty, it moves the big truck along with ease at light throttle and stays relatively quiet and unobtrusive. Hammer down, and it’s a loud thing to listen to, but sounds nice and smooth and mellow. It doesn’t sound or feel like it is straining or being overworked – even if it doesn’t operate with the effortlessness of the HEMI V8 during in-town driving.

Hit the highway in no particular rush, and the gearbox locks into eighth, keeping the Pentastar spinning away at just over 1,500 revs at just under 110 km/h.

2013 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman2013 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman
2013 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman. Click image to enlarge

The slick Variable Valve Timing system manipulates engine breathing through camshaft management to optimize efficiency, and when highway velocity is reached, a message appears in the driver display advising that AERO mode has been engaged by the air suspension – helping the RAM to more easily cut through the world around it. Your buddies will think this is a neat trick.

With the tall final gear and non-HEMI torque, the transmission shifts fairly often when climbing rolling hills – sometimes dropping two gears to sustain momentum. In town, in no particular rush, the upshifts are nearly invisible. If you weren’t paying attention to the number of them taking place via the tachometer twitching away, you’d be hard pressed to notice. End of the day, the eight-speed feels just like any other gearbox, most of the time.

Connect with Autos.ca