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2015 Ram 1500 REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/5/2017

Con: Diesel engine's higher up-front cost and modest acceleration; rotary shift dial is a bit odd to use at first.

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Interior: The Ram 1500's cabin is as good as it gets in the pickup segment. Even the lower trim levels boast an attractive design, with quality materials and intuitive controls that are reasonably easy to reach, while the available wood trim and premium leather upholstery are predictably posh. Seasoned truck owners might be thrown off at first by the rotary shift knob on the dashboard, but it quickly becomes second nature, and it frees up useful storage space compared to trucks with console-mounted shifters. The front seats themselves are soft, yet strike an adequate balance between support and comfort. The crew cab's rear seat is very comfortable, offering loads of legroom and an agreeable seatback angle.

Two touchscreen interfaces are available (one measuring 5 inches, the other 8.4 inches) that do a great job of controlling simple and complicated tasks. The upgraded screen is particularly handy and appealing; it's one of our favorites in any vehicle. The virtual buttons are large and easy to see at a glance, while physical knobs and buttons provide much appreciated redundant control. Other modern convenience features include keyless entry and ignition, power-adjustable pedals, Bluetooth, voice controls, smartphone integration and even WiFi hotspot capability.

The Ram provides plenty of standard and optional storage spaces. The extended cab has a clever fold-out flat floor space when you flip up the 60/40-split rear seats, while the crew cab features watertight storage compartments under the rear floor as well as shallow bins under the flip-up backseat. A unique Ram feature is the optional RamBox system, which places a pair of lockable compartments over the rear fenders inside the truck bed. With the right equipment levels, these compartments can even be locked and unlocked via remote.

Body: The 2015 Ram 1500 is a full-size pickup available in multiple body styles. The regular cab generally seats three and is available with either a 6-foot, 4-inch or 8-foot cargo bed. The extended cab ("Quad Cab") can seat up to six and comes only with the 6-foot-4 bed. The crew cab increases rear-seat legroom and is available with either a 5-foot-7 or 6-foot-4 bed. There are six main trim levels: Tradesman, Express, HFE, SLT, Sport and Laramie.

The workhorse Tradesman comes standard with 17-inch steel wheels, black bumpers/grille/door handles, a seven-pin wiring harness, a Class IV receiver hitch, automatic headlights, a locking tailgate, a sprayed-in bedliner, vinyl floor covering, air-conditioning, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat, vinyl upholstery, a tilt-only steering wheel, cruise control and a six-speaker sound system with auxiliary and USB inputs. Extended and crew cabs also have power windows and locks.

The Express is similar to the Tradesman but deletes the receiver hitch and bedliner, and it comes standard with 20-inch aluminum wheels, body-color bumpers/grille, foglamps, carpeted floors and floor mats.

The HFE (high fuel economy) trim level comes only in the regular-cab body style with the 6-foot-4 cargo bed, rear-wheel drive and the gasoline or diesel V6 engine. It includes black bumpers/grille, automatic engine stop-start (not available on any other trim level), 17-inch aluminum wheels, a tonneau cover, keyless entry and cloth upholstery.

The SLT adds chrome exterior trim, heated mirrors, power accessories, an overhead console, dual gloveboxes, a 5-inch touchscreen interface, satellite radio and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity. Extended and crew cabs add a power-sliding rear window.

The Sport adds the V8 engine, dual exhaust, body-color exterior trim, 20-inch wheels, auto-dimming power-folding mirrors with puddle lamps and integrated turn signals, projector headlights with LED accents and smoked lenses, LED taillights, LED interior lighting, heated front bucket seats with driver power adjustments, upgraded cloth upholstery, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 7-inch driver information display, a full center console, power-adjustable pedals, dual-zone automatic climate control (except regular cab), "Uconnect Access" smartphone integration and online/emergency services (includes WiFi hotspot capability), an SD-card slot, a rearview camera and an 8.4-inch touchscreen interface.

Note that the regular-cab Sport is packaged as a special R/T model with the 6-foot-4 bed, 22-inch wheels, a limited-slip differential, a unique hood, a black grille with R/T badging and a seven-speaker audio system.

The Laramie (extended and crew cabs only) reverts to the gasoline V6 by default, chrome exterior trim (with unique chrome grille inserts), clear headlight lenses and the front bench seat, but it otherwise includes most of the Sport's upgrades, adding chrome-accented 20-inch wheels, two-tone paint, leather upholstery, ventilated leather-trimmed front seats (vinyl rear seats), driver memory functions, a power passenger seat and a 10-speaker surround-sound audio system.

The Laramie is also offered in two higher sub-trims that take it into serious luxe-truck territory. The Laramie Longhorn (crew cab only) adds the V8, unique exterior styling cues, the spray-in bedliner, tow hooks, side-step bars, remote ignition, front and rear parking sensors, wood interior trim, upgraded leather upholstery, heated leather-trimmed rear seats, HD radio and a navigation system. The Laramie Limited adds monotone paint, automatic windshield wipers, automatic high beams, a self-leveling air suspension, keyless entry and ignition and even fancier leather upholstery.

It's best to think of these trim levels as starting points, as many of their standard items are optional on lesser trims. Also offered are two SLT-based sub-trims with extra accoutrements: the stylish Big Horn (Lone Star for Texan buyers) and the off-road-oriented Outdoorsman (includes the full center console and 7-inch driver information display plus a larger fuel tank, fender flares, underbody skid plates, tow hooks, all-terrain tires and a limited-slip rear differential). The Outdoorsman's upgraded hardware is available separately on other Ram 1500s. The "RamBox" weatherproof bedside bins are a stand-alone option on models with the 5-foot-7 and 6-foot-4 beds (except the HFE).

Driving: While the 5.7-liter V8 has the highest rated towing capacity, the diesel V6 is a close second, and it offers much better fuel economy to boot. Although the diesel's acceleration numbers are on the slow side, we've found that it's just as capable as the other engines for normal commuting. For these reasons and more, a diesel-powered Ram 1500 Laramie crew cab 4WD earned an Edmunds "A" rating. That said, if you're not planning to do any towing, sticking with the base gasoline V6 engine will save you a bundle -- and the workaday Ram 1500 extended cab SLT 2WD also earned an "A" rating from our staff.

Gearchanges from the eight-speed automatic are almost imperceptible, so the transmission never feels busy, as you might expect with so many gears. It's also a benefit when towing, as there are more ratios available to achieve an ideal engine rpm, and it could even reduce your need to get a different axle ratio.

From the driver seat, the Ram feels more refined than its competitors, as its ride quality is smoother and steering more precise than you'd expect in a full-size truck. Running at speed on the freeway, the Ram 1500 is impressively quiet and composed. It gets even better when fitted with the available air suspension, a unique feature for this class. It delivers an even more supple ride, and a switch on the dash allows the truck to drop 2 inches to ease liftover and step-in heights when parked. Two off-road settings also allow increases of 1.2 and 2 inches above the standard height for extra clearance.

What’s New: The 2015 Ram 1500 receives only minor equipment adjustments, including a new R/T variant that's based on the Sport trim level.

The 2015 Ram 1500's base engine is a 3.6-liter gasoline V6 generating 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic. Rather than a traditional shift lever, the eight-speed is controlled by a rotary knob on the instrument panel.

A rear-wheel-drive (2WD) layout is standard, but there are two available 4WD systems. Both have a two-speed transfer case with low-range gearing; however, one is a traditional part-time system with manual mode selection, while the other additionally offers an Auto 4WD mode that automatically switches between rear- and four-wheel drive as conditions dictate.

Naturally, EPA-estimated fuel economy of the Ram 1500 line varies widely among the various powertrains. With the standard V6, the 2015 Ram 1500 4x2 boasts EPA-estimated fuel economy of 20 mpg combined (17 city/25 highway), bumping up to 21 mpg combined (18 city/25 highway) in HFE trim. The 4WD falls to 19 mpg combined (16 city/23 highway).

In Edmunds testing, a Ram 1500 SLT extended cab 2WD with the V6 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, while a slightly heavier SLT crew cab V6 2WD did it in 8.0 seconds.

Standard on Sport, Laramie Longhorn and Laramie Limited (and optional on all other Rams except the HFE) is a 5.7-liter V8 with 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. When specified on the Tradesman or Express, the V8 is hooked to a six-speed automatic transmission, with an eight-speed automatic offered as an option. The eight-speed is standard on all other V8-equipped Ram 1500s.

The V8's fuel economy with the six-speed checks in at 16 mpg combined (14 city/20 highway) for the 4x2 and 15 mpg combined (13 city/19 highway) for 4WD. With the eight-speed, the V8's ratings improve to 17 mpg combined (15 city/22 highway) for 2WD and 17 mpg combined (15 city/21 highway) for 4WD.

Optional on all trims except Express and Sport is the "EcoDiesel," a turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel V6 rated at 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic is mandatory. Fuel economy is stellar at 23 mpg combined (20 city/28 highway) for 2WD and 22 mpg combined (19 city/27 highway) for 4WD. The HFE EcoDiesel goes a couple a miles further at 24 mpg combined (21 city/29 highway) which earns it the most fuel-efficient full-size pickup title.

In Edmunds testing, a Ram 1500 Laramie crew cab 4WD with this diesel engine accelerated from zero to 60 in a mediocre 8.7 seconds, though the engine's ample torque makes a diesel-powered Ram 1500 feel quicker around town than its acceleration time would indicate.

A properly equipped Ram 1500 with the gas V6 can tow up to 7,600 pounds, while the diesel V6 maxes out at 9,200 pounds. The V8 can tow up to 10,650 pounds -- less than its competitors, but not by much.

Safety: Standard safety equipment on the 2015 Ram 1500 includes four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control, hill-start assist, trailer-sway control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. A fully integrated trailer-brake controller is available, as are a rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors.

Models with Uconnect Access have an emergency telematics system that connects you with 911 operators at the touch of a button and provides stolen vehicle tracking.

During Edmunds testing, a Quad Cab 2WD with the gas V6 came to a stop from 60 mph in 128 feet, which is average for a similarly configured full-size pickup. A slightly heavier crew cab 2WD needed 133 feet. A crew cab 4WD with the diesel V6 stopped in 135 feet -- a reasonable performance given this configuration's extra weight.

In government crash testing, regardless of cab length, the Ram 1500 earned four of a possible five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for frontal crash protection,  five stars for side crash protection and four stars for rollover potential (2WD) but just three stars with 4WD.

Pro: Supple ride; optional fuel-efficient diesel V6; excellent eight-speed automatic transmission; refined and quiet cabin; useful tech features.

Edmunds Say: The 2015 Ram 1500 is a top contender in the full-size pickup segment, thanks to a winning combination of strong powertrains, a smooth ride and a well-trimmed cabin.

Introduction: Almost all of the light-duty full-size pickup trucks have received redesigns or updates in the past two years. These are exceptionally capable and versatile trucks, and it's fair to say that you're just not going to go wrong here when picking out a full-size pickup. But there might be subtle shades of "going right," and at that point you'll want to look at the 2015 Ram 1500.

With the only diesel engine offered in a light-duty full-size truck, this Ram can lay claim to the best EPA-estimated fuel economy in its class. But the "EcoDiesel" V6 is just one part of the Ram 1500's compelling story. Of course, some folks prefer a more traditional rumble under the hood, so Ram continues to offer its broad-shouldered 5.7-liter V8 as well. Even the base gasoline V6 is no slouch, delivering competitive acceleration and towing capacity for value-oriented shoppers.

Besides engine choices, the Ram 1500 has the nicest interior of any full-size pickup, with quality materials and an available 8.4-inch touchscreen interface that's impressively easy to use. We're also fond of the Ram's class-exclusive coil-spring rear suspension, which yields a composed, smooth ride both on- and off-road. Noise levels are remarkably low at speed, joining forces with the supple suspension to provide a luxury-grade experience on the highway. Whether you're looking for a basic work truck, a loaded-up family vehicle or a little of both, the 2015 Ram 1500 is a satisfying solution.

If you're shopping for a pickup, you'll no doubt come across the 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and its more upscale twin, the GMC Sierra. They offer strong gas V6 and V8 engine options, as well as comparable cabin amenities. The 2015 Toyota Tundra boasts a strong V8 engine of its own, although it's now lagging behind in fuel economy and overall refinement. And no search for a full-size truck would be complete without the 2015 Ford F-150, which is completely redesigned for 2015 with a new lightweight aluminum body and two strong turbocharged gas engines. But even against such stiff competition, the 2015 Ram 1500 remains a top recommended pick for a light-duty full-size pickup.

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