JAKE LINGEMAN

2019 Ram 1500: The engineering behind FCA's newest truck

Photo credit: BLOOMBERG
Jake Lingeman is Road Test Editor at Autoweek, an affiliate of Automotive News, reviewing cars, reporting on car news, car tech and the world at large.

The 2019 Ram 1500 is a big deal. It’s only the fifth generation of Fiat Chrysler pickup trucks since it went from being the Dodge D-Series to the Dodge Ram pickup. And it was only in 2011, remember, when Ram Trucks became its own brand.

As we heard at the 2018 Detroit auto show, the retooled Ram will be smarter, tougher and more efficient than the outgoing model, just in time to compete with the redesigned Chevy Silverado and perennial sales leader Ford F-150. But what exactly do those claims mean? Let's take a look:

 
The 2019 Ram 1500 frame includes the same impact countermeasures across all configurations, and is made from 98 percent high-strength steel.

Chassis

The 2019 Ram chassis will be tough. Ram says it’s the strongest frame ever produced for the 1500, made from 98 percent high-strength steel. That improves torsional stiffness, which is just a fancy way of saying it's less prone to twisting. The chassis lost 120 pounds, 100 of that from the frame, and the truck overall lost 100 pounds more from the body structure. Ram also uses “front splayed frame rail” technology, which it says is highly efficient for absorbing all crash impact modes, including front offset, one of the more difficult to engineer for. Basically it means there are frame-mounted, high-strength steel tire blockers that force the wheels outward in the event of a crash.

 

Space

The new Ram will have the most spacious cab in the segment, FCA says, with three longer frame lengths: a 144.5-inch wheelbase on the Crew Cab short bed, a 153.5-inch wheelbase on the Crew Cab long bed -- both 4 inches longer than their predecessors -- and a 140.5-inch wheelbase on the Quad Cab long bed model. That’s good for 40.9 inches of headroom and legroom in front, 66 inches of shoulder room and 63.4 inches of hip room. Its interior volume is 117.2 cubic feet for the Quad Cab and 132.4 for the Crew Cab. That’s bigger, by a few cubes, than the F-150’s Super Cab and Super Crew, respectively.

 
Frequency response damping shocks have benefited on- and off-road race cars for many years.

Suspension

The Ram already has our favorite suspension setup of the full-size pickup trucks, but for 2019 engineers made improvements anyway. The new front independent suspension includes composite upper control arms, aluminum lowers, and a retuned geometry for more responsiveness. Ram saved weight with hollow sway bars front and rear, at the same time improving roll stiffness by 20 percent. In back, buyers still get a multilink coil spring setup vs. the leaf springs of Chevy and Ford, and the whole shebang is good for 2,300 pounds of payload and a 12,700-pound tow rating when properly equipped.

The Ram 1500's chassis. Photo credit: DAVID PHILLIPS

Frequency Response Damping shocks are new -- they have valves that automatically adjust damping force depending on wheel input. When there’s a slower input, like during cornering and braking, the bypass valve closes for more stability. During hard impacts, like when you drop it in a pothole or drive up a curb, the valve opens to soften the blow. When combined with the air suspension option, ground clearance can range from 8.1 inches at speed on the freeway to 10.1 inches in “off road 2” mode. That’s also good for a 27.3-degree departure angle and a 23-degree breakover angle, just in case you feel like playing at the off-road park.

 
No vehicles, not even the Ram pickup, escape the wind tunnel.

Aero

The 2019 Ram 1500 Quad Cab 4x2 coefficient of drag -- an industry measure of how aerodynamic a vehicle is -- is 0.357. That’s not low for a car, but it’s certainly low for a pickup. When the truck approaches 35 mph, says Ram, a front active air dam lowers 2.5 inches. Before you fret, the piece includes a clutch-release system that allows it to retract if it hits anything in the road. It also gets an active grille shutter system, which closes the airflow through the grille when cooling needs are met. It also speeds warm-up time, a godsend when getting up and out in the morning in the Snow Belt states.

To reduce wind drag even more, the bed rails are raised 1.5 inches and a new tailgate spoiler is installed. That, combined with a smoother bed-to-cab connection and tubular side step, allows air to pass around the truck more smoothly, which is good for a 0.5 percent increase in fuel efficiency. Every little bit counts.

Fuel mileage with the Hemi V8 is 15/22, city/highway. We don’t have numbers for the eTorque electric-assist models yet, but they should be a few mpg better. The 2019 Ram 1500 goes on sale this quarter, which means we should see it in dealerships within a month or two.

 

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