Spy photographers have caught the redesigned Ram 1500 during testing, and despite heavy camouflage some features of the truck are evident, including an apparent longer wheelbase and a new tailgate that folds down and splits in the middle to provide closer access to the bed.
The next-generation light-duty pickup, which carries the DT body code, is to be revealed in January at the Detroit auto show. Fiat Chrysler will begin production of the truck that month at a retooled Sterling Heights, Mich., assembly plant.
FCA will continue building the current version, the DS Ram 1500, at the nearby Warren Assembly plant in suburban Detroit while production of the DT version ramps up, supplier sources say.
As Automotive News first reported in September, the next-generation Ram 1500 will continue to use steel for most of its body panels instead of switching to aluminum like the Ford F-150.
The pickup's exterior styling will be largely evolutionary, keeping the accentuated raised hood and mammoth chrome grille, albeit in a slightly changed shape, according to sources. The headlights will shrink and be more integrated into the grille than those of the current generation, giving the vehicle's front fascia a toughened, squinty appearance.
Under the hood, the new Ram 1500 is expected to get an upgraded 3.6-liter Pentastar engine with direct injection. A turbocharged inline-four will be optional, according to spy shots.
FCA officials have said that the company plans to incorporate fuel-saving belt-start generators in its next-generation pickups to further improve fuel economy. But continuation of the Ram's 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel in the new generation depends on FCA working out legal concerns with federal regulators over alleged, undeclared engine control software discovered during testing.
New technologies under the hood will require more air, forcing designers to include a new large air intake above the tow hooks on the front bumper. Horizontal fog lights integrated into the front bumper will largely mimic the styling of the headlights above, sources said.
Staying with steel will allow the Ram to separate itself from competitors by using more complex shapes in its body panels. The pickup's side panels, for example, are said to feature a styling line -- front-to-rear including around the top of the wheel wells -- to evoke a more muscular stance.
At the rear, the retooled Ram's taillights will be smaller, with backup lights integrated vertically nearer the tailgate, instead of their current location at the bottom of the taillights.
Inside the cab, the biggest change is expected to come in a new, flattened center console layout that will allow for additional storage space, along with an infotainment system upgrade to the latest versions of FCA's Uconnect system, sources said.