For the second year in a row, the Ram 1500 has been voted by our team of automotive experts as the Best Full-Size Truck in the autoTRADER.ca Awards. It’s always one of the most difficult segments to judge, because trucks cover such a wide range of customer requirements, and our 2021 winner had to outshine some extremely tough competition.
Our shortlist came down to the Ram, plus the mechanical twins of Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra, Ford F-150, and Toyota Tundra. We judged them all on a variety of factors, including performance, fuel efficiency, capability, innovation, user-friendliness, and value.
The Ram comes in Quad Cab or Crew Cab, starting at $44,645. GM and Ford offer a two-door Regular Cab, while Toyota mirrors Ram’s four-door-only choices. But the team didn’t deduct much for that, because very few Canadians buy their half-tons with only two doors anymore.
All but the Tundra offer more than one engine, and the Ram has four. It starts with a 3.6L V6 making 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque, while the V8 option is a 5.7L Hemi producing 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque. The third choice is a 3.0L V6 diesel that makes 260 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque. All use an eight-speed automatic transmission.
A mild-hybrid system called eTorque is standard on the V6 and optional on the V8. It uses a 48-volt battery and starter–generator, and self-charges using regenerative braking. The truck can’t run on electricity alone; instead, the system provides a shot of fuel-free torque on acceleration for smoother operation and improved fuel economy. Before eTorque was available on the V6, it was rated by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) at 12.6 L/100 km in combined city-highway driving. With the system, V6 consumption drops to 11.1 L/100 km. With the V8, consumption is 13.6 L/100 km without eTorque, and 12.4 L/100 km with it.
That’s three engines, and the fourth is a supercharged 6.2L V8 in the new-for-2021 Ram TRX. It sends 702 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque to the wheels – a Hellcat engine, and with the suspension beefed up to match. It’s over-the-top, including its starting price of $93,995, but if Ford’s going to have its Raptor, then somebody is going to go all-out too. autoTRADER.ca expert Jeff Wilson took it out and reports that the TRX provides the same wild acceleration as a Hellcat, “but also a spacious cabin for passengers, all-weather capability, trailer-hauling ability, and the right stuff to go way off-road, in a hurry.”
Whether powered by a V6, that monster V8, or anything in between, our judges like the Ram’s rugged good looks, and a smooth ride due its unique rear coil springs. A four-corner air suspension can be added, which automatically levels the truck, and can be manually raised for off-road clearance, or lowered for easier entry and exit. Ford claims the top towing capacity at 14,000 lb – as with any truck, it depends on the model and equipment – while Ram tops out at 12,750 lb. For 2021, Ram offers a new trailer back-up assist, where you turn a dial in the direction you want your trailer to go, and the truck steers itself the right way. Ford was first with that feature, but you have to put stickers on the trailer and program the F-150 to identify them, while Ram’s system calibrates itself.
For extra storage, most trims offer under-floor bins, plus the RamBox locking storage system that can be optioned into the bed sides. The new Multifunction Tailgate can be dropped down like a conventional gate, or the 60/40-split sections can be opened like doors for easier access to cargo.
Ram outscored GM and Toyota in crash testing conducted by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Ford has not yet been tested for the 2021 model year. For 2020, Ram received a “Top Safety Pick Plus” from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the first full-size pickup ever to take this highest award. With no changes to the truck’s configuration, we expect that to carry through to 2021.
The Ram’s cabin impressed our panel of judges, with its handsome design, quality materials, and ease of use. For 2021, the truck offers a head-up display, a first in any of the company’s vehicles. Its Uconnect infotainment system remains among the best in the business for its intuitive operation and features, and can be optioned to a 12-inch touchscreen with split-screen capability.
Our panel of more than 20 experts from all over the country knew this wasn’t going to be easy. Ford has updated its F-150 to a new model for 2021, including a full hybrid and numerous new improvements, and the team struggled to compare these worthy trucks. GM’s Silverado and Sierra offer a wide range of engine choices with some very sophisticated fuel efficiency technologies, along with well-designed and comfortable cabins. And while Toyota’s Tundra hasn’t changed significantly in a long time, it offers standard 4x4 configuration – a very popular choice for Canadians – and consistently scores high for reliability and resale value. But in the end, Ram has the features, the performance, the practicality and the value to make it the Best Full-Size Truck in the 2021 autoTRADER.ca Awards.