Test Drive: 2019 Ram 1500 Sport

Trucks sure have come a long way over the years. I can recall my Dad’s dismay at the idea that his new truck had heated seats back in 1998. “Who the hell needs heated seats in a truck?” He scoffed. Interesting post-script to that story is that he loved the new feature so much and used it so often that he actually developed a heat rash. Funny how we can become accustomed to something we didn’t even want in the first place.

Fast forward to 2019 and the (don’t call it a Dodge) Ram Sport 1500 has more bells and whistles than you can fathom or even feel. Just because it has crossed over into offering occupants a luxurious experience doesn’t mean it lacks any of its previous utility. Quite the contrary.

My Canadian-only Sport model tester was Diamond Black Crystal Pearl from tip to tail. Opting for the Sport trim gives buyers the body-colour-matched grille, door handles, and mirrors; as well as black badges, exhaust pipes, and interior. Turns out that the take rate south of the 49th parallel wasn’t high enough to keep it on the roster, but since it makes up as much as 25 percent of the Rams sold in Canada, we’ll continue to get it up here. Their loss.

Styling: 9/10

Design appreciation is often subjective, but the Ram 1500 Sport is among the best-looking pickups on the market, particularly after what Chevrolet did to the face of the Silverado. Shudder. The blacked-out theme is complemented by the optional 22-inch wheels wrapped in 285/45-22 Goodyear rubber, automatically retractable black running boards and three-way folding tonneau cover. Interior materials consist of contrast-stitched leather and high-quality plastic that feels substantial. The dash layout is visually appealing and provides a wide array of information, combining analog and digital elements.

User Friendliness: 8/10

The Ram feels much smaller than its dimensions and capability would suggest. Adjustable steering wheel, seats, mirrors and pedals allow for a comfortable driving position regardless of driver size and stature. While it isn’t targeted to an urban audience, it’s agile, and the adjustable suspension allows the truck to be lowered enough to easily fit in a parking garage. There are two 115V power outlets, USB ports everywhere and the massive 12-inch touchscreen makes it easy to operate climate controls, navigation or media. The Trailer Tow Group option is a must for anyone who plans on hitching up. Mounting the 2,495 kg (5,500 lb) Keystone Passport 2670 BH luxury travel trailer I’d arranged for the week from Sicard RV, I was prepared for a long ordeal to secure the proper connections and setup the trailer brakes. Arriving prepared with my adapter, the Ram had both popular power connections integrated into the bumper. Not only that, but the truck’s computer immediately recognized the size and weight of the trailer, automatically setting up the brakes. The whole thing took less than five minutes from start to finish.

Features: 9/10

The 2019 model gets a selection of standard and optional equipment, including LED headlights and fog lamps, heated (and ventilated) seats and steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals, push-button start, hill start assist, an active grille, an aluminum tailgate, and a rear-view camera, which was particularly useful in hitching the travel trailer. My tester for the week was loaded up with just shy of $20,000 in options, so you’d be hard pressed to find features that it didn’t have included. Hill start assist, and trailer sway control were both appreciated, the latter particularly while crossing the Burlington Skyway. The optional 19-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system makes for a great travel companion and the power dual-pane panoramic moonroof opened up the interior with light or can quickly and easily be closed, as can the power rear window.

Safety: 9/10

This truck was equipped with the $2,100 Advanced Safety Group, including adaptive cruise control featuring stop-and-go capability, advanced brake assist, forward collision warning with active braking, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist, as well as parallel and perpendicular park assist with stop capability. Most of the aforementioned techno-nannies infuriate me under normal circumstances for being redundant and intrusive, however, they actually became helpful and appreciated when towing.

Acting as an additional set of eyes and hands, adaptive cruise, blind spot detection, and lane-keeping aids lowered the stress of trailering on a busy long weekend and even reduced fatigue.

Comfort: 9/10

Sliding behind the wheel, it’s easy to get acclimatized and comfortable, as much of the truck can be customized to suit your needs and preferences. Power-adjustable seats, pedals, mirrors, and steering wheel let you get on your way in short order. The large dual-pane mirrors took a few minutes to get used to while bobtailing but were greatly appreciated once I hooked up the 8.2 m (27 ft) camper trailer and drove in heavy traffic.

Rather than many pickups that feature leaf springs in the rear, the Ram has coil-spring rear suspension, or the option of four-corner air suspension. It soaks up bumps, potholes, and road irregularities as well as any I’ve experienced in a luxury vehicle. The height adjusts automatically or can be raised or lowered manually. The ride is actually so smooth, quiet, and comfortable that instead of finding a pet sitter for the weekend excursion to Speedfest, I opted to bring my cat Waylon along for the ride. Strapped in to a seatbelt through his harness, he was quite content to enjoy the ride on his favourite blanket listening to the familiar sounds of the Beatles on SiriusXM 18 just like at home.

Practicality: 9/10

Few vehicles would be more practical than this truck. It is comfortable to drive, easy to park, and can tow up to 5,783 kg (12,750 lb.) Flip up the rear seats and the cargo capacity is massive. There are lots of storage areas for keys, wallets, purses, tablets, coffee cups, etc., and the optional locking RamBox on either side of the bed makes for a convenient place to store tools. But let’s be honest, they are made for storing beers and keeping them cold while tailgating or camping. Afterall, when was the last time you needed a drain plug in a tool box? The only drawback I experienced was at the pump when filling up the massive 124 L fuel tank. Even with less-than-optimal fuel economy, the optional tank does offer a decent range.

Power: 9/10

Engines choices are the 3.6L V6 putting out 305 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque, the 3.0L EcoDiesel or the 5.7L Hemi making 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. Mated exclusively to an eight-speed automatic, there are no Sport or Eco modes. The dash-mounted dial to the right of the steering wheel gives you the option of Park, Reverse, Neutral, or Drive which did admittedly feel unique in the current ecosystem of fuel consumption management options. Acceleration from the 5.7L was never an issue, regardless of situation.

Pulling away from the dealership, I had to keep checking my mirrors to ensure the trailer was still attached because acceleration was still so smooth, linear, and seemingly effortless. It was only on one occasion while climbing a steep grade slowly that the transmission dropped a couple cogs to access more power and felt like it was doing any heavy lifting whatsoever. Otherwise it hardly felt like it was breaking a sweat. The engine also has a nice subtle growl.

Driving Feel: 9/10

If the logo on the steering wheel were covered, one could be forgiven for thinking they were piloting a luxury SUV. Steering is buttery smooth, although the radius could be a bit wider for action in urban centres, but that’s not where most Rams will spend their time. Feedback is good, but there’s an ever so slight bit of play in the centre which could be ever so slightly more precise, particularly while towing, but at this point we’re splitting hairs in a truck with very few shortcomings.

Fuel Economy: 6.5/10

Fuel economy is listed as 16.1 L/100 km in the city, 11.0 L/100 km on the highway and 13.8 L/100 km combined. My experience was less optimistic as I logged an average of 19.1/100 km while commuting in and around the city in stop-and-go traffic. Over the course of driving 464 km with the 5,500 lb trailer attached on the highway and back country roads, I averaged 26.4 L/100 km, requiring more-frequent fuel stops. The multi-cylinder displacement system (MDS) shuts off half of the cylinders when not deemed as required. Aside from the towing mode, there aren’t Sport or Eco settings. There were times while towing that the eight-speed transmission  was sitting in a lower gear than I would have chosen, which would most definitely impact fuel economy.

Value: 7/10

If the $81,212 price tag makes your eyes water, consider the fact that this particular truck has just shy of $20,000 worth of options and accessories, some of which you may not want or need. That being said, the truck does provide a great deal of value and is well priced against the competition in this highly contentious segment.

The light truck segment is one of the few areas of the industry where brand loyalty remains and allegiances run deep. While some blue oval and bowtie owners won't consider the Ram simply because of its badge, it's well worth a look as it is quickly moving from a contender to a leader.

2019 Ram 1500 Sport Crew Cab 4x4
Engine Displacement: 5.7L
Engine Cylinders: V8
Peak Horsepower: 395 hp
Peak Torque: 410 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 16.1/11.0/13.8 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 1,742 L
2019 Ram 1500 Sport Crew Cab 4x4
Base Price $61,545
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,895
Price as Tested $83,220
Optional Equipment $19,680 – Diamond Black Crystal Pearl paint $275; Trailer Tow Group $525; Advanced Safety Group $2,100; Bed Utility Group $200; Leather & Sound Group $3,895; Level 2 Equipment Group $1,025; All-weather floor mats $175; Tonneau cover $650; Anti-spin rear differential $525; Dual-pane panoramic sunroof $1,595; Deployable bed step $50; Sport performance hood $995; Power running boards $1,195; 124 L fuel tank $445; Active-level 4-corner air suspension $1,895; 22-inch polished aluminum rims $1,295; Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection $500; RamBox Cargo Management System $1,295; Class IV hitch receiver $495; Spray-in bedliner $550
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.4
9 Styling
9 Powertrain
9 Quality
9 Comfort
9 Practicality
9 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
6 Fuel Economy
9 Features
7 Value