The Perfect Pickup Truck

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2016 Ram 1500 Limited

What is the perfect pickup truck?

That usually is up to the eye of the beholder, really. Some believe that the perfect truck is a heavy duty model with a high towing capacity, large payload, dual rear wheels and a diesel engine with enough torque to move an asteroid. Others believe it is a half-ton pickup with towing capacity for an ATV with a powerful engine to get up to the lake and the cabin in comfort.

In my case, I measure a truck by how it manages everyday driving. It has to have a solid smooth, ride. It needs to not make me worry about an empty box in the rear when I tag it along for the ride. It has to offer great power, plus overall traction and performance. Lastly, it must return livable fuel economy averages.

These are attainable standards. These standards certainly have been met this year with the plethora of pickup trucks that showed up at my doorstep. This year yielded a bumper crop of these popular machines that are a huge part of the American lexicon. With two Rams, two Fords, a Toyota, a Chevrolet and a GMC, it made me wonder how I found myself being a purveyor of pickup trucks.

Actually, I am not. I have never towed anything in my life. Nor have I loaded one up with a home project replete with wood, nails, tools and other hardware. Why should I work with these trucks in the first place?

It is because hundreds of thousands of you bought them each month. They are newsworthy for that reason alone.

I may have said this a billion times – well, at least every time I review a pickup truck. It feels like a billion times that it has been said. It is now beyond "belaboring the point."

But, what if I told you that I may have driven the best pickup in the business? That has been said before, but I am talking about a specific truck, in a specific trim with a specific driveline. I am talking about a specific configuration that is completely unbeatable.

2016 Ram 1500 Limited 4X4

If you have read V&R, you already know of my fondness for the Ram 1500. It is the best pickup in the business for many reasons alone. Three Ram 1500s have landed on my door step – a V8-powered Tradesman regular cab with short bed and four-wheel drive, an Outdoorsman with a crew cab and four-wheel drive and a Laramie Longhorn crew cab with four-wheel drive. Each one represents a level of equipment that is tuned for the right job: A work truck, a leisure pickup and a Cowboy luxury machine.

In 2012, Chrysler LLC (pre-Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) introduced a new trim level for the Ram 1500 called the Laramie Limited. It gave Ram an entry to compete against the GMC Sierra Denali in the top shelf luxury pickup game. The Ford F-150 Platinum and Limited models existed, but us journalists found more prestige in the King Ranch edition than anything the Blue Oval offers on their lots. With the coming of the new Nissan Titan XD (and regular Titans), all pickup lines offer a version of a top shelf luxury truck.

Having such a truck comes with expectations. One being that the truck must have a peerless level of equipment, interior quality and tasteful trim work to engage owners to such a truck. It also needs to offer more, such as exclusive technology and/or engineering features. Lastly, it has to feel special – from the cab to the drive quality. That is a lot of expectations from just a pickup.

Just a pickup, I say?

Obviously, one does not consider the 2016 Ram 1500 Limited to be just a pickup. No, this Ram is extremely special.

2015 Ram 1500 Limited 4X4

How so? I will start with the cab. The original Laramie Limited featured cut-and-sew leather upholstery, high grade carpeting and trim worthy of a top-of-the-line Chrysler 300 C. The 2016 edition adds much more to the package. One may have noticed the details in the black leather upholstery, such as some Longhorn-inspired stitching. Mind you, this is not some cheesy Western motif, but rather very tastefully done. The gray piping on the seats and the upscale saddle bag map pockets on the rear side of the front seats set off an atmosphere worthy of top shelf luxury. There are chrome badges proclaiming "Ram" this and "Limited" that in various places inside the cabin. Again, everything is tastefully done without chintz and gaudiness.

This leads to one of the biggest revelations of the Ram 1500 Limited. The seats are very comfortable. More comfortable than the Laramie and Laramie Longhorn trims! In fact, I would call them "perfect." If I am driving a luxury pickup, I want to feel comfortable behind the wheel – as I am sitting on a big comfy chair watching a random NFL game. The Ram 1500 Limited made me feel like a king on a throne of fine hide replete with considerable support on the cushion and seatback.

So, I am exaggerating. Actually, I am not. Granted, the 2015 Ford F-150 King Ranch I reviewed for another outlet provided the highest level of luxury and comfort I enjoyed in a truck. The Ram 1500 Limited is more my style and taste.

With most Ram 1500s I have driven, it came with an equipment level I expect from one. Start with the UConnect Touch 8.4 infotainment system, with UConnect Access, Bluetooth connectivity, Climate controls, SiriusXM satellite radio and navigation. For the sake of argument, let’s just call this the best infotainment system among pickup trucks with its ease of use, speed of connection and overall user interface experience. I just wished it had more presets for SiriusXM…but, that’s a nitpick. At least, there are nine Alpine speakers to enjoy the sound from the UConnect Touch 8.4 system while I roll in this fat cat.

As part of the Limited package, Ram presents it with a bold new grille devoid of crosshairs and the Ram's badge. Instead, there is a bold texture with a couple of "nostrils" to each side of the Ram nameplate in bold caps. You get the same bold caps on the tailgate with a chrome trim showing you it is indeed a Limited. Though one would critique this new exterior trim as pompous, I think it is quite befitting and nicely done. Ram did a very good job in visually distinguishing the Limited apart from all other trim levels.

2016 Ram 1500 Limited 4X4

There is one particular reason I was glad to work with this Ram 1500 Limited – the engine. As much as love the 5.7 liter HEMI V8 and its balanced power, I could only muster big truck fuel economy. This is where the EcoDiesel comes in. This 3.0 liter turbocharged V6 oil burner could be the best engine in the Ram 1500’s arsenal. It is not the 240 horsepower that won me over. It is the 420 pound-feet of torque that did. Sure, that 10 more than the HEMI, but you do feel it work in the EcoDiesel. With the EcoDiesel, there is a payload capacity of 1,600 pounds and a maximum trailer capacity of 9,210 pounds.

These numbers are all impressive, but there is one that trumped them all. Until this point, every pickup truck I have driven had never scaled over 19 MPG. I averaged in the Ram 1500 Limited with the EcoDiesel 23.1 MPG. It is possible to have real world fuel efficiency in a pickup. It is possible to have a smile on your face at the pump knowing you can average a consistent 22-24 MPG every time you drive this truck.

Part of the fuel economy story is a quiet and smooth eight-speed automatic transmission. The ZF-designed gearbox is absolutely wonderful to work with. The knob on the center stack does get some used to, though gears can be changed via two buttons on the steering wheel. Still, flip the knob to the quadrant you need and go. This Ram 1500 Limited came with four-wheel drive that has an Auto setting, along with Low range and other technology aids to ensure proper traction when needed.

If there is one feature on the Ram 1500 that I appreciate the most, it is the suspension system. There are two key parts to this – the rear five-link and coil set-up and the Active-Level Four Corner air system. While the overall ride quality is very smooth, having the extra added benefit of automatic height leveling and the ability to lower and raise the truck for various purposes are plusses in my book. I have yet to see this feature on any other pickup in the market. But, then again, no pother truck has the kind of suspension set up the Ram 1500 has.

Everything is wonderful until you come to the point where you read the Maroney sticker. The Ram 1500 Limited as equipped in my care came to $61,480. If you love to equip your truck with all of the nice stuff, this will put you in the range of the Ford F-150 King Ranch or Platinum. However, the EcoDiesel costs $3,120 out of that $61,000-plus sticker price. By dropping the EcoDiesel, the standard engine for the Limited is the HEMI V8, now compared to the price of a GMC Sierra 1500 Denali with similar equipment levels. Incidentally, you can get the EcoDiesel in other Ram 1500 trims to save money. You might not get the exquisite cut-and-sew upholstery, exclusive grille and fine accommodations in the Limited, but you can get 23.1 MPG – or even better fuel consumption averages.

2016 Ram 1500 Limited 4X4

Again, what makes a perfect pickup truck? Is it torque, ride quality, towing and payload capacity? Is it the cab design and interior trimmings? What about technology and engineering? Or, could it be fuel consumption averages?

How about this: "all of the above!"

After having the chance to drive almost every half-ton pickup during this year, it is good to "come home" to the Ram 1500. For all of the reasons stated throughout this review, the Ram always has a place in my heart for being my personal full-sized pickup truck of choice. Adding the Limited trim and the EcoDiesel to the many reasons why the Ram is favored over the rest just adds more to the cake than just frosting.

Perhaps the 2016 Ram 1500 Limited 4X4 with the EcoDiesel is the perfect truck…for now.

DISCLAIMER: This vehicle was provided by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

All photos by Randy Stern

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