There is no question that the current Ram 1500 is the "best in the business" right now.
It simply goes without saying how advanced it is. The technology, the engineering, the design, and the exclusive features simply put Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ big money maker and sales leader out front of all comers.
The Ram 1500 was a #VOTY19 finalist. In this part of the internet automotive world, that speaks volumes.
Before I dive into this Flame Red 2020 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4X4, I received the results of a survey from one of its rival manufacturers that tells the tale of the pickup truck in American society.
The survey showed that mostly men own a pickup truck, although women represent 46% of that same pool. Age ranges are practically equal with no specific generation ruling over any other in terms of truck ownership.
Pickup truck owners are fiercely loyal. They want no one touching their truck. Nor will they give up sex for the keys of one. However, more truck owners would rather give up alcohol over truck ownership. Sounds strange, doesn’t it?
The context of this survey was in response to people dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. I found it interesting that these pickup truck owners see their vehicle as an office they can take anywhere. You can thank the proliferation of connectivity now offered in modern pickup trucks.
I can go on about how these survey respondents view their beloved pickup trucks. The point to even mentioning this survey is the power these pickup trucks have in the marketplace. Add an innovation with a benefit analysis, and you have tens of thousands of people taking delivery of one every month – even during a healthcare and social crisis.
Ram truck owners have the same deep loyalty and love for their vehicles as other brands. Their reasoning comes from how advanced their truck is to the competition. The fact that you have four-wheel independent suspension as standard, one of the best infotainment systems in the business, and a strategy to make each trim level of the Ram reflect the value and the vision of each owner.
Another aspect of the pickup truck world comes from a customer’s want to individualize their steed. Dealers are more than happy to show a new truck owner the vast array of accessories they can have installed on their new truck. Everything from custom grilles, bull bars, suspension lifts, custom steps, LED light bars, and so forth.
In turn, the manufacturers are keeping ahead of the game by creating not only special accessories to be installed at the dealership, but to create special editions made fresh from the factory.
Ram offers this enhanced version of two of their trim lines called the Night Edition. It is designed for those who want a blacked-out truck with big wheels and a menacing stance.
The Night Edition adds a blacked-out grille, black 22-inch alloy wheels, black badging, the hood from the Rebel with – you guessed it – black “vents,” and other black enhancements. This package is available on the Big Horn/Lone Star and Laramie trim lines.
Sounds like an ice cold truck in a very red color. Well, there’s more to this particular tester. To find out, you have to open up the hood.
While the badge said "5.7L HEMI," there is something extra added to this V8. FCA calls it "eTorque."
The eTorque system is what FCA calls a "mild hybrid." Physically, it is a 48-volt generator that is driven off of the HEMI’s belt system and is feed from a specific battery. The purpose of the eTorque system is to enhance the Ram 1500’s overall performance and efficiency while adding additional capacity for towing and payload.
Sounds great, but there is a detail I need to go over. The issue I have with this eTorque enhancement is how FCA provides the specifications for this engine. Both the "regular" HEMI V8 and the eTorque version are rated at 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque.
So, why is it really called "eTorque"?
The torque part comes from the extra hardware that does help boost additional power from the mild hybrid system. All told the eTorque adds 130 pound-feet of supplemental torque above the engine’s own low-end figure. The result is extra grunt that makes smooth and quick passing and acceleration maneuvers when you need it. Plus, this engine can tow up to 12,750 pounds and can haul up to 2,300 pounds of payload in the box – according to FCA.
With the inclusion of features that require a lot of electrical power – such as the 12” UConnect screen and driver assistance features – upping the system to a 48-volt architecture is one solution. Making it a mild hybrid is also another answer to this issue. The separate battery system is replenished by brake regeneration, providing continuous power from the 48-volt module, as well as enhance engine performance towards improved fuel economy.
If there is an upshot on the eTorque system is the improvement in fuel economy over the regular HEMI V8. The highest average figure I got in a V8-powered Ram 1500 was 17.2 MPG. The eTorque V8 delivered the same average in the end – 17.2 MPG. It is worth noting that I got as high as 18.3 MPG in the truck during my time with it.
Of, course, nothing can beat the EcoDiesel's 23.2 MPG average I got in the last Ram 1500 I worked with. However, mentioning the EcoDiesel engine opens up a whole can of worms here. I’ll get back to that later in this review…
There were a few other things I was skeptical about. The Laramie Night Edition’s 22-inch wheels on 45-aspect tires. Normally, a pickup truck would be best suited with smaller wheels and a taller sidewall for a better ride and load management. If you are not using this for work purposes, then I suppose this wheel/tire arrangement on this tester would be suitable. After all, the message from the National Truck Summit back in March point to the pickup truck as one replacement for the passenger car – or SUV.
Yet, this tester delivered on ride quality as expected in a Ram 1500. The four-wheel independent suspension delivered on a smooth boulevard ride that car lovers want in a truck. It does come with a penalty of soft handling and cornering. If you think your truck is a car, you better think again. Even with a set of cool 22-inch wheels on wide low-aspect tires, you probably want to take those curves more gingerly.
As my time with this HEMI-eTorque equipped Ram 1500 Laramie Night Edition continued on, it definitely grew on me. I no longer minded the Night Edition black trim and Rebel hood. What helped was that everything on this pickup truck was familiar to me. This particular vehicle became more of a reference point to all of the fantastic current-generation Ram 1500s I have worked with.
Still, there is the powertrain question. Would you rather have the eTorque HEMI V8 or the EcoDiesel? While the EcoDiesel will cost you almost $5,000 to add onto your desired Ram 1500, the eTorque comes in at a fraction of that cost. Everything else would require a calculator to factor in fuel savings and a comparison in tow ratings, payload, etc.
Just for the record, my tester came with a sticker price of $68,615. The Night Edition package alone cost $3,495 and the HEMI V8 with eTorque was a $1,695 option.
The truck that is displayed on this page marks the sixth current-generation Ram 1500 that I have driven and written about since its first appearance in 2018. Each of these pickup trucks point to one overarching conclusion – the Ram 1500 are indeed the best pickup truck in the business.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
All photos by Randy Stern