2018 Ram 1500 Review

2018 Ram 1500 - Limited Tungsten offers a posh direction for Ram

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During past decades, the venerable pickup truck performed admirably, doubling as a work horse and family hauler.  What's next?  How about a dash of elegance. For 2018 Ram debuts a top-notch upper trim in light-duty (1500), medium-duty (2500) and heavy-duty (3500) editions.

Ram, the truck-division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) now offers the Limited Tungsten edition in all three weight/work classes. 

The Limited Tungsten edition includes a can't-miss chrome grill with RAM spelled out squarely in the middle flanked by belt buckle-like artistry.  Unique satin-painted wheels and blacked-out headlamps distinguish Tungsten models as do body colored side running boards and performance hood with cosmetic vents. Inside premium leather abounds with a soft-touch dashboard coupled with a suede-like headliner. Thick, strap-like grab handles adorn side doors, grip-able when wearing winter-weight padded gloves. 

The 2018 Ram light duty 1500 continues utilizing underpinnings introduced back in 2009 (when Ram split from Dodge to form a stand-alone body-on-frame truck division) with mid-cycle tweaks coming onboard in 2013 including an aluminum hood, high-strength steel frames and less overall weight. Expect a next-generation redesign very very soon.

Three cab lengths, three bed lengths, three engine selections along with two or four-wheel drive opportunities create a vast array of mix and match opportunities.  Ram 1500 now incorporates 11 specifically-named models ranging from the entry Tradesman up to the ultra-lush Limited Tungsten. 

Three powertrains return unchanged including the potent 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 pumping out 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque. It's standard in upper trims including Laramie, Longhorn and Limited. Two V-6 engines include a segment-first diesel introduced in the 2014 model year.  

The 3.0-liter Eco Diesel cranks out 240 horsepower and a whopping 420 pound-feet of low-end torque (or grunt).  For decades, diesel engines enjoyed popularity in medium and heavy duty pickups, delivering respectable fuel economy and increased torque.  With light duty truck payload capacities increasing and diesel's price premium downsizing, Ram took the initiative, marrying a diesel engine to the high-volume 1500 segment. A third engine, a 3.6-liter V-6, offers 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. 

All engines connect with a highly-efficient eight-speed automatic transmission. Ram 1500s stand out from rivals with a coil-spring rear suspension, adding to a smoother, less bouncy experience. 

Our Ram 1500 4 x 4 Crew Cab Limited Tungsten tester, included a $53,595 base price. With a host of options and $1,395 destination charge the bottom line landed at $63,870. 

A $3,200 Limited Package included 10-way power driver's seat, heated seats front/back, four-corner air suspension and split folding rear seats. The $1,825 Tungsten Package added stationary side running boards, bi-function projector headlamps, chrome grille and sports-performance hood. A-la-carte options included a recommended tri-fold tonneu cover ($595) and Ram Box ($1,295). A 2018 Tradesman 4 x 2 1500 starts at $27,890.

During highway testing, surprisingly little V-8 engine noise seeped into the cab.  Parking lot maneuvers remain challenging with any long vehicle, but the now-standard four-color detailed rear-view camera helps.

Recommended if budgets permit,  the versatile Ram box, a long, lockable exterior flip-top  side holding bin (with drain plugs to accommodate ice-cold beverages during  warmer circumstances) running the length of the upper bed. During testing, Ram boxes held holiday purchases and grocery items after some timely binge shopping.  Other rivals (specifically Nissan Titan) have 'borrowed' the concept, the sincerest form of automotive flattery. 

Inside, A huge multi-level storage bin resides between the front buckets deep enough to swallow lap-top computers. The surface region doubles as a writing or work station. When opening the rear-hinged top, a shallow center shelf with coin holder accommodates narrow portable electronics.  A comparatively smaller, but still sizable storage area resides in front with a sliding cover. 

The dual-sectioned glove box includes a flip-open top and drop-down bottom.  The Tungsten edition's wood/leather-wrapped heated steering wheel includes a top wood portion a bit thicker than the rest of the orb. 

Steering wheel mounted secondary audio controls take a backwards approach, which represents a big step forward.  As with most Chrysler, Ram, Dodge, Jeep and Fiat vehicles, secondary audio controls are nestled on back sides of steering wheel spokes, where finger tips easily perform the push-button dance. This design, one of the best, keeps palms solidly griped to the wheel while scrolling. Left-side back toggle controls scroll though audio programing pre-settings; the right-side tactile toggle control operates volume. 

The user friendly in-dash 8.4-inch screen includes icons and corresponding words, always helpful with ever-updating technology. Below the four-color screen reside large tactile twist dials for controlling audio and terrestrial/satellite radio station selections.  Fiat Chrysler Automobile continues with one of the most up-to-date, easy use infotainment systems in the business. 

For 2018, Ram welcomes Apple Car play and Android Auto, built-in Smartphone interplay working through the in-dash screen. Flanking the screen; air vents surrounding by facing machine gray 'C' clamp designs. A three-prong 15-volt outlet is available to the screen's right. 

Heating and air conditioning controls include a large dial for operating fan speed with blue (cooler) and red (warmer) up and down push buttons for temperature preferences. Fan direction involves utilization

of the touch screen by pressing the 'climate' icon along the bottom row and choosing available directional selections. 

The dashboard houses the electronic transmission twist dial.  Each PRND selection has a corresponding amber light, indicating the gear presently engaged. Below, a well-marked grouping of buttons command two-wheel drive or four-wheel-drive high, which may be switched 'on the fly' while Ram is rolling.  

Just left is the electronic push start button, with illuminated 'Run' and 'Off' indicators, providing pilots with additional visual cues indicating if the quiet-purring V-8 engine is active or not. 

The back row's luxurious leg and head room easily accommodates three adults.  If only two are traveling, a center arm rest with dual cup holders folds down.  Seat cushions sport a 60/40 split and fold up against backs, opening up indoor cargo carrying base once a nifty sectional floor extension bi-folds forward.  Tungsten editions include old-school map pockets on bucket seat backsides with a wild-west theme.   Pockets include a protective flap that flips up and down with an art design reminiscent of a stallion saddle bag. 

The steering wheel's front welcomes cruise control buttons at the 3'o'clock slot while the 9 o'clock time frame operates vehicle information multi-panels rotating inside the digital portion of the workman-like instrument panel with six circular info analog gauges and inserts.  

Ordering optional side running boards is a must especially for those on the far side of 50. For unpredictable Midwest climates, the tri-folding tonneu cover not only keeps the flat bed looking good, but creates a dry, clean usable region for long or short term storage. With the cover on or off, Ram 1500 remains a utilitarian way to haul the fresh-smelling Christmas tree home from area nurseries. 

At a Glance

2018 Ram 1500

Price as tested:  $63,870

Engine:   5.7-liter V-8 Hemi

Horsepower: 395

Wheelbase:  140.5 inches

Overall Width:  79.4 inches

Overall Length: 229.0 inches

Overall Height:   77.6 inches

Powertrain Warranty: Five year/60,000 miles

Fuel economy 15 mpg city, 21 mpg highway

Assembly:  Warren, Michigan







Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.