On the Road Review: Ram North Edition

MIDDLEBORO, Mass. — On a mild, damp evening just a day ahead of one of our recent November winter storms, the members of the New England Motor Press Association gathered here for the North American debut of FCA’s latest Ram pickup — the new North Edition.

Already the reigning Winter Vehicle of the Year and the Best in Class Truck as voted by NEMPA members, this latest Ram adds to an expansive portfolio of full-size pickup models as the brand celebrates its highest sales levels ever.

Based on the Big Horn trim level, the North Edition will be primarily a Crew Cab offering using the 3.6-liter V-6 with eTorque assist and 305 hp, or the venerable 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 packing 395 hp and 410 pound/feet of peak torque. Maximum tow ratings are 7,730 and 11,610 pounds, respectively, when properly equipped.

Ram Product Development Manager Carl Lally led us through the Ram presentation, with obvious glee about what FCA has packed into this model. The spec sheet is impressive, yet the interior packaging and overall presentation elevate the Ram truck to new levels of comfort, convenience and performance in ways not always evident to the naked eye.

North Edition models feature a 1-inch chassis lift over regular 4X4 Ram models as well as a standard locking rear differential that works with a selectable transfer case that now includes 4X4 auto mode. Specific Falken LT severe service M&S tires are standard for this Snowbelt designed truck, while tow hooks, engine block heater and monochromatic paint — bumpers, trim, all the same color — are all included at the $45,890 starting price. Hill descent control, electric shift on-demand transfer case, all-weather floor mats, HD shocks and 20-inch wheels are also standard.

Level II equipment package ($2,400) adds heated seats, heated steering wheel, heated folding mirrors, front and rear electric park sense, 12-way power seat, plus the familiar 8.4-inch U-Connect screen featuring Sirius Weather and Traffic, Apple and Android compatibility, plus a full menu of operational tools. A giant laptop-sized 12-inch U-connect screen is optional along with four-corner air suspension, 19-speaker Harmon-Kardon stereo, 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, 360-degree surround camera, wireless cell charging and RamBox cargo system.

The new for 2019 Ram sports a comprehensive interior upgrade that enlarges the center console, adds easier control access, all while increasing the crew cab’s length by over 4 inches. Rear seat accommodations behind doors that open almost a full 90 degrees are limousine-like comfortable with a seatback that reclines on several trim levels. In-floor bins under the mats, along with tie-down anchors on the flat floor, prove that Ram has been sharing clever packaging ideas with its brethren in the minivan division.

During limited driving on tortured Massachusetts streets, the Ram proved its reputation for a compliant ride, as the chassis effectively isolates its occupants from the vulgarities of the road. The cabin is quiet, the Hemi quick to respond and the nuanced controls of the Ram are a notch above several competitors in feel and operation. With Ram trucks reducing overall weight by over 200 pounds via the use of more aluminum panels and high-strength steel in the frame, the Ram has higher payload ratings and tow ratings, while delivering class-leading driving dynamics.

When pressed on whether the new Ram 1500 series, including the North Edition, are snowplow-compatible, Lally demurred that Ram suggests that buyers move up to the 2500 and 3500 series Rams for snow removal duty. EPA mileage estimates for 4X4 model Rams with the eTorque V-6 are 19/24 mpg, an increase of 2 mpg, while the Hemi ratings are 15/21 mpg for the regular 5.7-V-8, or 17/22 mpg with the 48-volt electric-assist eTorque Hemi. All models use an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The Ram lineup now includes: Tradesman, Big Horn, North Edition, Power Wagon, Rebel, Laramie, Longhorn and Limited. Hopefully, one of these trucks will come north to Maine in the coming months for more extensive review.

As Ram celebrates its 10th birthday as a stand-alone brand in the FCA lineup, it is clear that it was the proper decision to split Ram from Dodge in 2009 and expand the reach of trucks in a market that appears to know no boundaries on truck sales.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.

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