By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 9.0
With fuel prices at record lows, one might think truck makers wouldn’t care about fuel economy, but not Ram. In the 2016 Ram 1500, the truck division has created a rugged, handsome full-size pickup with a number of engine choices, including a fuel-efficient turbodiesel. With Ford’s EcoBoost-powered F-150, new Nissan Titan and the Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra twins squarely in its sights, the Ram 1500 pushes the technology envelope with an available 8-speed automatic transmission, an air-suspension setup that can adjust vehicle height and, in the name of better aerodynamics, active grille shutters. As with its full-size counterparts, the Ram 1500 offers the options of 2- or 4-wheel drive (2WD, 4WD), numerous bed and cab configurations and an options sheet long enough to rival "War and Peace."
If you’re looking for a handsome, hard-working full-size half-ton truck with an edge in the areas of fuel economy, engine options, towing and payload, the 2016 Ram 1500 pickup is a worthy candidate.
Many midsize pickups have grown in size and capability, almost matching the horsepower and tow ratings of their full-size counterparts. If you need something easier to park with a price starting around $20,000 or prefer a manual transmission, take a look at the Nissan Frontier, Chevy Colorado or Toyota Tacoma.
KBB Expert Ratings
For 2016, the Ram 1500 builds on the upgrades to the Rebel and Laramie Limited with a new center console for the entire line, improved frame and body structure for small-overlap crash testing, and some new colors including a set of colorful customization options on the Sport trim.
If you’re looking for one of the most comfortable rides found on a big truck, the 2016 Ram 1500’s ingenious coil-spring and multi-link rear suspension delivers it. The Ram’s steering...
... and road manners are among best-in-class, too. The optional air-spring suspension isn’t so much about improving ride comfort but rather providing optimal load leveling. When so equipped, the Ram can level a loaded bed, make cabin entry easier and even help improve fuel economy by reducing drag. Venture off-road and the air suspension permits maximum ground clearance. Our truck was equipped with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, which seemed fine for light-duty applications. However, if you need maximum power to tow or haul, either the Hemi V8 or torque-laden 3.0-liter turbodiesel is the better option, with the latter offering best-in-class fuel economy and more torque than the V8.
ECODIESEL V6 ENGINE
A diesel engine in a half-ton truck seems as natural as chocolate and peanut butter. Ram’s 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 delivers fuel economy approaching 30 mpg and offers 420 lb-ft of torque (more than the Hemi V8) and 240 horsepower. Only the Nissan Titan XD offers a similar oil-burner option.
Ram’s 2016 1500 pickup offers an air suspension that improves ride, handling and ground clearance. Simply push a button and the Ram’s cabin can be lowered to permit easy entry or raised to clear obstacles less than 10.7 inches.
The 2016 Ram 1500 full-size truck is a nice place to climb in, sit down and take a ride. Materials show a high level of quality, and panel gaps are notably tight. In the Quad Cab version rear-seat legroom is generous, but the Crew Cab models offer even more legroom for stretching out. The center cluster on the instrument panel includes a Multiview screen, which can display well over 300 readouts of pertinent vehicle information. We found the standard front seats to lack proper support for those longer rides – our suggestion is to upgrade to the available 10-way-power driver’s seat.
Several years ago the Ram (then Dodge) was the first truck to take on the so-called “big-rig” look and it’s a style that, on the Ram 1500 for 2016, still stands out in a crowd. You can’t mistake the obviously big and decidedly bold chrome grille that looks for all the world like it came from an 18-wheeler. The 2016 Ram also offers features still not found on some competitors, such as the Rambox storage system that utilizes the tops of the rear fenders. Other exterior details include LED turn signals and taillights and an attractive assortment of available wheels.
For 2016, the Ram 1500 offers a wide range of body styles, cargo-bed lengths, powertrains and trim levels, all the way from a basic work truck to a fully loaded 4-door that rivals luxury sedans in its interior treatment. With so many variations and trim levels, the standard equipment list begins with a removable and locking tailgate, cruise control, automatic headlights and a USB port, and goes from there to a number of interior and trim features, upholstery choices, wheel options and powertrain and drivetrain selections. Standard equipment also includes hill-start assist, to aid when starting from rest on an incline.
With numerous options and packages from which to choose, the 2016 full-size Ram 1500 truck can be fitted to suit practically any individual. One item for consideration is the Uconnect Access infotainment system with its 8.4-inch touch screen and user-friendly interface. Additional options include a heated steering wheel, 10-way-power driver’s seat, rain-sensing windshield wipers, 115V household power outlet, LED bed lighting, air suspension and an engine stop-start system to help save fuel when idling. Since the steering wheel does not offer a telescoping function, taller drivers should consider adding the power-adjustable pedals. And don’t forget to consider the EcoDiesel engine.
The standard 3.6-liter Pentastar gasoline V6 is rated at 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque, and has an EPA highway fuel-economy rating of a commendable 25 mpg; it will probably be adequate for most general-purpose use. The well-known 5.7-liter Hemi V8 cranks out 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque, but the fuel economy is, not surprisingly, only average at best. The 3.0-liter turbocharged EcoDiesel V6 may be the best choice, with 240 horsepower, 420 lb-ft of torque (more than the Hemi, and at only 2,000 rpm) and exceptional fuel economy; the EcoDiesel may very well be the main reason for many Ram purchases. An 8-speed automatic transmission is available with any of the engines.
305 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
269 lb-ft of torque @ 6,175 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25 mpg (2WD), 12/17 mpg (2WD, E85), 16/23 mpg (4WD), 11/16 mpg (4WD, E85), 18/25 mpg (2WD, HFE trim)
3.0-liter turbodiesel V6
240 horsepower @ 3,600 rpm
420 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28 mpg (2WD), 19/27 mpg (4WD)
5.7-liter Hemi V8
395 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
410 lb-ft of torque @ 3,950 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/20 mpg (2WD, 6-speed automatic), 15/22 mpg (2WD, 8-speed automatic), 13/19 mpg (4WD, 6-speed automatic), 15/21 mpg (4WD, 8-speed automatic)
The 2-wheel-drive regular-cab Ram 1500 Tradesman (the basic model) has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) around $27,340. Sport models begin around $37,000, with a fully loaded Laramie Longhorn Limited Edition Crew Cab approaching $60,000. The V6 EcoDiesel engine with the 8-speed automatic transmission is priced between $3,000 and $4,000 – depending on trim – above a similarly equipped Ram 1500 with the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 and 8-speed automatic. The base Ram 1500 remains one of the most affordable vehicles in its class, and the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado 1500 can be expected to be priced somewhat higher. The Nissan Titan XD starts at $40,000. To see what buyers in your area are paying for the new Ram 1500, be sure to check KBB.com’s Fair Purchase Price before heading to the dealership. On the resale front, we expect the Ram to retain slightly below-average residual values.