2016 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Crew Cab Limited 4x4 Review
With the recent announcement that the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 will soon be eliminated from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ lineup, it appears the Italian-American automaker has little faith in its ability to make serious gains within the compact and mid-size car segments anytime soon, but due to a recent upsurge in crossover SUV and truck sales it hardly seems to matter overall.
Lower pump prices are spurring on sales of larger models, such as this Ram 1500, providing FCA with its strongest sales in a decade (and yes that would include Chrysler Group sales prior to Fiat’s inclusion). The biggest gains were seen by FCA’s Jeep brand with deliveries growing by 25 percent during 2015, but Ram pickup sales have been strong too, up 2.6 percent to 451,116 units last year. That still pales in comparison to the 780,354 F-150’s sold throughout 2015, despite the blue-oval brand having production issues that slowed deliveries, but no doubt FCA is all smiles about its truck’s impressive performance.
This said I doubt my top-line Ram 1500 Crew Cab Limited 4×4 model’s mid-cycle refresh had much to do with its moderate upswing in popularity, although its redesigned grille is a noticeable change for a model that rarely sees any major restyling. Ram just calls it the “billet port grille” and is even less creative with the off-road designated Rebel’s yet more imposing schnoz, simply dubbing it the “blacked-out Rebel grille”, how boring is that? Both models arrived on the scene side-by-side last summer, so I’ll go with the first thing that came to mind when I saw the new Limited in the metal, an anvil.
Hmm… an anvil, now there’s a rugged, tough working image a truck guy can believe in. I can see the super bowl ad now: sledgehammers slamming down on bending metal, sparks flying, a rip-roaring forge blazing in the background, beefy male models working up a sweat before an evening of lighthearted laughter outdoors (get the Brokeback Mountain image out of your head now), cooking steaks on the portable BBQ and enjoying drinks with the ladies around the campfire, Ram in the easily viewable background of course, the lines “Forged from solid steel…” flashing below, or no doubt something much more ingenious from an ad company getting paid a great deal more than yours truly for coming up with their latest ad campaign (if they use “anvil” they’ll owe me royalties, mind you).
This new anvil-shaped grille is a clear signal that the Limited is unique when compared to the rest of the 1500 line, whereas the many other chromed adornments front to back, plus the stock 20-inch forged and polished multi-surface alloys with silver painted pockets or alternatively my upgraded five-spoke polished 20-inch rims, and massive 20-inch chromed “RAM” tailgate logo don’t hide its upscale presence either. Additional premium kit includes headlights that now incorporate LEDs across their bottom section, fog lamps set into each corner of the chromed front bumper (which is normally body-color; chrome an upgrade front and back), turn signals integrated within the chromed mirror housings, and much more.
From the base 1500 Tradesman that starts at just $26,145 plus freight and dealer fees to this Crew Cab Limited 4×4 at $55,900 (the base 4×4 with the Hemi V8 starts at $52,320), the latter is a premium pickup that offers a lot more than just a new grille and these bright and shiny trinkets as compensation for all the money spent. The Laramie Longhorn positioned just below is already well equipped, but some potential buyers, including yours truly, aren’t necessarily fans of its backcountry southwestern themed interior, whereas the Limited adds even nicer materials along with much greater urban appeal. It’s the truck Bond should be driving over the rougher roads and trails his Aston can’t access; that would be if FCA had a marketing deal with the 007 brand managers. He wouldn’t be hard done by inside its luxe cabin filled with incredibly soft full-leather upholstery either, nor its genuine Black Argento hardwood trim, or its bevy of premium synthetic soft touch surfaces.
The Limited’s interior is downright sumptuous, most of the dash top incorporating a padded French-stitched leather that flows over onto the instrument panel where it butts up against a more pickup truck apropos hard plastic front facing. The shiny harder plastic surrounds the outer edge of the dash top and down each outer portion next to the satin-silver trimmed side vents too, just so you don’t forget this gussied up 1500’s work truck roots, the vents on the driver’s side incorporating the headlight switchgear as well, but both featuring nice rubber finished switchgear. The soft contrast-stitched leather treatment covers the door uppers, inserts, armrests, door pulls and even the overhead grab handles front and back, while the quality of leather is much better than anything offered in any other pickup truck, let alone many luxury sedans. It looks and feels full grain, the kind of quality found only in higher end furniture stores.
The center stack gets a stylish satin-silver treatment around its outer edges plus a small piece of that grayish Black Argento hardwood trim surrounding the “RAM” embossed change tray, the same wood also surrounding the lower portion of the center stack next to the rotating gear selector. It’s used for the solid wood tambour sliding door atop a storage bin on the lower console too, as well as the door trim, atop the steering wheel, etc.
The Limited doesn’t only look rich, it feels it. Even the carpets are noticeably above average, made from premium Berber that adds a level of opulence not normally experienced in this class. Even the all-weather floor mats are made from luxury rugs complete with a cool gray and black pinstriped design, not to mention they’re topped off with thick metal Limited badges. The theme is black, by the way, complete with all-black roof pillars and headliner up above.
The primary gauges are as appealing as anything in the premium class thanks to gray-backed dials with satin-silver surrounds, unique blocked numerals that look inspired by high-end wristwatch faces, and a large high-resolution color TFT multi-information system at center with crystal clear legibility. Likewise, the infotainment touchscreen display on the center stack is FCA’s usual high-quality fully featured system incorporating audio and HVAC functionality as well as excellent TomTom navigation, a rearview camera with active guidelines, phone connectivity, and more. All the usual aux, USB and 12-volt charger ports are part of the Limited package too, but Ram takes things a step further by including a handy 115-volt three-prong household style outlet on the center stack for plugging in laptops or other personal devices.
The steering wheel gets the glossy dark gray hardwood trim around the top as mentioned, whereas stitched leather wraps around its lower two thirds. Leather in mind the driver’s seat is fabulously comfortable with good lower back support that can be made better via standard powered lumbar adjustment, plus the side bolstering is excellent for the class, and perforated inserts offer better breathability year round along with forced ventilation when things heat up in summer. Being winter I utilized the three-way seat heaters instead, which were amply warm in their topmost setting, while I appreciated the two-position memory system for finding my favorite seat setup each and every time I climbed inside. You might never sit in back, but it’s nice to know that rear passengers will be well accommodated with loads of space in every direction and suitably comfortable outboard seats that are made even more enjoyable due to seat heaters.
Some Limited features not yet mentioned include proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, auto high beams, and rain-sensing wipers, which is equipment normally found on the options menu of premium branded luxury cars. But really, I’m only scratching the surface of all that’s included in this ultra-luxe truck, with the really good stuff hidden behind the scenes where eyes can’t see.
Fortunately for the Limited it rides just like a truck, which you’ll know is hardly an insult if you’ve driven a Ram 1500 lately. By far the nicest riding pickup truck in the half-ton class, this top-line model takes things up a notch or three. Really, the Limited was one of the nicest riding vehicles I’ve experienced all year, and let me tell you that along with the usual luxury cars from top-tier brands I’ve also spent a week at a time in a full-load Lincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade, and this Limited easily takes the comfort cake. How I wish Dodge had made an SUV version of this truck back in the ’90s when much talk was bantered about on the subject. Soon after, Toyota gave us the Sequoia and Nissan the Armada, while GM’s Tahoe/Yukon twins and Ford’s Expedition carried on in the full-size segment they created, the Durango always slightly smaller than these mega-utes. Today, a full-size SUV version of this Limited would rival the best from Lincoln and Cadillac for luxury and refinement.
Along with that wonderful ride is class-leading handling; the Ram 1500’s usual above-par five-link independent rear suspension with coil springs replaced with an Active-Level Four-Corner Air Suspension in Limited trim, which is not only a full league above its leaf-sprung competitors but yet another class above its coil-sprung Ram brethren. Some purists initially scoffed at the Ram 1500’s unorthodox rear suspension designs, but both coil and air setups have proven their capability for load hauling and towing heavy trailers, the as tested Limited delivering max payload of 1,330 lbs and a tow rating of 7,610 lbs. Ram included an optional soft tri-foldable tonneau cover atop the box as well, which kept the bed nice and dry for when it was needed.
If you want to make your Limited work harder just stick with the base 5.7-liter Hemi V8, although my tester’s $3,120 pricier 3.0.liter EcoDiesel is exactly the way I’d order it. It was as wonderfully strong, impressively smooth, and brilliantly powerful as it’s been each time I’ve tested it, plus superbly quiet as well, a perfect companion to my tester’s high level of luxury. While its tow rating might be a couple hundred pounds less, its plenty energetic off the line and more than capable for passing maneuvers thanks to 240 horsepower and even more twist than the big V8 at 420 lb-ft of torque compared to 410, whereas that rotating dial-actuated automatic transmission I mentioned earlier is eight speeds capable for greater efficiency than any other full-size pickup truck available when combined with the EcoDiesel, its EPA claimed numbers reading 19 mpg in the city, 27 on the highway and 22 combined (the 4×2 HFE model is even better at 21 city, 29 highway and 24 combined).
It’s bizarre really. If I were to have started this review out by talking about its turbo-diesel powerplant, eight-speed automatic, auto-leveling air suspension, leather-lined cabin, real hardwood trim, and myriad features you would’ve likely thought I had tested a top-line BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-Benz S-Class, although for the latter you’d be one cog short with the transmission, but instead, of course, we’re talking about a pickup truck with real workhorse credentials. How the times have changed, and why not? After all, rich ranchers, wealthy contractors and other well-to-do truck lovers deserve something as well conceived and executed as the Ram 1500 Limited, but it took Auburn Hills to deliver.
You can talk all you want about your Denali, High Country, F-150 Limited or a top-line import, but if you’re after the ultimate luxury truck look no further than the 2016 Ram 1500 Limited. It’s easily the most opulently outfitted factory pickup truck ever produced with the best ride and handling combination available. Don’t believe me? Try one on for size yourself.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press.