Perhaps 30 years ago, there was a greater differentiation among full-size trucks, but now we’re not so sure.
The 2017 Ram 1500 is proof of that. As the oldest among its competitors, the full-size Ram is no dog. It offers a full complement of solid engines—each its own tool for a specific job, handsome interiors, intuitive features, and increased comfort.
It earns a 6.0 overall rating out of 10, an above-average score that reflects its good feature set, good performance, and handsome style. Like other full-size pickups, it falls in fuel economy and its age is starting to show in its federal safety scores. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Styling and performance
The Ram 1500 ranges from basic to brash on the outside. Work trucks are plain affairs with a simple, black-clad crosshair grille and steel wheels. Ram Rebels sport a black, framed “Death Race 2000” maw and rear badging that’s subtle like a stick of dynamite.
Same goes for the interiors that span basic vinyl benches to deep, power adjustable leather buckets. Throughout the range, we wouldn’t be afraid to climb aboard in boots and gloves, and the Ram still sports a rough-and-tumble quality that’s somewhat endearing.
Last year’s engine lineup has remained in the Ram. The base 3.6-liter V-6 is the best balance between capability and fuel economy, and can haul up to 7,600 pounds. It’s rated at 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, and is equipped with a smooth shifting 8-speed automatic.
The 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 is optional on most models except Sport, Limited, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn versions, where its standard. The engine makes 395 hp and 410 lb-ft and is good for up to 10,500 pounds of towing, dragging any more requires an HD model.
A 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 is the efficiency champ and our favorite. It’s the only full-size, light-duty oil burner around and its strong 420 lb-ft of pull is enough to forget that it’s only rated for 240 hp. It’s rated to tow more than 9,000 pounds, and can get up to 30 mpg on the highway. It adds $3,000 more to the bottom line, but over the long life of a pickup, that cost may be justified.
Most engines will be paired to a smooth shifting 8-speed automatic, although a 6-speed is available in some configurations.
Comfort, safety, and features
Three cab configurations—regular cab, extended cab and crew cab—and two bed options—short (5-foot-7) and long (6-foot-4)—are available on most trucks. (Regular cab trucks can be fitted with an 8-foot bed; extended cab models can’t have a long bed option.)
Most quad-cab pickups will be driven as substitutes for cars, and can haul up to four adults comfortably. There’s plenty of interior space and storage options, and the optional leather buckets up front can be downright luxurious.
We like the layout and configuration of the 1500, although the Ram isn’t as opulent as upper trims of Ford or Chevy trucks.
The IIHS has given the Ram mostly “Good” scores, although the feds haven’t been as kind. It was rated at four stars overall, with three stars for rollover safety.
Like other modern pickups, the number of trims and layouts can be dizzying and demanding. When combined with axle ratios and a la carte options, the Ram 1500 can be trimmed in thousands of different configurations. That’s good for specific needs, but bad for buyers who don’t do their homework.