The big Ram's redesigned suspension loses no ground, and its ride quality still stands above all its competition for on-road smoothness. Electric power steering is new, and it's about what you'd expect in a work-duty application--though on-center feel is more than acceptable, there's almost zero feedback beyond a few degrees off center. The Ram's new air suspension option enticed us on the preview tease, but after driving it, we think there should be some more compliance dialed into one of its everyday driving modes: of the five that allow best-in-class ground clearance, step-in height, and departure/breakover angles, the "normal" mode is tuned to lower the truck at highway speeds for better gas mileage, and that tends to firm up the ride a bit too much.
The Ram's new frame means existing crash-test results from the IIHS and the NHTSA don't carry over from 2012. Still, standard safety features remain strong, with the usual airbags, stability control with a trailer-sway system, and hill-start assist. A rearview camera is available on all versions; parking sensors can be ordered on all but the regular-cab trucks.
Chrysler's big 8.4-inch Uconnect Touch screen-based system is available in the Ram, and it can incorporate Uconnect Access, which tethers the truck to Sprint data services, adding on a host of features including voice recognition, apps, and WiFi hotspot capability.
The available navigation system offers voice-activated features, new 3D terrain imagery, and lane guidance, as well as fuel-price, weather, sports, and movie info through Sirius Travel Link. There's also a new seven-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster (in Sport, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn models) that effectively replaces a conventional gauge cluster and can quickly communicate information depending on how it's customized, with up to three 'analog' gauges at a time (when towing, an owner would configure the trans temp gauge to be in the foreground, for instance). The Ram comes with new powered USB, SD card, and aux-in ports, as well as full iPod control via USB, as well as expanded steering-wheel controls.
Other new features for the Ram lineup are rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors, and a power-sliding rear window with defrost; and the innovative RamBox cargo management system is now locked and unlocked with the vehicle's central locking system.
The V-6 Ram 1500 is on sale now; the V-8 Ram 1500, with the new eight-speed automatic, is expected to go on sale in January of 2013.