The upheaval currently shaking up the automotive industry has meant death for some models, particularly sedans and coupes, but it’s proving a boon for others, like the pickup segment.
This category is eating up an increasingly large part of the market pie. Once upon a time completion in this domain was largely a two-combatant affair, as Ford and GM slugged it out for dominance. In recent years, however, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ RAM division (formerly Dodge RAM) has played a bigger and bigger role. Here in Canada, sales of RAM trucks are approaching those of the GM’s Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, which sit behind perennial leader the Ford F-150.
While GM musters its forces (upcoming redesigned Silverado and Sierra trucks) for a big new offensive, FCA is getting out ahead of it with an all-new, also-redesigned RAM pickup that promises big things. This is all shaping up to be quite a slugfest, and RAM is entering the battle with two editions of the RAM: the one that carries on from last year’s model, now re-baptised the Classic, and the all-new version of the RAM available in several finishes, each more luxurious than the next. One of these is the Sport, for 2019 a Canadian-exclusive edition.
The RAM brand currently accounts for 39% of FCA’s sales in Canada. The RAM 1500 models constitute 21% of the company’s sales all by themselves; and the RAM Sport version specifically makes up 7% of FCA sales. Creating region-specific models is nothing new for RAM, as witnessed by the Lone Start edition targeted at Texas; Canada has its very own 1500, the Sport.
In a nutshell, the Canadian RAM Sport is distinguished by the performance hood with unique air vents, optional 22-inch wheels and all-black ornamentation as well as an all-black interior finish. In its Quad Cab 4X4 version (now longer by four inches),The RAM Sport will carry a starting sticker price of $56,595 CAD, $2,525 more than the equivalent 2018 version. As mentioned, that 2018 version will continue to be offered to all North American consumers with the Classic designation.
Of course, neither the American or Canadian company FCA execs that we spoke could or would confirm that this Classic will continue to be offered beyond the 2019 model-year!
The 2019 RAM Sports placed at our disposal in the Windsor, Ontario region by FCA were all Crew Cab models on a rigid chassis, with a 144-inch wheelbase. For the moment, the only available engine is a 5.7L HEMI V8 generating 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. The Mild Hybrid options for the V8, which replace the alternator with an electric motor, are not yet available, nor is the 3.6L V6 that also features this technology. This despite a promise that the 3.0L turbodiesel V6 would be back on the menu by next year! In any event, FCA tells us that 90% of its RAM pickups are ordered with the 5.7L V8.
The only available transmission is still the 8-speed automatic transmission, the gears of which are chosen by turning a knob on the dashboard. Unsurprisingly the Canadian-only Sport can be had with on-command (power) all-wheel drive. As for braking, in the new RAM Sport FCA has enlarged the front discs from 13.2 to 14.9 inches, while the rear ones now have a 14.8-inch diameter.
The suspension has been firmed up while the rear coil springs (recall that the Sport can be equipped with a four-corner adjustable air suspension with the possibility of driving in four modes: Normal, Aero for lowering the truck at 100 km/h, Off-Road1 or 2 and Entry/Exit to ease at less than 20 km/h) have been revised with an asymmetrical design to allow for smoother and more comfortable initial movement.
The interior of the new 2019 edition resembles, to a large degree, that of last year’s edition. In the case of the Canadian Sport version, however, as mentioned above the cabin comes only in an all-black motif. The dashboard retains the same instrumentation found in most of FCA’S Chrysler products (including a 7,4-inch info centre), but once again the Uconnect option remains a pretty essential add-on, especially when you opt for the larger 12-inch screen.
The front bucket seats are comfortable, offering reasonable lateral support. As for the rear seats, as shown on the photos in our gallery, they are generously sized and just as comfortable. The back can even be inclined up to 8 degrees. And if you lift the bench, you get a valuable 150 litres of interior cargo space for items you need to protect from the elements of theft! You’ll even find 23 litres of storage space in/under the floor of the cabin.
Like your music crisp and loud? There’s an available 19-speake Harmon/Kardon audio system. Sun lovers can also equip their RAM Sport with an available power double sunroof of glass.
The bed remains the ultimate tool for any pickup, and the Sport comes with one of either 5.5 or 9.5 feet. RAM is proud to point out that the height of the cargo space has been increased by 33 mm, but access to this space would be made easier by the presence of a small ladder or even a step integrated into the bumper corners. You can choose available adjustable anchors, and the remote latch activator.
Lest you think that RAM pickups are good only for entrepreneurs, know that, according to FCA’s statistics, over 40% of buyers of these models live in urban environments!
On the road
FCA Canada made it possible for us to drive our trucks for a few hours in the southwest corner of Ontario, a trip that included a short visit to the tourist region of Pointe Pélée. While this area is not particularly mountainous, and thus offers no real winding roads, climbs or descents, it wa interesting to observe that the RAM Sport with the (available) air suspension on four wheels manages to offer an exceptionally gentle ride, not to mention the very quiet interior that comes courtesy, at least in part, of a noise cancellation system generated by the audio system.
While the steering is a bit on the tender side, the rest of the mechanics work more than adequately, the V8 engine delivering on its promise of allowing for quick accelerations that make passing a reassuring breeze. The new larger-diameter brakes help make the braking equally confidence-inspiring. For sure, the sound of the V8 does infiltrate the cabin, but it’s not exactly unpleasant. Who doesn’t like the sound of a V8 when it kicks into action?
FCA Canada even gave us the opportunity to try out the payload and towing capacities of the new RAM Sport models during individual (maximum figures are 2,300 lbs in the bed, and up to 12,750 lbs in tow weight in individual tests. Although we didn’t pull or load up to those maximums, we were able to demonstrate that with a reasonable weight packed onto the bed, or with some 6,000 lbs loaded onto a trailer, the RAM Sport had absolutely no trouble doing its job on regular roads.
Given the exceptional nature of our test drive, measuring fuel consumption was not really applicable. But we expect the numbers might be pretty reasonable given that the HEMI V8 is equipped with a system that deactivates four of its eight cylinders when at cruising speed. FCA’S official figures include a combined 13.6L/100 km with that V8; we hope to be able to test that properly on another occasion.