Full 2011 Ram 1500 Review
What's New for 2011
For 2011, the Ram 1500 sees a shuffling of trim packages but otherwise remains unchanged.
As American as college football rivalries, the full-size pickup truck segment has its share of staunch supporters. And those of you wearing the baseball caps and nylon jackets with the Ram symbol on them won't get any argument from us; the 2011 Ram 1500 is tough to beat. When it was fully redesigned for 2009, the Ram 1500 sported a few features never before seen on a big pickup. First of all, the ground-breaking adoption (for the truck world, anyway) of a rear suspension that combined a solid axle and coil springs delivered a smoother, more carlike ride. And lockable storage boxes integrated into the sides of the cargo bed became available as an option.
Beyond those trick features, the Ram 1500 has the basic requirements more than covered. The available V8s are impressive performers, the chassis is well suited to heavy work and the Ram's cabin is a class leader in terms of design, ergonomics and materials. Perhaps the only weak point is the base engine, a 215-horsepower V6 that has EPA fuel ratings no better than those of the top-dog engine, the 390-hp 5.7-liter V8. Provided you can swing the extra cost, the big V8's huge jump in performance and work capability without a fuel economy penalty is a no-brainer.
Honestly, all of the big pickups have more capabilities than most folks will ever need, as well as the option to outfit them like luxury sedans. But the one that goes the extra yard is the 2011 Ram 1500. Lined up against its Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150 and Toyota Tundra rivals in an Edmunds comparison test, the Ram took home the win thanks to its more well-rounded personality. This year's more powerful F-150 could shake things up a bit, but overall we still think the Ram is a great pick for a full-size truck.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Ram 1500 is a full-size pickup available in multiple body styles and bed lengths. The regular cab seats a maximum of three people on its standard bench seat, and it can be had with either a 6-foot-4 bed or an 8-foot version. The extended cab ("Quad Cab") can seat up to six in two bench rows and comes only with the 6-foot-4 bed. The crew cab model expands rear-seat legroom even farther, but is only available with a 5-foot-7 bed.
There are four trim levels. The base ST model (available in regular and extended cabs) comes standard with 17-inch steel wheels, vinyl floor covering, air-conditioning, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat, vinyl upholstery, a folding rear bench seat (extended-cab only), a tilting steering column and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player with an auxiliary audio jack. Options include chrome-clad steel wheels, larger outside mirrors for towing, cruise control, cloth seats, a bedliner and satellite radio.
The SLT (available in all cab styles) adds 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome exterior trim, heated outside mirrors, carpet floor covering, cloth upholstery, cruise control, full power accessories, a power-sliding rear window, keyless entry, a trip computer and satellite radio.
The Sport (available in all cab styles) adds a larger V8, dual exhaust, a body-colored grille, 20-inch chrome wheels, foglamps, auto-dimming rear- and sideview mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, unique bucket seats and console, a touchscreen display, Bluetooth, an upgraded audio system (with CD/DVD/MP3 player, USB port, HD radio, 30GB hard drive), a 10-way power driver seat and a split-folding rear seat with under-seat storage (for crew cabs).
The top-of-the-line Laramie trim level (available in extended and crew cabs only) comes standard with virtually all of the Sport's features, with a few differences (such as a front split bench seat and two-tone paint) and added luxuries in the form of power-folding exterior mirrors, rear park assist, additional exterior chrome trim, fender flares, power-adjustable pedals, driver memory functions, leather upholstery, a six-way power passenger seat, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, upgraded audio with subwoofer, remote engine start and wood-grain/chrome interior trim.
Many of the upper trims options can be had on the lower trims. Other notable options (depending on trim level) include an integrated trailer brake controller, a spray-in bedliner, a sunroof, "RamBox" storage bins mounted on the sides of the bed, a rear parking camera, a rear-seat entertainment system and a navigation system with real-time traffic.
There are also a variety of packages available as well. The Outdoorsman (only available on four-wheel-drive trucks) includes highlights such as the 5.7-liter V8 (already standard on the Sport), all-terrain tires, underbody skid plates, limited-slip rear differential, bucket seats with console, two-tone paint and fender flares. The Lone Star (available in Texas only) and Big Horn (available everywhere but Texas) are similar in that they bundle together a bunch of the SLT's optional equipment along with special badging and trim.
Powertrains and Performance
The standard engine on the two-wheel-drive Ram ST 1500 regular and quad cabs is a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 215 hp and 235 pound-feet of torque. A four-speed automatic is standard. Fuel economy is a meager 14 mpg city/20 highway and 16 mpg combined.
The standard engine on the four-wheel-drive Ram ST and all SLT and Laramie models is a 4.7-liter V8 coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission. Output is a healthy 310 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, while fuel economy with 2WD is 14/19/15 mpg (4WD drops it by 1 mpg).
Standard on the Sport and optional on the SLT and Laramie trims is a 5.7-liter V8 with a five-speed auto. Output is 390 hp and 407 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy with 2WD is 14/20/16 mpg (4WD is 1 mpg less). In performance testing, a 4WD 5.7-liter V8-powered crew cab model went from zero to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds. Maximum towing capacity when properly equipped is 10,250 pounds.
Standard safety equipment on the 2011 Ram 1500 includes four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control, hill-start assist, trailer-sway control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
In the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedure (the results of which are not comparable to past test results), the Ram received an overall rating of three stars (out of five). It got two stars for overall frontal crash protection, but five stars for overall side crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gave the Ram its highest score of "Good" for frontal-offset crash protection, but side-impact protection scored the second-worst rating of "Marginal" because of the likelihood of injuries to the driver's torso.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Ram 1500 compares favorably with competing trucks, requiring 130 feet to come to a stop from 60 mph.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Ram 1500's interior is as good as it gets in the pickup segment. The range-topping Laramie, with its wood-grain trim and leather upholstery, makes for a very posh pickup, but even the lower trim levels have an attractive design, intuitively placed controls and well-textured materials. The front seats, while rather soft, strike an adequate balance between support and comfort. The crew cab's rear seat is very comfortable, offering loads of legroom and an agreeable seatback angle.
The Ram provides plenty of standard and optional storage spaces. The center console bin is quite large, while the crew cab features watertight storage compartments under the rear floor as well as shallow bins under the flip-up backseat. Unique to this pickup is the optional RamBox feature, which places a pair of lockable compartments over the rear fenders inside the truck bed. It's a neat feature, though we've found the durability of the compartments isn't as sturdy as one might expect.
With its body-on-frame construction, the 2011 Ram 1500 exhibits the expected body jiggle over bumps. However, its rear coil-spring suspension virtually eliminates the harsh ride previously endemic to full-size trucks. The result is a much smoother, more sophisticated ride that sets the Ram apart from all other traditional pickups.
We would steer potential owners away from the Ram's base V6, which is not only underpowered for the pickup's heft, but also offers no fuel economy advantage. The 4.7-liter V8 is adequate, but given that it gets worse gas mileage than the 5.7-liter V8, it seems like a no-brainer to step up to the big engine.
We wish the five-speed automatic came with another gear, though, which might help optimize both fuel economy and towing ability just as a six-speed automatic does in the Ford, GM and Toyota pickups. One of the several optional axle ratios may be in order if you need to tow something, but keep in mind that this will come at the cost of fuel economy. The Ram's light-effort steering also lacks any sort of feel.