The 2017 Ram 1500 is one of the oldest designs currently on sale in the segment, so you might be thinking that the Ram would be behind the times compared to the newest rivals from Ford and General Motors. Luckily, that's not the case. In fact, it's pretty easy to make the case that the Ram is still our favorite light-duty pickup.
One of the Ram's biggest strengths is its excellent engine lineup. Although the Ram misses the class-leading towing numbers by a few hundred pounds, it's still abundantly capable. Its standard engine is a strong-but-efficient V6, but there's also an optional V8 with plenty of towing power and a turbocharged diesel V6 that sets the standard for fuel economy in the class.
Once you've picked an engine, there are several different variants available for the Ram, from the bare-bones Tradesman to the top-of-the-line Limited and even the off-road-ready Rebel, a rarity with trucks this large. And, to top it all off, the Ram has plenty of modern interior tech along with its class-exclusive coil-spring rear suspension and available self-leveling air suspension that gives it the smoothest ride on the market.
Of course, competing trucks aren't exactly slouches, either. The Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500 are certainly likable with powerful drivetrains and near-luxury trimmings on the inside. The Ford F-150 deserves a look as well, thanks in part to its light aluminum body and strong turbocharged V6s. There's also the diesel-powered Nissan Titan XD, which is a bit more capable than the average light-duty pickup. All of these trucks are seriously capable. But even as the old guy of the group, the Ram is still standing strong.
Standard safety equipment on the 2017 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. A fully integrated trailer-brake controller is available, as are a rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors. However, features such as blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning aren't available.
Models with Uconnect Access have an emergency telematics system that connects you with 911 operators at the touch of a button and provides stolen vehicle tracking.
During Edmunds testing, in a simulated panic stop, both a Quad Cab 2WD with the gas V6 and a crew cab 4WD with the diesel V6 came to a stop from 60 mph in 128 feet. That distance is average for full-size pickups.
In government crash testing, regardless of cab length, the Ram 1500 earned four out of a possible five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for total front-crash protection and five stars for total side-crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Ram 1500 Crew and Extended Cabs its highest rating of Good in the moderate-overlap front-impact and side-impact tests. However, the Ram earned the second-lowest rating of Marginal in the small-overlap front-impact and roof strength tests. Its seat and head restraint design was rated Good for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
trim levels & features
The 2017 Ram 1500 is a full-size pickup available in multiple body styles. The regular cab (two doors) generally seats three and is available with either a 6-foot-4-inch or an 8-foot cargo bed. The Quad Cab (four doors) seats six passengers and comes only with the 6-foot-4 bed. The Crew Cab (also four doors, but bigger rear doors) increases rear-seat legroom and is available with either a 5-foot-7 or 6-foot-4 bed. There are 10 trim levels: Tradesman, Express, HFE, SLT, Big Horn/Lone Star, Sport, Rebel, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn and Limited.
The workhorse Tradesman comes standard with 17-inch steel wheels, black bumpers/grille/door handles, a seven-pin wiring harness, a Class IV receiver hitch, automatic headlights, a locking tailgate, a spray-in bedliner, a rear backlight, vinyl floor covering, air-conditioning, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat, vinyl upholstery, a tilt-only steering wheel, cruise control, and a six-speaker sound system with a USB port and an auxiliary input jack.
The Express is similar to the Tradesman but deletes the receiver hitch and bedliner (both are optional), and it comes standard with 20-inch aluminum wheels, body-color bumpers/grille, foglights, carpeted floors and floor mats.
The HFE (high fuel economy) trim level comes only in the regular- or quad-cab body style with the 6-foot-4 cargo bed, rear-wheel drive and the diesel V6 engine. It includes black bumpers and grille, heated mirrors, automatic engine stop-start (not available on any other trim level), 17-inch wheels and a tonneau cover.
The SLT adds chrome exterior trim, power accessories, remote keyless entry, an overhead console, dual gloveboxes, a 5-inch touchscreen interface, satellite radio and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity. Extended and crew cabs add a power-sliding rear window.
The Big Horn (also called the Lone Star) further adds a 115-volt power outlet, upgraded cloth upholstery, remote start, a 10-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and an upgraded 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Uconnect Access, smartphone integration and online/emergency services (includes Wi-Fi hot spot capability).
The Sport loses remote start but adds the V8 engine, body-color exterior trim, 20-inch wheels, projector-style headlights, LED taillights and LED interior/exterior accent lighting, power-adjustable pedals, an upgraded driver information display and an extra USB port (charge-only). Regular-cab Sport models with rear-wheel drive are referred to as the R/T package, and they come with the 6-foot-4 bed, 22-inch wheels, performance gearing, a limited-slip differential, a unique hood, a black grille with R/T badging and a seven-speaker audio system.
The Laramie (available in extended and crew cabs only) gets more chrome exterior trim and a front bench seat from the Big Horn. Otherwise, it includes the features from the Sport, adding chrome-accented 20-inch wheels, auto-dimming mirrors, leather upholstery, wood interior trim, heated and ventilated leather-trimmed front seats (vinyl rear seats), a heated steering wheel, driver memory settings, a six-way power passenger seat and a 10-speaker surround-sound audio system.
The Laramie Longhorn (crew cab only) adds unique exterior styling cues, the spray-in bedliner, tow hooks, a larger fuel tank, keyless entry and ignition, remote start, front and rear parking sensors, wood interior trim, a wood-accented steering wheel, upgraded leather upholstery, leather-trimmed rear seats and a navigation system.
The Limited adds monotone paint, side-step bars, automatic windshield wipers, automatic high beams, a self-leveling air suspension and even fancier leather upholstery.
The Ram is also available in an off-road-oriented variant called the Rebel. It is only available in the crew cab with the 5-foot-7 bed. On the outside, you'll find features similar to what is included on the Sport R/T, in addition to 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, black fender flares, front and rear Bilstein shock absorbers, tow hooks, LED foglights and keyless entry. The Rebel's interior is similar to that of the Sport, although remote start, rear parking sensors, a six-way passenger seat, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel are also included, as is unique cloth-and-vinyl upholstery.
These trim levels are generally just starting points, as many of their standard items are optionally available on other trims (including the HFE's standard tonneau cover, which is optional on all other Ram 1500s). Notably, the RamBox weatherproof bedside bins are a standalone option on models with the 5-foot-7 and 6-foot-4 beds (except the HFE). Other notable options include various appearance enhancements, chrome bed rails, heated rear seats, a sunroof and a rear defroster.
The 2017 Ram 1500 comes standard with a 3.6-liter gasoline V6 that generates 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic is the only transmission offered, regardless of engine choice. Rather than a traditional shift lever or a stalk sticking out of the steering column, Ram 1500s have a rotary knob on the instrument panel.
A rear-wheel-drive (2WD) layout is standard, but there are two available 4WD systems. Both have a two-speed transfer case with low-range gearing. However, one is a traditional part-time system with manual mode selection; the other offers an Auto 4WD mode that automatically switches between rear- and four-wheel drive as conditions dictate.
With the standard V6, the Ram 1500 2WD boasts EPA-estimated fuel economy of 20 mpg combined (17 city/25 highway), and slightly more in HFE trim. The 4WD falls to 19 mpg combined (16 city/23 highway). In Edmunds testing, a Ram 1500 SLT Quad Cab 2WD with the V6 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, while a slightly heavier SLT crew cab V6 2WD did it in 8.0 seconds.
Standard on Sport, Laramie Longhorn and Limited (and optional on all other Rams except the HFE) is a 5.7-liter V8 rated at 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. The V8's fuel economy is 17 mpg combined (15 city/22 highway) for 2WD and 17 mpg combined (15 city/21 highway) for 4WD. In Edmunds testing, a Ram 1500 Sport crew cab 4WD made the sprint from zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, which is about average for a full-size pickup with a V8.
Standard on the HFE and optional on all trims except Express, Sport and Rebel is the EcoDiesel, a turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel V6 rated at 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is very good for a pickup at 23 mpg combined (20 city/28 highway) for 2WD and 22 mpg combined (19 city/27 highway) for 4WD. The HFE EcoDiesel goes even farther at 24 mpg combined (21 city/29 highway).
In Edmunds testing, a Ram 1500 Laramie crew cab 4WD with the diesel engine accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds. That might not seem quick, but the engine's ample torque makes a diesel-powered Ram 1500 feel pretty swift around town. For comparison, a Nissan Titan XD with a turbocharged diesel V8 took 9.6 seconds.
A properly equipped Ram 1500 with the gas V6 can tow up to 7,610 pounds, and the diesel V6 maxes out at 9,210 pounds. The V8 can tow up to 10,640 pounds — less than its competitors, but not by much. The maximum payload for the gas V6 is 1,890 pounds, decreasing to 1,800 pounds with the V8 and 1,600 pounds with the diesel V6.
Perhaps one of the most impressive elements of owning a Ram 1500 is the excellent ride quality. On the highway, it's smooth, quiet and relatively unfazed by even significant bumps. The adjustable air suspension makes the ride even better. It's a unique feature for this class that allows the truck to drop 2 inches to ease liftover and step-in heights when parked. Two off-road settings for the air suspension also allow increases of 1.2 inch and 2 inches above the standard height for extra clearance.
For power, the 5.7-liter V8 is likely the choice if you're towing consistently. It has the highest-rated towing capacity, but the diesel V6 is impressive too, and it offers much better fuel economy to boot. Although the diesel's acceleration numbers are on the slow side, we've found that it's just as capable as the other engines for normal commuting. That said, if you're not planning to do any towing, sticking with the base gasoline V6 engine will save you a bundle and give you a bit more speed with the pedal pinned to the floor.
Gear changes from the eight-speed automatic are smooth and practically imperceptible, so the transmission never feels busy, as you might expect with so many gears. It's also a benefit when towing, as there are more ratios available to achieve an ideal engine rpm, and it could even reduce your need to get a different axle ratio.
Regardless of trim level, the Ram 1500's interior is one of our favorites in the segment. Lower trim levels feel well built with quality materials, and upper trim levels are predictably very well executed, with available wood trim and premium leather upholstery that class things up quite a bit. Seat comfort is excellent, especially for long road trips, with soft padding and adequate support in the right places. If you go with the crew cab, there's plenty of legroom in the rear and matching seat comfort.
For infotainment controls, the Ram features two available Uconnect systems. The 5-inch center screen is decent, but our favorite is the upgrade 8.4-inch screen with its large virtual buttons, quick response times and logical menu layouts. As an added bonus, there are several physical buttons and knobs that duplicate those tasks for the more traditional owner. Seasoned truck owners might be thrown off at first by the rotary shift knob on the dashboard, but it quickly becomes second nature, and it frees up useful storage space compared to trucks with console-mounted shifters.
Leaving nothing out, the Ram 1500 also includes plenty of available modern convenience features such as keyless entry and ignition, remote start, power-adjustable pedals, Bluetooth, voice controls, smartphone integration and even Wi-Fi hot spot capability. If you have trouble finding a good driving position, be sure to check out the optional power-adjustable pedals because the Ram 1500 is exclusively equipped with a tilt-only steering wheel.
For storing items inside the cabin, the Ram provides plenty of standard and optional storage spaces. The extended cab has a clever fold-out flat floor space when you flip up the 60/40-split rear seats, while the crew cab features watertight storage compartments under the rear floor (i.e., coolers!) as well as shallow bins under the flip-up backseat. A unique Ram feature is the optional RamBox system, which places a pair of lockable compartments over the rear fenders inside the truck bed. With the right equipment levels, these compartments can even be locked and unlocked via remote.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.