I have an inordinate fondness for trucks. I learned to drive in a 1978 Chevy Suburban and drove an '88 Ford Ranger for years. However, in recent years, my selection of vehicles has been restrained by my wife's insistence on this thing called "practicality"—we are city dwellers, and despite the sometimes post-apocalyptic terrain of Baltimore streets, Paula has resisted the wisdom of driving something huge with a cargo capacity suitable for evacuating survivors.
I wanted a pickup, and she wanted a Subaru. So we compromised. We got a Subaru.
But when the 2019 RAM 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 arrived for my test drive—$60,190, as tested—I gained an ally in my pickup-truck cause. "This is my dream car… I mean, truck," my 17-year-old daughter said as she climbed up into the expansive cab and sat in one of the vented, leather-trimmed front seats.
Over the course of a week, we tested the truck on city streets, country roads, and highways. I had to pry my daughter out after the last ride.
The truck came in all black, minus its chromed exterior trim. While I found the Laramie's aesthetics well-suited to the role of luxury pickup, my wife Paula was not effusive about its curb appeal. She commented that the design of its grille "makes it look like Kylo Ren." The inside, however, got high marks from everyone. The RAM 1500 Laramie is a luxury pickup to be sure, with full leather trim, chromed-metal fixtures, and a huge bench seat in the second row that more than comfortably seats five. The cab's expanse (RAM calls it a "Mega Cab") seemed big enough to have its own weather system.
The driver and front passenger seats offer some extra comfort features. While all of the seats in our test truck supported heating, only the front seats offered the air-conditioned venting so necessary on a Texas (or Baltimore) summer day. This was the one ding my daughter gave the truck when she got bumped to the back on a longer test drive. But there's a reason for the lack of air—the back seat is a 40/20/40 fold-down, so you can use the back for cargo you don't want to throw in the pickup bed. (Another trim package with bench seats sits six in total.)
The front seats also have eight degrees of power adjustment—not including the four-way lumbar adjustments—so you may not really mind a few hours in the saddle. And with a configurable storage console between the front seats that's nearly big enough to be a picnic cooler (complete with a leather armrest the size of a saddle), you might not have to leave the cab for a while. There are also in-floor storage bins in the back big enough to hold some tools and a 12-pack.
The Uconnect infotainment system worked flawlessly during testing. Its Harmon Kardon sound system—which has a 900-watt surround sound amplifier, 19 speakers, 10-inch subwoofer, and active noise cancellation—was perfect for country or for Kanye. We may have rolled the windows down to share a few times while driving Baltimore's streets.
The Uconnect system in our test vehicle came with a huge 8.4-inch touchscreen, which offered a cinematic backup camera display and made navigation of the vehicle's controls relatively easy and intuitive. If you want to go even bigger, there's a gargantuan 12-inch option in some versions of the RAM 1500 capable of operating in split-screen mode—allowing two applications (such as navigation and climate control) to be displayed at the same time.
Some things were not so intuitive about the RAM 1500's console. Our test truck had push-button start, but it also had a knob to select the transmission setting. The first time in the cab, I needed two minutes of looking around just to figure out what I needed to do to put the thing in reverse.
Party in the front, work in the back
Once out on the road, the Laramie's smooth ride matched its interior swank. The truck we tested had almost car-like handling, with electronic stability controls and roll suppression that made it handle highway-lane changes almost nimbly—a drive across the Chesapeake Bridge on a Friday was no less nerve-rattling than usual, but the truck was not the issue there.
For those situations when the truck's length and girth pose a challenge—along with lane departure and blind-spot sensors—the RAM 1500's ParkSense ultrasonic parallel and perpendicular parking sensors helped make sure no paint was traded or tires and chrome abraded. A hill-start system also helped prevent the accidental crushing of vehicles unfortunate enough to park behind the truck.
But the Laramie trim and feature package isn't just for cruising in comfort. The 5.7 liter V8 Hemi under the hood is meant for hauling heavy loads in the pickup bed (rated for 2,300 pounds/1,043kg of payload) or towed behind (with 12,750lbs/5,783kg of towing capability). The Laramie we tested came configured with a towing kit. It also had LED bed lights and four adjustable cargo tie-downs, as well as a spray-in bed liner to protect it from the unsightly scratches that come with actual use.
The Hemi also provides some pretty impressive entry-ramp acceleration on the highway, as I found when I put the gas to the floor. The RAM 1500 can manage a respectable 20mpg unloaded on the highway, largely because of active air dams and upper grille shutters to improve its aerodynamics at higher speeds. FCA's engineers also shaved about 225lbs (102kg) off the 1500's weight. In stop-and-go around the city, however, we never managed better than 13mpg.
Sadly, even my daughter had to acknowledge that the RAM 1500 Laramie didn't pass our lowest bar for practicality in the city: even with all its driver assists, the RAM 1500 could not negotiate the turn into our car port from the narrow alley behind our house without taking out a few feet of the neighbor's picket fence.
But we're clearly not in the Laramie demographic in any case. This is a luxury car for the horse set or for suburban corporate cowboys. The baseline Laramie, in two-wheel drive, starts at $40,790 without all the shiny tack.