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An entirely new Ram

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Rumors earlier this year in the auto industry hinted at a new line of Dodge Rams to be introduced in the coming months. When the time came to unveil its new ½-ton vehicle, Dodge didn't disappoint. And Dodge promises an entirely new ¾-ton line will be introduced for 2014.

The Ram 1500s – available in both short- and long-box versions with Regular, Quad, or Crew cabs – feature an entirely new V-6 engine, a remarkable eight-speed automatic transmission (with rotary shifting), and an air-suspension system featuring five height settings.

Only a 1% price hike

Better yet, the suggested retail prices will average just over 1% higher than 2012 prices. Starting price for the 2013 Ram 1500 will be $23,585, including a $995 destination charge. That includes a best-in-class, five-year, 100,000-mile power train limited warranty that covers the cost of all parts and labor needed to repair a power train component. Coverage also includes free towing to the nearest Ram dealer, if necessary. The warranty is transferable upon sale of the vehicle.

New V-6 engine

The big news with the 1500 Rams is the availability of a new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine. This power plant delivers 42% more horsepower, 13% more torque, and at least 20% better fuel economy when compared to the Ram's previous 3.7-liter V-6 power train. The top-of-the-line engine out of the three power plants offered on the 1500s is the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. Find specifications on all three Ram engines on the next page.

Those engines can be dressed out with a class-exclusive eight-speed automatic transmission. Tabbed the TorqueFlite 8, this tranny doubles the amount of gears compared to the previously available four-speed automatic transmission. The new eight-speed features an innovative rotary e-shift dial for trucks. This dial replaces both column and floor shifters.

The dash-mounted rotary e-shift dial provides total control of the eight-speed transmission, and it is Ram's approach to electronic shifters already in use on Class 6 to Class 8 trucks. This new design allows quick blind-shift transitions from reverse to drive when towing or navigating out of mud, snow, busy parking lots, or crowded worksites.

Rapid warm-up

Another exclusive feature on the 1500 is a new thermal management system designed to quickly raise engine and transmission fluid temperatures.

By raising fluid temperatures, parasitic losses resulting from high-viscosity engine oil and transmission fluid can be reduced, improving fuel efficiency by 1.7%. As the engine temperature increases to predetermined levels, warm engine coolant is circulated through a thermal exchange unit, which also contains dedicated pathways for transmission fluid.

As the thermal exchange unit heats up, it also heats up the transmission fluid. This action reduces warm-up time for the transmission, improving fuel economy, drivability, and shift quality. In most power train configurations, the transmission heats up independently of the engine, delaying warm-up time and reducing efficiency.

Adjustable air suspension

Dodge also equipped the 1500s with a new air-suspension system that provides for five height settings. This feature operates automatically, or it may be controlled manually via console or key-fob controls.

At its normal ride height (NRH), a vehicle operates with 8.7 inches of clearance (from the base of the door sill) to provide a load-leveled ride.

Switching to the Aero mode lowers the vehicle .6 inches from NRH. Aero mode improves fuel efficiency by up to 1% and is activated by vehicle speed, adjusting for optimal performance and fuel economy.

In the Off-Road 1 mode, the truck is lifted ½ inch from NRH to add height to clear obstacles.

Or, you can choose the Off-Road 2 mode, which increases ground clearance by 2 inches over NRH.

Finally, in Park mode, the vehicle is lowered 2 inches from NRH for easier entry or cargo loading.

A benefit to the new air suspension is its load-leveling capability, which automatically detects load on the suspension from a trailer or payload. The air pressure increases until the vehicle reaches normal ride height, leveling the truck and improving the loaded ride.

Electric steering

Complementing this better ride is an electric power steering design that uses an electric motor to power the truck's rack-and-pinion steering system. This relieves the engine from the task of constantly turning a hydraulic pump, which improves fuel efficiency up to 1.8% and adds 5 hp.

The introduction of EPS reduces complexity by removing the previous hydraulic pump, high-pressure hydraulic hoses, and cooling apparatus.

Advances to the new truck line also include a newly designed frame that offers low torsion (stiffness) attributes to increase stability and handling precision while decreasing noise and vibration up to 30%, depending on drive cycle.

The front rails on the truck employ high-strength steel that is 20% stronger than previous materials. Portions of the frame are hydroformed, which reduces the amount of welding that leads to distortion. Plus, the frame's side rails are fully boxed. The front frame section also incorporates high-strength steel cut for strength and also for reducing the vehicle's weight.

Other headliner advances being offered on the 1500 line:

• Uconnect Access combines a lineup of smart media centers with a wireless platform. With this feature, you will have alternative ways to access new connected services and applications via the vehicle's 8.4-inch touchscreen display or the Web. For example, you can remotely lock or unlock doors or start your vehicles from any distance via the Web or a smartphone application.

• Integrated within the upper storage tier of the center console is a new multimedia input that includes USB, SD card, and auxiliary connections.

• Optional customizable, full-color 7-inch multiview display available on SLT; it's standard on Sport, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn models.

• New low rolling-resistance tires.

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