2013 Ram 1500 V-6 SLT reg cab 4×4 review: Ram math, or when six equals eight

2013 Ram 1500 V-6 SLT reg cab 4x4

2013 Ram 1500 V-6 SLT reg cab 4×4

We were consternated, to be honest, that we were to be driving the Ram 1500 pickup with the V-6 engine. Yes, the entire purpose of the test was the new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine that has replaced the several V-6 engines in the Chrysler group’s lineup over the past several years, and quite successfully, as we’ve noted. See….

But this is a pick-by-God-up truck, and while Ford is using a turbocharged-and-direct injection TK V-6 in the F-150 pickup, the Ram 1500 surely deserves nothing less than the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8.

And here we were stuck with the V-6. Insert heavy sigh here.

3.6-liter Pentastar engine in the 2013 Ram 1500 V-6 SLT reg cab

The 3.6-liter Pentastar engine in the 2013 Ram 1500 V-6 SLT reg cab 4×4 performs like a V-8. (Click to enlarge)

Well, someone has to do it.

Well, gosh darn it. This may not be the Hemi, we thinks to ourselves the first time we nail the throttle, but surely there’s a V-8 somewhere in this Ram 1500, and we don’t mean lying in the pickup bed. Because we looked. And besides, a V-8 as ballast wouldn’t help this Ram 1500 perform like it does.

And sure, it’s bright red, and that does make any vehicle faster, but this Ram pickup is quicker than we expected.

Here’s the deal. The award-winning 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine in our test award-winning Ram 1500 makes 42 percent more horsepower and 13 percent more torque than last year’s 3.7-liter V-6. That’s 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. And that is territory where once only a V-8 would tread.

cab of the 2013 Ram 1500 V-6 SLT reg cab

Missing in the cab of the 2013 Ram 1500 V-6 SLT reg cab is a shifter on the center console or steering column. (Click to enlarge)

And on top of that—or technically, behind it—the V-6 Ram 1500 gets Chrysler Group’s new eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s not an affectation. The multiple gear ratios allow a lower low for quick getaways and a more, shall we say, enthusiastic attitude in general. And at the other end of the ratio range, the eight speed has a higher high, for lower engine rpm for higher mpg on the highway for quieter operation and better fuel economy.

Any doubt about strength of the transmission –or the engine—should be allayed by the tow rating of 6,500 lbs. The eight-speed will be available with the V-8 at a later date.

We’ll confess however that we’ve been provided something of a ringer. With the regular cab, our test pickup is the lightest chassis in the Ram range. On the other hand, it also had four-wheel drive, which adds weight and eventually some additional mechanical drag.

All that said, we achieved 17.6 mpg with the Ram 1500 SLT regular cab  4×4, and that in winter temperatures and in a hilly area with a stop sign at the bottom of every hill to soak up every bit of kinetic energy we had bought climbing the hill in the first place. We’d rank that pretty good.

A word about the regular cab: It’s smaller than we remembered. We’ve become accustomed to stretched- or crew-cabs, with room to throw stuff in the back seat or in room behind the seats. The regular cab doesn’t have that space, just a narrow tray with six-inch walls. Grocery shopping? More than a plastic bag or two must into the pickup bed. A couple of winter coats can hog up all the room as well. Such is the nature of the beast.

Ram Boxes of the 2013 Ram 1500 have emergency inside release handles,

Ram Boxes of the 2013 Ram 1500 have emergency inside release handles. (Click to enlarge).

Everything else about the interior is big, however. The instrument panel is wide, with big gauges and a big multi-configurable information screen between the dials. Our favorite was the curved bar graph for current mpg arching over the digital remaining range and average mpg.

The 8.4-inch multifunction display, part of the $970 Uconnect Group, is crisp and easy to read, and has one of the brightest rearview camera (a separate $200 option) displays in the business.

[], [], [], [], []