Yesterday, Chevrolet dropped the first shoe — the 2019 Silverado — and today, Ram dropped the second — the 2019 Ram 1500.
What’s surprising is how much they have in common.
Both extended their length by four inches, used more high-strength steel in their frames, and cut weight — though Chevrolet took off over 400 pounds, and Ram only dropped 225, possibly because Chevrolet was more aggressive with the use of aluminum body panels (for the doors, tailgate, and hood); both increased their high-strength steel body content. Chevrolet used more aluminum in the suspension, while Ram used hollow stabilizer bars and composite upper control arms.
Chevrolet’s headline feature was having six engines, ranging from a 3-liter straight-six diesel to a 6.2 liter V8, with an optional ten-speed automatic. Ram made the eight-speed automatic standard across the board, and while they only showed two gasoline engines (the diesel was conspicuously absent), there are actually three powertrains now because the Hemi is available with or without a motor boost.
Ram is apparently focusing on city mileage and responsiveness by adding a belt-starter-generator system to the V6 and optionally to the Hemi; this setup boosts output when the engine is at low rpms or when the transmission is shifting. Peak power ratings aren’t changed, but acceleration should be substantially faster and regenerative braking should help fuel economy.
Both GM and Mopar have cylinder deactivation on their V8s. The Hemi’s goes four cylinders at a time, but the motor should help it to stay in four-cylinder mode more often, cutting fuel use; vibration dampers also increase the range of four-cylinder operation. GM now lets the engine deactivate any number of cylinders at once, not only four, so you can go in five-cylinder or six-cylinder mode (etc) if needed, keeping that system active more often.
Ram has probably made more extensive changes throughout. Their conventional frame is gone, replaced by a splayed front frame rail which should dramatically improve crash-test results (and save lives), with tire blockers to prevent wheels from bursting into the cab. Their frame is 98% high-strength steel. The hybrid fan was replaced with an electric one, deceleration fuel shutoff has been shifted to all gears, the intake was redesigned to get cooler air, — the list keeps going, right down to warming up the axle lubricant in cold weather to increase durability and reduce friction. Numerous aero tweaks, from an active air dam on to a tailgate spoiler, all work to cut wind drag and noise.
The interiors were both upgraded; GM has a plethora of gauges, and Ram has, on upper trim levels, a stunning 12-inch delay that can be treated as two smaller displays (each around the size of GM’s largest). Both trucks improved their lockable bed storage, with Ram going a step further in the Rambox system, now with lights in the lids for better night visibility. Ram has an optional four-corner air suspension, too, which should help the off-road-focused Rebel. (GM has no less than three off-road-oriented pickups, but whether they can actually match or beat the Rebel is unknown.) Both trucks have LED lights, but Ram went a step further with their bi-LEDs standard on some trims, moving to match the steering-wheel angle on the top trims.
With active noise cancellation, vibration dampers, panoramic sunroofs, upgraded cabin materials, clever storage systems, and the big screens inside, Ram is likely to continue to have the most comfortable, convenient cabins of any pickup. Who among the Big Three will get the best fuel economy is still unknown; it’s ten-speeds-plus-diesels for Ford and Chevrolet, with Ford having a lighter body as well — and mild-hybrids at Ram.
We also know that GM has three more engines to be announced, while Ram is likely to bring back their VM diesel and possibly add the Wrangler’s four-cylinder-hybrid setup. A plug-in hybrid isn’t beyond the reach of the imagination, either, and may depends on the take rate on the Hemi-hybrid versus the straight-Hemi — and the rumor mill claims a turbo straight-six two years down the road, so whoever wins the gas-mileage crown may well lose it later.