2021 Ram 1500 Buying Guide | A champion adds a heavy hitter

James Riswick
·12 mins read


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This review is cram-packed with everything there is to know about the full 2021 Ram 1500 lineup, including the new 702-horsepower TRX, so we'll go ahead and keep this intro brief. In short, the Ram 1500 continues to be our top full-size pickup choice. It's a grand slam, a hat trick, a 95-yard touchdown pass. From the humble Tradesman to the indulgent Limited, the Ram is a thoughtfully designed and well-executed truck that offers a little something for every buyer. And thanks to that TRX, "every buyer" now includes "guy who wants to go 103 in a desert wash while occasionally jumping a gorge." Sweet.

What's new for 2021?

While there are plenty of updates and additions for 2021, all are overshadowed by the new Ram 1500 TRX. We have yet to drive it, but you can read all about it here on Autoblog. In short, though, this long-awaited answer to the Ford Raptor packs a version of the "Hellcat" 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8 good for 702 hp and 650 pound-feet of torque. A new, unique-to-TRX suspension puts that absurd power to the dirt for high-speed desert running, while body modifications include a unique hood and grille, and the flared fenders that add to a whopping 8 extra inches of body width. The interior also gets its own design flourishes, plus a unique center console featuring a gear stick in place of the usual dash-mounted rotary knob. 

Now, the other changes. Full-speed forward collision warning is now standard on all trims but Tradesman and Big Horn, which include it in an optional equipment group. Trailering is also made easier thanks to the newly Trailer Reverse Control (it basically steers for you while backing up while hitched to a trailer), power-folding trailer mirrors that are now a stand-alone option, and a new trailer camera prep kit. There's also a new color head-up display available as well as a camera-based rearview mirror. Finally, the new 2021 Limited Longhorn 10th Anniversary Edition features special badging and unique interior trim.


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What's the Ram 1500 interior and in-car technology like?

It's easy to be smitten by the Ram 1500 in its fanciest Longhorn and Limited trim levels, which are bedecked in soft leather, special color schemes and unique styling elements like the Longhorn emblem literally branded into real wood trim. There are unique features like the huge vertically oriented touchscreen and the ventilated reclining back seat. They're easily the most luxurious pickups ever made.

Crucially, however, we are actually more impressed by the basic Ram 1500 Tradesman and Big Horn trim levels. While the quality of plastics is typical for the segment (that goes for those ritzy Rams, too), the different textures and attractive design result in a cabin that looks and feels better than trucks that cost a comparable amount or more. For instance, the rich gray cloth upholstery in a Big Horn test truck contributed to a far more premium environment than the one found in a leather-lined Chevy Silverado.

The Ram doesn't just impress aesthetically. The five-passenger model's center console features clever, multi-configuration storage solutions thoughtfully designed for how people might use this space — it's not just some cupholders and a pair of differently sized bins. There's also a covered compartment under the rear floor and the RamBox bins that can be added to the bed walls.

In-car technology is exceptional as well. Even the most basic Tradesman has a perfectly useable 5-inch touchscreen and three USB ports, while the 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen found on other trims is one of the most user-friendly interfaces on the market and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Additional USB ports can also be added to the rear, including the USB-C type. The top three trims can step things up further with the aforementioned 12-inch vertical touchscreen.


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How big is the Ram 1500?

The 2021 Ram 1500 is available with three body/bed configurations: extended Quad Cab with a 6-foot-4 bed, or a Crew Cab with either the longer bed or a standard 5-foot-7 bed. There are also two tailgate designs: the standard one and the optional multifunction split design demonstrated in the video below. The exterior dimensions are similar to its competitors, although the new TRX is a whopping 8 inches wider than its siblings.

Interior dimensions are also similar to those of its competitors. The Quad Cab's rear legroom (34.7 inches) is the same as the Toyota Tundra's, but a bit more than a Ford F-150 Super Cab's (33.5) and a bit less than a Silverado Double Cab's (35.2). All of those figures equal cramped legs, and given the upright backrest angle they all share, none are exactly ideal for lengthy journeys. Neither is the six-passenger model's front middle seat, but at least its seat back is notably higher than any other truck's and should actually provide some head and neck restraint to go with additional comfort.

If you really need your truck to ferry passengers, though, an upgrade to the Crew Cab is a must. With it, backseat legroom grows to an indulgent degree to a whopping 45.2 inches. That's about 2 inches better than the Silverado Crew Cab and F-150 Super Crew, and 3 inches better than the Tundra Crew Max. Admittedly, all possess so much massive, stretch-out legroom that there'll likely be a full foot from knees to the front seat back. So yes, the Ram has more, but we're not sure it really matters. What could, however, is the available reclining back rest that increases comfort considerably. The Tundra is the only other truck that offers that.


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What are the performance and fuel economy?

The standard engine is a 3.6-liter V6 that is aided by a 48-volt mild hybrid system Ram calls eTorque. It adds a small amount of electricity while accelerating from a stop to increase power and refinement, as well as improving the automatic stop/start system and fuel economy. We explain it more in our Ram 1500 eTorque first drive. Output is 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, and an eight-speed automatic is standard. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 20 miles per gallon city, 25 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined with RWD, and 19/24/21 with 4WD. It wasn't so long ago that V6-powered midsize sedans were getting that sort of fuel economy.

There are two versions of the optional 5.7-liter V8 available, both good for 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. One has eTorque and achieves 17/23/19 with RWD, an estimate we confirmed during our test of a Ram 1500 Big Horn. The other version does not have eTorque and achieves 15/22/17 with RWD. The penalty for 4WD is negligible. While the differences in fuel economy with and without eTorque may seem small in terms of the mpg figure, they can actually equate to hundreds saved in gas every year.

For max torque and fuel economy, the 3.0-liter V6 produces 260 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque that is tops among full-size truck diesel engines. It returns 22 mpg city, 32 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined with RWD, and 21/29/24 with 4WD. That's a smidge lower than the Chevy DuraMax diesel, but a smidge better than Ford's PowerStroke. Although your savings will largely depend on diesel prices where you live, the EcoDiesel could save you many hundreds of dollars at the pump every year compared to the eTorque V8. It'll also allow you to go much further on a tank..

On the other end of the spectrum is the new TRX and its 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8. It produces 702 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. It goes from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. It also gets a different eight-speed automatic, transfer case and rear axle to handle all that grunt. Fuel economy numbers weren't available at the time of this writing, but dude, if you care, this isn't the truck for you.  

What's the Ram 1500 like to drive?

We'll get this out of the way right now: we have yet to drive the TRX, so check back later for that.

Otherwise, the Ram 1500 continues to be so refined that it can feel like you're driving a large crossover rather than a pickup. Thanks to its five-link coil spring rear suspension, its ride quality is buttery smooth in comparison to rival trucks that all have leaf springs. That suspension design also benefits handling and trailer control, and can even be upgraded with an available air suspension capable of raising to clear obstacles and lowering for easier loading. The steering possesses linear, consistent effort and is reassuringly precise on-center (though it's not quite as sharp as the Silverado's).

Acceleration from the eTorque-equipped V8 is similarly buttery smooth and impressively quiet. You don't really notice the smidgen of power contributed by the 48-volt electrical system as you would in a proper hybrid, but you also don't notice noise or vibration coming from the automatic stop/start system. Even without eTorque, however, the Hemi V8 is still excellent and one wonders if it'll be cheaper to maintain in the long term without the complicated extra bits attached. Similarly, you'd be hard pressed to know that the base V6 possesses eTorque, and you'll be surprised at just how capable the Ram can be with only six cylinders. The eight-speed automatic certainly helps in this regard, especially while towing.

As for the EcoDiesel, it impresses with its quiet and confident voice, steady power, easy response and smooth acceleration. Like other diesels, it starts to run out of steam higher in its rev range, but that's where the eight-speed automatic comes in handy once again. We towed with this engine, used it while off-roading in the Rebel and generally found it well-suited to truck duty.

What more can I read about the Ram 1500?

2021 Ram 1500 TRX debuts as a Hellcat-powered, desert-running Raptor killer

The full story of the new, ultimate off-road Ram.


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2020 Ram 1500 4x4 Suspension Deep Dive

Why is the Ram's coil-spring rear suspension better and how does it work? Engineer Dan Edmunds explains. 

 

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel First Drive

More in-depth driving impressions and information about the new EcoDiesel V6.

 

2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Drivers' Notes Review

Our editors breakdown the mid-level Laramie trim level. 


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2019 Ram 1500 Tradesman Drivers' Note Review

Our editors also got a chance to evaluate the basic Tradesman. It still impressed.


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2019 Ram 1500 eTorque First Drive Review

Find out more about the V6 and V8 engines equipped with the eTorque mild hybrid system. 


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2019 Ram 1500 First Drive

Our most comprehensive first drive of the Ram 1500, including multiple videos and in-depth information about its design and engineering.


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What features are available and what's the price?

There are now seven versions of the Ram 1500: the volume-selling Tradesman, Big Horn and Laramie, the off-road-oriented Rebel and TRX, and the luxury-lined Longhorn and Limited. Note that the Big Horn is known as the Lone Star in Texas and certain bordering states. There's also the Limited Night edition, which slathers the top-of-the-line truck in blacked out trim instead of the usual brightwork, this year's Limited Longhorn 10th Anniversary Edition, and the limited Built to Serve editions that honor the five American military branches with unique color schemes, trim and badging. They come standard with Off-Road Group equipment.

Pricing is for the lowest price of each trim level and all include the $1,695 destination charge. Not all are available with every cab and bed configuration. The top three trims in particular are only available with the Crew Cab. You can find a complete breakdown of trim level features, specs and local pricing here at Autoblog.

Tradesman: $33,940
Big Horn/Lone Star: $38,485
Laramie: $43,025
Rebel: $47,015
Longhorn: $53,375
Limited: $57,745
TRX: $71,690

Finally, we should note that there's also the Ram 1500 Classic. It's the previous-generation Ram 1500 pickup, which is still being made, and for the sake of simplicity, we don't review it here.

What are its safety equipment and crash ratings?

Front-, front-side and side-curtain airbags are standard along with a rearview camera. Forward collision warning is now standard on all trims but the Tradesman and Big Horn/Lone Star, which can add it as part of the Level 1 Equipment Group. Automatic emergency braking is included with the adaptive cruise control system that's optional on all but those two bottom trims. Blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, lane-departure warning and trailer reverse control are optional on all trim levels.  

The government gives the Ram 1500 Crew Cab a five-star overall rating with four-star frontal and five star side ratings. The Quad Cab gets four-star overall and frontal ratings, and the five-star side rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 1500 Quad Cab and Crew Cabs the best possible ratings for crash worthiness and its available forward collision avoidance system. Upper trim levels with LED headlights earn a Top Safety Pick+ award.

 

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