Black embellishments add pop to the Ram 1500.
It was four years to the week when a second Ram 1500 entered my press fleet rotation. That’s a long time between drives, especially as multiple copies of competing models from Ford, Nissan, Chevrolet, Toyota, and GMC came and went.
I cover pickup trucks probably as much as most other body styles, except for crossovers. The big number of crossovers found in press pools is understandable as we’re in the midst of a transition away from cars to utility vehicles. Manufacturers are simply responding to customer demand, although I absolutely long for the days of hot coupes and sport sedans gracing my driveway. Did I say I own a crossover?!
The current-generation Ram 1500 started out as the Dodge Ram 1500 in 2009, transitioning to a “Ram” brand unto itself two years later. Nine years is a long time to stick with the same model, but that fact hasn’t hurt Fiat Chrysler. Indeed, June 2017 US auto sales had Ram outselling the Chevrolet Silverado, the perennial second-place full-size pickup truck to the Ford F-Series. There’s a chance Ram may overtake Chevrolet for the year and that would be amazing as the Silverado is five years newer than the Ram. In any event, the next-generation Ram 1500 isn’t expected before 2019.
Taking Back the Night: 2017 Ram 1500
A 2017 Ram 1500 Crew Cab 4×2 Night Edition was my test model. This special version advances a commonly recurring theme amongst manufacturers — black embellishments on a white, black or other-colored body.
In this example, the 1500’s night package brings a black grille surround, black RAM tailgate stamping, 20-inch black aluminum wheels set within black sidewall all-season tires, and related badging.
Inside, you’ll find high-back heated cloth bucket seats with 10-way power adjustment. Rounding out the features are power-adjustable pedals and dual-zone automatic climate control.
Five exterior color choices are available: bright silver metallic, bright white, brilliant black, flame red, and granite crystal metallic. My test model was bright white, supplying this truck with an ideal contrast.
A Matter of Style
So, what sets this sport truck apart from the Ram 1500 pack? Everything mentioned earlier. If the style seems familiar to you, it should as it first appeared on the 2013 Ram 1500 Black Express package.
Other features include a body color fascia, body-color rear bumper, dual chrome exhaust tips, body-color power-folding mirrors and door handles. Take a close look the headlights too, as you’ll find black-bezel bi-functional projector headlamps with LED marker lights as well as black-bezel tail lamps.
You can have the Night Edition in regular, extended or crew cab body styles and your choice of 2WD or 4WD as well as standard and extended bed lengths.
Optional features include a performance hood with scoops, black running boards, RamBox cargo management, and a dual-purpose bed extender/divider. My test model had each of those features.
Safety and Technology
Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) put the Ram 1500 through extensive safety testing.
The NHTSA tested all three cab styles and both 2WD and 4WD versions. In each case, the Ram received four out of a possible five stars overall. In most cases, it achieved a 3-star rating for rollover, 4 stars for frontal crash and 5 stars for side crash.
The IIHS was similarly tough on the 2017 Ram 1500 as it awarded the truck its top score of “good” in three categories — moderate overlap front, side, and head restraints & seats, but “marginal” in small overlap front and roof strength. This truck also got dinged for its headlights and child seat anchors.
Standard safety equipment includes front and all-row, full-length air bags. You’ll also find a driver’s knee airbag. Available driver assist innovations include blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, forward collision warning, emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control.
Top tech features include UConnect voice-command telematics, Bluetooth, WiFi hotspot, an auxiliary input jack, and USB ports. A six-speaker audio system with satellite radio is standard. Also available are 7- or 10-speaker audio package, the latter with a subwoofer.
On the Road
Ram offers a pair of engine choices with the Night Edition. Happily, the standard V6 was not supplied with my test model. Instead, a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 making 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque provided a week of driving delight. That’s a much better deal than the 305-hp and 269 lb.-ft. of torque delivered by the 3.6-liter V6 — nothing against the junior engine, but if you want a raucous driving experience, it’s found in the HEMI alone.
There is a third engine Ram 1500 available, but not with the Night Edition. That would be the Fiat Chrysler 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V6, what bangs out 240 horsepower and a robust 420 pound-feet of torque. Incidentally, FCA yanked the diesel from the market for several months this year in response to a federal investigation that the engine violated emissions regulations. The automaker has since resumed production even as it still awaits the EPA’s blessing to start selling the truck again.
Across the board, all Ram 1500 engines come paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. My test model added an anti-spin differential rear axle — that’s Ram terminology for a limited-slip rear differential. Here, if the drive wheel loses grip, the limited-slip differential transfers power to the other wheel to regain grip. You may notice this when cornering or if roads are wet.
So, I spent sufficient time on twisty roads to gauge just how well the 1500 handled. Steering feels light to the touch and is not especially engaging. Handling is about what you’d expect — you’re still dealing with a large, crew cab model and that means you’ll experience some body roll. On the twistiest of roads, I found it difficult at times to keep the truck in my lane. Of course, had I been driving slower, that wouldn’t have been an issue. I’m sure the regular cab would have offered an ideal driving experience.
As for the HEMI, it is everything enthusiasts want — huge, burly and powerful. The boisterous exhaust note is a wonderful complement to the engine, sending forth warnings to all that a HEMI is in the house.
My test model came in just above $50,000 and that’s not an uncommon price for today’s full-size crew cab models. Its base price was about $10,000 less, the higher cost reflected largely by the engine upgrade ($1,250), RamBox management system ($1,295), and more than a dozen special features ranging from locking lug nuts ($60) to the sport performance hood ($775).
Of course, cab and bed sizes make a difference in price too. That said, some of the most generous incentives are on crew cab pickup trucks, with discounts of $5,000 or more easily within reach. All in all, the Night Edition garnishes the Ram 1500 without overdoing. Its already a masculine truck — the black embellishments are akin to a man adding mutton chop sideburns or a goatee to his face.
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