2013 Ram 1500: My Name Is Ram, My Eight-Speed Tranny Has A Big Knob

Visually, the 2013 Ram 1500 has few visual changes from the outgoing model. Mechanically, however, they've finally brought Chrysler's big truck into the 21st century with a new ZF eight-speed transmission, adjustable air suspension, and a V6 that doesn't suck.

When Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy they did so with a mission to make things better. A mission made easier by the fact that most of their vehicles were either bad or, at least, neglected.

The then-Dodge Ram 1500 was a partial exception having undergone a platform upgrade pre-bankruptcy. This made for a RAM that looked competitive but largely lacked the features truck buyers wanted. Like an engine.

Ram's outgoing 3.7-liter V6 was an underpowered embarrassment, barely able to produce the power necessary to tow itself. It was the automotive equivalent of putting a Pentium II processor in a Macbook Pro.

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Rated at 305 hp with 269 lb-ft of torque, the new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 is 42% more powerful and 13% torquier than the old mill. We also hear it returns 20% better mileage. Yes, it's still gotta Hemi. The 5.7-liter V8 returns with 395 hp — five more than the outgoing model — and 407 lb-ft of torque. The 4.7-liter V8 is also there, for people who make bad decisions.

Gears are also up, with the ZF eight-speed automatic finally making its way into all engines. This transmission option, while impressive, comes with an interesting proposition for truck buyers: an electronic dial-a-gear rotary knob that's becoming standard across the Chrysler lineup.

The column-mounted shifter will still be available on the smaller V8, but the move is a reminder that buyers in this segment increasingly demand luxury features. Trucks are less about work and more about lifestyle, aking a Jag-like selector is an important touch for people who spend more on Sugarland records than feed or seed.

2013 Ram 1500: My Name Is Ram, My Eight-Speed Tranny Has A Big Knob

This also explains the optional 7-inch touchscreen and standard 3.5-inch info display in the gauge cluster.

Other functional upgrades include a Jeep Grand Cherokee-derived airbag suspension with multiple settings for on-and-off road situations. As with the SUV it'll also offer an "Aero" mode to lower the ride height for increased efficiency.

Should you find yourself on the street trying to determine whether or not you're looking at the 2013 or 2012 model just look for the chrome grille. The more chrome, the newer it is.