Luxury family hauler
THE GOOD
  • Rides, drives like a luxury SUV
  • Clever storage solutions
  • Smooth powertrain
THE BAD
  • Needs lots of options
  • Very expensive
  • Interior styling

Some say the forthcoming Jeep Grand Wagoneer gives the former Chrysler Corp. a much-needed luxury barge to keep pace with the competition.

That’s a fair assessment, except I think it already has one, and this is it: the 2021 Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn. This penultimate trim in the truck’s lineup may lack a third row of seats and a few key amenities, but it counters with an upscale ride – and an asking price to match.

Practicality: 9/10

OK, fine – this isn’t the kind of competitor you’d pit against the Cadillac Escalade, which is where Jeep’s sights are squarely aimed with the Grand Wagoneer. The lack of a third set of seats doesn’t help matters, either. But the second-row room inside the crew cab Ram 1500 is simply astounding, putting big SUVs like the Escalade and sibling Chevrolet Suburban to shame. Headroom both front and back is compromised by the optional panoramic sunroof ($1,695), but the 1,147 mm (45.2 in) of rear-seat legroom far exceeds the 1,067 mm (42 in) or so offered by the Escalade and Suburban.

What it lacks in extra seats the Ram 1500 makes up for with an open bed and all kinds of payload and towing capacity, though the amenities of this Limited Longhorn trim cut into both. For instance, the Ram Trucks website proclaims “standard V8 towing” of as much as 5,783 kg (12,750 lb) and a maximum payload rating of as much as 1,043 kg (2,300 lb). But those figures drop significantly when saddled with all the stuff here that’s both standard and optional, with a tow rating of 3,526 kg (7,773 lb) and a maximum payload of 441 kg (973 lb).

This particular truck I tested made excellent use of its interior and exterior cargo space, with plenty of standard and optional places to stash stuff. Bedside cargo boxes ($1,295) cut into the overall size inside the short box bolted to the back, but they provide locking compartments for tools or any other loose items you might want to keep secure. Also fitted to this tester was Ram’s dual-action tailgate that opens conventionally or in a 60/40 split like barn doors.

Inside, small compartments in the floor and under the rear seat are great places to keep valuables away from prying eyes, while all four doors have a couple pockets each and the console is teeming with cubbies. In fact, in recent memory only the Toyota Sienna minivan does better than this when it comes to small-item storage.

Styling: 7/10

Despite the added practicality inside, the Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn doesn’t look like function precedes form – though perhaps it should. Don’t get me wrong, the rich caramel colour of the cabin is a nice touch; but the cowboy-inspired accents are all a little too much, at least for my tastes. The barbed wire on the floor mats and the western shirt-like design elements on the dash and doors are a lot to take in. It’s like if Canadian retailer Randy River re-emerged to design westernwear.

Graciously, the exterior design is far more inoffensive, using smooth lines to create an attractive-if-subtle statement. The chrome accents might not be for everyone, but at least the bumpers can be swapped for body-colour pieces for a reasonable sum ($395). Either way, the chrome worked well with the Red Pearl paint of this tester ($295), looking every bit the near-luxury truck it is.

User Friendliness: 8/10

Despite the spaciousness of the cabin, I found it surprisingly difficult to settle into a comfortable seating position up front. The truck feels smaller than it is from the driver’s seat, which wouldn’t lower quite far enough to fit my 6-foot-3 frame comfortably, while the manually adjustable steering wheel wouldn’t raise high enough. Finally, the optional head-up display (part of the $1,595 Technology package) was rendered useless because I couldn’t adjust it to be at all visible while sitting upright. For what it’s worth, AutoTrader.ca Editor-in-Chief Jodi Lai, who stands 5-foot-6, had no issues with the seating position or head-up display.

The cabin also suffers some limitations in terms of overall ease of use with the optional 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system onboard. While the interface itself remains among the best in the business, the portrait orientation of this particular display and the centralization of most features and functions is far from ideal. The smartphone-like menu structure is intuitive, but the lack of physical controls for the heated and ventilated seats, for example, is a hindrance – particularly while driving – while the climate controls that border the screen are tough to see and use at a glance.

Features: 9/10

Those front-seat temperature controls are included in the Limited Longhorn trim’s pre-tax starting price of $75,910 including a non-negotiable $1,995 freight charge, as are heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel. However, the rear-seat ventilation found in this truck is optional, as is the big touchscreen (an 8.4-inch unit is standard). Worse still, massaging front seats aren’t offered – a feature found in the rival Ford F-150 Platinum at its $83,300 base price.

Otherwise, much of what you might expect for the asking price is here: leather upholstery; 12-way power-adjustable front seats; a heated steering wheel; dual-zone automatic climate control; built-in navigation and satellite radio; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; a 10-speaker stereo; and remote keyless entry with proximity sensors and push-button start.

This truck’s upgrades included the larger touchscreen, a subscription-based Wi-Fi hotspot, ventilation for the rear seats (heat is included), a wireless phone charger, 19-speaker stereo, and power-deployable running boards, as well as upgraded leather, and air suspension, among others.

Safety: 8/10

While forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking is standard, as are rain-sensing wipers and front and rear parking sensors, the bulk of the advanced safety items available are optional. That means paying $2,300 to get lane departure warning and lane-keep assist, pedestrian detection, a self-parking system, and adaptive cruise control; $1,595 for the head-up display and digital rearview mirror; and a whopping $3,595 to get a package that’s the only way to get blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

Comfort: 9/10

The optional air suspension ($1,895) coupled with the Ram 1500’s standard coil springs at all four corners makes this a supremely comfortable truck to drive. Not only does the air suspension allow the ride height to be raised and lowered – from 157 mm (6.2 in) for entry and exit to 261 mm (10.3 in) for off-road duty, with a couple other stops in between – but it lends a luxury SUV-like quality that’s unmatched in the segment.

The cabin is fairly quiet, too, and while massage functionality was missed during testing the front seats proved comfortable and supportive. The heat and ventilation settings worked quickly, while the automatic climate control system was left to its own devices and easily managed the humid summertime temperatures. And while the sunroof cuts into headroom in the back, the bench seats have a sliding recline feature to get just a little more comfortable.

Driving Feel: 9/10

The Ram’s suspension setup also has its merits when it comes to controllability, with this half-ton driving unlike any other on the market. There’s still some of the longitudinal rigidity common in body-on-frame pickups that’s noticeable on broken pavement, but it’s quelled far more quickly while rarely disrupting the ride in the first place. The steering is well-weighted, too, while the brakes are progressive as pedal pressure is applied.

Power: 9/10

Standard fare for this truck – aside from a four-wheel drive system with an automatic setting – is a 5.7L V8 engine that puts out a healthy 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. However, this tester featured an optional mild hybrid system ($995) that replaces the alternator with a 12-kW electric motor. Providing pulses of as much as 130 lb-ft of torque, the 48-volt electrical system chips in at launch and during gear changes to add further refinement to the powertrain.

Coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission, upshifts are all but unnoticeable even under heavy acceleration, smoothly swapping cogs on the run up to this engine’s 5,800-rpm redline. Torque is delivered in a linear manner, meanwhile, with a satisfying smoothness that sees all 410 lb-ft reached at just 3,950 revs.

Fuel Economy: 6/10

Despite decent ratings – according to Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), this truck is good for 14.0 L/100 km in the city, 10.7 on the highway, and 12.5 combined – and a promising start to my week-long test, the mild-hybrid powertrain did little for this truck’s real-world fuel consumption. An initial evaluation drive spanning some 250 km, mostly on the highway, saw the Ram 1500 turn in an average of 10.8 L/100 km; however, the full week finished at 14.5 L/100 km with a heavy dose of city driving over a total of 840 km.

Value: 7/10

The 2021 Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn starts at $75,910 before tax but including freight – a hefty sum, but one that doesn’t include the kind of niceties that make this truck stand out. To do that takes nearly $20,000 more, with the sticker price of this tester ballooning to $94,600 before the government’s share. While the resulting ride quality of the optional air suspension makes it an easy add, that’s barely $2,000 of the extra cash required.

The Verdict

Therein lies the biggest issue with this truck. Because it’s not as if the Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn is priced beyond the competition; in fact, its starting price undercuts its rival from Ford. But crucially, it requires quite a few options to make it a proper competitor to the F-150 Platinum, and those end up pushing the selling price well beyond a similar truck bearing a Blue Oval badge.

Looking past the dollars and cents of it all, this is a nice truck plain and simple – particularly with those options added. It lacks a few key features, including massaging seats, but delivers a ride quality that’s vastly superior to any of its rivals. There’s a good reason the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer will use the same platform as this pickup.

In truth, the 2021 Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn is no replacement for a proper three-row SUV for those who need one. It is, however, a spacious and luxurious alternative that rides and drives like one while retaining the sensibilities of a truck. Keep an eye out for incentives that could soften the financial blow and this would make a fine family hauler with the heart of a workhorse.

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 5.7L   Model Tested 2021 Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn 4WD
Engine Cylinders V8   Base Price $73,915
Peak Horsepower 395 hp @ 5,600 rpm   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 410 lb-ft @ 3,950 rpm   Destination Fee $1,995
Fuel Economy 14.0 / 10.7 / 12.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb   Price as Tested $94,600
Cargo Space 1,526 L  
Optional Equipment
$18,590 – Longhorn Level 1 Equipment Group, $3,595; Advanced Safety Group, $2,300; Air Suspension, $1,895; Panoramic Sunroof, $1,695; Technology Group, $1,595; 10th Anniversary Limited Longhorn Edition, $1,395*; RamBox Bedside Cargo Boxes, $1,295; Off-Road Group, $995; eTorque Mild Hybrid System, $995; Trifold Tonneau Cover, $650; Bed Utility Group, $500; 124-L Fuel Tank, $495; Class IV Hitch Receiver, $495; Trailer Brake Controller, $395; Red Pearl paint, $295. *$1,895 at time of publication