KIMMINS, Tenn. -- We're throttling a big new Ram 1500 truck over the green hills of Tennessee, romping down the scarce straights but mainly carving precise turns through bend after bend of curvy asphalt.
The new electric power steering mechanism, rarely seen under the hood of a pickup truck, aids our effort to connect all of those corners by producing responsive and predictable turns with a fine on-center feel.
More quick action comes from accelerator and brake pedals, thanks to huge disc brakes for all four wheels and a new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 base engine which delivers up to 305 hp through an awesome TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission with best-in-class fuel economy scores climbing to 25 mpg.
Ram's redesigned ladder-frame platform, enhanced with high-strength steel reinforcements, carries a suspension system which produces the smooth ride quality and nimble handling traits of a well-mannered passenger car, and there's a new air suspension on the option chart with five selectable ride-height levels moving through a vertical span of four inches.
Ram 1500 for 2013 also gains a truckload of clever convenience features that range from exterior mirrors that fold under power controls to power-motivated stainless-steel running boards, a rear-sliding window with built-in defroster, a remote engine start system, the Keyless Enter 'n Go fob, even a WiFi hotspot link and new central power locking of all doors plus the tailgate and optional RamBox stow bin.
And Ram's cabin is lined with so many premium materials that negate the time-worn image of a bare-necessities truck and instead conjure the notion of a comfortable luxury car.
Then there's the novel aspect to Ram's new exterior design which works as an indirect aid for the Ram driver: Dressed in a bold new exterior package with a chin-forward face, Ram apparently presents such an intimidating image in the rearview mirror of traffic ahead of us that some drivers tend to pull to the side and allow our truck to pass.
Ram's get-out-of-my-way prow -- a fresh interpretation of the Ram predecessor design from 1994 with stepped-hood styling of a big-rig Peterbilt -- seems hard to overlook. It's bold and assertive, a massive front end dominating the design with flat-faced grille and stair-step hood underlined by a fat-lip bumper and generous applications of chrome with restyled headlamp clusters and LED turn signals.
You can tell in an instant this is not some namby-pamby pickup where too-slick sheetmetal imitates a car.
Rather, the 2013 iterations of Ram are built for business -- macho truck-type work like toting two-by-four lumber or towing a big trailer, hauling hay to the barn or running up the range and crawling over a rocky trail.
Ram 1500 pickups for 2013 come with a two-door Regular Cab, a four-door Quad Cab or the spacious four-door Crew Cab, plus three lengths for the truck box and either two-wheel-drive (2WD) or four-wheel-drive (4WD) traction format.
Ram's rear truck bed measures to 76 inches for the regular-length box with a two-door Regular Cab or the four-door Quad Cab.
An optional long-box bed extending to 96 inches is also available with a two-door Regular Cab.
For Ram 1500 Crew Cab the box length cuts short at 67 inches to prevent over-extending the length of the vehicle and make it difficult to manage when turning. However, the 2013 Ram Crew Cab issues add the 76-inch regular-length box as a new option.
Passive safety equipment on 2013 Ram 1500 trucks reach beyond two frontal air bags to three-point safety belts for all seats, plus sets of tether anchors in the rear of four-door models for installing a child's safety seat, and there are new side pelvic-thorax air bags mounted on front seats plus side curtain-style air bags installed for every cabin.
Active safety equipment includes the standard four-wheel ABS (anti-lock brake system) and ESC (electronic stability control) with HSA (hill start assist) and TSC (trailer sway control) mechanisms, EARS (enhanced accident response system), the ParkSense rear park assist system and TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system).
Ram in the light-duty 1500 series for 2013 offers three engine options -- the new fuel-thrifty and flex-fuel (E85-compatible) 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, a flex-fuel 4.7-liter V8, and the super-powerful 5.7-liter HEMI V8.
Ram's dual-cam Pentastar V6 with aluminum cylinder block delivers 305 hp at 6400 rpm with 269 lb-ft of torque at 4175 rpm.
The single-cam 4.7-liter V8 climbs to 310 hp at 5650 rpm plus torque pegging to 330 lb-ft at 3950 rpm.
And that 5.7-liter HEMI V8 bumps way up to 395 hp at 5600 rpm with 407 lb-ft of torque at 3950 rpm.
These engines make Ram all the more strong with higher ratings for weight, payload and trailer towing.
Payloads for a Ram 1500 Regular Cab rise to 1890 pounds and the GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) climbs as high as 6800 pounds. Quad Cab payloads max at 1800 pounds with GVWR up to 6800 pounds. Ram Crew Cab shows payloads to 1720 pounds and the GVWR at 6800 pounds.
Tow capacity for Ram 1500 Regular Cab reaches up to 10450 pounds, Quad Cab pulls as much as 10350 pounds and a Crew Cab Ram caps at 10300 pounds.
MSRP figures for 2013 Ram 1500 trucks begin at $22,590 for a Ram Regular Cab V6 2WD.