Photo Courtesy of Chrysler Group LLC
The Ram 1500 gets a mild exterior redesign for 2013, but under the hood it carries new hardware that promises fuel efficiency.

Chrysler started out performing a mild refresh of the Ram 1500, but its engineers got carried away and have packed the 2013 truck with features never seen on a light-duty pickup.

"We changed every area of the truck, from a newly designed frame with air suspension to a new eight-speed transmission [and] a new interior," says Fred Diaz, Ram president and CEO.

Announced last month at the New York auto show, Ram also gets a new engine option for 2013, with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 that promises 42% more horsepower, 13% more torque and 20% better fuel economy than the previous 3.7-liter V-6. The Ram will come standard with a 4.7-liter V-8, and a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 will remain optional. The HEMI gets more horsepower than the 2012 engine, with a slight fuel-economy bump as well.

A new eight-speed TorqueFlite 8 automatic transmission will come standard with the V-6 and is optional in the HEMI. Off-roaders will like the ability to rock back and forth quickly between "drive" and "reverse" using a dash-mounted rotary dial, Ram engineers say. The truck will make the switch next year to electric power steering, active grille shutters, a lighter-weight frame and an automatic engine start/stop—all to save fuel.

Next year's model also will see the first application of air suspension on a light pickup. Drivers will be able to dial in up to five different height settings, for up to four inches of lift. The suspension will have a self-leveling capability to smooth out the handling effects of payloads during hauling and trailer-towing.