What if Ram built a three-row SUV?

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Many in the industry basically begged Dodge to build a three-row SUV based on the then-new 1994 Ram 1500 pickup. Those requests went ignored for three generations of pickups, even as the Ram Trucks brand spun off onto its own from Dodge. But it seems the stars have aligned yet again; Ram has an all-new 1500-series pickup for 2019, SUVs are enjoying a healthy uptick in popularity, fuel are holding steady at a reasonable price, and Fiat Chrysler is basically abandoning domestic sedan productions to make room for more crossovers and SUVs.

So, that begs the question – will Ram build a competitor to the Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban and Ford Expedition?

Sadly, we haven’t heard any official rumors or seen any appropriately shaped and camouflaged test mules running around Detroit, so it’s almost impossible to speculate with any certainty. However, the timing has never seemed more right. As such, we decided to compile what we imagined a new Ram SUV might look like. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Continue reading for more information.

What to Name It?

Should Ram Resurrect The Ramcharger?
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The name dates back to 1974 when Dodge released a two-door SUV based on the Ram 1500 truck

Vehicle names are extremely important. They not only make widespread recognition possible but also embody a sense of meaning. As for SUV names in Ram’s wheelhouse, none make more sense than Ramcharger. The name dates back to 1974 when Dodge released a two-door SUV based on the Ram 1500 truck. It directly competed with the Chevrolet Blazer and Ford Bronco. The full-size SUV came with V-8 power, 4WD, and even had a removable top for open-air cruising with four people on board.

The Ramcharger name would be a fantastic choice if it weren’t for one issue – would it be called the Ram Ramcharger or just Ramcharger? FCA has already experienced that conundrum with the Ram 1500, as the Ram is confused for both the brand and the model. Technically speaking, Ram is the brand and 1500 is the model. However, years of the truck being a Dodge Ram 1500 lends to an oddity.

Ram does have another historic name it could use. The Trailduster name belonged to the Plymouth version of the Dodge Ramcharger. So, could it be the Ram Trailduster? Might FCA go with another name altogether? Heck, we’re just hoping the SUV gets built in the first place.


2020 RAM Ramcharger
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The Ramcharger would be based on the new 2019 Ram 1500

The Ramcharger would be based on the new 2019 Ram 1500. Only minimal changes would need to happen to differentiate the front ends. In our rendering, we chose a lower apron similar to the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s. It’s just enough to make the Ramcharger look less like a pickup.

The biggest changes would happen out back, of course. Gone are the separated cab and bed – replaced by a single body structure that spans the entire length of the frame. Ram could follow General Motors’ and Ford’s lead by offering two wheelbase lengths. Chevy has the shorter Tahoe and longer Suburban, while Ford has the Expedition and lengthened Expedition MAX.

Either way, the Ramcharger would have room for eight people over three rows. The difference would come down to third-row legroom and cargo space.


2019 Ram 1500 Interior
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The 2019 Ram 1500 has a stunningly beautiful interior, so there is no need to revamp the design

The 2019 Ram 1500 has a stunningly beautiful interior, so there is no need to revamp the design. The dashboard’s slick appearance includes an 8.4-inch and optional 12-inch touchscreens that run the latest Uconnect software. Features include navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Wi-Fi hotspot, and other embedded applications. The fitment and materials choice is top-notch, especially in the Laramie Longhorn and Limited trims.

Necessary changes to the interior would include second-row seats that fold and slide fore and aft, along with the addition of a third row. Ram would be wise to include power-folding seatbacks that lay completely flat for an uninterrupted load floor.

The second row would likely come standard as a 40/20/40-split bench seat. Middle and upper trim levels would have the option of second-row captain’s chairs. Ram could even offer a center console between the seats for customers more concerned with storage space than entry into the third row. What’s more, Ram could incorporate the kid-friendly, dual-screen rear seat entertainment system found in the new Chrysler Pacifica.

Should Ram target the Chevy Suburban for interior room, we can expect cargo volume to be around 39 cubic feet with the seats in place and around 120 cubic feet with everything folded flat.


2019 Ram 1500 Drivetrain
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And 5.7-liter Hemi too
It gets 395 HP and 410 LB-FT
At 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque, the Hemi has more than enough guts to move the full-size SUV.

The Ramcharger would certainly use the Ram 1500’s available powertrains. Don’t count on the 3.6-liter V-6 being included, though. We expect the base engine to be the venerable 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. At 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque, the Hemi has more than enough guts to move the full-size SUV.

Ram would also include the new optional eTorque system. It uses an electric motor in place of the alternator and supplies the engine with extra low-end torque when accelerating and acts as the starter motor for the new auto start/stop system. A 48-volt battery pack supplies the power and is recharged during braking. The mild hybrid system does not add to the Hemi’s peak horsepower or torque figures but is expected to greatly help with fuel economy.

To compete with more premium SUV contenders, Ram could use its 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 as an optional engine. The big engine makes 410 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque in the current Ram 2500 heavy duty.

Of course, diesel lovers would anticipate the inclusion of the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6. The turbodiesel underwent an update for 2019 to add both horsepower and torque. Now the engine makes a very respectable 260 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque.

Regardless of engine, Ram will undoubtedly use the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission in the SUV. The gearbox is reworked for 2019 with less internal friction. Rear-wheel drive will come standard and a part-time 4WD system will be optional.


2020 RAM Ramcharger
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The handiest aspect of building an SUV off the Ram 1500 platform is the suspension.

The handiest aspect of building an SUV off the Ram 1500 platform is the suspension. Unlike the competition that needs redesigned suspensions that lose their pickup-based leaf springs, the Ram 1500 already comes with a multi-link coil spring suspension holding its solid rear axle in place.

Up front, MacPherson struts work with double wishbone control arms to give a smooth ride. Both front and rear suspensions will make use of Ram’s adjustable air ride suspension.

As for the frame, the fully boxed, high-strength steel frame is already capable of handling extreme loads in the 2019 Ram 1500. We’d expect Ram to strive for impressive towing and payload ratings in the Ramcharger. As it sits, the 2019 Ram 1500 can two up to 12,750 pounds and carry 2,300 pounds in its cargo bed. Expect the Ramcharger to handle at least an 11,000-pound trailer and 1,800 pounds of cargo.


2020 RAM Ramcharger
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The 2020 Ramcharger would compete with several high(ish)-end full-size SUVs. Remember, these vehicles have moved up-market over the last few years thanks to crossovers taking their place in the affordable segment.

We’d expect prices to start around $50,000 and crest into the upper $70,000s with all the bells and whistles ordered.

The Competition

Chevrolet Suburban

2015 Chevrolet Suburban High Resolution Exterior
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The Chevy Suburban would be the Ramcharger’s hottest competitor. The big Chevy offers a wide range of trims, features, and options that make it the leader in full-size SUV sales. In its base form, the Suburban seat up to nine people, though most models forego the front bench seat in lieu of bucket seats. Second-row captain’s chairs are also a popular option. The dash includes Chevy’s well-loved MyLink infotainment system loaded with all the latest apps and smartphone connectivity.

Power comes from Chevy’s 5.3-liter V-8 making 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is standard, but the upper trims get GM’s eight-speed automatic. Expect the new 10-speed automatic very soon. The Suburban rides on a fully boxed frame and uses an independent front suspension and a multi-link coil spring suspension with a solid live axle in back.

Prices for the 2018 Suburban start at $50,200 and can grow to $80,000 with all the option boxes checked.

Read our full review on the 2018 Chevrolet Suburban.

Ford Expedition

2018 Ford Expedition High Resolution Exterior
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The Expedition is completely new for 2018 and uses parts and technology found in the 2018 Ford F-150 pickup. The Expedition’s skin is now aluminum and the interior is nearly a carbon copy of the F-150’s. The SUV does get a new rotary shift knob and a more upscale center console. Seating can be arranged in a 2+3+3 or 2+2+3 configuration, depending if the second row has the optional captain’s chairs. In-dash goodies include Ford’s SYNC 3 system with the new FordPass and Ford+Alexa apps. Smartphone connectively is very present and a dual-screen rear seat entertainment option is available. Like before, the Expedition has a short wheelbase while the Expedition MAX is the longer version. Basically, it’s Ford’s version of the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban.

Power comes exclusively from Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. The twin-turbo engine kicks out an impressive 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. A 10-speed automatic transmission sends power to the rear wheels, or to all four wheels with the optional 4WD system. Ford’s rear suspension is the oddball here, using an independent system rather than a live axle.

Pricing for the 2018 Expedition MAX starts at $54,385 for the XLT. Check every box on the range-topping Platinum MAX, and the cost jumps well into the $80,000 range.

Read our full review on the 2018 Ford Expedition.


2020 RAM Ramcharger Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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We can make every case for the Ramcharger, but it will take FCA seeing the need in the segment and potential profits in its pockets. But thanks to the booming economy, steady fuel prices, and resurging popularity of SUVs, it seems like now is the perfect time for a full-size, Ram-based SUV.

Making the argument even stronger is Jeep’s upcoming Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer. Sergio Marchionne, FCA’s CEO, says the new models will be based on the Ram 1500 platform. Both will undoubtedly be nice, but the Grand Wagoneer will compete with high-end SUVs like the Range Rover and Cadillac Escalade. While FCA is at it, building a Ram-badged version of the Wagoneer would make logical sense. The only negative to the scenario is too much overlap between the Ramcharger and Wagoneer. Perhaps only the Jeep version will get the green light. If so, we’d still be ecstatic over a full-size, three-row SUV that finally takes advantage of Ram’s platform and powertrains.

  • Leave it
    • A complete theory at this point
    • Would be expensive
    • Will SUVs continue selling well?


Ram 1500

2020 RAM Ramcharger
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Updated: May 2nd 2019: Check our latest spyshots of the 2020 RamCharger

2019 Ram 1500 Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2019 Ram 1500.

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Read more Ram news.

Mark McNabb
Mark McNabb was a contributor at TopSpeed from 2013 to 2018. Growing up, Mark always had a mind for tinkering on random items throughout his home and dad’s garage, including a 1953 Ford Mainline and 1971 Corvette Stingray.  Read full bio
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