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Ranger Fighter: Is This Ram’s Dakota Midsize Successor?

UPDATE: Probably not

UPDATE: Probably not

UPDATE: We may have jumped the gun with our Dodge Dakota successor theory, as previous spy shots of a similar prototype show what appears to be an independent rear suspension setup. It’s more likely a mule for the upcoming Jeep Grand Wagoneer, which will be built at FCA’s Warren truck plant and is likely to share basic architecture with the Ram 1500. Still, a cool sight to see in our own neighborhood.

FCA can no longer ignore the booming global midsize truck market. It has the Jeep Gladiator now, but with its starting price of just over $35,000 USD, that model isn’t an ideal competitor for mainstream variants of the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado, and Ford Ranger—not to mention other small pickups sold around the world. In its five-year plan announced last year, FCA vowed to fill that gap with a midsize Ram truck, and we may have gotten our first look at it.

MotorTrend Group video production assistant Austin Cronkrite spotted this odd Ram 1500 wearing full camouflage in our backyard of Manhattan Beach, California, and had the good sense to snap a few pictures. We’re glad he did, because there’s definitely something going on with this mule. First, ignore those bed bars. They might be functional to some degree, but we think they’re just tacked on to throw us off the scent. What interests us most is what’s beneath the wheel wells.

From the profile view, it appears the rear wheel isn’t quite centered in the wheel well. The 2019 Ram 1500 Quad Cab has a wheelbase of 140.5 inches. The Jeep Gladiator, on the other hand, has a shorter 137.3-inch wheelbase. Could we be looking at a Ram 1500 body grafted to a Gladiator chassis? It’s possible, especially considering the Gladiator’s JT platform was co-developed by Ram. Further evidence that something’s up with this mule can be seen in the tailpipe, which is tucked beneath the bumper like the Gladiator (though the Jeep truck has its exhaust exiting on the driver’s side).

Though basing the Ram midsizer on a platform FCA already has seems like the easiest solution, there are some arguments against it. Recently, FCA CEO Mike Manley said the company is still deciding on a platform for the smaller Ram model. He said the automaker is looking to build the midsize Ram in a region with low production costs. Our intel suggests the JT platform could be too expensive for the rest of the world, and currently the Gladiator is built exclusively in the U.S. at Jeep’s plant in Toledo, Ohio. Still, it’s possible that building a JT-based Ram truck elsewhere in the world might net the cost savings needed for it to compete in other markets.

For now, all we know is there’s a weird Ram 1500 mule running around our neck of the woods. We’re very curious what it’s hiding, so you can bet we’ll be keeping an eye out for it in the future.

Scott Evans, Christian Seabaugh, and Alisa Priddle contributed to this post.