It’s true what they say about first impressions. It may be the feel of the leather-trim seats that reminds you of a favorite vintage jacket, or how the stitching along the sides is tailored like a bespoke suit. The stylish interior details of the 2021 Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn 10th Anniversary Edition, 2021 Ram 1500 Limited and 2021 Ram 1500 TRX were designed by Ram Trucks with luxury and longevity in mind.
This didn’t happen by accident. Each design element, from Ram Trucks’ ultra-comfortable seats to the way its console knobs respond to your touch, is the result of thorough durability testing across myriad engineering, materials and quality teams. Some innovative materials might undergo years of research and testing to ensure it’ll remain as awe-inspiring and joy-inducing as the day you bought it, yet be able to withstand plenty of wear and tear.
Ryan Nagode, Chief Designer — Head of RAM Interiors, says that intersection of luxury, quality and innovation is all about making that connection, firing up that initial response. “If you wrap everything we've done — TRX, Longhorn and Limited — those are shining examples of opening the door and being blown away with what could be inside a pickup truck.”
This is how the interior design legacy at Ram Trucks was born.
Start by Changing the Thinking
As Nagode explains, as recently as 10 years ago, trucks were all pretty much the same, with basic features and no frills. They were called “pickups” because that’s what they did; they hauled something from one place to another. “Luxury at the time meant throwing leather-trimmed seats in the truck,” he says. “You probably didn’t touch anything else.”
But Ram Trucks is built on the backs of its customers and knew truck owners were changing. They lived on ranches and in cities. They had families. Reservations for dinner on Saturday nights. They owned boats, mountain bikes and four-wheelers. Some liked to take road trips and go camping, maybe even with an RV in tow. Others might not ever haul anything heavier than a cooler. Still, they were all truck people.
Sensing the evolution — and impending revolution — Ram Trucks’ design and engineering teams set out to create lifestyle products that matched their individual tastes and needs. “We had to distill it down to who was purchasing the truck — what they loved and how they use it — so we could design it for them specifically,” says Nagode.
Build an Indelible Connection
Today, Ram’s glossy exterior — test engineered to repel dust and dirt — may first catch your eye, but it’s what’s inside — those hundreds of design decisions working together simultaneously — that makes it resonate on a subconscious level.
It’s a balancing act between style and function, of choosing the right details to create that emotional spark. “In some cases, it’s microscopic,” says Nagode. “A little bit of tooling, the filigree details all the way down to the cluster rings. But it’s there. The details never stop. So it feels very individual.”
At Ram Trucks, knowing what’ll work isn’t something that’s pulled from a spreadsheet. It means getting out and seeing how people really use and personalize their trucks, talking to them and finding out what they like best and what they’d like to see, then building out a design based on real-life needs.
”It’s tying the emotional connection to the features, the look and feel, the sitting in the seats, the smell, when you open up the door, especially on our Longhorn model,” says Nagode. “You feel like you’re at the tannery. You feel like you’re on a ranch with the sunlight coming up in the morning, with the warm tones, the textures and the sensations. To us, it’s more than just a product. We want you to get in there and feel.”
Make Each Model Distinctive and Unique
Each Ram 1500 model is designed to be as individualized as the person driving it, sharing one’s style and sensibilities. Like every Ram owner, each truck has its own story.
Whereas the Limited Longhorn 10th Anniversary Edition evokes the ruggedness of the American Southwest, the TRX — with its 702-horsepower Supercharged 6.2L HEMI® V8—has a Jekyll-and-Hyde vibe: It can be a cool cat daily driver, but it can turn wild in an instant. The Limited has its own personality, too. Elegant and polished, it’s the sophisticate of the bunch. It has the same premium luxury features as the Longhorn but leans more city than cowboy.
"You can line those trucks up, and they both have the same amount of features available to them, but they speak differently to someone,” says Nagode. “We really make sure that we’re not sharing a lot of the visual parts and pieces, especially at those trim levels, to make sure someone feels that this truck is unique.”
The warm, mountain brown leather in the Longhorn is reminiscent of horse saddles and dust-covered boots, and its filigree trim looks like what you’d see on a hand-tooled belt buckle. The open-pore wood along the console and upper glove looks like panels ripped off of a barn. It’s even branded with the Longhorn logo, each one done by hand. It feels artisanal, and a little rough.
With cooler tones and pinstripe embroidery, the Limited offers a more contemporary, polished aesthetic. The wood is the opposite of what’s found in the Longhorn; engineered rather than natural, it feels refined and modern, as opposed to rustic.
Those tactile elements, the parts that you touch every day, are of utmost importance when it comes to each truck’s design. It’s visceral — and drives that first emotional connection. In the TRX, that means an Alcantara suede and perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel, a nod to both its refined and spirited selves. Unlike the Longhorn or Limited, the TRX flexes between its different personalities, and can move in either direction, so its design — the placement of subtle, fiery red accents throughout its black interior — reflects that sensibility. Some are even half-hidden, like the red shadow behind the speakers, or the red leather peeking through tiny perforations.
Build Authenticity Into Every Truck
While Ram Trucks’ top-of-the-line editions offer rich leather interiors and cutting-edge technology, each individual truck can also have its own distinct feel. Distinguishing one from another comes down to the details. No two trucks are exactly alike.
“We’re doing everything we can to watch our complexity, but put it in the right spots,” says Nagode. “The biggest thing for me is the authenticity; the metals, the real wood, the real use of leather that you know is leather. It smells great when you open up the door.”
Dealing with refined, organic materials and hammered, almost silversmithed metals can deepen a truck’s standalone character: the natural wear that lends a patina effect to the leather-trim seats; dimpled aluminum litho on the center stack and console that catches light differently; broad panels of leather that might feed from pebbly grain to smooth, intentionally uncorrected or embossed. Distinctive characteristics that all factor into the design decision-making process at Ram Trucks.
“I love that you can pull ten Limited seats and they will all probably have a unique appearance to them,” Nagode says. “Same thing with Longhorn. It makes you feel like there's a craftsman behind each of these.”
Unite Every Ram Through Testing
No matter how good something looks or even feels, it’s going to take a lot of abuse. If the material doesn’t pass Ram Trucks’ stringent battery of durability tests, ranging from heat resilience to stain resistance to ease of cleaning, it doesn’t make it into the truck.
Take the seats, for example. The leather is first tested to Ram’s specifications at the supplier to make sure it’s durable enough to warrant consideration. If it passes, it’s sewn up into a sample and goes through a series of tests that rate how it looks and performs: Do the stitches break or fray? Does the material lie flat?
After that, a robot in human form gets in and out of the seat thousands of times, to mimic years of daily use. That will then determine whether the bolstering holds or if the seat design or materials need adjusting. To ensure the final design surpasses the customer’s expectations, the Perceived Quality Team then does a detailed examination, including a focus on the flushness of materials. Sometimes it’s a matter of tightening a minute gap that’s less than an eighth of an inch, warding off a potential concern that a customer is more likely to sense than to actually see.
“Ram’s testing standards make sure that each truck can live up to what we promise,” says Nagode. “It’s so important. The leather that you feel on the seats. It’s nice and soft, but it’s also going to stand the test of time. That’s what we’ve worked on over the years with our engineering community, creating materials that will test well, last long, and on top of that, look unique.”
Strike the Right Balance
It’s all about understanding customer needs and expectations and then getting those details right. Staying true to Ram Trucks’ commitment to quality and performance. Then testing and re-testing, as long as it takes, to make sure that Ram’s stylish interior design matches its strength.
So when you get inside that truck for the very first time, and something just clicks? That connection is the ultimate reaction that Nagode’s design team is going for. “We’re doing our job if it looks cool and you say to yourself, ‘Whoa, this is a truck? Man, I’ve never seen that done in an interior.’ That puts a smile on our faces.”