Chrysler says its 2013 Ram 1500 pickups are substantially upgraded with more power, better fuel efficiency, smoother aerodynamics, active air suspension, and a host of electronic infotainment features that make the half-ton models superior to competitors.

Fuel saving technology includes an eight-speed automatic transmission, stop-start engine operation, and a thermal management system, including grille shutters, that quickly brings component temperatures up to efficient levels.

Aerodynamic improvements are tied into bolder front-end styling with a taller grille and smoother bumpers. New design cues include new grille/fascia, improved quad projector-SmartBeam headlamps and LED front turn signals and taillamps.

Coefficient of drag (Cd) for the 2013 Regular Cab 4x2 truck is 0.363, compared to 0.383 for a 2012 model.

Engines include the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, already used on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chrysler 300 and other vehicles, that makes 42% more horsepower, 13% more torque and at least 20% better fuel economy than the previous 3.7-liter V-6. The Pentastar V-6 uses variable valve timing and other advanced features to produce maximum output of 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque.

The Pentastar V-6 comes standard with the new eight-speed automatic transmission, called TorqueFlite 8, that replaces the previously available four-speed automatic.

The eight-speed is controlled by a rotary "e-shift" mounted on the dashboard instead of column- or console-mounted shifters. The e-shift knob is intuitive to operate and easy to grasp, even with gloves, the company says.

TorqueFlite8 is optional with the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. As before, the Hemi has variable-valve timing that helps produces up to 395 horsepower and 407 pound-feet of torque. Its fuel economy is at least 10% better than the 2012 V-8 powertrain, Chrysler says. Powertrain warranty remains at five years/100,000 miles.

An air suspension raises and lowers the body for increased off-road clearance, easy entry and exit, and reduced wind resistance during highway cruising. It also automatically levels the chassis whether loaded or unloaded.

Electric power steering provides precise control while greatly reducing parasitic loads on the engine. No longer does the engine have to constantly drive a hydraulic pump to boost steering effort, engineers say. A redesigned main frame adds strength and cuts weight; so does an aluminum hood and other paring of poundage throughout the vehicle.

An upgraded interior includes standard and premium vehicle information centers with large screens; passive entry called Keyless Enter 'n Go; and enhanced styling with wood accents, sculpted door panels, redesigned instrument panel, new interior colors and premium materials.

A next-generation Uconnect Access system debuts on the 2013 Ram 1500, Chrysler says. This combines a new lineup of smart Media Centers with a powerful new wireless platform.

Owners will have alternative ways to connected services and applications via the vehicle's 7- or 8.4-inch touchscreen displays. It will allow upgrading to later features and services.

Voice-recognition technology, steering wheel controls, touchscreen displays and traditional controls provide Ram 1500 customers with a variety of ways to interact with their mobile phones, music, navigation system and mobile applications. Addition of a Powernet vehicle architecture allows new content with improved data speeds.

Ram 1500 buyers can get an expanded lineup of Sirius XM Radio channels, with exclusive programming including new SiriusXM Latino. Sprint is the partner to bring wireless connectivity and service delivery to the vehicle, Chrysler says.

Other features for the 2013 Ram 1500 are remote central locking for the tailgate, RamBox cargo storage bins, tailgate and door locks; rain sensing wipers; power folding mirrors; and power sliding rear window with defrost.

Ram 1500 Regular Cab pickups will be produced at Chrysler's Saltillo, Mexico, plant. Quad and Crew Cab models will be assembled at the Warren, Mich., truck plant near Detroit. The new models will be in showrooms later this year.