2019 Ram 1500, Image: ©2017 Spiedbilde

Fiat Chrysler executives have made it very clear: the next-generation Ram 1500 needs to move away from the styling cues of the past, no matter how hard the transition will be for brand traditionalists — or Ram execs.

We’ve already seen movement in this direction. Several 1500 trims — Rebel, Laramie Longhorn, Limited — have already ditched the signature crosshair grille for a new design, positioning the Ram name dead center, flanked by two U-shaped ribs. If you’re still unsure of what kind of truck you’re looking at, the 10-foot-high chromed letters adorning the tailgate provide a second subtle hint. Hashtag branding.

As seen in these spy photos, the next-generation 2019 Ram 1500, due for an unveiling at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month, has a face that’s bound to stoke controversy.

Besides the recently revealed 2018 Jeep Wrangler, no project is more important to FCA’s bottom line than the Ram 1500 update. There’s been no shortage of cash ($1.48 billion) thrown at the project. Production models should start rolling out of the retooled Sterling Heights assembly plant in January.

2019 Ram 1500, Image: Spiedbilde

This pre-production model, spied tooling around Michigan, is our most uncamouflaged look yet at the next 1500. Brightwork remains cloaked by sticky film, but there’s no hiding that grille.

Now the shape of an elongated hexagon, the grille shows no vertical crossmember, preferring instead a number of thin horizontal ribs and a larger piece running across the center. No doubt we’ll see the Ram badge affixed to the distinct center section. Above it, a chrome unibrow, thicker in the middle, runs atop the headlamps and grille. Below it, the new Ram’s bumper rivals Swiss Cheese for holes. There’s openings for tow hooks, foglamps, and a wide, thin, mesh-filled opening for airflow.

2019 Ram 1500, Image: Spiedbilde

It seems the full-figured front fenders remain to some degree, though they clearly aren’t as obvious as before. Overall, the truck’s flanks appear far more more slab-sided. The roofline is Pure Ram. Looking at the rear bumper and taillights, that old feeling of familiarity starts flooding back. While the taillight shape remains the same, the backup lights have split into an over/under design.

There’s a fairly thick dropcloth obscuring our view of what should be a mundane part of the body: the tailgate. Perhaps they don’t want us to see that it’s more than one piece?

Nothing’s come along, engine-wise, to sideline the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 or 5.7-liter Hemi V8 from continued full-size duty, so expect to see those familiar mills under the hood when the 2019 model arrives. There’s also talk of FCA fielding a fuel-sipping turbocharged four-cylinder model. We’ve seen no proof of it as of yet.

Viewed from the front, this is a pretty radical change to what came before. If this new truck seems like a travesty to you, something you wouldn’t set foot in if your life depended on it, something that ruins your memories of the movie Twister, fear not. The previous-generation 1500 isn’t saying goodbye anytime soon. The older full-sizer continues in production for the 2018 and 2019 model years.

[Images: ©2017 Spiedbilde/The Truth About Cars]