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2009 4x4 Of The Year Participants

Passenger Side
Posted February 1, 2009

Dodge Ram TRX4 Quad Cab
Weighing in at 5,400 pounds with a 390hp 5.7L V-8 engine for an overall power-to-weight ratio of 1 hp to every 13.84 pounds (the best in the test), in this corner is the '09 Dodge Ram TRX4 Quad Cab 4x4. Dodge introduced its '09 Ram to the snickers of the competing 1/2-ton truck market because it showed up with a coil-sprung rear suspension. Some folks say all the truck owners who want a carlike ride are leaving the truck segment, and others think that the trucks need every bell and whistle to attract today's finicky buyer. Dodge decided to build a redesigned truck with unique styling to make waves in the truck market. Will these waves swamp the competition or Dodge itself?

Four-wheeling attributes are those from the judge's point of view before the truck ever sees dirt. This year these account for more points than ever. The Ram has a strong-looking steel driveshaft (others have aluminum) and some of the best front tow hooks of the test, requiring no shackle. A trailer hitch counts as a recovery point, and though we don't judge towing, we did like the four- and seven-pin connectors that are mounted safely up in the bumper, not down underneath. (Hey, Ford, please read previous sentence.) The rear link suspension had some low-hanging brackets and shocks, and we're unsure of an aluminum front knuckle and lower A-arm, but we like the transfer case and front axle skidplate.

There are nicer versions with navigation and power adjustable seats, but Dodge sent us the no-frills unit with manual adjusting seats and its basic AM/FM/Sirius radio.

The on-road portion report on the Ram was mostly positive, with one judge declaring the 1/2-ton a big, powerful, comfortable truck in the American tradition, while others thought it would make a great ride for a cross-country trip. All in all, the consensus was that for asphalt wheeling, this Ram was possibly the best-riding trucks tested, and the power from the big V-8 was icing on the cake.

Off road the Ram yelled for attention at times, yet also revealed some secrets. First the bad. Since fuel economy is so important these days, aerodynamics are important. The Ram's new body wraps farther down around the chassis to help get better mileage. We didn't notice how far down it wrapped until it took a beating on the rockcrawl (we might be buying a new bed for a Sunburst Orange Pearl 1/2-ton in Dodge's press fleet). Even though the body hangs low, the suspension flexes even lower, and often this flexy-Ram would tiptoe over rocks, notches, and gullies that would have required a locker in any other 1/2-ton. Speaking of locker, the Ram boasts only a limited-slip differential, but it, combined with the coil rear suspension, had us rarely hunting for traction whether on steep hillclimbs or rutted desert moguls. In the high-speed desert road section, the Dodge dominated, running fast, feeling stable, and bounding over washes without a care. But then we hit the sand and it went sour. The traction safety nannies would step in and pull power when it was needed the most. The light suspension should have been soaking up the dunes, but instead it was having a hard time just getting the power to the ground.

A TRX4 Dodge has won our test before, and this new version would lay a beatdown on its big brother. Can a truck with big power and a flexy suspension take on a smaller wheeler with one or two lockers underneath?

The Goods
* Comfortable ride
* Flexible rear suspension
* Powerful in high-speed dirt

The Bads
* Low body sides
* Annoying traction control
* Bad transmission shifter

10

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SPECIFICATIONS

GENERAL
Manufacturer Dodge
Model Ram TRX4 Quad Cab
Base Price $32,695
Price as Tested $36,050
Options as Tested TRX4 Group
($1,145), 5.7L V-8 Hemi ($1,{{{300}}})
ENGINE
Type V-8
Displacement (L/ci) 5.7/345
Bore & Stroke (in) 3.92x3.58
Compression Ratio 10.5:1
Fuel Req. (octane)/ Capacity (gal) 87/26
SAE Peak Horsepower 390 @ 5,{{{600}}} rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 407 @ 4,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION
Type Five-speed manual
Model 545RFE
Ratios First: 3.00:1;
Second: 1.67:1 (1.50:1 downshifts);
Third: 1.00:1; Fourth: 0.75:1; Fifth:
0.67:1; Reverse: 3.67:1
TRANSFER CASE
Type Two-speed, part-time
Model NVG243
Low-Range Ratio 2.72:1
Center Locking Differential Yes
AXLES
Front Type 205mm ring gear IFS
Front Diff Open
Rear Type 9.25-inch beam
Rear Diff Limited-slip
Hubs N/A, axle disconnect
Ratio 3.92:1
Traction Aid Brake controlled
SUSPENSION
Front IFS with upper andlower control arms, coil spring over shock, stabilizer bar
Rear Solid axle, five-link with trackbar, coil springs, stabilizer bar
STEERING
Type Power-assistedrack-and-pinion
Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 3.5/17.9:1
Turning Circle (ft) 45
WHEELS
Size (in) 17x7.0
Material Aluminum
TIRES
Size LT275/70R17
Brand Goodyear {{{Wrangler}}} AT/S
BRAKES
Front 13.2-inch ventilated discwith 2.13-inch twin-piston caliper
Rear 13.8-inch solid disc with2.13-inch single-piston caliper
60-0 (ft) 152.17
ACCELERATION
Standing 1/4-mile
(seconds @ mph) 16.26 @ 85.70
WEIGHT (lb)
Curb Weight 5,400
Advertised GVWR 6,700
MILEAGE (MPG)
EPA Estimate (city/hwy) 13/18
As Tested 11.{{{80}}}
DIMENSIONS (in)
Wheelbase 140.5
Overall Length 228.5
Overall Width 97
Overall Height 76
Front/Rear Track 68/67.5
Front/Rear Overhang 39/47
Min. Front Ground Clearance 8.75
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