People are different. Short or tall, fat or skinny, hairy or bald, Ford or Chevy. The same goes for all us off-roaders. Some like mud, some like rocks, and some like the throttle-down, big-air, pedal-to-the-metal wheeling you mostly find in the desert and dunes. For you prerunner type wheelers there are many options, from bolt-on long-travel IFS kits under Toyota mini-trucks to dealer floor Raptors. But what if you’re a Dodge guy? Then you, my friend, need a Ram Runner.
Ram Trucks (the automaker prefers Ram to Dodge these days) and Mopar, the performance and replacement parts division of Chrysler/Dodge/Ram/Jeep, have developed an exciting new suspension and body kit that will take your ’09 and newer Dodge—er, Ram—1500 and transform it into a Raptor-fighting prerunner that any tattooed, flatbill-hatted, black-socked desert four-wheeler would envy.
The goal at Mopar was simple: Take the great-riding, rear-coil-sprung 1500 4x4 truck and give it the wheel travel and control needed to bomb over desert whoops and off sandy dunes with the best of the competition.
We recently went to the top secret Mopar laboratory in Michigan to watch the installation of a Ram Runner kit and then had a chance to drive the same truck (emblazoned with Mopar logos) at the Moab Easter Safari.
Sheep With Horns vs. Bird With Claws
Which would you choose: Raptor or Ram Runner? This is a debate better left for an actual in-the-dirt test to answer, but until then we’ll bench race.
First, who developed these two trucks?
The Raptor was developed by Ford’s SVT division. Basically a bunch of performance car guys built a truck, but they do have all of Ford’s engineering behind them and tons of in-the-dirt testing.
The Ram Runner was developed in collaboration with Mopar-sponsored desert racers from Kore Suspension. This means the Ram Runner probably has less high-tech engineering and less overall testing, but more desert racing experience. Seems like a tie in our book.
Second, which one costs more?
The Raptor, according to Ford.com, starts at $42,060.
The Ram Runner parts are $17,900, plus tires and wheels, paint to match fenders, and the cost of a truck. We found a regular cab Ram Tradesman 1500 with a 5.7L V-8 and short bed for $24,485 or a Quad Cab ST short bed 4x4 with the 5.7L V-8 and Anti-Spin rear differential for $28,510 on Ram’s site (www.ramtrucks.com).
In either case, the Raptor is cheaper and is offered with a higher-grade interior, plus there is the tricky question of warranty. Our understanding is that Mopar off-road performance parts are not covered by the vehicle warranty the way Raptor factory suspension parts are.
Finally, what about performance?
We can only judge based on OEM-supplied numbers, but we are told the Raptor has 11 inches of front and 13 inches of rear wheel travel. The Ram Runner has 14 inches both front and rear. Win: Ram.
The Raptor is available with a 320-horse 5.4L or 411-horse 6.2L V-8 engine. The Ram 1500 can be had with a 215-horse 3.7L V-6, a 310-horse 4.7L V-8, or a 390-horse 5.7L V-8. Of course, you pay to play in purchase and fuel prices accordingly. Tie.
The Raptor has a selectable rear locker and special engine calibration for off-road performance. The Ram 1500 has Ram’s standard calibration and is available with an automatic antispin rear limited-slip differential. Win: Raptor
All considered, performance is close between these two based solely on book specs. Let us know if you think we should round up a pair and take them for a showdown in the desert.
One last thing: Hey, Chevy, Toyota, and Nissan, where are your desert trucks?