A Fullsize Breakthrough
The 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 may very well be the breakthrough product Chrysler has been looking for. It is a showcase for the company's new design philosophy, quality, and technology and quite frankly, one of the best vehicles Chrysler has ever produced. Four Wheeler has had a long history with the previous-generation Dodge Ram, including our 2004 Cummins-powered long-termer; our 2005 Power Wagon that became our Of The Year winner, then long-termer and now project vehicle; and finally the 2006 TRX4 that won our Pickup Truck Of The Year award before spending time in our fleet. It is safe to say that we consider ourselves experts on the Ram, and as such, we couldn't wait to get the 2009 version into our long-term fleet. In addition to a captivating new exterior design, the 2009 Dodge Ram also brings to the table a top-shelf interior and a coil-sprung rear suspension.
Our Crew cab tester came with a base price of $35,100, to which we added the TRX4 Off-Road package, Luxury Group, Technology Group, Remote Start and Security Group, 5.7L Hemi and five-speed automatic transmission, 32-gallon fuel tank, navigation and U-connect, ParkView rear backup camera, power adjustable pedals, Ram Box cargo management system, premium cloth bucket seats, and Inferno Red Crystal Pearl Coat paint for a total of $44,060, plus $900 destination fee.
Strangely, the TRX4 package is not offered with leather seats and lacks a skidplate for the seemingly vulnerable composite fuel tank. Otherwise the TRX4 is a comprehensive package that includes LT275/70R17 Goodyear Wrangler tires, heavy-duty rear shock absorbers, towhooks, rear helical-style limited slip differential, 3.92:1 gears, front subframe- and transfer case-skidplates and a host of TRX4-specific visual cues.
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Inside the Ram, it is clear Dodge did their homework. With materials that are more upscale and a pleasing design that has more storage options than the Container Store, it is one of the best on the market. One of the thoughtful touches is a 110-volt outlet right on the dash, which has been a godsend for charging camera batteries on photo shoots or running laptops out in the field.
So far our Ram has transported staff members to Hollister, California, for Top Truck Challenge and out to the desert for trips and photo shoots. We have filled the bed to capacity with mulch and flowers, and we have loaded the family up to see far-off relatives. Over the course of 500-mile days, the Ram has proven to have the best ride of any fullsize pickup truck on the market. In addition to the smooth and quiet ride, the Crew cab interior is expansive, with rear seats that are as comfortable as the front for hours on end. As a bonus to those of you with small children in car seats, there is enough rear legroom that your kids won't be kicking the back of your seat while you drive.
Despite having a 390hp Hemi V-8 underfoot and 3.92:1 gearing, we have been impressed by the Ram's fuel economy, no doubt helped by cylinder deactivation that engages at speeds of up to about 73 mph. Our best tank was just short of 18 mpg with cruise set between 70 to 75 mph, which give us a theoretical range of over 500 miles.
So what is it like living with coil springs? Unloaded, it is exceptional with regard to ride and handing. And while loads tend to have an influence on squat and handling a bit sooner then on a leaf-sprung truck, we feel that the trade-off is worth the ride benefit and have found it is easy to adjust to.
We are looking forward to putting more miles on this truck and reporting on its performance, including towing and more wheeling. If our initial impressions are any indication, this is exactly the right product for Dodge at the right time.
Report: 1 of 4
Previous reports: None
Base price: $35,100
Price as tested: $44,960
Four-wheel-drive system: Two-speed, part-time electronic, shift on the fly
Miles to date: 4,692
Miles since last report: First report
Average mpg (this report): 13.31
Test best tank (mpg): v17.55
Test worst tank (mpg): 10.05
This period: None
Problem areas: None
What's Hot, What's Not
HOT: Awesome ride, awesome power, awesome looks, awesome Ram Boxes
NOT: Blinding chrome trim, no fuel tank skidplate, optional 20-inch rubber is almost an inch taller
* "Even non-Dodge people love this truck."
* "I had no idea how much I would use the Ram Boxes, they are awesome."
* "What a ride, I could drive this truck all day. Oh yeah, I just did."
* "The chrome trim around the shifter is blinding at high noon in the California sun."
* "Selecting Low Range puts the tranny in manual mode, interesting feature."