2006 Dodge Ram Lineup Preview

As a part of its mid-life rework the Ram earns a bolder look, a stronger frame, better suspension, nicer interior and a major new model – the Ram Mega Cab.

All Ram models now feature a new grille, headlights (which are 20% brighter) and reworked fenders, along with new taillights. While each of the changes is subtle on it own, the overall effect brings a stronger look and road presence to the truck.

Beneath the Ram 1500 sits a new hydroformed frame that’s considerably stiffer that the ’05 model – up 17% in bending strength and 5.5% torsionally. This gives the retuned suspension a much better base from which to work. Along with recalibrated springs and dampers comes a new front suspension for the 44 models – at last the antiquated torsion bar front suspenders give way to the same double wishbones and coil-over-shocks used on the 42 models.
On-road, this brings a noticeably better feel to the vehicle – the response to steering input is quick and positive (not vague and mushy like many pickups) and the manner in which it absorbs large road irregularities is more reassuring than most. Likewise, using four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock (rear ABS is standard, four-wheel optional) also sees the truck stop with more authority and less evidence of fade.
As before, the Ram 1500 is offered with three engines – a 215 horsepower 3.7L V6, 235 hp 4.7L V8 and the all-conquering, 345 hp, 5.7L Hemi V8. The good news, especially with the price of gas being what it is, is the Hemi’s adoption of MDS. The Multi-Displacement System shuts down four of the eight cylinders whenever the need for power is low. According to DaimlerChrysler this means a fuel savings of up to 20%. This figure is a little optimistic and the product of perfect conditions, primarily because under normal use the engine only runs on four cylinders for short periods of time. It is, however, a move in the right direction, even if the real savings end up being in the 5-7% range.

The reworked dash follows the exterior’s lead in that it is bolder, yet brings a much classier look. Along with the nicely textured materials (and commendable fit-and-finish) come attractive white-faced gauges, a decent sound system and comfortable seats. It also now much quieter (5 decibels quieter than the 2005 model) thanks to improved insulation and isolation. The biggest component is the adoption of “quiet steel” in the firewall and rear bulkhead. This steel/plastic/steel sandwich virtually eliminates the transfer of sound, as the plastic in the sandwich damps the vibrations meaning less noise gets through.

About the only thing not to like about the new Ram is the fact Dodge persists in using a part-time four-wheel drive system. In this day and age, a full-time system with a set-and-forget mode should be offered. Sure, it will drop the towing capacity slightly, but the convenience and added safety for all who do not use their truck as a workhorse is well worth any reduction.

The Ram 1500 will be offered ST, Sport, SLT, TRX4 Off-Road and Laramie trims levels with two- and four-wheel drive, regular and Quad Cabs and long and short boxes. Pricing starts at $25,880 for the SL 42 and works it way up to $41,390 for the Laramie Quad Cab 44.

The big news, quite literally, is the launch of the Ram Mega Cab – now this thing is a freaking monster, bringing a limo-like 1,123-mm of rear seat legroom. Not only is there a ton of space (a flat-floor load area that measures 24.9 square feet), it the most comfortable rear seat offered in a truck – primarily because the seat back can be reclined by up to 15-degrees.

To get all of this space, Dodge adopted a long 4,077-mm wheelbase and dumped the 8-foot box in favour of one that measures 6-foot-3. The result is a cab that stretches 2,822-mm, which is a full 508-mm stretch. It also means the Mega Cab is 305-mm longer than the Ford F-250 CrewCab’s cab.
The user-friendly design allows a number of seating/storage configurations as well as leaving enough space behind the rear seat to hold 7.7 cubic-feet of stuff. The doors also help the whole versatility thing, as the openings measure 876-mm, while the doors swing out to 85-degrees, makes it a snap to load the floor. It also swallows enormous quantities – fold the 60/40-split seat down and you have a cavernous 72.2 cu. ft. of lockable storage space.

The new Mega Cab will be offered in SLT and Laramie trims with two- and four-wheel drive and in 1500, 2500 and 3500 models. The good news is that the base 1500 model shares its frame with the heavier duty 2500 and 3500 models – the suspension is tuned to each of the different versions, so the ride quality remains pretty much uniform across the range.

Inside, the Mega Cab takes all of the niceties of the new 1500 and adds some remarkably good-looking faux wood accents and a whack of optional luxury. Indeed, if you take the 2500 Laramie 44 model, add an in-truck DVD-based entertainment system, full leather and a host of other upgrades it is possible to drive the sticker price from $47,520 to the mind-numbing $62,955 sticker on the model tested. Mind you, you get one heck of a truck.

Perhaps the 2500 tester’s most likeable trait is its optional 5.9L Cummings turbodiesel engine (standard on the 3500). While the Hemi does a good job of motivating 3,000 kilogram-plus of leather lined workhorse, the diesel does it so much more effortlessly. Hardly surprising, as this thing delivers 325 horsepower at just 2,900 rpm and a stump-pulling 610 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 rpm. This engine also allows a properly equipped 3500 Mega Cab to pull a 7,212-kg trailer!

The Ram Mega Cab’s base pricing starts at $35,740 for the 1500 SLT 42 and works it way up to $54,920 for the 3500 Laramie 44.