2009 Dodge Ram

There is a lot riding on the new Dodge Ram pickup. More than just the eternal competition with its Detroit truck rivals. More than being the biggest-selling and most profitable model in the Chrysler stable. The Ram is expected to be a strong enough seller to keep Chrysler rolling along through an otherwise lean period of significant new model introductions over the next 18 months, in a market that is seeing a decline in pickup sales.

With pickups, of course, there are those buyers who need them, and those who want them, and while the second group might be expected to have declined in numbers, there are still enough of them out there that the Ram will appeal to. It is thoroughly improved over the last generation, and brings to the market a couple of innovations that its owners will appreciate.

2009 Dodge Ram

2009 Dodge Ram

But the first thing anyone will notice is that it is a handsome truck, indeed. The outgoing Ram was a brutish-looking rig, and while Dodge didn’t want to lose too much of the attitude, the new Ram has been greatly refined in every aspect of its design. In this age of aero sleekness, it is a rare vehicle that has its grille tipped forward, something we thought went out of fashion long ago, but the Ram’s does, and it looks great. At the back end, the top of the tailgate is a spoiler, adding to its looks and efficiency to the tune of a ten-percent improvement in aero drag and a much quieter cabin.

The Ram will be available in regular cab and Quad Cab as before, and for the first time, as a full crew cab, which was something the old Ram lacked in a market that sees half of all pickups sold in that full four-door configuration. No more MegaCab, though. Available bed lengths are 8-foot, 6-foot-4, and new for the crew cab, 5-foot-7.

The new Ram’s interior will have you thinking, this can’t be a Dodge truck. But it is, as the designers have outdone themselves with an interior that was conceived to match the image of the exterior, with a new level of perceived and actual quality. Two-tone colour combinations, wood and chrome trim, contrasting stitching, soft-touch padding – all the high-end cues are there, and it takes a back seat to no other truck in this very competitive aspect of design. Speaking of back seat, under the floor are two storage bins that will hold ten cans each of your favourite beverage. No claims about how cold the cans will be down there next to the exhaust.

That exhaust will, for the first time on a Ram, be of the dual variety behind the Hemi engine, exiting in two big chrome tips cut into the rear bumper like a muscle car. The 5.7L Hemi is the latest version of the big V8, and horsepower is up ten percent to 390, while torque is bumped eight percent to 407 lb-ft. At the same time, fuel economy is improved four percent to 15.4/10.2, thanks to variable valve timing and the Multi Displacement System that shuts down four cylinders under light load. In fact, the Hemi gets better fuel economy than the 4.7L V8, and nearly as good as the 3.7L V6 on the highway. Hmmm, wonder which engine most buyers will choose.

2009 Dodge Ram Rear

2009 Didge Ram Rear View

With the Hemi, the tow rating is 4,100 kg, and up to 866 kg can be hauled, depending on model. Four-pin and seven-pin connections are there for hooking up a trailer to the standard trailer hitch.
The innovations we mentioned? Chrysler has gone a bit out on a limb and equipped the Ram with a multi-link coil-spring rear suspension system. That’s right, the leaf-spring rear suspension that has underpinned every pickup for about a century is nowhere to be found on the new Ram. This is a bit of a risk, in that traditionalists will probably say that leafs are more durable and can take more weight. But we say that all it will take is getting them out on the road with little or no weight in the back, and the coils will sell themselves. The improvement in both ride and handling is noticeable, and the Ram handles as well as a large sedan, for the most part. No more bouncing around over road irregularities. Sure-footed handling around tight curves. A more quiet ride. These are all good things that most pickup owners haven’t experienced.

We had the chance to try towing a medium-sized trailer and driving with a loaded-up box, and the Ram handled each situation with ease. The coil springs might take a little more selling to the work truck buyer, but the person buying a Ram for personal use shouldn’t take a lot of convincing.

The other innovation is storage bins where they have never been on a pickup before – the full length of the top of each side of the pickup box. Dodge calls them RamBox, and they are weatherproof, illuminated, drainable, and lockable storage units with as much capacity as a 55-gallon drum each, or, as Chrysler seems to like to measure its storage by, 120 12-ounce beverage cans in each side. (Now that would be some party….in fact, it was.) Such a good use of what has until now been a lot of wasted space in pickups. One concern though – since the doors are hinged at the top so they swing upward, it is not yet clear how a canopy or tonneau cover would work on a Ram so equipped (which would be the crew cab only, at this point.) Another comment about their execution – the panel gaps are pretty wide compared to the gaps for the doors, hood, and tailgate, making for a less refined and integrated appearance. Maybe the pre-production status of the Rams we drove account for this.

But that was the only quibble we could really come up with. The new Dodge Ram is a huge leap forward over the previous version, and its features, design and performance put it right up there with your choice of any other full-size pickup on the road. Not only that, but it is cheaper than the old Ram, comparing model-for-model, and has more standard equipment for that lower price.

The Ram may have a lot riding on it, but it has the goods to carry the load.