Dodge’s 2009 Ram 1500 might be considered the Big Three truckmaker’s version of a gauntlet being tossed to the ground, offering more content and a lower price than current models while extending a challenge to its competitors. The all-new 2009 Dodge Ram features three cab configurations, five trim levels, totally redesigned exterior and interior styling and many segment-first features and advertised best-in-class capabilities.
While this is a challenging time to introduce a new light-duty pickup, Dodge claims to offer more standard features and a lower msrp than 2008 models, giving consumers thousands of dollars more in value. After driving the 2009 Dodge Ram, solo and towing a standard boxy travel trailer and a more streamlined Airstream, I can report that this new entry not only has a head-turning design, it has many interior amenities, technically advanced towing capability, enhanced convenience features inside and out, built-in craftsmanship and improved safety for each occupant. And with the new crew-size cab model, Dodge is competing in the fastest-growing and highest-volume part of the light-duty pickup segment.
For 2009, the Dodge Ram is offered in regular cab, Quad Cab and crew-size cab configurations, with three box lengths: 8 feet (regular cab), 6 feet 4 inches (regular cab and Quad Cab) and a new-for-2009 box length of 5 feet 7 inches (Ram Crew 1500). The current five trim levels – ST, SLT, TRX, Sport and Laramie – are still available.
Offering a number of segment-first innovations, the Ram features an optional RamBox cargo-management system that provides weatherproof, lockable, illuminated and drainable storage compartments integrated into both bed sides. The location of the RamBox means RVers with fifth-wheels need not worry; it is possible to haul a fiver with the RamBox in place . Each box holds up to five cases (120 cans) of 12-ounce beverages in addition to ice. More easily accessible than the typical bed-mounted tool box normally found at the front of the bed behind the cab, the RamBox provides ample storage space for trailering accessories and tools – though access may be limited when the trailer is hitched up.
Another innovation for the 2009 Ram Crew 1500 is a pair of “store-in-the-floor” storage bins with removable liners that are large enough for 10 12-ounce beverages and ice.
Power to Pull
Powertrain choices include the new-generation 5.7-liter Hemi that produces 390 hp and 407 lb-ft of torque. Also available is a 4.7-liter V-8 providing 310 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, and a 3.7-liter V-6 generating 215 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque. Drivetrain components include four- and five-speed automatic transmissions; part-time and on-demand 4WD transfer cases, and 3.21:1, 3.55:1, 3.92:1 and 4.10:1 axle ratios.
Our testing showed the Ram R/T regular-cab 4 x 2 model with a shortbed equipped with the new Hemi and 4:10 final-drive gears is capable of 0-60 mph times of less than 6 seconds. The Dodge engine has enough grunt power to handle the trailer combo nicely and attain safe merging speeds when entering the highway or when traversing mountain passes.
Towability by Design
An improved frame design incorporating high-strength steel supports a new solid-axle and multi-link coil-spring rear suspension that provides outstanding ride and handling characteristics without sacrificing payload (up to 1,850 pounds) and towing capability (up to 9,100 pounds). While testing the towing performance of this rear suspension system, we were able to evaluate the sway resistance. Five trucks passed the Ram/travel trailer lashup with nary a twitch of the steering wheel to maintain the straight and narrow. The only truck that caused a slight nudge was a cabover semi that was pushing a formidable bow wave. However, a slight adjustment of the steering wheel was all it took to keep the truck and trailer running straight.
Premium amenities include heated and ventilated front seats, in addition to available heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, one-touch electric driver and passenger windows, automatic-on headlamps and dual-zone automatic temperature control.
The 2009 Ram offers more electronic choices than the average family room. Options include the MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment System with 30-gigabyte hard drive and navigation system, along with a rear-seat DVD entertainment system that is available in the Quad Cab and crew-size cab. Also available is the live SIRIUS Backseat TV and surround-sound audio.
The Ram also offers 35 active and passive safety features, including standard front and rear side-curtain air bags with Enhanced Accident Response System, knee bolsters, remote keyless entry, ABS, Center High-mounted Stop Lamp, power door locks, energy-absorbing steering column, tire pressure monitoring system, Electronic Stability Program with Hill Start Assist, Brake Assist, Rollover Mitigation and Trailer Sway Control. Also available are adjustable pedals, ParkSense Rear Park Assist and ParkView Rear Back-up Camera.
With five different trim levels available, the Ram offers up just about every bell and whistle an RVer could hope for – though, unfortunately, there is no integrated trailer-brake control.
The base ST model features a 3.7-liter V-6 producing 215 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque backed by a four-speed automatic transmission (4 x 2 models) or a 4.7-liter V-8 producing 310 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque with a five-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include 17-inch styled steel wheels, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electric-shift transfer case (4 x 4 models), power rack-and-pinion steering, AM/FM stereo with CD player and six speakers, fixed rear window, Sentry Key engine immobilizer and air conditioning.
Options include 17-inch chrome-clad steel wheels, two-tone exterior paint, speed control, anti-spin rear differential, engine block heater, trailer-tow mirrors, bed liner, black lower body side moldings, front hood protection shield, 3.92:1 axle ratio, sliding rear window, and a power-sliding rear window (Quad Cab only, standard on Crew).
In addition to standard features offered on the ST, the Ram SLT adds carpet floor covering with floor mats, a 40/20/40 split-bench seat, overhead console, speed control, remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks, heated mirrors and 17-inch painted aluminum wheels.
Options on the SLT include the 5.7-liter Hemi engine, RamBox, on-demand transfer case (4 x 4 models), power sun roof, power-adjustable pedals, amplified 10-speaker Alpine Surround Sound, uconnect GPS with navigation system and hands-free communication system with Bluetooth technology, uconnect studios SIRIUS Backseat TV, uconnect phone, uconnect studios SIRIUS Satellite Radio, low-back bucket seats with cloth upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear defroster and 20-inch aluminum wheels.
The Ram TRX adds an electric-shift transfer case (4 x 4 models), unique shocks and ride height, 17-inch aluminum wheels and a full-size spare tire, heavy-duty vinyl floor covering, cloth 40/20/40 split-bench front seat, folding rear bench seat (Quad Cab models), active turn signals, tilt steering column, remote keyless entry and standard two-tone paint to the mix.
TRX options include an engine-block heater, power-sliding rear window (Quad Cab only, standard on Crew), heated power-folding mirrors, bed liner, 3.92:1 axle ratio, anti-spin rear differential, Tip Start, uconnect studios SIRIUS Satellite Radio and speed control.
The Ram Sport adds the new 5.7-liter HEMI V-8, five-speed automatic transmission, unique bucket seats, body-color fascia, fog lamps and 20-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels. Optional equipment is the same offered on the all-new 2009 Dodge Ram SLT model.
The top-of-the-line Laramie package adds chromed door handles and mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and security alarm with optional 20-inch aluminum wheels.
Base price for the Ram 1500 begins at $22,170 for regular-cab models, $26,225 for Quad Cab models and $32,530 for Ram Crew 1500 models. q
Chrysler LLC, (800) 423-6343, www.dodge.com.