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2009 Dodge Ram – Click above for high-res image gallery

Many consider the Dodge Aries K and Dodge Caravan the most important Chryslers of the past 30 years. We agree those two vehicles were a huge part of keeping the Pentastar in business, but we'd add the 1994 Dodge Ram to the list, as well. Dodge wasn't even competitive in the lucrative full-size truck market until the bold-faced '94 model hit dealerships, and Chrysler's light-duty pickup has held on to 3rd place in truck sales ever since. The Ram constantly finished in the money until the all-new Toyota Tundra hit the scene. Toyota's first serious try at a full-size pickup, coupled with the hot-selling Tacoma, outsold the Ram and Dakota combined for the first time in 2008.

Luckily for Team Pentastar, Dodge had an answer to the Tundra waiting in the wings. The 2009 Dodge Ram brings more power, more refinement and plenty of gadgets to the pickup truck party. The Ram looks like a real man's truck, with a forward-leaning front grille that's as big as a Toyota Yaris, and a unique coil spring suspension that enables this 5,000 pound truck to drive more like a sedan on regular roads than a rough-and-tumble work truck. There is no question that the 2009 Dodge Ram is far better than the model it replaces, but does it have what it takes to compete with the Tundra, Chevy Silverado and Ford F-150? We took a loaded Laramie Quad Cab into the Autoblog Garage to find out.

All photos Copyright © 2009 Chris Shunk / Weblogs, Inc.

Our 2009 Dodge Ram Laramie Crew Cab 4x2 in Deep Water Blue Pearl Coat came loaded with a $44,140 price tag. It came equipped with four full doors, leather seats, navigation, moon roof, and the innovative RamBox among its many options. The most expensive option was the crew cab configuration itself, which allows seating for five very full-sized adults.

Before we go any further, we want you to know that we didn't tow anything with our Ram, and the closest we got to testing payload was a set of golf clubs, six folding chairs and a wood table. We did, however, test the Ram as an everyday driver, keeping a keen eye on comfort, performance and style.

The '94 Dodge Ram carved its niche in the pickup truck market with big rig styling. For 2009, the exterior design gets aggressive and more sophisticated at the same time. Looking at the Ram head-on is like staring down the class bully after tossing your chocolate milk at him. Our Laramie tester came with a standard chrome bumper to match the massive chrome cross-hair grille. Lording over the grille is the largest Ram's head to ever take the lead on a Dodge pickup. The Ram's new hood is more shapely than the model it replaces, too, with a large power dome framing up that forward leaning grille and a second scoop that adds more space for the HEMI V8 below. The Ram's headlamps are stamped into sheetmetal that flows into the bulging front wheel wells, adding to an already athletic appearance.

The 2009 Ram also adds an industry first optional storage space on each side of the bed. Dodge calls this clever storage space RamBox, and it's lockable, weather-proof and large enough to fit a set of golf clubs. RamBox is a nifty feature, but we're guessing it won't be as popular as we originally thought. First off, it costs $1,895, which is a steep price to pay for covered storage. The RamBox also takes up the usable bed space underneath the rails. That may not be a big deal for the Ram owner that doesn't use his or her truck for work, but many use every square inch of their truck bed.

Dodge engineers did a great job of making their bread and butter pickup truck look as good or better than any full-size truck on the market. It's on the inside, though, where the new Ram really shines. The Ram bucks Chrysler's trend of 'cheaper is better' interior design with high quality materials, well thought-out ergonomics and seats fit for a king. A big and tall king. Stepping into the Ram for the first time, we were shocked at how well put together this pickup truck really is. Could this interior possibly come from the same company that also gave us the Jeep Liberty and Dodge Caliber? The dash materials are soft and supple, even besting the look and feel of competitors like the Ford F-150.

As good as the Ram interior is, it's not without its drawbacks. For one, Ford out-packaged the new Ram by adding a completely flat floor in front of the F-150's second row of seats. The Ram makes due with lumpier, more traditional flooring that inhibits the ability to haul large objects away from the elements. Getting into our Laramie tester was a challenge, too. Without a sidestep, we had to leverage the Ram's steering wheel for entry. The sidestep is available as an option, so we suggest checking that box if you're in the market for a new Ram. The Ram also falls behind with a smallish navigation screen that's dwarfed by some of the new screens nestled in the center stacks of the competition. The nav system is intuitive to use, however, so function counts for something.

Chrysler marketing is known for its clever naming schemes like RamBox and Sto 'N Go. For the new Ram, we'd like to suggest Sho N' Go because it looks damn good and, thanks to a greatly improved HEMI V8, it goes pretty well, too. The 5.7L HEMI engine gains 45 horsepower for 2009, bumping the power quotient to 390 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. The power was increased through the use of stronger cylinder heads and variable valve timing. We were thrilled with the Ram's straight-line acceleration, and the roar of the legendary HEMI caused us to test its limits often. The Ram's five-speed automatic falls one cog short of the competition, but we really didn't want for an extra gear. The automatic provided smooth, predictable shifts, and when pushed hard cut through gears plenty fast enough for any sporty pickup. The 5.7L V8 also has Chrysler's MDS system, which shuts off four cylinders at highway speeds. The system is pretty aggressive and the fuel-saving tech kicked in at speeds of up to 75 miles-per-hour.

Dodge takes pride in the fact that its Ram is faster than the domestic competition. Dodge even claims better fuel economy when towing 5,000 pounds while still reaching 60 mph in less time. The Ram doesn't keep up with Ford and Chevy in one category, though: towing. The Ram can haul 9,100 lbs in its strongest configuration, which is over 1,000 pounds less than the competition. The Ram also falls far short of the F-150 in payload with an 1,850 lb capacity that falls far short of Ford's 3,030 lb capacity.

The culprit for the deficiency in capability is, in part, the Ram's unique multi-link coil spring suspension. The single stage suspension setup was chosen by Dodge to give the new Ram superior ride and handling on the road. On that front, we say "Mission accomplished." The Ram drives like a well-heeled wagon, soaking up bumps in the road and delivering a glassy-smooth ride reminiscent of a Lincoln Town Car. Driving the Ram is almost like playing a racing game with the rumble function turned off; it's gaming room smooth. That's great for the casual truck driver that just wants something big, bedded and cozy. But we're guessing the hard-core truck buyer who makes money with his pickup would prefer a stronger suspension to a smoother ride.

The 2009 Dodge Ram is still a very strong entry from the guys and gals in Auburn Hills. It looks great, performs like a track car on growth hormones and drives like a well mannered SUV. While it appears the new Ram was developed more for the boat-towing, camper-hauling types, we don't think this Dodge would be out of place on a construction site. It doesn't have the job-site credentials of the Silverado or F-150, but you should probably be looking at heavy duty pickups if you're regularly towing more than 9,100 lbs, and Dodge has a new heavy duty 2500 on the way. Now, if we can just get the team responsible for the Ram's interior to give a makeover to the rest of Chrysler's lineup, Team Pentastar may be on to something.

All photos Copyright © 2009 Chris Shunk / Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Although the 545RFE is not the best geared transmission in the world, it certainly is NOT a bad transmission. I have owned two Dodge trucks, both with the 4.7L V8, one with the 45RFE and the other with the 545RE and they do very well. I have towed plenty with them, and do fine.

      I think too many people look at "the numbers" without actually driving the vehicle...and that goes for more than the Ram. If Fords are so great (and I did like them prior to 09) why were they still using ancient 4spd autos until 09? I was amazed to find my friends 06 Harley F-150 used the same E4OD as the F-150s of the mid 90s...mileage was inexcusable.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The 45RFE was more/less designed for the 4.7 V8 of ten years ago.
        230hp at 4500, 290ft-lbs at 3600rpm. (abouts)
        The idea of the split/double 2nd gears was to help high speed passing/merging.
        Imagine downshifting at 65mph. If the transmission went to the low 2nd gear, you'd be at 4500rpm and revving downward on the power output. 100% at 4500, 90% at 4750, 80% at 5000. (and something like 70% at 5250, 60% at 5500, 50% at 5750, 40% at 6000, so why even operate up here)
        That is not satisfying.
        If you now downshift to the high 2nd gear, you'd be at about 4000rpm at 65mph (90% of max power), 95% at 4250, 100% at 4500. That is a far better driving experience (and safer for making quick passes)
        The old hemi had better high engine speed output than the 4.7, the new hemi (with dual length intake runners) even better at high speeds 5000-6000rpm.

        So the raison d'être of the transmission is gone. Let it retire.
        Use the 68RFE (3.231, 1.837, 1.41, 1, 0.816, 0.625, Reverse 4.444)
        The Hemi wouldn't 'fall on its face' when upshifting into 2nd gear (10% better 1.837 vs. 1.667)

        Having reverse numerically equal to first gear was nice.
        • 6 Years Ago
        OK, I will agree that catching the wrong 2nd gear on a downshift is not fun. I guess I just got use to knowing how to throttle it so it hits the right gear. It was more an issue in my '02 Ram, but my '07 hasn't really shown that issue.

        Really I think if they did away with the 2nd/2nd prime setup and respread the gears a bit (who says "drive" MUST be 1:1?) and it would continue to do fine.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Doesn't the Nissan Titan have some sort of storage in the box sides? I'm sure I saw one around town with a little compartment just behind the rear wheels...
      • 6 Years Ago
      And a manual-shift tranny is not available. Shame, shame....ALL pickups should have a manual-shift tranny!

      And tsk-tsk to Ford as well...no manual for its new F-150. Wimps!
        • 6 Years Ago
        When was the last time you have seen a Ram or F-150 with a manual trans?

        The only manual equipped F-150 I see on a regular basis is a co-worker's 95 F-150. I don't think I have ever seen any late model Ford's with a manual tranny. And this is coming from a guy who has frequented construction sites.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The one concern I have, and that I have always have had, is that Dodge can't get a good towing package on. That is a big reason why people don't buy Rams. I hardly ever see Rams towing much. Most of the time I see Fords and GMs towing the big trailers while Dodge might pull in an itty bitty trailer. If Dodge wants to be even more competitive and better sales with the Ram, they would step up on the towing. I also have heard that the Rambox is horrible. Don't get me wrong here, I would love to have a Dodge. They are my second choice on trucks, after Ford. It's just that despite Dodge's attempts to be more competitive, I don't believe they are making the cut along with Ford and GM. I will say that Dodge has definitely passed Toyota in quality, although that might not be saying much. It's just that I think Chrysler is putting down a worthy truck. (Thank God for a crew cab!!!) Still, this truck looks phenomenal in person, but I would rather take my F150.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Farmboy....You must not really do any hauling or towing.....We are in the race horse business and you only see two trucks at the race track....The F250/350 and the Ram 2500/3500. You see a very few Chevy's and you never see a Toyota or Nissan. I think there are still a lot of people who drive Chevy's and Ford's cause their daddy's drove them. Then you have the yuppy wannabe truck owner who buys Toyota.
        • 6 Years Ago
        As a matter of fact Scatpackmopar, I do tow/haul a lot. As a matter of f act my uncle's family owns a trailer dealer and repair shop. I tow and haul horses, sheep, goats, and God knows what else every damn weekend. I hardly ever see Dodges at any shows or anything compared the the Fords and Chevys. I never see Toyotas or Nissans.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Good looking truck. This, the 300C and the Challenger are actually decent vehicles that I wouldn't mind driving.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I've been in a charger, which is the same interior as the 300, and I was actually pleasantly surprised. From what I've heard, it was supposed to be terrible, but I thought it was clean and well laid-out. Not beautiful or high class, but certainly nothing that I would mind either, especially for the price.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Except the 300C and Challenger both have awful cheap interiors ..

        The 300C is nice .. comfortable, good ride, attractive. But the interior quality is sub-par to Even a Focus.

        But they did very good with the new Ram interior. While I don't think it's the most attractive, it does have materials that can not be bested. For once, when you sit in a Ram after sitting in an F150, you don't feel disappointing.

        IMO, the multi-link rear suspension was a big fail. This is a truck folks .. it isn't supposed to have car-like ride. The F150 has been reported to have just as nice of a ride .. and they did it with longer leafs and outboard shocks. At the same time as improving the ride of the F150, they also increased payload. But, that's what happens when you have the best engineers.

        Good truck .. certainly the best looking truck one can buy.
        • 6 Years Ago
        this is why im excited for the new 300 and the new charger
        they both have potential to be excellent cars...
        • 6 Years Ago
        tkosoccer: Challenger's interior is cheap? Perhaps in the base SE model, but my R/T's interior is top-notch. While it's all black w/ some chrome high-lights, the materials are certainly good, soft to the touch, & the construction is solid. Also quite quiet on the road.

        Explain how it's cheap? Go to your local Dodge dealer & test drive an R/T w/ the popular options group. Then go test an equivalent Mustang, Impala, or similarly priced car. The foreign cars will match well, but other American rides will not.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The old, wide ratio transmission really holds this truck back.

      Look at the overall gearing of its competitors:

      The Silverado (3.42 axle): 13.8, 8.1, 5.2, 3.9, 2.9, 2.3

      The Tundra (4.1 axle): 13.7, 8.0, 5.5, 4.1, 3.0, 2.4

      The Ford (3.31 axle): 13.8, 7.8, 5.0, 3.8, 2.9, 2.3

      The Ram (3.55 axle): 10.7, 5.9/5.3*, 3.6, 2.7, 2.4 *upshift/downshift

      The Ram's first gear is 30% taller than everyone else's and then it effectively doesn't have a 2nd gear at all and goes straight to 3rd.

      It has the crank power to be a rocket just like the Tundra but with that gearing it can't put it on the pavement.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yup the 545rfe is the deal breaker.
        When will the 7 speed double clutch show up? Will it show up?
        If it doesn't, the ZF 8hp70 could take up the slack.

        3, 1.67/1.5, 1, 0.75, 0.67
        4.7, 3.13, 2.1, 1.67, 1.29, 1, 0.84, 0.67
        Leave 1st gear for tow/haul, because unladen it would be wheel spin city. (unless your destination was burnout city ;)
        • 6 Years Ago
        The double clutch isn't yet ready for tow/haul duty. It isn't built like the good old 5 speeds that the ram uses. My 2003 Hemi Quad cab pulled my 20' bayliner with the bed full of camping gear perfectly. I actually had to pull it back when I kept hitting 70 mph with out noticing. It also drove the twisties great (for a truck). Can't beat this truck for 80% of 1/2 ton buyers. Hopefully the MPG is much better then my '03... 10-13mpg combined... my foot is kind of heavy though.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The new Ram interior is 1000x better than the old one. I test drove the old one and almost laughed when I got inside. It should have had a plaque that said "Designed by PlaySkool".
        • 6 Years Ago
        The interior of the now-last-gen-ram is awful, but the truck itself was incredible for a work vehicle. I had an 2007, 2500 Hemi out in the Alberta oil-sands projects, which is an environment I suggest all avoid, and the vehicle was flawless and very reliable.

        As stated above, most truck buyers are still buying for their toys, not a work site.

        Even if Dodge is '3rd/4th' in the market, if they're making big bucks on each and everyone, then that's all that matters.
      • 6 Years Ago
      "Now if we can just get the team responsible for the Ram's interior to give a makeover to the rest of Chrysler's lineup, team Penastar may be on to something."

      They are.
        • 6 Years Ago
        God bless Ralph
        • 6 Years Ago
        Wow, Great truck for Ram fans. Powerful but pricey. If you really tested it, I would have liked to known how that 4 cylinder deactivation system performed in fuel economy. Otherwise all we get is what the manufacturers tell us. It's probably not that important, though, because their target market seems to be young cowboys who really like to pour the coal to em, if you believe their ads.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The MDS in my Magnum RT is good for about 3mpg. My oil pressure sensor went out and my mileage went from 17 around the burbs to 14 ish. Highway mileage went down my a similar amount. Great system, it'd be even better with auto-shutdown.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Awesome looking truck! I agree it's unfortunate that it is not available with a manual transmission, but as far as I can tell from digging on Chevy's, Ford's and GMC's websites, none of their light duty full sized pickups have one anymore, either. Too bad. I sure don't like the idea of the bucket seats with a floor shifter, though- I'd want a bench seat and column shift if I'm forced into an automatic. Bucket seats are useless. The dog's big butt can't fit in a bucket seat, and he likes to ride in the front seat. :)
        • 6 Years Ago
        I've looked at a couple of Dage Ram's on the lot. The hold up for me is price. as for bucket or bench - they are configured to go either way.
        The one thing in the interior is where they have the cruise control positioned at. It's on a lever behind and down low on the right hand side of the column. I would prefer those controls directly on the steering wheel.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Yay floor shifter! Really nice interior... better than even the luxo Sierra/Yukon Denali.
      • 6 Years Ago
      is autoblog paid by toyota ? the ram easely outsold the tundra but didnt finsh in the money , u say ? the ram was the third best selling truck then and is the thrid best selling truck now , nothing changed . the tacoma comment has NOTHING to do with the review of the ram , as the dakota has nothing to do with the tundra . u made the readers think the tundra outsells the ram . very bad editing if i must say , and very misleading .
        • 6 Years Ago
        I don't think Autoblog gets paid by Toyota, but surely it gets paid by advertisers based on page views and the amount of comments posted.

        It's nothing new. It's the same old tactic Autoblog's been using for a long time now. On any D3 car-related posts, a mere mention of the name Toyota will quickly garner mostly negative comments by the Detroit faithful. Heck even the Toyota-related posts will yield the same result, even when some of which are not worthy enough to be called "news". That means more comments and page views, which translate to more $$$.

        Yes it's tactically very cheesy, if not unethical. But it works, and it WORK$ $TUPENDOU$LY.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I found it laughable that the latest Motor Trend gave the F-150 the TOTY because it is available in more configurations than the Ram.

      1. Like others have said, pulling 11k lbs with a half ton is a lesson in futility. For one, if someone has a 10k lb load and the Ram is rated for 9k, they are going to hook up anyway. Secondly, the F-150 is so underpowered and fuel inefficient that it makes a terrible tow choice for high weight ratings. Get a diesel.

      2. The Ford's powertrain has been the laughing stock of the truck industry ever since the introduction of their modular V8 and death of the 7.3L Powerstroke. Class trailing power and fuel efficiency. After driving an 09, I can say it is improved, but worse than the GM, Dodge, Toyota and maybe about par with the Nissan. Don't get me started on the 6.4L abomination.

      3. The new coil spring in the Ram is a revelation in the light truck segment. It truly rides like a luxury car, maintains composure on rough roads and makes long drives in bad terrain less tiring.

      As far as interior quality goes, they're all plenty nice and I don't think that plays a major decision in work truck purchases. Most truck guys I know would trade a fancy leather interior for a class leading powertrain. My 2 cents.
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