2006 Ram 1500 New Car Test Drive
The Dodge Ram has been extensively re-engineered for 2006. It has also been modestly restyled and the interior has been upgraded.
The bumper fascia, grille, headlamps, fenders and wheels are all new, but far more significant are less visible improvements, including a new hydroformed frame that's boxed its full length to provide more strength than in any previous Ram. You can't see the new suspension and body mounts, either, but they improve ride, handling, and quietness.
Inside the '06 Ram, the instrument panel, center console and seats have been redesigned for more car-like comfort, while new radios and entertainment features help the miles roll on by.
Those miles will roll quicker still when you order the Hemi engine, which has drawn much attention for its power and efficiency as well as the heritage its name evokes. It is an exceptionally good engine, smooth and very responsive. For 2006, the Hemi features the new Multi-Displacement System (MDS), which shuts down four of the Hemi's eight cylinders when they are not needed. Dodge claims the switchover is seamless, and that fuel economy is improved by as much as 20 percent. Step on the gas, however, and the cylinders reawaken, ready to deliver the 345 peak ponies that make the Hemi-powered Ram the most potent mass-production light-duty pickup on the market. Adding to the Hemi's responsiveness is a five-speed automatic transmission.
As if the Hemi wasn't enough, enthusiasts can choose the SRT-10, which looks like a NASCAR Craftsman Truck and runs like a race car, with stunning performance from its Viper V10 engine. Super-duty brakes and suspension help keep it on the road. The Guinness Book of World Records called the SRT-10 the world's fastest production pickup. Like other Rams, the SRT-10 is offered in either Quad Cab or Regular Cab configurations.
Ram's popular 4.7-liter V8, while not as powerful as the Hemi or SRT-10, delivers responsive performance and is smooth and sophisticated, benefiting from a modern overhead-cam design. Full-time four-wheel drive (all-wheel drive) is available with the 4.7-liter for improved stability in slippery conditions.
The light-duty Ram 1500 models are smooth and refined. Their cabs are comfortable and convenient, among the roomiest in their respective classes. The Quad Cab is handy for hauling friends and family but even the Regular Cab is roomy. Arguably, the Ram is the best-looking truck on the market. Its styling is bold and handsome, even more so in its latest incarnation.
This may indeed be the golden age of the full-size pickup. The Ford F-150 and Nissan Titan made headlines with their engineering. Coming soon are all-new versions of the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, and Toyota Tundra. In spite of all this, the Dodge Ram remains an excellent choice. Re-engineered for 2006, it may be the best choice, depending on what you want from a truck. Pickup trucks are America's ultimate raw material. Generic in concept, the lowly pickup truck can be configured in dozens, even hundreds of ways to specifically suit any need, and practically any price point. The fastest-growing segment is full-size crew cab pickups. Crew cabs combine exceptional seating comfort, personal use features and unlimited hauling potential to create an extremely versatile vehicle.
Dodge has addressed that by creating the largest crew cab pickup available, the Ram Mega Cab. The extra-large cab has been created by re-proportioning the relationship between cab and bed, adding 20 inches to the cab and shortening the bed to 6 feet, three inches.
The result is acres of cab space. The Mega Cab seats six, with plenty of head, shoulder, leg and hip room. The back seats are roomy and comfortable with reclining seatbacks, separate rear heating and air conditioning outlets, reading lights and a center armrest with cup holders, and available DVD entertainment. And there's space behind the back seats for cargo.
Folding down the back seats reveals a huge cargo area (72.2 cubic feet) with a flat load floor. The rear doors open big and wide, making it easy to load stuff inside. Covered bins are provided back there for storing gear and smaller items, and hooks are provided for hanging things.
Mega Cab pickups can be ordered in 1500, 2500 and 3500 configurations, but all are built on the Dodge Ram Heavy Duty platform. They ride and drive like heavy duty pickups and don't make much sense if you're not towing and hauling heavy loads.
Mega Cabs make a lot of sense if you're towing. All boast big towing capacities, up to 15,900 pounds, with payloads of up to 2,970 pounds. The available Cummins Turbo Diesel puts out 610 pound-feet of torque, and the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that comes on the 1500 and 2500 models isn't exactly a slouch.
These trucks are best on long trips where, once you get under way, you don't want to stop. And with the Mega Cab, there will be no need. It's a low-effort cruiser, relaxed and efficient under load. It's not the ideal commuter, being more comfortable in the wide-open spaces of big roads and big driveways. Driving a Mega Cab much with empty seats would be a waste.
Dodge Ram is available as a Regular Cab or four-door Quad Cab. (There is no in-between, extended-cab version.) Dodge now offers what you might call an extended Quad Cab, which it calls the Mega Cab. However, the Ram Mega Cab is different enough from other Rams to be considered a distinct model, and we have reviewed it separately.
Two bed lengths are available: a 6-foot, 3-inch short bed and an 8-foot long bed. Ordering the long bed adds 20 inches to the wheelbase. And a Quad Cab wheelbase is 20 inches longer than a Regular Cab. So a Quad Cab long bed has 40 more inches of wheelbase than a Regular Cab short bed. Long-bed Rams also get a bigger fuel tank, 35 gallons in place of the standard 26.
Regular Cabs start at $20,800 with rear-wheel drive (2WD), $25,055 with four-wheel drive (4WD). Quad Cabs, which ride on a wheelbase 20 inches longer than comparable Regular Cab models, start at $24,870 with 2WD, $29,005 with 4WD.
Several engines are offered: The most economical choice, one that can actually break 20 mpg on the highway, is the 3.7-liter overhead-cam V6, rated 215 horsepower. It's the base engine in 2WD Regular Cabs and 2WD Quad Cabs with the short box. The available 4.7-liter V8 uses modern overhead-cam heads to generate 235 horsepower. The popular 5.7-liter Hemi produces 345 horsepower. At the top end of the scale is the 8.3-liter pushrod V10 in the SRT-10, rated 500 horsepower and 525 pound-feet of torque.
A six-speed manual transmission is standard equipment with the 3.7-liter V6 and 4.7-liter V8. A four-speed automatic is optional with the V6. A five-speed automatic is optional with the 4.7-liter V8 and standard with the Hemi. The SRT-10 Regular Cab comes only with a six-speed manual gearbox; the SRT-10 Quad Cab comes only with a four-speed automatic.
ST is the base trim level. It comes standard with air conditioning, AM/FM/CD stereo, rear-wheel ABS, 17-inch steel wheels and a full-size spare tire. Upholstery is vinyl, and the windows wind up manually. Options include a bed liner, trailer tow mirrors, speed control, four-wheel ABS, 17-inch chrome-clad steel wheels, and a power sliding rear window for the Quad Cab.
SLT comes standard with the 4.7-liter V8, and adds power windows and door locks, keyless entry, an overhead console with mini-trip computer and compass, speed control, and 17-inch aluminum wheels. Options expand to include a power sunroof, power adjustable pedals, six-disc CD changer and Infinity speaker system, navigation system, Sirius Satellite Radio, UConnect Bluetooth hands-free wireless communication, bucket seats with leather upholstery, six-way power driver seat and 20-inch aluminum wheels.
Sport, which was an option package last year, has been promoted to a trim level for '06. It comes with the Hemi engine and five-speed automatic transmission, unique bucket seats, body-color fascia and grille, fog lamps, and 20-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels. Sport adds $7,256-$8,410 to price of an ST. Options are the same as for the SLT, but the long bed is not available.
Laramie is the luxury level, with dual-zone climate control, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, four-wheel ABS, security alarm, and Sentry Key engine immobilizer. Leather seats are standard, with a split 40/20/40 bench up front and power adjustment for the driver. Laramie retails for $6,600-$7,800 more than the base (ST) trim level, and offers a nice selection of luxury options.
SRT-10 is its own trim level, available in both regular cab ($47,605) and Quad Cab ($51,810) models. In addition to its go-fast equipment, SRT-10 also comes with most Laramie-level luxuries, plus heated sport bucket seats up front and a lot of unique, performance-oriented trim inside and out.
The TRX4 Off-Road package ($1,250) comes with unique 17-inch aluminum wheels on LT275/70R17 off-road tires, 3.92 rear axle, limited-slip differential, skid plates for the transfer case and front suspension, special red-painted shocks, tow. The 2006 Dodge Ram Mega Cab comes in two trim levels, SLT and Laramie, with a range of engine choices, payloads and towing capacities.
The Mega Cab 1500 is the light-duty configuration, but it still can still haul payloads of up to 2,430 pounds and trailers of up to 8,750 pounds when equipped with 4.10 axle gears. The Mega Cab 1500 comes with the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 and a five-speed automatic transmission. The 1500 Mega Cab ranges from SLT 4x2 ($31,860) to the Laramie 4x4 ($40,175).
The Mega Cab 2500 ($34,165) comes standard with the Hemi V8, optional with the Cummins 5.9-liter Turbo Diesel and a six speed manual ($4,385) or four-speed automatic ($5,555). The 2500 SLT is available with 4WD ($37,280). Laramie trim is available with 2WD ($39,260) or 4WD ($42,375) 2500 models.
The 3500 Mega Cab ($39,510) comes with the Cummins diesel mated to the six-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic ($1,095). It's also available with 4WD ($42,600) and is available as a Laramie 2WD ($44,605) or 4WD ($47,695).
SLT is the standard trim on 2006 Mega Cabs, and includes cloth upholstery, air conditioning, AM/FM stereo with CD player and four speakers, an overhead console with mini trip computer and compass, speed control, power windows and door locks, keyless entry, four-wheel disc brakes with four-wheel ABS. On 4x4 models, a part-time manual shift transfer case is standard. A full-size spare tire is standard.
Options for SLT trim includes a power-sliding rear window ($295), a bed liner, trailer tow mirrors, power sun roof ($850), power adjustable pedals ($120), AM/FM/6CD/MP3 with Infinity speakers ($950), cassette ($100), navigation radio ($2,545), Sirius Satellite Radio ($195), DVD rear-seat entertainment system ($1,200), UConnect Bluetooth hands-free wireless communication system ($325), bucket seats ($850), and 17-inch forged aluminum wheels ($345). A part-time electric shift transfer case is available on 4WD models.
Laramie adds leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, heated front seats, security alarm, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and Sentry Key engine immobilizer. Options on the Laramie package include a power sun roof, bucket seats, Bluetooth, and the navigation radio.
Safety features include dual front multi-stage airbags, three-point belts in all seating positions with constant-force retractors, LATCH child-seat anchors, child-protection rear door locks, and four-wheel anti-lock brakes. Side-curtain airbags for front and rear seats are optional ($490).
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