2008 Ram 1500 New Car Test Drive
For full-size pickup buyers, these are the good old days. Never before have trucks been more capable for hauling and towing nor more competent at coddling passengers. Moreover, today's trucks make bold styling statements. There is no mistaking a Ford F-150 for a Nissan Titan or a Toyota Tundra, nor even confusing a Chevy Silverado with a GMC Sierra. Any one of them would be a good choice from a consumer's point of view.
But it was the Ram that started the high-style-truck trend back in 1994 when Dodge took a risk with a bold, retro big-rig design. That truck transformed Ram from a bit player with staid styling to a big-stage event. The Dodge Ram has run with the big boys ever since, sometimes leading, sometimes trailing, but always solidly on the bill. Whether the '08 Ram is merely as good as the trucks listed above, or somewhat better, is more a matter of personal preference than anything else.
The Dodge Ram 1500 light-duty pickups 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.
Ram was extensively re-engineered for 2006, with a new hydroformed frame that's boxed its full length; plus new suspension and body mounts that improved ride, handling, and quietness. That same year, Ram was modestly restyled inside and out.
The 2008 model year brings new life to the 4.7-liter V8, with horsepower up 31 percent to 310 hp and torque up 10 percent to 330 pound-feet. Other updates to the 2008 Dodge Ram lineup include simpler maintenance intervals, trailer sway control added to the optional stability system, available tire pressure monitors, new steering hardware for 4WDs, dark maple woodgrain trim on Laramie, and two new colors right out of the muscle car age: Sunburst Orange and Detonator Yellow.
Ram's optional Hemi engine delivers power and efficiency. The Hemi features Chrysler's Multi-Displacement System, which shuts down four of the eight cylinders when they are not needed. The switchover is seamless, and fuel economy is improved by as much as 20 percent, says Dodge. Step on the gas, however, and the cylinders reawaken, ready to deliver the 345 peak ponies that make the Hemi-powered Ram one of the most exciting light-duty pickups on the market. Adding to the Hemi's responsiveness is a five-speed automatic.
The 2008 Dodge Ram is available as a Regular Cab or four-door Quad Cab. (Dodge also offers a Mega Cab 500, which is built on a heavy-duty chassis and reviewed by New Car Test Drive with the Ram heavy-duty models).
Two bed lengths are available: a 6-foot, 3-inch short-bed and an 8-foot long-bed. Several engines are offered: A 3.7-liter overhead-cam V6, 4.7-liter V8, and the 5.7-liter Hemi V8. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard with the 3.7-liter V6 and 4.7 V8 and the 5.7 V8s use a five-speed automatic; a four-speed auto for the V6 and five-speed auto for the 4.7 are available. Several trim levels are offered:
ST is the base model with vinyl upholstery and wind-up windows. ST comes standard with air conditioning, tilt steering, variable intermittent wipers, 40/20/40 vinyl seat, AM/FM/CD stereo, rear-wheel ABS, 17-inch steel wheels and a full-size spare tire, and a V8 and electric-shift transfer case on 4WD. Options include a bed liner, trailer tow mirrors, cruise control, four-wheel ABS, side-curtain airbags, power adjustable pedals, 17-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels, and a power sliding rear window for the Quad Cab.
SXT is essentially an ST with cloth upholstery, active turn signals (touch once for 3 blinks) and remote keyless entry. Options parallel those on the ST, although the STX is the trim level for the TRX4 Off-Road package.
SLT comes standard with the 4.7-liter flex-fuel V8, six-disc CD changer, carpeting, power windows/door locks/heated mirrors, overhead console with mini-trip computer and compass, cruise control, and 17-inch painted aluminum wheels. Options include a navigation system, Sirius Satellite Radio, UConnect Bluetooth hands-free wireless communication, 5.7 V8, on-demand 4WD, bucket seats, six-way power driver seat and 20-inch aluminum wheels. A power sunroof and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system are available for SLT Quad Cabs.
The Sport group for the SLT comes with the Hemi engine and five-speed automatic transmission, unique cloth-faced bucket seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, body-color grille and bumper fascia, fog lamps, and 20-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels. Options are the same as for the SLT.
Laramie is the luxury trim level, offered only as Quad Cab automatic. It comes standard with dual-zone climate control, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, four-wheel ABS, security alarm, and 20-inch wheels on 2WD models. Leather seats are standard, with a heated, split 40/20/40 bench up front and power adjustment for the driver. Options include navigation, power sunroof, adjustable pedals, and electronic upgrades.
Safety features include optional side-curtain airbags designed to provide head protection in a side impact or rollover. We recommend getting them; head injuries are the leading cause of death in side impacts. The Ram was awarded the highest possible rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's offset frontal crash test. Three-point shoulder belts are provided at all locations, including the rear center seat; wear them, because seat belts are your first line of defense in a crash. An electronic stability program (ESP) is optional.