2009 Ram 3500 New Car Test Drive
The current generation of Dodge Ram heavy-duty pickups has been with us for a few years now. Last redesigned for 2003, the Dodge Ram 2500 and Dodge Ram 3500 models aren't nearly as new as the latest from Ford and General Motors. However, they do benefit from constant updating, such as the addition last year of a 2010-compliant diesel engine and six-speed automatic. (The Dodge Ram 1500 models have been redesigned for 2009 and are covered in a separate New Car Test Drive review.)
The 2009 Dodge Ram HD heavy-duty line benefits from mechanical improvements, a more powerful Hemi engine, and a more extensive options list. Choice has been simplified by offering the Power Wagon only as a Quad Cab, the Ram 3500 only as a diesel, and the Hemi V8 only with an automatic transmission.
The Dodge Ram Mega Cab was created by re-proportioning the relationship between cab and bed on a long wheelbase truck, adding 20 inches to the cab and shortening the bed to 6 feet, 3 inches. The result is acres of cab space, with six seats and plenty of head, shoulder, leg and hip room. Launched as a 2006 model, the extra-large Mega Cab is aptly named. 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; there's space behind the back seats for cargo. Folding down the back seats reveals a huge cargo area (more than 70 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.
We found the Dodge Ram Cummins turbo diesel quiet, powerful and responsive. The exhaust brake provides engine braking down long highway grades, thereby leaving the brakes cool, fade-free, and ready for stopping. The diesel's power and fuel economy make it an excellent choice for owners who tow heavy trailers long distances.
The Ram Heavy Duty models are equally at home serving solo contractors, landscape crews, or families with big toys, and everyone in between. Despite a reputation for being the most truck-like, the heavy-duty Rams are civilized and make trucking enjoyable.
The 2009 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 versions come in four trim levels, ST, SXT, SLT and Laramie, and three cabs (regular, Quad, Mega) with a range of payloads and towing capacities. A TRX4 (mild off-road) is available for 2500 and 3500 while the Power Wagon (more severe off-road) is 2500-series only.
The 2500 ($28,185-$43,860) comes standard with the Hemi V8 and five-speed automatic, no manual is offered; the Cummins 6.7-liter Turbo Diesel (about $7,100) is optional with a six speed manual or six-speed automatic. The Power Wagon is $37,520, and 4WD adds about $3,000 to any standard 2500-series.
The 3500 prices ($34,985-$50,195) have increased because the Cummins diesel and a limited-slip differential are now standard equipment.
For adding your own box or work platform, Chassis Cab models are offered in regular and Quad cab, 2WD and 4WD 3500-series trucks, ranging from $24,830-$30,520.
ST models are workhorses, with standard vinyl floor and upholstery, although they do include chrome bumpers and grille outline, air conditioning, ABS, CD player, intermittent wipers, sliding sun visors, a full-size spare, and tinted glass. Options are limited to a diesel engine on 2500, cruise control, towing mirrors, side curtain airbags, and a few cosmetic upgrades.
SXT adds a bit more bright trim and chrome, including the wheels, power mirrors/windows/locks, cruise control, remote keyless entry, carpet, and cloth upholstery. A TRX4 Off-Road package may be added, consisting of aluminum wheels and more aggressive tires, limited-slip differential, skid plates, tow hooks, fog lamps, and unique shocks.
SLT, the standard trim on Mega Cabs, includes an overhead console, speed control, power windows and door locks, keyless entry, and power mirrors. Options for SLT include a power-sliding rear window, a bed liner, powered trailer tow mirrors, sun roof, power adjustable pedals and driver seat, AM/FM/6CD/MP3 with Infinity speaker, navigation, Sirius satellite radio, DVD rear-seat entertainment system, UConnect Bluetooth hands-free wireless communication system, bucket seats, YES Essentials stain-repellent cloth upholstery, and 17-inch forged aluminum wheels. A part-time electric shift transfer case is available on 4WD models.
Laramie models add dual-zone climate control, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, heated front seats, security alarm, auto-dimming rearview mirror, chrome moldings and Sentry Key engine immobilizer. Options on the Laramie package include an entertainment system, sun roof, bucket seats, Bluetooth, and the navigation radio.
The 2500 Power Wagon Quad Cab comes with the Hemi only, electric-locking front and rear differentials, disconnecting front sway bar, 12,000-pound Warn winch, and 32-inch BFGoodrich off-road tires. It can be outfitted with leather, sunroof, DVD entertainment, and towing mirrors, among other items.
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.