2009 Ram 1500 New Car Test Drive
The 2009 Dodge Ram is a new truck that incorporates Dodge's forward-thinking style and refinements to cosmetics and engineering. The Dodge Ram is a light-duty full-size pickup, a so-called half-ton truck, but this latest version lacks the 1500 badge of previous versions because the heavy-duty versions (2500, 3500) share little in appearance and running gear.
Technically the truck is not all new. The V6 and 4.7-liter V8 engines (overhauled recently), the brake system (upgraded), and transmissions have not been substantially changed for the 2009 model year. In a few cases, such as the front suspension geometry and the forward frame sections, the design remained but new materials are being used for more strength, less weight, or both. Some audio and climate control systems, and the middle front row seat may appear familiar, too. But that's where any similarities between the 2008 and 2009 models end.
The bodywork is all new and more aerodynamic. A Crew Cab model has been added to the mix; it has more cabin space than the Quad Cab but in more manageable dimensions than the retired Mega Cab. The new Crew Cab required its own pickup bed, dubbed RamBox: A perfect rectangle inside, it sports a pair of lockable bins along the bed sides, but can carry the standard 4x8-foot sheet flat on the bed floor.
Interiors have been given new styles and materials, new center console with shifter for some models, and new amenities and gadgets. Virtually every mechanical and air management system has been refined to limit noise and vibrations that become fatiguing over time.
Chrysler's image-building Hemi 5.7-liter V8 has been tuned up to 390 horsepower and 407 pound-feet of torque; it's the most powerful V8 in any regular or mid-size-cab pickup at time of introduction, and it didn't come at the expense of fuel economy. At the other end, a new rear suspension employs a design returning to full-size pickups after a decades-long absence and currently used on some sport-utilities like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Chevy Tahoe that see off-pavement use.
What Dodge didn't do is follow the last decade's trend of making half-ton pickups carry and tow more than the previous generation. There are plenty of Dodge (and other) heavy-duty pickups for pulling big trailers or hauling two tons of hay, and the decision to keep the light-duty Ram in the light-duty work realm pays dividends in comfort and is beneficial in terms of fuel economy.
The 2009 Dodge Ram comes in six trim levels: ST, SLT, Sport, TRX, R/T, and Laramie. Special edition models, such as Big Horn and Lone Star, are regional offerings and primarily cosmetic or packaging changes. Since it is new and visibly different from the 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty models, the '09 Ram light-duty does not yet have the 1500 label. (The heavy-duty Ram HD pickups are covered in a separate NewCarTestDrive.com review.) Cab choices include a Regular Cab with short (6.3 feet) or long (8 feet) bed, four-door Quad Cab with short bed, and the new Crew Cab with the shorter yet RamBox 5-foot, 7-inch bed.
A V6 and four-speed automatic are standard on 2WD Regular and Quad Cabs, the 4.7-liter V8 and five-speed automatic on virtually everything else. The 5.7-liter V8 Hemi is offered across the board. No manual transmissions are offered.
Ram ST models ($21,270-$29,735) are workhorses, with standard vinyl floor and manual windows, although they do include chrome bumpers and grille outline, air conditioning, ABS, CD player, variable intermittent wipers, locking tailgate, Sentry Key and on 4WD, electric-shift. Options include chrome wheels, two-tone paint, cruise control, trailer mirrors, limited-slip differential and alternate axle ratios, sliding rear window, Sirius radio and Mopar WiFi.
Ram SLT models ($25,465-$34,850) upgrade with carpet floor covering, floor mats, 40/20/40 split-bench seat, overhead console, cruise control, remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks, heated mirrors and 17-inch painted aluminum wheels. Options include the 5.7-liter V8, RamBox Storage System, on-demand transfer case for low-range 4WD, power sunroof, power-adjustable pedals, 10-speaker Alpine Surround Sound, UConnect/navigation system and hands-free communication system with Bluetooth technology, Sirius Backseat TV radio, low-back bucket seats with cloth upholstery, six-way power driver seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear defroster, and 20-inch aluminum wheels.
Ram TRX ($30,020-$35,995) comes in Quad Cab and Crew Cab styles and has SLT-level trim with some notable exceptions. TRX features electric-shift transfer case on 4WD 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), tilt steering column, remote keyless entry and standard two-tone paint. Pay extra for an engine block heater, power-sliding rear window, heated power folding mirrors, bedliner, 3.92:1 axle ratio, limited-slip differential, Tip Start, cruise control, and UConnect Studios Sirius Satellite Radio. Ram Sport ($29,365-$38,670) is available in all three cab styles but is labeled R/T on the regular cab. It adds a 5.7-liter Hemi, slate-gray contrast-stitched bucket seats, body-color fascia, fog lamps and 20-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels. R/T models use a 4.10:1 rear axle for superior acceleration but will still tow 5000 pounds. Options mirror those on SLT. Ram Laramie ($37,870-$43,240) is the top of the line, with leather heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, chromed door handles and mirrors, and security alarm. Extra-cost features include 20-inch aluminum wheels, sunroof, navigation and rear-seat entertainment. 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, electronic stability/traction control and four-wheel anti-lock brakes. Full side-curtain airbags for four-doors, back-up camera, and rear park sensors are optional.