2008 Dodge Ram Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 22, 2008

The 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 is a solid truck due for its 2009 model makeover, but it's good enough that it may be all the truck you need or want.

The truck experts at TheCarConnection.com researched a wide range of Web reviews to write this definitive review of the new 2008 Dodge Ram 1500. TheCarConnection.com's editors also drove the Dodge Ram 1500 and added driving details and information where helpful. This review, in addition, compares the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

Dodge had some real troubles with its line of trucks back in the early 1990s. What they were selling was stale--really stale. Then 1994 rolled around and the all-new Ram rolled out with styling that blew everybody away. In one model year, Dodge went from almost abandoning the truck business to being a serious contender. The Ram last got a major rework in 2002, and the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 is of this same generation. By comparison, Ford and Chevrolet have both introduced all-new pickup trucks during this near geologic time span. Importantly, Dodge recently introduced its almost-all-new 2009 Ram 1500, which goes on sale in late 2008.

However, the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 still stands out on its own, thanks to its bold styling. Frankly, it still looks good after all these years. Incremental improvements such as the available electronic stability control, E85-compatible engine, and 20-inch wheels continually add to and modernize the truck.

While there is not room enough here to cover the entire range of the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500, the basics are this: three cab designs, with the Mega Cab offering impressive amounts of interior room; two bed lengths (6.25 and 8 feet); three engines, including one V-6, a significantly improved 310-horsepower 4.7-liter V-8, and the iconic 5.7-liter HEMI with variable displacement technology and 345 horsepower; three drivelines, including two-wheel drive, part-time four-wheel drive, and permanent four-wheel drive; and more trim levels than you can keep straight without a showroom catalog.

Review continues below

Based on research TheCarConnection.com's experts completed on the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500, the three most attractive qualities about the Ram 1500 are its style, its value, and the HEMI. Our on-road experience tells us that the HEMI delivers a serious punch, with a maximum towing rating of more than 9,000 pounds.

Some special suggestions: If you're going for value, don't overlook the 3.7-liter V-6 with the manual gearbox in a short-box regular cab. This may be the ultimate utility truck, and the transmission shifts with wonderful mechanical precision. If you're going for style and want the 20-inch wheels, know that you'll take a hit in ride quality and that you may need a stepladder to get up into the cab--the ride height with those wheels is pretty tall. Also note that four-wheel anti-lock brakes are optional on some models, and that's a good feature to have.

While the Toyota Tundra is capable, it hasn't proven as popular as the Dodge. Even though the Tundra is mighty Toyota's newest and best effort, after a year, it's selling only two-thirds as many units as the vehicle Dodge redesigned for the 2003 model year. Dodge must be doing something right. The sales success of the Nissan Titan doesn't come close to matching Toyota's, even though we consider the Titan to be the sportiest-handling full-size truck out there.

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2008 Dodge Ram

Styling

The 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 carries the day with its sleek look and macho persona.

Reviewers across the board say the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 is one of the most stylish trucks on the road today.

The current 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 is "available in four trim levels (ST, SXT, SLT, and Laramie), three different cab configurations (regular, Quad Cab...and Mega Cab)," and "two bed sizes," according to Car and Driver. This incredible variety of body styles on the Dodge Ram 1500 leads Automobile to write that the "Dodge Ram lineup covers the full-size-pickup spectrum" completely by itself.

Overall, there were not many changes to the truck's exterior. The Dodge Ram 1500 2008 version carries on the tradition of "big-rig exterior styling," according to Edmunds, and The Auto Channel says it "still has the most truck-like look and personality of all the entries in this most popular segment of the automotive market." Automobile adds that the "chiseled, look-at-me styling of the Ram 1500 makes it a standout among the domestic competition." The 2008 Dodge Ram 1500's looks are highlighted by an "enormous grille" that is "the most striking exterior feature," according to Automobile. Edmunds calls the Dodge Ram 1500 2008 "the manliest of this very manly vehicle category," and the experts at TheCarConnection.com agree. They go on to say the Ram 1500 is a "thoroughly competent all-American macho machine."

Moving inside the strong exterior of the Dodge Ram 1500, 2008 brings an interior that Automobile says "goes from simple utilitarian in the base ST to plush in the Laramie." Reviewers at The Auto Channel feel that the interior "has a nicely finished look" but "without being ostentatious." Edmunds adds that the interior features a "straightforward, user-friendly design," while Automobile notes that the large controls give the Dodge Ram 1500 a style that "is monolithic, reflecting the stark, vehicle exterior design."

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2008 Dodge Ram

Performance

The 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 is an excellent truck that performs well--as long as you select one of the V-8 models.

Reviewers agree that the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 offers excellent performance on- and off-road with any of its optional eight-cylinder engines.

The 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 sports a variety of engine options that, accordingly, offers a wide range of performance characteristics. Cars.com notes that for the Dodge Ram 1500, 2008 brings four engine options, the first of which is "the standard 3.7-liter V-6" that "produces 215 hp." Moving up in displacement brings a "4.7-liter V-8 with 310 horsepower, and the top engine is the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with 345 horsepower and fuel-saving cylinder deactivation," according to Car and Driver. Kelley Blue Book writes that the last engine choice on the Dodge Ram 1500 is "the Cummins Turbo Diesel," which features "610 pound-feet of max torque at just 1600 rpm" along with "325 peak horsepower at 2900 rpm." Overall, most reviewers feel the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 loses face with the standard, base 3.7-liter V-6 but more than makes it up with both the 4.7-liter V-8 and the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8.

TheCarConnection.com finds that driving impressions of the Dodge Ram 1500 2008 vary considerably depending on the engine that reviewers were outfitted with. ConsumerGuide notes of the base model that "the V6 labors under heavy load, when passing, or climbing hills" but praises that the "2008 Dodge Ram 1500 gets a more powerful V8 engine." Because the Dodge Ram is far less capable with the V-6, Edmunds used to refer to the "5.7-liter V8" as a "near necessity," but Dodge has addressed that concern for 2008 by adding "the new 4.7-liter" V8 engine. ConsumerGuide finds that "the 5.7 HEMI is the best choice for heavy hauling or towing," though performance on the Mega Cabs, which are "more than 1100 lb heavier than comparable Quad Cabs," suffers because of the additional heft.

Transferring the engine power to the road on most Dodge Ram 1500 2008s is either a "6-speed manual transmission" or a "5-speed automatic transmission," according to ConsumerGuide. Reviewers at Kelley Blue Book write that "the five-speed automatic provides smooth power at any reasonable speed." For consumers who opt for the Cummins Turbo Diesel on the Dodge Ram 1500, Motor Trend finds that it features a "new six-speed automatic transmission smart enough to know how to adjust to empty versus loaded torque loads."

When purchasing a pickup such as the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500, nobody expects that it will boast stunning, or even decent, fuel economy numbers. In this way the Dodge Ram 1500 is par for the course, as its various engines return an EPA-estimated 14 mpg city and 19 mpg highway with the six-cylinder and 13 mpg city, 18 mpg highway with the bigger V-8s, according to fueleconomy.gov.

Edmunds praises the "well-controlled ride" and the "better-than-average handling reflexes" on the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500. Kelley Blue Book agrees, writing that "despite their bulk," Dodge Ram 1500s can "steer, ride, handle and brake at least as well as competitive long-wheelbase heavy-duty pickups." Automobile further adds to the praise by saying that "the Ram has relatively good road manners" with "light steering" and an ability to take corners "reasonably well." However, those same reviewers lament the "suspension refinement overall" as a "critical weakness of the Ram."

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2008 Dodge Ram

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 is at least as luxurious and as spacious as its prime competition.

Reviewers generally don't praise trucks for comfort, but the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 is no slouch when compared to its competitors.

For the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500, Cars.com writes that "a front bench seat holds up to three occupants in a 40/20/40 configuration" in any cab variation. For the "Dodge Ram 1500 regular cab," that is the extent of the seating capacity; however, Edmunds notes that "crew cabs can seat up to six people" thanks to the addition of a rear bench seat. In terms of room and comfort inside the Dodge Ram 1500 2008, ConsumerGuide finds that "a center floor hump eats into passenger foot space" up front, while "the seat is too flat for ideal long-distance support."

In the rear of the Dodge Ram 1500, the "Quad Cab has good headroom and a comfortably reclined backrest," although "narrow door openings hamper entry and exit," Notes ConsumerGuide. They also point out that the massive 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 Mega Cab "offers vast legroom, large doorways, and a reclining split seatback" for rear occupants.

As one would expect on a pickup like the Dodge Ram 1500, 2008 versions offer utility and storage space that are on the high side of the space spectrum. Edmunds writes that, on the crew cabs, "the rear seats fold up to reveal a flat load floor for carrying large items inside." Automobile adds that interior storage is aided by an optional "massive, multi-function armrest that Dodge calls a 'business center,' useful for storing a notebook computer and travel sundries," while the rear features "hidden storage bins."

While some newer trucks are going for more luxurious interiors with all the creature comforts, the Dodge Ram 1500 2008 sticks with "materials [that] are in line with Ram's rugged character" says ConsumerGuide, a statement that leans toward positive despite the fact that "hard plastic dominates the Ram's cabin." Kelley Blue Book writes that the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 sports "gauges and controls [that] have a precise look and feel, and the fittings and materials are good even in mid-level SLT models." Although Edmunds appreciates the "straightforward, user-friendly design," they also feel that the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 is showing its age because its "cabin's materials quality trails that of newer competitors."

In terms of road noise, ConsumerGuide commends the 2008 Dodge Ram, saying "modest highway wind and tire noise make Ram impressively hushed for a truck."

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2008 Dodge Ram

Safety

The 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 scores well in crash tests and has safety features unique to its hauling chores.

Reviewers did not find the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 lacking in any of the expected safety features common on pickup trucks in its class.

The 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 scores very well in both National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests. When the government's NHTSA tested the Dodge Ram 1500, it found that the truck held up well enough to earn the maximum five stars for frontal impact tests and a commendable four stars for rollover protection. The IIHS discovered similar crash strengths and awarded the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 its highest rating, Good, for frontal offset crash protection.

ConsumerGuide comments that the "available safety features include ABS, antiskid system, and curtain side airbags." They further explain and praise the Dodge Ram 1500's "dual front airbags, 4-wheel disc brakes, rear antilock brakes, [and] tire-pressure monitor." Cars.com adds to the list of safety features by noting that "an electronic stability system" is optional on the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500, also writing that "for 2008, Trailer Sway Control was added to the electronic stability system." This feature comes in handy when towing cargo at high speeds, and Dodge Ram 1500 2008 owners who frequent the highway will definitely appreciate it.

One important safety measure that you won't find on a list of options or standard features anywhere is driver visibility. Here the Dodge Ram 1500 2008 receives mixed reviews. Car and Driver appreciates the "excellent sightlines" that the high cab offers, but ConsumerGuide finds as a drawback to that height is that the "high nose hides [views] of nearby objects, hampering [the] sense of control in tight spaces."

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2008 Dodge Ram

Features

The 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 has a basic work-truck edition that’s thinly equipped, but rich features and options are available on more expensive versions.

The 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 received neither praise nor criticism from reviewers looking at the features offered.

The standard features list on the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 varies considerably depending on trim level. Edmunds writes that the "bare bones ST" offers standard "vinyl upholstery" and "air conditioning," along with "manual windows and a four-speaker CD stereo with auxiliary audio jack," but not much else. They also find that, on the Dodge Ram 1500, "the SXT is largely similar and is available only with the Mega Cab."

Moving up the trim levels on the Dodge Ram 1500 2008, Edmunds says that the "Ram SLT comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and full power accessories," while ConsumerGuide writes that the Laramie edition of the Dodge Ram 1500 2008 adds a "leather-wrapped steering wheel w/ radio controls, leather upholstery, heated front seats," as well as an "Infinity sound system" and "wireless cell phone link."
ConsumerGuide details some additional options on the Dodge Ram 1500: "also available are power-adjustable pedals, wireless cell phone link, DVD entertainment, and navigation system." The 2008 Dodge Ram 1500's "available AWD is a useful option" since the 4WD system cannot be left engaged full time. ConsumerGuide reports that "most audio and climate controls are close at hand" and "the available navigation system's screen is large and user friendly."

Finally, Edmunds relays a few other features that are optional for the Dodge Ram 1500 2008: "dual-zone automatic climate control," "a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls," and "an upgraded stereo with six-CD changer."

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7.4
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 8.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 8.0
Features 7.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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