2009 Dodge Ram Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
November 3, 2008

The 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 currently stands as the leader in the full-size light-duty truck market. Competition is a wonderful thing, and this may change once the 2009 Ford F-150 bows later this year.

The truck experts at TheCarConnection.com have driven the all-new 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 in many of its available configurations. Additionally, TheCarConnection.com's editors have read competitive reviews on the new Ram 1500 in order to create this comprehensive review and to help you find the truth about this vehicle where other reviews might differ.

When everybody's wrong about something, it's common to hear the idiom, "Hindsight is 20/20." When Dodge began its much-needed redesign of the Ram 1500, the company still expected trucks to be popular with all kinds of drivers, not just those who truly needed the heavy-duty capabilities of a full-size truck. Perhaps Dodge could have seen the seismic shift away from trucks coming, but regardless of their market forecasting, Chrysler LLC has delivered one heck of a truck.

Styling-wise, the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 is clearly derivative of the outgoing model. Design taste fairies at TheCarConnection.com wish Dodge had pushed the styling more. For example, compared to the 2009 Ford F-150, the Dodge's tailgate is very plain, but we do like the dual exhaust pipes nestled up into the rear valance. Inside, the design is well-executed with high-quality materials. Wisely, Dodge transferred clever use of previously untapped storage space pioneered on their minivans to the new Ram's interior. The under-floor (second-row Crew Cab) storage bins are useful, as are the optional Ram Box in-fender weather-proof and lockable storage areas. The quality level and design of the interior are among the best in any pickup.

The 2009 Ram 1500 excels in performance. The improved 390-horsepower HEMI rules the roost, but with Chrysler's cylinder deactivation technology, delivers the same fuel mileage (13/19 mpg city/highway mpg for two-wheel-drive models) as the smaller and less expensive 4.7-liter V-8 (310 horsepower). The base 3.7-liter V-6 engine with 215 horsepower barely seems worth enduring given its 14/20 city/highway mpg with an automatic in two-wheel-drive regular cab models. If price were no object (and it almost always is), the HEMI is the way to go. Both Ford and General Motors are expanding the use of six-speed automatic transmissions on their full-size trucks, and this is a rare miss for the new Dodge. Even with just five gears, the HEMI provides more than ample acceleration, even with 1,000 pounds in the box.

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The Ram 1500 drives much smaller that one might expect. The truck's stiff chassis allows for a softly sprung suspension that delivers a smooth but responsive ride. This is easily the best-riding truck Dodge has ever produced and moves the benchmark incrementally higher, eclipsing even the trucks from General Motors, our past favorite. Much of the credit goes to the rear suspension that uses smoother-riding coil springs instead of harsher-riding leaf springs. The steering is quick but rather numb and not quite as full of feedback as the chassis really deserves.

The 2009 Dodge Ram is fully equipped with the latest in active and passive safety gear, including electronic stability control, four-wheel anti-lock brakes and side curtain airbags. The truck has yet to be crash-tested.

A benefit of being conceived during what may turn out to be the last great era of full-size truck development, the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 carries just about every conceivable road-going feature in the Chrysler toy box. Audio systems can include Bluetooth device and MP3 player connections, a hard-drive storage system, a DVD player, and a voice-activated navigation system. About all that's missing is the Sirius Satellite TV first introduced on Chrysler's Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans.

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2009 Dodge Ram

Styling

Extreme Makeover: Truck Edition—the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 is here and looks better than ever.

The Dodge Ram 1500 pickup has long been Chrysler's best-selling vehicle. Rather than approach the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 with a sense of complacency, Chrysler has thoroughly redesigned both the interior and exterior to produce one of the most desirable pickups on the market.

The 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 is a "large pickup truck" that "is offered as a two-door regular cab and two four-door cabs with conventional doors—the Quad Cab and the Crew Cab," according to ConsumerGuide. In addition, ConsumerGuide comments that "the regular cab offers 6.4- and 8-foot cargo beds," while "the Quad Cab comes with a 6.4-foot bed" and "the Crew Cab uses a 5.7-foot bed." The Dodge Ram 1500 arrives in dealer showrooms with a new look that is well received in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. Cars.com reports that "the new truck has a forward-swept crosshair grille that replaces its predecessor's upright design" and notes "new headlights flank this grille." Reviewers at The Detroit News love the "big, bold and distinctive" exterior that "stays true to [the] Dodge brand but incorporates function with art." Car and Driver reviewers also mention the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 "steps up the macho with bossy new sheetmetal."

Most reviewers appreciate the new exterior on the Dodge Ram 1500, and they unanimously rave about the interior redesign. ConsumerGuide mentions that the "huge gauges are boldly marked and easy to read at a glance" and appreciates that the "major controls are mostly convenient to access." Automobile Magazine declares that the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 has "the nicest interior of any Chrysler product," and other reviewers agree. Cars.com reports that the "new styling is an improvement over the previous truck's," and The Detroit News sums it up perfectly by proclaiming that "the interior offers everything a trucker needs, and everything a passenger wants."

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2009 Dodge Ram

Performance

Powerful and capable—there's little not to like about the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500.

The redesigned Dodge Ram 1500 boasts a very smooth ride and competent towing abilities, and for 2009, it even offers respectable fuel economy. Chrysler engineers have clearly taken a lot of care to make the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 one of the best performers in the pickup market.

The 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 can be equipped with one of three engine options. Cars.com states that "the base engine is a 3.7-liter V-6 that makes 210 horsepower and 235 pounds-feet of torque," while "the midlevel engine is a 4.7-liter V-8 that produces 310 hp and 330 pound-feet of torque," and "the big dog engine is Dodge's 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 that now produces 380 hp and 404 pound-feet of torque." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the V-8s are very impressive, while the V-6 can struggle in some situations. The Detroit News claims that "when towing various size trailers on a short loop, the Hemi-powered Ram acted as if nothing was attached to the rear." Jalopnik agrees, finding that "even up a massive 7.2% grade...the Dodge pulls like a freight train." Edmunds reports the 5.7-liter engine can "generate a claimed time to 60 mph of less than 6.0 seconds" and "tow 9,100 pounds in a short-bed SLT 4x2." While the V-6 engine is significantly less powerful, The Detroit News says "the truck does provide a significant savings in overall prices, so the difference would be evident quickly in the pocketbook."

The Dodge Ram 1500 lineup is offered with three different transmissions, and Automobile Magazine reports that "all Rams will use automatic transmissions; V-6 models get four-speed gearboxes, while the 4.7- and 5.7-liter V-8 models are equipped with a five-speed." The Dodge Ram 1500 is available in either two- or four-wheel-drive versions as well. Edmunds reviewers add that optional towing gears are available "because the new Ram still uses a five-speed automatic," whereas "a truck with a six-speed can offer high towing capacity without forcing the customer to buy and live with a less economical rear end." The transmissions all come ready to work, according to Jalopnik, mentioning that they feature a "'Tow/Haul' mode, which changes the shift points higher up in the rev range."

Fuel economy is usually a sore point in pickup trucks, and while it's not spectacular on the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500, it’s not significantly less than any of its rivals. Thanks to Dodge's cylinder deactivation technology, Edmunds reports, "a small fuel consumption benefit has been realized." The EPA estimates that both the V-6 and 5.7-liter V-8 will get 14 mpg city and 20 mpg on the highway on 2WD models, while the 2WD 4.7-liter engine gets 14/19 mpg. Moving up to 4WD, the EPA estimates that both V-8s will get 13 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway.

ConsumerGuide says that although "Ram is far too large and prone to cornering lean to be called nimble," they feel that "car-like is not a stretch" when it comes to handling. The one common complaint in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com is captured by reviewers at The Detroit News, who remark that the "steering needs more feedback." Otherwise, Jalopnik is pleased to report that "braking was delivered confidently and the ABS feedback was smooth" during their tests.


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2009 Dodge Ram

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 is comfortable enough to cruise in for days and has enough storage space to swallow up just about anything you can throw at it.

The 2009 Dodge Ram 1500, like pretty much every other pickup truck on the market, is not a luxury vehicle, but nobody seemed to mention that to the people in charge of build and materials quality.

The 2009 restyle of the Dodge Ram 1500 has been a huge upgrade in nearly all areas, but perhaps most noticeably in terms of interior comfort. ConsumerGuide says that "regular cabs seat up to three passengers" on the Dodge Ram 1500, while "the others seat up to six." All 2009 Dodge Ram 1500s get redesigned seats, which is a good thing since The Detroit News remarks the old ones were "as comfortable as plywood covered in cheap fabric and should have been banned by the Geneva Conventions." On the new 2009 Dodge Ram 1500, however, those same reviewers at The Detroit News find "the seats have nice bolsters to hold you in place when driving off-road and are cushy on the highway." Edmunds chimes in that "all seats benefit from improved sculpting and attention to detail." In terms of legroom, headroom, and overall comfort up front, Consumer Guide points out "a high step in is about the only complaint one can muster." They also report that comfort in the rear is the same "as up front, though flatter seats seem less supportive."

Another aspect of the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 that earns accolades in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com is the unbelievable amount of storage space. ConsumerGuide states that "all models have a two-tiered glove box, with the top compartment chilled for beverage cooling," while "the available Ram Box storage wells combine to offer sufficient space for a week's worth of groceries or a couple of golf bags." On Crew Cab models, Edmunds notes that "the rear seat bottoms flip up to reveal storage compartments and there are two lined wells beneath the rear floor mats sized to hold a six-pack and ice," while out back, "twelve vertical slots are stamped into the inner bed walls, into which a bed divider can be clamped to keep items fenced in." The Detroit News is also pleased to find "lots of nooks and crannies (more than 40) to hold cell phones, gloves, tools, folders and just about anything else."

Dodge has managed to upgrade both the materials and the build quality on the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500. The Detroit News finds that "every piece fits together nicely" on the Dodge Ram 1500, while "there's stitched material across the front of the dash that makes you feel like you're sitting in a top-end vehicle" on the Dodge Ram 1500 Laramie. Jalopnik proclaims that "fit and finish are quite good and all the gadgetry mechanisms feel like they'll stand up to years of abuse." Even the more conservative reviewers at ConsumerGuide remark that "front seat occupants are treated to a cabin generally finished in high-grade and soft-touch materials, with Laramie models seeming especially nice."

Noise suppression is admirable on the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500, according to reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. Although Edmunds claims that their "pre-production Laramie Crew Cab 4x2 sample vehicle sounded a tad gusty when cruising at 60 mph," reviewers at ConsumerGuide contend that on their full production version "Dodge claims to have paid special attention to wind and road noise, and it shows." The result, according to ConsumerGuide, is that "the cabin is...impressively serene."

One area where reviewers are shocked to find a groundbreaking improvement is in ride quality. Consumer Guide immediately hails it as "best in class," and Car and Driver says the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 offers "vastly improved" ride quality. The reason for the upgrade, according to Cars.com, is that "the truck's rear suspension now features coil springs instead of leaf springs." The Detroit News adds that the "new suspension is a slam dunk."


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2009 Dodge Ram

Safety

The 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 is a big, confidence-inspiring truck that offers the latest and greatest safety equipment.

Crash-test results are typically the safety benchmark for most vehicles, but unfortunately, the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 has not yet been tested by either NHTSA or the IIHS. Despite the lack of test data, the Dodge Ram 1500 boasts a wealth of standard safety features, which means that experts at TheCarConnection.com are confident enough to bestow a high safety rating on the new Dodge Ram 1500.

Reviewers are very impressed with the standard safety features found on the Dodge Ram 1500. The Detroit News points out that this 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 offers "more standard features than before," including standard "traction control, stability control," and "side curtain airbags." ConsumerGuide reports that all 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 models come with "dual front airbags" and "antilock four-wheel disc brakes." Moving up to the Laramie trim of the Dodge Ram 1500 brings a standard "rear-obstacle-detection system," according to ConsumerGuide reviewers. Cars.com states that other "available backup aids include rear parking sensors and a camera system that uses the navigation system's screen to show what's behind the truck when in Reverse."

Speaking of visibility aids, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com suggest you shouldn't need too many. ConsumerGuide reviewers claim that "visibility is very good all around," thanks to the commanding seating position and generously sized windows featured on the 2009 Dodge ram 1500.

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2009 Dodge Ram

Features

The 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 offers features—such as wireless Internet and TV—not found in many high-end luxury cars.

In order to truly qualify as a pickup truck, it seems like you have to offer a Bible-sized list of features and options. By that measure, the new 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 certainly makes the cut, as its available features rival or outclass pretty much all of the competition.

The standard features list on the three-trim Dodge Ram 1500 lineup is impressive. ConsumerGuide attests that all 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 trucks come standard with "air conditioning," "heated power mirrors," full power accessories, and an "AM/FM/CD/MP3 player." Moving up to the SLT trim of the Dodge Ram 1500 adds "cruise control" and "remote keyless entry," as well as Sirius Satellite Radio, according to ConsumerGuide. The top-end 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Laramie packs in even more features, and ConsumerGuide reports that "dual-zone automatic climate controls, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel w/radio controls...AM/FM radio w/in-dash six-disc CD/MP3 changer," and "115-volt power outlet" are included standard. Opting for a 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Crew Cab also brings the Ram Box, which The Detroit News calls "hands-down the coolest feature on any pickup sold today" and is essentially a pair of storage bins integrated into the bed walls.

Aside from the rather, well, standard list of standard features, TheCarConnection.com has discovered that the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 goes all out in the options department. Edmunds reviewers find that "rear-seat video and a ten-speaker surround-sound audio system are on the options sheet." In addition to those two features, Automobile Magazine says "Dodge's uconnect technology is also available" and "includes everything from Bluetooth connectivity to in-car TV and Internet access." ConsumerGuide lists a "power sunroof" and "power-deployable running boards" as some of the major stand-alone options, while other features, such as a navigation system, are grouped into one of the many available packages for the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500.

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