- The best-looking full-size truck
- HEMI power, with better fuel economy
- Ride quality
- No Hybrid or diesel yet
- Wheezy, coarse V-6 engine
- HEMI automatic could use another gear
The 2010 Dodge Ram 1500 vies with the latest Ford F-150 as the most desirable full-size pickup truck you can buy.
TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven different versions of the latest Dodge Ram and have written this road test summary from firsthand driving impressions. Editors have compared the Ram with other big trucks to help you narrow your shopping decision. The companion Full Review condenses opinions from other trusted Web reviews. Together, these pages give you a comprehensive look at the Ram, from the perspective of daily drivers looking for a light-duty pickup truck.
In just two years, full-size pickups have gone from must-haves to pariahs. GM, Ford, Chrysler, and Toyota now sell roughly half as many trucks as they did in 2007-but that's through no fault of capable, well-built trucks like the 2010 Dodge Ram. It's largely carried over for this model year (there's a new heavy-duty truck, though TheCarConnection.com doesn't review commercial vehicles), but the Ram continues to be one of the toughest, most composed pickup trucks on the market. Base prices start at around $21,000 for stripped-down work trucks and sail past $43,000 for well-outfitted Laramie 4WD Crew Cabs. The Ram's competition includes tough machines like the Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, Chevrolet Silverado, and Toyota Tundra.
The 2010 Dodge Ram 1500 is related to the previous generation of Ram, but the forward-tilted grille and the beefy tractor-trailer fenders of the last generation have been toned down. The new look is derivative and frankly could use more of the last Ram's aggressiveness, but the 2010 model's still the best-looking full-size truck. The distinctive grille is big, tall, and chromed; the side view has enough detail in the headlamps and taillights to identify it as a Dodge; and the proportions of glass to sheetmetal and, on some trucks, two-tone paint is still better than the Ford F-150's robotic angles and the softer looks of the Chevy Silverado. (Never mind the bizarre appearance of the latest Toyota Tundra.) The details seem plain-the Ram's tailgate isn't as cleverly stamped as that on the F-150-but there are dual exhaust pipes tucked into the rear end. Inside, the Ram's taken a lesson from the F-150 and the GMC Sierra by adopting their high-quality, upscale styling elements. Base versions are workhorses, to be clear-but the Ram and the others can be dolled up with wood trim, leather, DVD screens, and navigation systems, and in the Ram, the execution's probably the best. On Laramie versions, the wood grain trim rises into the center stack, framed by big vents, and the dash is "stitched" in a luxury-car fashion.
The 2010 Ram 1500 also excels in performance. Three engines are offered, and the base 3.7-liter V-6 is to be avoided. It's a coarse, wheezy engine, and with 215 horsepower, it's hardly powerful enough to move the Ram with any authority. Add on fuel economy of 14/20 mpg, and there's almost nothing except its low price to justify it over the 310-hp, 4.7-liter V-8, which gets the same fuel economy. Truly, the Ram begs for its 390-hp, 5.7-liter HEMI V-8. It flares off 390 hp but burns fossil fuel at just a 13/19 mpg clip, not much worse than the other engines. (Automatic-equipped, 2WD versions are compared here; for more detail, see TheCarConnection.com's specs pages.) If price is no object, the HEMI is the way to go. The Ram suffers a bit in the transmission checklist; both Ford and Chevrolet/GMC offer six-speed automatics on their full-size trucks, while the Ram's best bet is the five-speed automatic in the HEMI V-8. All versions of the Ram have automatic cylinder deactivation, which shuts off fuel to part of the engine at highway speeds to save gas.
When it comes to driving and hauling, the 2010 Ram proves to be a marked improvement over the last version, and at least the equal of the Ford and GM trucks. A new stiff chassis and a new rear coil suspension have loosened up the Ram's ride, which now feels better controlled than any of the competitors. This is easily the best-riding truck Dodge has ever produced. The steering is quick but rather numb and not as full of feedback as the chassis really deserves. In the full-size pickup numbers game, Dodge claims its 10,450-pound towing rating is the best in its class, but it hasn't really disclosed what's been changed to achieve the new ratings. Dodge also announced that the gross vehicle weight rating on some HEMI-powered, long-bed trucks has increased from 14,000 to 15,500 pounds. With the two new ratings, the carmaker claims the Ram is the most capable light-duty truck on the planet, though the Ford F-150 and Toyota Tundra are within a reasonable margin of error on either rating.
Room doesn't always equal comfort, but in the 2010 Ram a wide cabin gives real three-across seating on the standard bench seat. With two seats in front, a massive center console divides wide, flat chairs with decent adjustability. The rear seat on Crew Cab models is nicely canted back, and leg- and headroom abound. Wisely, Dodge transfers the clever use of previously untapped storage space pioneered on its minivans to the new Ram's interior. The under-floor (second-row Crew Cab) storage bins are handy, as are the optional Ram Box in-fender weatherproof and lockable storage areas. The quality level and design of the interior are among the best in any pickup truck sold today-better than the Tundra and Nissan Titan, as well-made as any of the GM trucks, and with a bit more truck panache than the F-150, which blurs the luxury line a bit much for hardcore truck folks.
The 2010 Dodge Ram benefits from a full list of safety gear, including dual front and side curtain airbags, and four-wheel anti-lock brakes with traction and stability control. The truck gets five stars for front impacts from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and a four-star rollover for 2WD trucks' rollover protection (three stars for 4WD models). No side-impact tests have been performed by the agency. The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) called the nearly identical 2009 model "good" for front impacts and "marginal" for side impacts. Like most trucks, the Ram doesn't offer advanced safety options, though the rearview camera is a welcome option, given its size. Passive head restraints are newly standard for 2010. Visibility can be poor, since the Ram sits so high, but big folding trailer mirrors are now offered, as is a trailer-brake controller.
The 2010 Dodge Ram 1500 comes stripped in its most basic form, but in upmarket Laramie trim, it can be ordered with about every imaginable road-going feature in the Chrysler parts bin. You'll get wind-up windows and an AM radio on the work versions, but spend a lot more and the Ram can be a real luxury pickup. There's available Bluetooth connectivity; steering-wheel radio controls; a hard-drive music system with USB and auxiliary-jack connections; a DVD player for front and backseats; a voice-activated navigation system; and Sirius Satellite Radio. Laramie versions also have handsomely detailed interiors, with a wide choice of paint combinations, and an R/T package swaps in 22-inch tires and an aerodynamic air dam.