Dodge Introduces its 2009 Ram Pickup
By Chris Haak
Ford wasn’t the only company to introduce an all-new full-size pickup at the NAIAS in Detroit this week: their crosstown rivals, Chrysler LLC, introduced an new 2009 Dodge Ram. Unlike in the 1970s and 80s, when Ford, Chrysler, and GM introduced all-new pickups roughly every 10-15 years, the segment is now so competitive and so critical to the financial health of these automakers that they are working hard to keep up with, and sometimes surpass, the competition much more frequently. By the 2009 model year when the new Ford and Dodge hit the streets, every entry in this segment will be completely new or extensively revised in the past two model years (the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, and Toyota Tundra in 2007 and the Ford and Dodge in 2009).
Dodge has come up with some really clever innovations in an attempt to make a compelling argument to buyers to choose their truck over the competition’s, as well as addressing criticisms that had been levied on its old Ram. Specifically, the outgoing Ram model had been criticized for its interior design and material quality (particularly after GM’s 2007 Silverado and Sierra raised the bar in terms of pickup truck interior design), the old Ram’s ride quality, and its fuel economy.
the more interesting tricks that Dodge added to the Ram are the optional RamBoxes, which are on the tops of the bed sides. They are waterproof, lockable, drainable storage boxes large enough to hold a set of golf clubs or up to 10 cases of 12 ounce beverages, for a total of 8.6 cubic feet of cargo space. The problem is, if you have a tonneau cover or cap on your truck, the RamBox is not usable.
Dodge has developed a coil spring, multilink rear suspension that is unique in the pickup market. Of course, it still uses a solid rear axle, but Dodge claims that the new suspension provides “unexpected” ride and handling capabilities for a pickup truck.
Inside the 2009 ram, interior materials have been upgraded and the design spiffed up. The Ram with the Lariat trim level may be the best interior I have ever seen in a Chrysler vehicle. I’m still not crazy about the overly square design that Chrysler’s interior designers seem to favor, but it’s a large leap from where it came. The door panels of the Laramie (top of the line) model have faux wood/chrome inserts, but are still rubberized plastic that afflicts so many of Chrysler’s other products.
Under the hood, the 5.7 liter Hemi gets a power boost to 380 horsepower and 404 lb-ft of torque, while increasing fuel economy approximately 4%. Also, a light duty clean diesel will be offered after 2009, and a two-mode hybrid (co-developed with GM and BMW) will be available in the 2010 model year.
Having checked out the 2009 Ram in person in Detroit yesterday, I was impressed by it, particularly in the higher trim levels. Even the Ram Sport has stitched pleather on the upper dash panel similar to the Cadillac CTS, and it really does look great. The exterior styling retains the classic Ram look, but is cleaner, more modern, and more sophisticated. The front end angles back at the bottom of the grille similar to the Dodge Charger, and the truck is the most aerodynamic truck in its segment. I think Dodge pulled off the styling very well and now sells the best looking full-size pickup; there’s only so much that can be done with the basic template, after all.
The bottom line is that most people in the market for this type of vehicle are very brand loyal. The Ford guys will buy Ford trucks, the Chevy guys will buy Chevy trucks, etc. I really don’t think a buyer could go wrong with any choice in tihs segment. However, for buyers who aren’t brand loyal, the Ram certainly merits consideration. It goes on sale this fall.
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