2009 Dodge Ram
A New Strategy Looking For More With Less

What They Did Right: Material choices and interior layout a stellar step up; RamBox will force the competition to step up, rearend ride sets the bar for daily driver.

Room For Improvement: Limited variations could hurt; non-Hemi engines are dogs, limited payload and towing will hurt overall sales; maybe the wrong time for a great personal-use pickup; steering still needs more weight and tuning.

Bet You Didn't Know: Powertrains are likely to get more diverse with a smaller 5.0L V-8 Cummins due out next year, and a two-mode hybrid expected the year after that.

From the outset of our Truck of the Year competition (in fact, even before that), we had a pretty good idea the real match-up was going to be between the two big boys, Dodge and Ford. It doesn't happen often that two new half-ton pickup trucks come out in the same year, but this classic confrontation between our two half-tons seemed inevitable.

The new Dodge Ram now offers three different cab configurations, with the addition of an all-new Crew Cab model. In the past, Ram 1500s offered only a Regular Cab and Quad Cab model (the MegaCabs were available only on the heavy-duty platform), and the Quads were often criticized for lack of space. Now Dodge has a true crew cab in its lineup to better compete. Also, this Ram offers a segment-first RamBox option to go along with the Crew Cab model with lockable, weatherproof, illuminated in-bed storage bins that essentially provide a small trunk on each side of the bed. The unique bed comes only on Crew Cab models as a $1295 option. The RamBox solution means bed width is slightly compromised, but the option does include a unique bed-extender that can be used as a bed divider.

The three cab configurations offer two wheelbases (120.5 and 140.5 inches), short (six feet, four inches) and long bed (eight feet) lengths in Regular and Quad Cab models, with a choice of the RamBox or standard shorter-bed length (five feet, seven inches) in all Crew Cab models. Dodge offers five different trim levels (ST, SLT, TRX, Sport, and the topline Laramie), with two specialty packages, Lone Star and Big Horn trims, to satisfy other upper-end buyers.

The three engine choices include a 3.7-liter V-6 (210 horsepower, 235 pound-feet of torque), a 4.7-liter V-8 (310 horse, 330 pound-feet), and newly modified 5.7-liter Hemi (390 horse, 407 pound-feet). Neither of the first two engine choices are changed much from last year's model; however, the Hemi offers new variable valve timing, a more aggressive multidisplacement system, an active short- and long-runner intake setup, and an increased compression ratio. Essentially, this allows the biggest and most powerful V-8 option for Ram to feature quicker response and better fuel economy than the previous 5.7-liter V-8.