Its new shape gives the Ram a much sleeker, more aerodynamic look with a 0.419 coefficient of drag (compared with the previous 0.463 Cd of the old Ram . The most significant feature of the truck is still the cross-haired wide-mouth grille, but designers canted it forward this time, much like the Dodge Charger's, to give it a more head-down look.

For our testing, Dodge loaned us two trucks that couldn't be more different: an ST regular cab, 4x2, V-6, listing under $24,000 and a fully loaded Laramie Crew Cab 4x4 with just about every bell and whistle possible, totaling out at over $50,000. Most judges commented on the hugely improved interior layout and material choices in the Ram, noting this could be the best Chrysler-originated interior ever. Materials, seams, touch-points, and overall function are hugely improved and competitive in the segment. Likewise, both Dodge powertrains drew praise from judges as the smallish V-6 held its own during our on- and off-road segments; while the throaty 5.7-liter Hemi tore up the test track with a blistering 6.9 seconds to 60 mph in fully loaded dress. (The R/T we tested did 0-to-60 mph in 5.7 seconds. Wow.) Also, as we test our trucks with a quantifiable load (75 percent of max towing capacity), it's worth noting the Hemi Crew Cab was slowed the least by its burden. Another area where the Rams stood out was on our Axle Hop Hill test section, where the coil springs, in both base and loaded models, absorbed and swallowed uneven humps and road irregularities with unusual dexterity.

So why didn't the Ram take home the Calipers? There's a strong value argument to make here. With a price range from $22,000 on up to $50,000, there's plenty of bang for the buck. For those buyers looking for as many accessory options or custom-look trucks, there are plenty of choices. And there's no question the new Ram is a significant player, possibly a bellwether for the entire full-size pickup-truck segment.

For many, the issue boils down to superiority. The Ram doesn't offer the breadth and depth in the model lineup Ford or GM does. The steering feel is less responsive and precise than they should be, making the truck feel and respond like a larger truck-certainly when compared with the new F-150's. While there's plenty of significance and value here, but in the final computations, the Ram is just a tad less superior than the Ford.

2009 Dodge Ram
Base price range $18,200-$29,900
Models tested 1500 ST Reg Cab 1500 Laramie Crew Cab
Price as tested $23,875 $50,425
Vehicle layout Front engine, RWD, 3-pass, 2-door pickup Front engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door pickup
Engine 3.7L/210-hp/235-lb-ft SOHC 12V V-6 5.7L/390-hp/407-lb-ft OHV 16V V-8
Transmission 4-speed automatic 5-speed automatic
Curb weight (dist f/r) 4567 lb (55/45%) 5851 lb (56/44%)
Wheelbase 120.5 in 140.5 in
Length x width x height 209.0 x 79.4 x 74.6 in 229.0 x 79.4 x 75.7 in
Actual payload capacity 1458 lb 949 lb
Max towing capacity 3800 lb 7300 lb
0-60 mph 9.8/17.7 sec* 6.9/14.8 sec*
Quarter mile 17.2 sec @ 80.3 mph/21.1 sec @ 64.9 mph* 15.2 sec @ 88.7 mph/20.2 sec @ 71.1 mph*
Braking, 60-0 mph 138 ft 134 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.72 g (avg) 0.68 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy econ 14/20 mpg 13/18 mpg
CO2 emmisions 1.20 lb/mile 1.31 lb/mile
Engineering ****
Design *****
Interior ****
Performance ****
Hauling ***
Safety ****
Value ****
Amazing for the segment, but steering away from work-truck capability puts shot off target.
*Towing 2800-lb (ST) or 5500-lb (Laramie) trailer