Dodge engineers were well aware that model-year 2006 marked a new frontal crash-test requirement for trucks and that new rear-impact crash regulations would be coming soon after. They knew one solution would be to tack on enough parts to pass muster; however, the answer that made more sense was to put a new frame under the Ram 1500 and, while they were at it, keep the truck competitive by giving it a huge list of improvements. By the time they were done, the refreshed Ram was nearly all-new, only four years after the Ram was completely redone.

While its new frame is still hydroformed, it now has replaceable rail tips, like the Dakota's frame. The new frame also creates a larger crush zone in front, for increased safety. Bending stiffness increased by 17 percent, and torsional stiffness is up 5.5 percent, improving ride and handling and decreasing cabin noise. The suspension has been changed as well, further improving how the truck handles on the road. On all 1500-based trucks, the springs, jounce bumpers, and bushings were retuned, and the monotube shocks are specifically tuned to match the suspension changes. Also, four-wheel-drive models receive a new front suspension: A double-wishbone, coil-over-shock setup replaces the torsion bars on prior models. The leaf-spring rear and four-wheel disc brakes remain essentially unchanged.

Powertrain changes are subtle, but significant. DaimlerChrysler's Multi-Displacement System, the company's cylinder deactivation, is now standard with all 5.7-liter Hemi-equipped Rams. The power remains the same, at 345 horses and 375 pound-feet, but allows fuel-economy improvements of up to 20 percent. There are no lights that indicate when MDS is active. The 3.7-liter V-6 and 4.7-liter V-8 are the other engines that round out the line, and there are still one manual and two automatic transmissions. But the 45RFE, the optional four-speed automatic mated to the V-6, benefits from variable line pressure, said to improve fuel economy and provide smoother shifts.

Dodge refined the truck's four-wheel-drive options. If you're a fan of the manual NV241 transfer case, snap up a 2005 model. Now, the standard system is the electric-shift NV244, which provides up to a 45/55 front/rear torque split when in four-wheel drive. The new optional system, the NV246, is an electric on-demand system. Another new bit of standard equipment on 4x4 Rams is a front-axle disconnect that allows rear drive when appropriate, to improve fuel economy.