The Ram's appearance has changed, putting it more in line with the looks of the new Dakota. The new headlights lose the 2005's dual curves at the bottom, the full-chrome grille looks more chiseled, and the front fascia and fenders also were updated. The headlights provide light that is 22 percent stronger, with a significantly improved level of visibility (beam spectrum). A rear spoiler is now mounted on the tailgate to improve fuel economy. There also is a new trim level: The Sport package was such a popular choice, it's now a separate model, joining ST, SLT, and Laramie. Sport-equipped trucks come with bucket seats, 20-inch wheels, and the six-foot bed, and can be two- or four-wheel drive, regular or Quad Cab.

The most noticeable cabin refinements improve noise levels and functionality. New cab mounts are designed to reduce NVH, and to that end, more insulation was added, new, thicker laminated glass is used, and the doors have reengineered triple seals. The interior was redone as well: A new instrument panel, designed for reduced glare, has a wider center stack, new HVAC controls, and new wood and metal accents. A full-screen stereo/nav is a new option, as is rear-seat DVD entertainment (Quad Cabs). The seats are new, with improved leather and stitching, and bucket seats and full center console are available on SLT, Sport, and Laramie models. In addition, a new option is a power-sliding rear window.

The new Ram is much quieter than the outgoing truck, and ride and handling were greatly improved. The ride feels solid and stable, even on choppy, rough road. The new interior looks good, but still uses liberal amounts of hard-touch plastic throughout. Dodge did an excellent job of making this half-ton more competitive with the Titan and new F-150. Only time will tell if it can hold its own with the new Silverado and upcoming Tundra.

Engine options remain the same for 2006, with notable improvements. The 5.7-liter, 345-horsepower V-8 benefits from the manufacturer's Multi-Displacement System, a cylinder shutoff system said to dramatically increase fuel efficiency. Also, the 45RFE, optional with the V-6, was improved for smoother shifts and better fuel economy.