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.

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.

2006 Dodge Ram
General
Location of final assembly St. Louis, Missouri and Warren, Michigan
Body style Regular and Quad Cab
EPA size class Standard full-size pickup
Drivetrain layout Front engine, 2WD/4WD
Airbags Front (std), side (opt)
Powertrain
Engine type 90° V-6, cast-iron block, alum heads
Bore x stroke, in 3.66 x 3.57
Displacement, ci/L 226/3.7
Compression ratio 9.7:1
Valve gear SOHC, 2 valves/cyl
Fuel induction Sequential multiport
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm 215 @ 5200
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 235 @ 4000
Transmission type Getrag G56 6-speed manual
1st 4.23:1
2nd 2.53:1
3rd 1.67:1
4th 1.23:1
5th 1.00:1
6th 0.79:1
Reverse 3.84:1
Opt engine 90o V-8, cast-iron block, alum heads
Bore x stroke, in 3.66 x 3.40
Displacement, ci/L 287/4.7
Compression ratio 9.0:1
Valve gear SOHC, 2 valves/cyl
Fuel induction Sequential multiport
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm 235 @ 4800
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 300 @ 3200
Transmission type 45RFE multispeed automatic
1st 3.00:1
2nd 1.67:1 upshift, 1.50:1 kickdown
3rd 1.00:1
4th 0.75:1
Reverse 3.00:1
Opt engine 90° V-8, cast-iron block, alum heads
Bore x stroke, in 3.92 x 3.58
Displacement, ci/L 343/5.7
Compression ratio 9.6:1
Valve gear OHV, 2 valves/cyl
Fuel induction Sequential multiport
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm 345 @ 5400
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 375 @ 4200
Transmission type 5-45RFE 5-speed automatic
1st 3.00:1
2nd 1.67:1 upshift, 1.50:1 kickdown
3rd 1.00:1
4th 0.75:1
5th 0.67:1
Reverse 3.00:1
Axle ratios 3.21:1, 3.55:1, 3.92:1
Final-drive ratios 2.38:1-3.10:1
Transfer-case model NV244, NV246
Low-range ratio 2.72:1
Dimensions/Capacities
Wheelbase, in 140.5, 160.5
Length, in 227.7, 249.7
Width, in 79.5
Height, in 73.8-75.9
Track, f/r, in 68.6/67.9, 68.0/67.9
Headroom, f/r, in 40.8/40.0
Legroom, f/r, in 41.0/36.7
Shoulder room f/r, in 67.0/66.7
Min ground clearance, in 7.3
App/dep angle, deg 14.7/14.9, 18.3/18.4
Bed size LxWxD, in 75.6x70.2x20.2, 96.0x66.4x20.2
Base curb weight, lb 4560
Max payload capacity, lb 1800
GVWR, lb 6700
GCWR, lb 14,000
Towing capacity, lb 8750
Fuel capacity, gal 26.0, 35.0
Chassis
Suspension, f/r Upper and lower A-arms, coilsprings/live axle, leaf springs
Steering type Rack-and-pinion
Ratio 14.1:1, 13.3:1
Turning circle, ft 46.0, 52.5
Brakes, f/r 13.2-in vented disc/13.8-in disc,4WABS (opt)
EPA fuel economy (city/hwy) 13-16/17-21

2006 Ram SRT10
Both the Regular Cab and Quad Cab SRT10 (the name loses the hyphen for 2006) benefit from the improvements made to the standard half-ton 1500. The cabin uses new seats, a new instrument panel, and a new center console and was engineered for reduced noise, vibration, and harshness.

The styling changes as well, with new front fascia, grille, headlamps, and fenders. In the rear, the aluminum tonneau was made standard equipment on both models, and receives an attached spoiler, different from the one attached to last year's pickup's bedrails. If would-be SRT buyers are hooked on the 2005 look, it's easy to duplicate. The tonneau can be removed by detaching two bolts and quick-release gas struts, and the other spoiler, which can still mount to the bedrails, is available from Mopar.

The SRT10 also gets the new hydroformed, fully boxed frame, and, with it, changes to the suspension. While the overall layout of the front suspension is the same as the 2005, there were modifications to its components. In addition to all of the Ram 1500's suspension changes, the SRT10 has larger rubber lower control-arm bushings, tuned for lateral and vertical compliance. The lowering springs, unique to the SRT10, receive new spring rates for 2006 and the Bilstein shocks were retuned. The front anti-roll bar is thicker, going from 33mm to 38. In the rear, the geometry remains the same, but those shocks also were retuned, and there is a new lowering suspension with a power-hop control system (for the Regular Cab), which comes with snubber springs and an anti-windup monotube shock. The Regular Cab receives a 23mm anti-roll bar in back, while the Quad Cab does not.--A.H.

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