Maybe the most dramatic change to the new Ram is inside the cabin. Dodge interiors have long been at the bottom of the segment; however, material upgrades, design layout, and convenience details are sure to make the new Ram a stronger player. The base ST cloth bench seats, as well as the top-grade Laramie leather buckets, have a sportier, well-supported character, with firmer seat bolsters in all the seatback and seat-bottom choices. Dash surrounds look more like furniture-grade choice, and gauge clusters and backings are well organized and clean. Seating configurations allow for a bucket seat/center console option on upper trim levels, as well as a more work-truck bench-seat option (it has bucket-type 40/20/40 seats) with a traditional column shifter that includes a convenient manual thumb shifter. Storage cubbies and slots abound, including two hidden six-pack floor doors at the rear passenger's feet in Quad Cab and Crew Cab models.

Still, outside is where many will feel the new Ram takes its most significant risk. Dodge designers have throttled back the "big-rig" look that so defined the revolutionary 1994 model. Now the Ram has a more polished and styled appearance, more balance between front and rear wheels (with none of that "butt in the air" look). Ralph Gilles, newly appointed vice president of Design for Chrysler and lead designer on the new Ram, worked with his team for more than two years to make the new truck look modern, yet still appealing to a typically traditional buyer.

The resulting slant-forward, head-tilted look of the new hood and grille gives the impression the truck is leaning toward you, as if it were putting a finger in your chest during an argument. This look, along with the smooth lines, wider wheel arches, and higher window heights (while keeping the bed height reasonable for an average man to reach into the bed) combine to give the new Ram a more sophisticated look, setting itself apart from the other competitors in the field. But does it work? We had the new Regular Cab 2WD R/T for a few days around Southern California, and if the reaction from the guys on the road is any indication, Dodge may have something here.

Our Inferno Red R/T had body-color bumpers with a few light chrome accents. Our test unit weighed only 4779 pounds, which gives it a strong power-to-weight ratio of 12.3 pounds per horsepower. The 4.10:1 axle gears and sticky Goodyear Wrangler HP tires don't hurt, either. At the track, this translated to 5.7 seconds 0-to-60 mph, and gave us a nice thrill ride around the streets of L.A. Dodge didn't ignore the stopping tech, either. Although essentially carryover technology from the previous gen, the stopping distance from 60 mph was a respectable 135 feet-10 feet shorter than a comparably equipped Tundra. We found it easy to get 19 mpg on the instant computer fuel-economy readout and took note of when the MDS kicked into fuel-saving mode.