First Look: 2009 Dodge Ram

Size, Solutions, and a New Face from Dodge--Is It Enough?

Mark WilliamsFeb 14, 2008
If you think things are tough at Ford right now, imagine what it's like for the Dodge guys. They all have new owners.Most probably have new bosses. And now they have to make a new Dodge Ram. Not to belabor the point, but competition couldn't be more fierce, the economy couldn't be gloomier, and a home run couldn't be more needed. However, from what we've seen and heard from Ralph Gilles(famous for his Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger designs) and the Dodge engineering team, this new Ram could be the first of many strong efforts to bring Chrysler back among the living.
Beauty is Skin Deep
From the outset, designers understood this couldn't be a moderate evolution of the existing Dodge Ram. It needed to be bolder, especially with the new F-150 hot on its trail. Most notably, Dodge focused on the grille, giving it a more "Charger-esque" stance by tilting it forward, giving it a leaning-into-you look or, as one designer put it, "We wanted to give it a 'finger-in-yourchest' feel when people see it go by." Look at it and squint--the new design looks more aggressive, like a charging ram with its head down.
Other, more subtle cues come in the form of a reshaped (now aluminum) hood, redesigned headlamps, meatier front bumpers, and more defined and larger wheel arches. The beltline has been raised to give the truck a more massive feel as well.
Photo 2/11
The cabin also has received a healthy dose of attention. There's been a huge push to get more of the truck's budget spent inside the cab on material choices and layout design. This is instantly apparent when you see the new gauge cluster and center stack. Gone are the angular chops and blocks from the previous gen, replaced with furniture-quality materials and a more integrated, organic look all around. A gated, center-console-mounted sport shifter replaces the column unit (except on work-truck models), and even front and rear seats are all new. However, as nice and thought out as the inside and outside design changes are, this truck will live or die by what the engineers have accomplished.
Where's the Beef?
Underhood, Dodge will offer three improved, but essentially carryover engines--the 3.7-liter V-6, only available on 4x2 regular cab and Quad Cab models; the 4.7-liter V-8, available across the board with a five-speed auto; and the 5.7-liter Hemi, also available across the board with the five-speed auto. Dodge is calling this the "new" Hemi because of several mechanical and software changes, yielding significant results. The new variable valve timing technology allowed Dodge tuners to use a higher compression rating and a more aggressive MDS (multidisplacement system) program. Additionally, they're usinga new cylinder head, an active intake manifold (with short and long runners), and a less restrictive exhaust. The results? 2009 Dodge Rams will get 10 percent more horsepower (380 from 345), eight percent more torque (404 from 375), and a predicted four-percent improvement in fuel economy (manufacturer estimates). Additionally, the five-speed automatic allows for an optional floor-mounted automatic shifter. There's no word yet on a new SRT version, but Dodge is offering a Sport package, and we've heard some grumblings that Dodge may try to make the 6.1 Hemi work. You can expect a baby Cummins to be available before the 2010 model (more specifics later).
Peeking Underneath
Even bigger news than the engine updates is actually found underneath the new Dodge Ram. The 2009 Ram will be the first full-size dedicated pickup-truck platform to use coil springs for its rear suspension (although you could argue the Avalanche or Ridge-line are full-size). The live-axle design and more tuneable coil springs are designed to offer a better empty/aroundtown feel for truck owners. As a consequence, Dodge isn't trying to compete with Toyota, Ford, and Chevy for the max-payload or max-towing crown. Instead, it's content to offer its buyers-- some of which will be first-time truck guys--a smoother daily-driving experience. There are certain models that'll be capable of carrying up to 1800 pounds and towing a 9000-pound trailer. We're told the coil-spring suspension weighs about 40 pounds less than a comparably sized leaf-spring setup and helped when Dodge integrated some new bed features.
Bed Tech
Dodge is now offering a real four-fullsize-door Crew Cab in its half-ton models to better compete with every other half-ton truck manufacturer, which already offers them. It's about time, especially considering almost half the pickup trucks sold are four-doors. But Dodge knew it had to be different. Different, in this case, is called the RamBox.
Photo 6/11
The RamBox has two integrated, lit storage bins that run the length of the 5.6-foot bed. These lockable storage areas have more cubic feet of storage than some small car trunks. And it's a segment exclusive. The bed also has a sliding cargo-management system with adjustable cleats. This puts them on par with everyone else. There's a collapsible bed extender that folds into the tailgate--we haven't seen that before. And there are configurable bed dividers to help control and store loads. The RamBox inner bedwalls are narrower than non-RamBox beds, due to the use of the wheelwell space for the storage bins. It loses some bed-storage volume as well.
Photo 10/11
What's Next?
As clever as many of these segment-new solutions are, to stay competitive, the new Ram can't just work and play like the old model--it needs to be quantum leaps ahead just to stay even. And from what we've seen so far, Dodge seems to be on the right track. Let the Ram HDs take care of those who need the bigger hauling and towing capacities.Nodoubtthemorepowerfuldesign will play well for them when the HD trucks get their redesign late next year. Certainly the Chrysler (and Cerberus) and Dodge loyalists know that this vehicle--the largest-selling product they have--could make or break the company if this isn't done right (in many ways just like Ford with its F-150). Can't wait to see who blinks first.
Quick Look
Engines (3): 3.7L (210/235) V-6, 4.7L (310/330) V-8, 5.7L (380/404) V-8 (baby Cummins in 2010)
Trim levels (5): ST, SLT, TRX, Sport, Laramie
Photo 11/11
Bed lengths (3): 5.7-ft, 6.3-ft, 8.0-ft
Cabs (3): Regular, Quad Cab, Crew Cab
Models (4): Reg Cab Shortbox, Reg cab longbox, Quad Cab Shortbox, Crew Cab Shortbox
Axle choices (4): 3.21:1, 3.55:1, 3.92:1, 4.10:1
Coolest features (4): Floormounted tranny shifter, in-floor storage for Crew Cab, RamBox, aviation-grip shifter.

2009 Dodge Ram
GENERAL
Location of final assembly St. Louis, MO; Warren, MI
Body styles Regular cab, Quad Cab, Crew Cab
EPA size class Standard pickup
Drivetrain layout Front engine, RWD/4WD
Airbags Front, front side, head curtain
POWERTRAIN
Base engine 90 V-6, 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 SFI
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm 210 @ 5200
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 235 @ 4000
Opt engine 90 V-8, iron block/alum heads
Bore x stroke, in 3.60 x 3.40
Displacement, ci/L 287/4.7
Compression ratio 9.8:1
Valve gear SOHC, 2 valves/cyl
Fuel induction SFI
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm 310 @ 5650
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 330 @ 3950
Opt engine 90 V-8, iron block/alum heads
Bore x stroke, in 3.92 x 3.58
Displacement, ci/L 345/5.7
Compression ratio 10.5:1
Valve gear OHV, 2 valves/cyl, variable valve timing
Fuel induction SFI
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm 380 @ 5600
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 404 @ 4000
Base transmission Getrag 238 6-speed manual (3.7L)
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 transmission 42RLE 4-speed automatic (3.7L)
1st 2.84:1
2nd 1.57:1
3rd 1.00:1
4th 0.69:1
Reverse 2.21:1
Opt transmission 545RFE 5-speed automatic (4.7L, 5.7L)
1st 3.00:1
2nd 1.67:1/1.50:1
3rd 1.00:1
4th 0.75:1
5th 0.67:1
Reverse 3.00:1
Axle ratio 3.21:1, 3.55:1, 3.92:1, 4.10:1
Transfer-case model NVG 243/246
Low-range ratio 2.72:1
Recommended fuel Regular unleaded
DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES
Wheelbase, in 120.0, 140.0
Length, in 209.0, 226.0, 227.5, 229.0
Width, in 79.4
Height, in 74.8
Track, f/r, in 68.1/67.5
Crew Cab headroom, f/r, in 41.0/39.9
Crew Cab legroom, f/r, in 41.0/39.4
Crew Cab shoulder room, f/r, in 66.0/65.7
Bed volume, cu ft 45.9, 52.4, 74.9
Bed lengths, ft 5.7, 6.3, 8.0
Width bet wheelhousings, in 51
Base curb weight, lb 4500-5350
Max payload capacity, lb 1290-1850
GVWR, lb 6025-6800
GCWR, lb 8000-14,000
Max towing capacity, lb 3000-9000
Fuel capacity, gal 26.0 (32.0 opt)
CHASSIS
Construction Hydroformed ladder frame
Suspension, f/r Independent, double A-arm, coilover/solid axle, coil, five-link
Steering type Power rack-and-pinion
Ratio 17.7:1 (longbox); 19.1:1 (shortbox)
Turning circle, ft 45.1, 39.5
Brakes, f/r 13.2-in vented disc/13.8-in vented disc, ABS
PERFORMANCE
Acceleration, 0-60, sec 6.9 (mfr est)
EPA fuel econ, city/hwy, mpg 13-15/19-20

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