2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Sport Quad Cab 4X2Posted on September 1st, 2008
Full-sized pickup has a new hemi engine and enhanced cargo capability.
By Nina Russin
Rising fuel prices and the downturn in the economy are creating rough
waters in the light-duty truck market. Dodge execs hope a new hemi engine and innovative cargo solutions on the 2009 Ram will convince buyers that full-sized trucks are the right fit for active lifestyles.
The mid-sized Honda Ridgeline made design history by offering dry lockable storage under the cargo bed. The new RamBox uses a similar concept, creating dry lockable storage in the dead space around the Ram’s rear wheel wells.
The bins, with drain plugs in the floors are big enough to store tools, kayak paddles, and golf clubs. The ignition key unlocks the bins, and the truck tailgate.
The stand-alone factory option also includes a cargo divider and bed extender. Dodge plans to announce pricing next month: the Ram box will be available on all ’09 Ram crew cab models, beginning in October.
V8 power meets V6 fuel economy
The Ram’s new 5.7-liter hemi V8 will eventually be part of a hybrid model that rolls out next year. A multiple displacement system shuts off half the engine cylinders when power demands are low to save gas.
A light on the dash tells the driver when the truck is in four-cylinder mode. Variable valve timing and an active intake manifold help to minimize emissions while maintaining excellent acceleration.
The 390-horsepower hemi is one of three engine options on the new Ram: buyers can also opt for the base V6, or 4.7-liter V8. Hemi buyers enjoy similar fuel economy to the V6. On the 4X2 model, both engines get 14 miles-per-gallon in the city. The V6 gets 21 mpg on the highway, versus 20 for the hemi V8.
Aggressive styling and refined aerodynamics
Dodge got high approval ratings from current truck owners for the outgoing model’s aggressive exterior. The new Ram carries the theme of the current truck further, with bigger badging, and a slanted front grille based on the Dodge Charger design.
Designers reduced the new Ram’s aerodynamic drag by eliminating unneccessary gaps in the body, refining the hood’s profile, redesigning side mirrors, and adding a spoiler at the top of the tailgate.
Inside, the new Ram is more passenger car than truck, with a leather stitched captain’s chairs, a versatile center console, dual gloveboxes, multiple power points, and cupholders.
For the first time, Dodge is offering a crew cab: appealing to families who use their pickup as a primary vehicle. Two under-floor storage bins in front of the second-row seats hold cold beverages: the liners are removable for cleaning.
Storage bins under the second-row seats hold groceries and other small items in the secure cabin, without impinging on legroom in back.
Sport grade focuses on on-road performance
I drove the Sport Quad Cab at a recent press event in Santa Barbara. The Sport is one of five available grades, including a base model priced from $22,170. The Sport comes with twenty-inch wheels and dual exhausts: a hemi engine on the test truck adds about $1000 to its $29,475 base sticker price.
The new engine makes the Ram handle like a much smaller car: zero-to-sixty acceleration is under six seconds. Throttle response is incredibly good: it simply doesn’t feel like a 5200-pound truck.
A five-speed automatic transmission is well-matched to the engine. There is no noticeable shift shock during normal driving. Even during hard acceleration, the gearbox doesn’t shift hard. The driver can manually select gears using a gate shifter on the floor console.
Our drive route took us inland on two-lane roads towards Santa Ynez and Solvang. I had the opportunity to pass a slow-moving construction truck on an uphill. I was able to complete the pass in a relatively short window between switchbacks.
Four-wheel disc brakes with standard antilock braking stop the truck in firm linear fashion without being grabby. The steering has a light touch closer to passenger cars than full-sized trucks. But it’s responsive at any speed, with an adequate on-center feel on the highway.
Dodge bucked the traditional practice of using leaf springs in the rear suspension: a solid axle coil suspension provides a more compliant ride. A track bar in back enhances lateral stiffness to keep the wheels planted, and eliminates wheel skate.
Designers lowered the side mirrors to enhance aerodynamics: the measure also improves the driver’s forward vision merging onto the freeway.
Our truck came equipped with an audible rear back-up warning system. As a buyer, I’d opt for the rear camera backup. A camera mounted in the tailgate displays a wide-angle view to the rear in the navigation screen. The Ram is a big vehicle to park: the rearview system makes it much easier to back into the average space.
Inside, the truck has optional leather trim, with heated and cooled front captain’s chairs, a heated steering wheel, and the MyGig downloadable hard drive that stores tunes and photos.
The captain’s chairs are extremely comfortable, with enough power adjustments to meet the needs of various sized drivers. A standard tilt steering wheel is easy to adjust for optimal forward vision.
Redundant steering wheel controls on the test truck adjust volume and scroll through a digital information display on the gauge cluster. Designers pushed the center stack out from the instrument panel, making audio and climate control knobs easier for the driver and front passenger to reach.
The center console is well-suited for a person who uses his truck as a mobile office. A flat surface under the console lid is large enough for a computer. The center stack includes both a 115-volt inverter and a 12-volt power point. A second 12-volt power point in the floor console allows both front-row passengers to recharge electronic devices on the go.
Both front doors have dual bottle holders and map pockets. The bottle holders are too low for a small person to reach while driving, but they come in handy for stashing extra beverages. Cupholders in the floor console are large enough for water bottles.
An optional power sunroof brings extra ambient light inside. Dual front reading lamps and a single overhead lamp in back illuminate the interior at night.
The rear seats don’t have the legroom of the crew cab model, but average-sized adults should be comfortable enough on short trips. Two cupholders in the floor hold beverages for second-row passengers, while a 12-volt power point in back of the center console allows them to plug in electronic devices.
The floor console has a couple of small bins for holding cell phones and PDAs. A large bin under the center console armrest is big enough for a purse or small pack.
Cargo bed is easy to load
Designers added a rubber step pad in back to make it easier to load up the cargo bed. Standard tie-down cleats help to secure larger items.
The cargo bed on the quad and crew cab models is relatively short, to minimize overall length. Those who plan to carry long items such as bikes and kayaks should either purchase the RamBox with the bed extender, or plan to add a separate rack.
The Ram comes standard with a tow hitch rated up to five thousand pounds. An option upgrade increases towing capacity up to 8800 pounds.
The new Dodge Ram is rolling into dealerships nationwide.
Likes: New hemi engine is an exceptional performer. Dodge has vastly improved fit and finish inside and out, while adding additional storage space inside the passenger cabin and the cargo bed.
Dislikes: Side airbags are not available, which makes passengers vulnerable to lower torso injuries in some side-impact collisions.
Model: Ram 1500 Sport Quad Cab 4X2
Base price: $29,475
As tested: $40,065
Horsepower: 390 Hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 407 lbs.-ft @ 4000 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 6 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Off road: Yes, on 4X4 models
Comments: Base price does not include a $900 destination charge.
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