2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Road Test
|Topics: Dodge Ram
7 July 2009
We spent a weekend on the road with Dodge's all-new Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck. Say what you want about the Big Three, they still make the best range of pickups in the world. Big and brash, they can tow a luxury yacht over the Continental Divide with authority, while hosting up to six passengers in sublime comfort. As long as gas is affordable and you can likewise afford the Lexus-like payments on the top models, there's nothing like them.
We put the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Laramie model, the top trim level, to the test by packing up and heading for a weekend of camping and vintage motocross racing in California. With its crew-cab body configuration, Hemi engine and soft leather interior, the Ram was ready.
Room for Gear
You'd think that a weekend of motocross would require almost nothing in the way of gear. Not true. Between a helmet, giant boots and body armor, a race bike and pit bike, tent, chairs and camping gear, tools and supplies, a gas can and cooler and loading ramp, plus a passenger and cold-weather clothes, virtually any pickup will fill up fast. Fortunately the Ram offered a host of handy storage solutions inside the cab. Twin glove boxes, generous door pockets, a broad center console and covered storage bins under the flip-up rear seat augmented the cab's large interior dimensions. We filled up the rear seating area and then some, but left the front of the expansive cab open for the 160-mile drive from the So Cal coast to Tulare, in the state's central valley.
What remained impossible to store in the cab, including the loading ramp, gas can, folding chairs, etc., were secured in the pickup bed. Secured as in with straps—because as generous as the crew cab is in storage volume, the 5.6-ft. pickup bed remains too short for motorcycles. So with the tailgate down, which incidentally confuses the ParkSense backup warning system, we hit the road early on a Saturday and pointed onto the Interstate 5 freeway.
Power and Performance
The Dodge powertrain guys got the Hemi powertrain right. Rated at 390 hp at 5600 rpm and 407 lb-ft. of torque at 4000 rpm, the V8 sings down the open road at just 1800 rpm at 70 mph. Smooth and responsive, it made short work of the infamous Grapevine, a long uphill grade known for its blistering summer heat and slippery winter snows. The sound levels are just as we like them: a whisper-quiet cab at all but the highest cruising speeds, plus a muted rumble out back.
And speaking of the language of power, the Ram has giant 20-inch chrome wheels and massive 275/60R20 tires. Hip-high to an elephant, these rubber-covered steamrollers provide a giant footprint while easing the Dodge's ride over road imperfections. En route, we saw 13.4 mpg on the onboard rolling fuel-economy readout, and later separately calculated 13.7 mpg for our trip. That's tolerable at $1.60 a gallon but downright painful at $4.50. Time will tell where gas prices actually stabilize.
Likes and Dislikes
Some overall likes: The effortless power and highway capability, and the comfortable and roomy cab that heralds a new breed of quality materials for Dodge. While the previous-generation Ram used cheesy plastic components even in the high-end models, the 2009 Ram is significantly better in every detail, an A+ improvement that makes the vehicle genuinely inspirational. So do many user-friendly features such as both 7-pin and flat-4 receptacles for trailer wiring, the rear under-seat storage, a DVD player with 9-inch screen, an outstanding Alpine audio system including XM Radio and MP3 capability, and a super-handy 115-volt AC outlet.
Not too many dislikes except for the truck's aforementioned thirst, an egregious $45,300 MSRP, its lofty bed height and the lack of a standard bed liner, which renders the paint scratched and unsightly after only minimal use. We also don't need the macho front-end styling and a dozen ram's head logos to confirm our manliness, but to each his own.
By the way, it rained Saturday night and, while the big Dodge sat majestically nearby, taunting us with its cushy leather Laramie interior, we suffered in a cold, flapping tent outside. And so after a troublesome race day on the track, the best part of the weekend truly was climbing back into the Ram for the trip home, which proves that sometimes the journey really is the destination.
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