While being a consistent also-ran to big pickups from Ford and Chevy, the Dodge Ram has carved out a solid fan base with its big rig styling and HEMI V8 power. Now Dodge is further separating its pickup from rivals with innovative new features in an all-new Ram. The new Ram is squarely aimed at personal use buyers rather than workaholics. But, with the truck market in disarray, can innovation keep Ram from butting its head against the wall?

Despite tough times for full-size pickups, Dodge is confident that the all-new 2009 Ram 1500 has the innovation and personal use features to retain and grow its customer base. The familiar big-rig styling remains, but it’s been elevated and wind-tunnel honed for the best aero in its class.

The cross-hair grille is now canted forward, ahead of an aluminum power bulge hood. Gaps were tightened to reduce wind noise, and side sills now cover the frame, and on HEMI models the rear bumper is radiused over the chrome dual exhaust tips. The light duty Ram is finally available as a true 4-door Crew Cab, but the segment is still covered with a regular and Quad Cab, as well as three bed lengths.

The Crew Cab’s 5-foot 7-inch bed can wear the novel RamBox side rail storage system. These lockable, lighted bins are as wide as the wheel wells and include drain holes. The system also includes adjustable bed cargo rails and a combo bed divider, tailgate bed extender.

Rams ride on standard 17-inch wheels with high style 20-inchers available.  Their bounce is controlled by a new multi-link, live axle coil-spring rear suspension. The first coil springs at the rear of a big pickup since Chevy last did it in 1972.

But, HEMI V8 engines have long been a Ram mainstay. For ‘09 the big gun is a reworked 5.7-liter with fuel saving multi-displacement and variable valve timing. Horsepower is up 45 to 390, with 407 pound-feet of torque. A 4.7-liter E85-capable V8 with a stout 310 horsepower is also available, as is a 3.7-liter V6, with 215-horsepower. V8 Rams use a 5-speed automatic with Electric Range Select, which allows the driver to limit the highest gear. 

Ram 4X4 has a standard part-time 2-speed transfer case, with a 2-speed on-demand unit available. Disc brakes with rear anti-lock are standard, and all this hardware came together well when we pushed the new Ram along the twisty pavement and rough dirt roads of California’s hill country.

The coil spring rear suspension really pays off with great ride quality, and little traditional pickup hop. But, Ram also delivers car-like handling with the overall tight feeling of a much smaller vehicle.  The standard electronic stability control and optional limited slip rear, deliver impressive traction even on dirt and gravel.  Hill Start Assist, Brake Assist, and Trailer Sway Control are also part of the stability program.

And for those that think a coil spring rear suspension lacks capabilities, note Ram’s cargo capacity is 1,850 pounds with a maximum of 9,100 pounds of trailer tow. The Ram is also well suited for moving people, thanks to a major interior rethink. The cheap utility look of the past has given way to high style and quality, but with a purpose.

The new dash is better organized with tighter ergonomics, and upper and lower glove boxes. Ram has the only available heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats among full-size pickups.

The combination of wide opening doors and a rear seating area that is now three-adult big, gives the Ram the kind of versatility that every family wants, and the split bench folds when covered cargo room is needed.

The available DVD entertainment system has first in segment Sirius Backseat TV and new in-floor storage bins can be use as coolers. But, with all its new grace and glory the Ram is still a mighty big pickup truck.

Government fuel economy ratings for a Ram 4x2 5.7 HEMI are a thirsty 14 city/20 highway on regular gas. That dictates a high Energy Impact Score of 21.4 barrels of oil per year. But if you run E85 in the 4.7 V8, it drops to a very green 8.0 barrels per year.

Base prices for the sophisticated new Ram are class competitive starting at $22,170, and topping out at $44,140.

It’s our view that switching to a coil spring rear has not caused the Dodge Ram to trade big truck capabilities for a cushier ride.  The new Ram is indeed among most comfortable of light duty pickups. Yet, it also handles better than some cars, still has the HEMI power for mighty big loads, and is filled with creature pleasing features. That’s sounds like a no-compromise design to us, and that’s what being a multi-purpose vehicle is all about.


  • Engine: 4x2 5.7-Liter Hemi
  • Horsepower: 390
  • Torque: 407 Lb Feet
  • EPA: 14 MPG City/ 20 MPG Highway
  • Energy Impact: 21.4 Barrels Oil/Yr