What's New for 2006
Dodge has significantly updated its full-size Ram pickup this year with a new body style, new luxury-oriented features and enhanced hardware. The big news, so to speak, is a new super-sized Mega Cab model. It features a 20-inch-longer cabin to provide best-in-class interior room. All Ram 1500s feature a new dash, center console, seats and radios. A navigation system and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system are newly optional on the Dodge truck. Hardware updates include a stiffened frame and, for 4WD models, a new independent front suspension (excluding the Mega Cab) and a front-axle disconnect system tied into a new electronic transfer case. Dodge has also fitted the Ram's 5.7-liter V8 with a multidisplacement cylinder deactivation system that's said to improve fuel economy in certain driving situations. Wrapping things up for the 2006 Dodge Ram is freshened front-end styling and new wheels.
Although the previous-generation (1994-2001) Ram pickup was a big success for Dodge, Dodge knew it was getting long in the tooth compared to redesigned rivals from Ford and GM. In 2002, the company revamped the Ram, but it was careful not to make any radical changes in terms of styling even though under the skin the Dodge truck benefited from a number of improvements, ranging from a stiffer frame and bigger brakes to the adoption of power-adjustable pedals and a larger passenger compartment in the Quad Cab models.
Realizing that pickups are seeing increased duty as family vehicles and that most folks don't often fill up their pickup's bed, that redesign saw Dodge take 3 inches from the standard bed length (now 6 feet 3 inches) and add it to the passenger compartment. In essence, this design allows the Quad Cab to have the expansive passenger room of a crew cab while keeping the truck's overall length nearly the same as an extended-cab truck. But to make sure that every potential customer's needs are met, an 8-foot bed is still available.
In response to concerns that the old 5.9-liter Magnum V8 had both poor performance and atrocious fuel consumption, Dodge made the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 available in the Ram 1500 in late 2003. With 345 horsepower, this mill with the legendary name makes 100 horses more than the old 5.9-liter Magnum. Torque is also more robust and peaks at a stout 375 pound-feet. Further enhancements for 2006 include a stronger frame, a new 4WD suspension system and fresh exterior style. The new Mega Cab model, which is actually built using a heavy-duty Ram 2500 frame, adds 20 inches to the Quad Cab's cabin. We think highly of the 2006 Dodge Ram, as we appreciate its powerful performance, agile handling, comfortable ride, good crash test scores and tight build quality.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Dodge Ram 1500 is available in three cab styles: regular, Quad Cab (crew cab) and Mega (really big crew cab). The regular and Quad Cab models come with either a short or long cargo bed. The Mega Cab rides on the same wheelbase as the Quad Cab long bed but pairs an even bigger cabin with the short bed. For each body style, Dodge offers an ST, SLT or Laramie trim. The Ram ST is pretty bare-bones; go with the SLT for alloy wheels, standard cruise control, cloth seating, keyless entry and power windows, locks and mirrors. The luxurious Laramie comes with standard upgrades like dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating, a power driver seat, a six-CD changer and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. The selection of available options depends on model and trim but highlights include a navigation system, a rear-seat DVD-based entertainment system, upgraded audio, a Sport package and a TRX4 off-road package.
Powertrains and Performance
Three engines see duty in the Dodge Ram 1500: a 3.7-liter V6 (215 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque), a 4.7-liter V8 (235 hp and 300 lb-ft) and a 5.7-liter V8 (345 hp and 375 lb-ft). A small selection of ST-trim builds comes with the V6 as standard but most Rams have the 4.7-liter V8. The 5.7-liter V8 is typically optional except on the Mega Cab, where it is standard. The two smaller engines are paired with either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. The big V8 comes with an automatic only. Properly equipped, a 4WD Ram Quad Cab can pull 8,600 pounds.
Side curtain airbags are optional on all Ram pickups and all center seats have three-point seatbelts. Four-wheel antilock brakes are optional on the ST and SLT and standard for the Laramie. Crash test scores are impressive, with the 2006 Dodge Ram 1500 garnering a "Good" rating (the highest possible) in frontal-offset crash testing conducted by the IIHS, and five stars from the government for driver and front-passenger protection in frontal impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Ram's cabin features white-faced gauges, simple twist-knob climate controls and a huge center armrest/bin. In Quad Cab models, the rear seats fold up to reveal a flat load floor for carrying large items inside. The rear seats also recline in Mega Cab models. The Dodge Ram pickup also boasts impressive overall build and materials quality that approaches the class leaders in many respects.
For such a big vehicle, the 2006 Dodge Ram 1500 is nimble and easy to drive. The suspension can still be a bit bouncy at times, but when loaded up with passengers and cargo, the Ram's ride quality is downright comfortable. With the 5.7-liter V8, there's plenty of power for hills and hauling, but as expected, fuel mileage still isn't great. Unless you plan on heavy towing, the more efficient 4.7-liter V8 would probably serve your needs just fine.