What's New for 2008
The 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 gains a revised 4.7-liter V8 which boasts more power and somewhat better fuel economy. Trailer Sway Control has been added to the optional stability control, while four-wheel-drive models get a revised steering linkage.
If you believe the commercials, trucks can do anything. They can come within an inch of careening off a 100-yard steel plank into a canyon. They can drive around our country accompanied by a constant soundtrack loop of John Mellencamp. The 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 is apparently capable of withstanding an incessant pounding from a 13-foot tall Rock 'Em Sock 'Em robot. Although these are obvious exaggerations, they demonstrate what full-size trucks are meant to convey: all-American macho machines that are indestructible. With its big-rig styling and workhorse capabilities, the Dodge Ram personifies this image.
For 2008, the Ram gets a little more macho. The 4.7-liter V8 has been upgraded significantly, boosting output from 235 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque to a robust 310 hp and 330 lb-ft. That moves it from having a slight advantage over the base V6 to nipping at the heels of the mighty Hemi V8. Dodge is quick to point out that the 4.7-liter gets slightly better fuel economy to match its power boost, but with a 1 mpg increase to 15 combined mpg, that's like saying getting punched in the head by Hulk Hogan is slightly better than getting a roundhouse from Lennox Lewis.
Introduced in 2003, the current-generation Ram is the elder statesman of its segment, but it still manages to offer better-than-average handling reflexes, a full menu of available creature comforts and that big-rig exterior styling, which is (quite arguably) the manliest of this very manly vehicle category. Plus, the Ram's Mega Cab, which stretches the Quad Cab by 20 inches, provides rear quarters that challenge most large sedans for sprawl space. The rear seatback even reclines.
The Dodge Ram has consistently ranked in 3rd place on the sales charts behind Ford and GM's full-size pickups, and today sees Toyota creeping dangerously close into the Ram's territory. Sales only tell so much of a story, as in terms of overall quality and desirability, the newer Toyota Tundra and Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra twins are the benchmarks among full-size pickups. However, those willing to sacrifice a little refinement for some of that Rock 'Em Sock 'Em style will find the 2008 Dodge Ram a thoroughly competent all-American macho machine.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 is a half-ton full-size pickup truck. There are three body styles to choose from: regular cab, Quad Cab (a crew cab) and Mega Cab (jumbo crew cab). The regular and Quad are available with either a regular short cargo bed or a long bed. The Mega Cab rides on the same-length wheelbase as the Quad Cab long bed but pairs an even bigger cabin with the short bed.
The Ram is further offered in ST, SXT, SLT and Laramie trims. The bare-bones ST comes with 17-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, a 40/20/40 front bench seat, vinyl upholstery, tilt steering wheel, manual windows and a four-speaker CD stereo with auxiliary audio jack. The SXT is largely similar and is available only with the Mega Cab. Options on these two trims include power heated mirrors, a power-sliding rear window, cruise control and satellite radio.
The Ram SLT comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and full power accessories, plus the availability of additional optional features. It is not available with the Mega Cab. The SLT can be outfitted with a Sport Package that adds unique bucket seats, a body-color grille and 20-inch chrome-clad wheels. The top-line Laramie trim adds dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a power driver seat, heated front seats, seven Infinity speakers and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. The Laramie is not available with the regular cab.
Options for the SLT and Laramie include a sunroof, 20-inch wheels (excluding the Sport), power-adjustable pedals, front bucket seats (excluding Sport), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, a navigation system, a rear-seat entertainment system, remote vehicle start, satellite radio and an upgraded stereo with six-CD changer.
Powertrains and Performance
All Dodge Ram models are available with either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. Regular cab 2WD ST's come with a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 215 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque. Optional on the ST and standard on the SLT is this year's revised 4.7-liter V8 that makes 310 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. Optional on the SLT and standard on SXT and Laramie is a 5.7-liter "Hemi" V8 that provides 345 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. When properly equipped, a Ram can pull up to 9,100 pounds.
A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the V6, with a four-speed automatic optional. The 4.7-liter V8 gets a choice of six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. The Hemi V8 comes standard with the five-speed automatic. Fuel economy for the Ram doesn't change much between powertrains, as each returns around 13 mpg city and 18 mpg highway.
Four-wheel disc brakes with rear ABS are standard on the ST and SLT. The SXT and Laramie come with full four-wheel ABS, but it's optional on the other trims. Power-adjustable pedals are optional on most Rams and standard for the Laramie. For all Ram 1500s, full-length side curtain airbags are optional. Stability control is also optional on all trims except the Laramie, in which case it's standard. In government crash tests, the 2008 Dodge Ram earned five out of five stars for its protection of front occupants in head-on collisions. Frontal-offset collision testing performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety similarly resulted in a top rating of "Good."
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2008 Ram's cabin features white-faced gauges, simple twist-knob climate controls and a huge center armrest/bin. Although it is a straightforward, user-friendly design, the cabin's materials quality trails that of newer competitors. Crew cabs can seat up to six people and the rear seats fold up to reveal a flat load floor for carrying large items inside. Unfortunately, rear seating in Quad Cabs is noticeably more cramped than in competitors' crew-cab trucks. The Mega Cab more than compensates by expanding legroom by nearly a foot and offering a comfy, reclining backseat. If carrying passengers in comfort is a priority equal to pickup utility, it's hard to do better than a Ram Mega Cab model.
Considering its size, the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 is nimble and easy to drive. Ride quality can still be a bit bouncy at times, but when loaded up with passengers and cargo, the Ram is downright comfortable. The new 4.7-liter is a welcome addition and no longer makes the 5.7-liter V8 a near necessity. Both mills provide plenty of power for trailer towing and big payloads, and it's important to note that neither offers a fuel economy advantage versus each other and the V6.