What's New for 2009
The 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 has been fully redesigned. Highlights include a new rear suspension design, updated styling, more power and up-to-date technology.
"This thing rides like a truck." That's not a compliment, and it's usually applied to vehicles with harsh, unsophisticated rides that are more Conestoga wagon than Cadillac. Buyers of full-size pickups have long assumed that such discomfort just comes with the territory. The 2009 Dodge Ram could be the impetus for changing those expectations.
For reasons too numerous to list, full-size pickups have always had leaf-spring rear suspensions, a design that sandwiches strips of steel together to locate the rear axle and to support the truck's weight. It's an inexpensive, durable and time-tested design, but it also causes jerky rear-axle motions that make it difficult to keep the rubber on the road if the surface is less than glass-smooth. In simpler terms, leaf springs and respectable ride comfort don't mix.
The 2009 Ram 1500 is the first full-size pickup that throws leaf springs into the time capsule. Instead, it has a heavy-duty coil rear suspension that not only results in a remarkably civilized ride, but also saves weight, enables the fitment of a rear antiroll bar and improves off-road performance. Don't expect buttery smoothness -- the springs still need to be sturdy enough to sustain the Ram's massive hauling and towing capabilities, so some jiggling over bumps and freeway hop is inevitable. But for a full-size truck, the Ram's relaxed ride is revolutionary.
Elsewhere, the Ram's 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine receives a boost in power, clocking in at an impressive 390 horsepower. Fuel economy is better too, thanks to an improved cylinder deactivation system and a more aerodynamic body. In fact, the 5.7-liter engine gets the same gas mileage as the weakling base V6. The Ram's interior has also been drastically improved, while a number of neat storage options are introduced. A more traditional crew cab replaces the old Ram's Mega Cab, after many customers complained that it was just too mega. While smaller, the new crew cab still boasts limolike rear legroom, though the storage area behind the backseat has been eliminated.
When pitted against other stalwart pickups like the Chevy Silverado, Ford F-150 and Toyota Tundra in a recent comparison test we conducted, the new Dodge Ram edged-out the competition thanks to its all-around excellence. In nearly every ranking, including performance, comfort, design, function and build quality, the Ram consistently earned high marks. It's got all the usual bases covered, yet it doesn't "ride like a truck." Now that's what we call progress, particularly given the cutthroat competition in this segment.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 is a full-size pickup available in multiple body styles and bed lengths. The regular cab seats a maximum of three people on its standard bench seat, and it can be had with either a 6-foot-4-inch bed or an 8-foot version. The extended cab ("Quad Cab") can seat up to six in two bench rows and comes only with the 6-foot-4 bed. The Ram's crew cab model expands rear-seat legroom even further, but is only available with a 5-foot-7-inch bed.
There are three trim levels. The base ST model (available in regular and extended cabs) comes standard with 17-inch steel wheels, vinyl floor covering, air-conditioning, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat, vinyl upholstery, a folding rear bench seat (extended cab only), a tilting steering column and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. Options include chrome-clad steel wheels, cruise control, a bedliner and satellite radio.
The SLT (all cab styles) adds 17-inch alloy wheels, carpet floor covering, cloth upholstery, cruise control, full power accessories, a rear power-sliding window, keyless entry, a trip computer and satellite radio. Exterior options on the SLT include 20-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, "RamBox" storage bins mounted on the sides of the bed, foglamps, rear park assist and a rear parking camera. Inside, the SLT can be fitted with dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable pedals, power front seats, front bucket seats with a center console, a 60/40-split rear seat, leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, a rear window defroster, a rear-seat entertainment system with Sirius Backseat TV, a navigation system with real-time traffic and Bluetooth, and an upgraded stereo with a six-CD changer and iPod integration.
The Sport Package (available on all cab styles) adds some of this equipment, plus the larger V8, a body-colored grille and unique bucket seats. The TRX Package, available on 4x4 Quad and crew cabs, adds skid plates, two-tone paint, heavy-duty rear shocks, tow hooks and fender flares. There are also regional option groups known as the Big Horn and Lone Star Packages, which bundle together a bunch of the SLT's optional equipment along with special badging and trim.
The top-of-the-line Laramie trim level (extended and crew cabs only) comes standard with 20-inch chrome-clad wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-folding exterior mirrors, power-adjustable pedals, driver memory functions, a heated steering wheel, the 60/40-split rear seat, remote engine start, a universal garage opener, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, additional exterior chrome trim, wood-grain interior trim, Bluetooth and a surround-sound audio system with hard-drive-based digital music storage. The Laramie can be equipped with most of the options available on the SLT, if they are not already included.
Powertrains and Performance
The standard engine on the two-wheel-drive Dodge Ram regular and Quad cabs is a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 215 hp and 235 pound-feet of torque. A four-speed automatic is standard. Fuel economy is a meager 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined. Maximum towing capacity when properly equipped is 3,800 pounds.
The standard engine on the four-wheel-drive Ram ST and all SLT models is a 4.7-liter V8 coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission. Output is a healthy 310 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, while fuel economy with 2WD is 14/19/15 mpg (4WD drops it by 1 mpg). Maximum towing capacity when properly equipped is 7,600 pounds.
Standard on the Laramie trim and optional on the SLT is a 5.7-liter V8 with a five-speed auto and cylinder deactivation technology. Output is 390 hp and 407 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy with 2WD is 14/20/16 mpg (4WD is 1 mpg less). In performance testing, a 4WD Hemi-powered Crew Cab model went from zero to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds. Maximum towing capacity when properly equipped is 9,100 pounds.
Standard safety equipment on the 2009 Dodge Ram includes four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
Interior Design and Special Features
Even without the upper-crust Laramie's leather upholstery and wood-grain trim, the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 offers one of the nicest cabins in its segment. Controls are well placed and within reasonable reach. The overall design is attractive, with multiple colors and textures (unlike the GM trucks), but not overstyled like the Tundra. Materials quality is among the best found in this class, with nicely textured low-sheen plastics that look durable. The front seats, while rather soft, strike an adequate balance between support and comfort. The Crew Cab's rear seat is very comfortable, offering loads of legroom and an agreeable seatback rake.
The Ram provides lots of standard and optional storage spaces. The center console bin is quite large, while the crew cab features watertight storage compartments under the rear floor as well as shallow bins under the flip-up backseat. Unique to the Dodge is the optional new RamBox feature, which places a pair of lockable compartments (capable of holding 10 cases of beer!) over the rear fenders inside the truck bed. This creates a flareside-style bed that can still accommodate a standard piece of plywood or drywall.
With its body-on-frame construction, the 2009 Dodge Ram exhibits the expected body jiggle over bumps. However, its rear coil-spring suspension virtually eliminates the harsh ride previously endemic to full-size trucks. The result is a much smoother, more sophisticated ride that sets the Ram apart from all other traditional pickups. Power from the 4.7-liter V8 is adequate (we'd avoid the V6 like Ebola), but given that it gets worse gas mileage than the 5.7-liter V8, it seems like a no-brainer to step up to the big engine. We wish the five-speed automatic came with another gear, though, in order to optimize both fuel economy and towing ability, like the six-speed-equipped GM and Toyota pickups. One of the several optional axle ratios may be in order if you need to tow something, but keep in mind that this will come at the cost of fuel economy. Disappointingly, the Ram's steering is eerily light and lacks any sort of feel.
Read our Dodge Ram Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test