For decades, Dodge's offerings in the full-size pickup truck segment soldiered on mostly under the radar. Sales were adequate, but it wasn't until the Dodge Ram 1500 received a major redesign in the mid-1990s that consumers snapped to attention and checked out their neighborhood Dodge dealer.
More recently, Dodge took another big step forward with its full-size pickup truck, jettisoning the traditional, stiff-riding leaf springs in the rear suspension in favor of relatively plush coil springs. The upshot is that the most recent-generation Dodge Ram 1500 has the power, ride and styling to be the most versatile half-ton on the road.
Now, although the Dodge Ram ceased to be for the 2011 model year, it lived on as the founding member of Chrysler Group's new Ram brand. For information on that model, read our Ram 1500 review.
Most Recent Dodge Ram 1500
The most recent, fourth-generation Dodge Ram 1500 was redesigned for the 2009 model year. Compared to older Rams, this truck benefits from a coil-spring rear suspension (for a better ride quality), more powerful engines and newer technology features. There weren't any significant changes prior to its rechristening as simply the Ram 1500.
This Dodge Ram 1500 was available in five trim levels, beginning with the ST and moving through SLT, TRX, Sport and finally to the top-line Laramie. Three cab configurations and three bed lengths were also offered. The pickup could be had in either a two-wheel or four-wheel-drive setup. The "Mega Cab" from the previous generation was longer, but the current Crew Cab still provided almost 40 inches of rear legroom. Three engines were available: a 3.7-liter V6 (215 horsepower), a 4.7-liter V8 (310 hp) and a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 (390 hp). Notable for the Ram was its coil-spring rear suspension, which significantly enhanced the truck's ride quality over broken pavement.
The interior of the Ram 1500 was roomy and well-appointed. A three-across front bench seat and column shifter were in the mix, and all seating options benefited from improved sculpting and attention to detail. Rear-seat video and a 10-speaker surround-sound audio system were optional, along with navigation and a rear back-up camera. A Dodge Ram 1500 could be ordered with lined wells below the rear floor mats (sized for a six-pack and ice), as well as the RamBox, a cargo bed storage compartment that can accommodate a golf bag or lots of tools. The exterior design intensified the Ram's big-rig look via more angular and aggressive lines.
In reviews, we found this Dodge Ram 1500 to be a pickup truck with a very un-trucklike ride. We were also fond of its competitively constructed interior, nifty storage spaces and impressively powerful Hemi V8. The main downside to the truck was its weak and inefficient base V6 engine.
Past Dodge Ram 1500 Models
The previous, third-generation Dodge Ram 1500 pickup was produced from 2002 through 2008. Trim levels included the basic ST, the volume-seller SLT and the plush Laramie (which replaced the SLT Plus in 2003). Club and Quad Cabs were offered, with the stretched Mega Cab arriving in 2006. Initially, two of the three engine options were new: a 3.7-liter V6 (215 hp) available only on the 2WD regular cab and a 4.7-liter V8 (235 hp). An older but torquey 5.9-liter V8 (245 hp) preceded the arrival of the 5.7-liter V8 Hemi (345 hp) in 2004, and for the 2007 model year the 4.7 V8 got a power boost to 310 hp. Transmissions were steadily updated: Five-speed manuals gave way to six-speeds, and four-speed automatics were replaced by five-speeds.
Various options were offered from 2002-'08. Depending on the year Ram you look at, you'll encounter wheel and tire packages, upgraded sound systems, an off-road package, keyless remote start, a navigation system, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and Bluetooth connectivity. In reviews, we found this generation of Ram 1500 to have a smooth ride and nimble handling, especially when loaded with cargo and passengers. The 5.7-liter V8 Hemi was a big improvement over the sluggish, thirsty old 5.9 V8, although fuel economy for both engines was subpar. One other downside to this generation of Ram was that it wasn't offered in as many configurations as other competing full-size trucks of the same time period.
The second-generation Dodge Ram 1500 debuted for 1994 and marked the turning point for Dodge's full-size pickup truck. There were a number of important features that debuted, such as a standard driver side airbag, available four-wheel antilock brakes and a center console box big enough to hold a laptop computer. Cab styles included the Club Cab and the Quad Cab. Engine choices consisted of a 3.9-liter V6 (175 hp), a 5.2-liter V8 (220 hp) and a 5.9-liter V8 that started out at 230 hp and topped out at 250 hp. Transmissions included a five-speed manual and four-speed automatic, and one could select either a two- or four-wheel-drive configuration. Trim levels were the Work Special, LT, ST and luxurious Laramie SLT.
For more information on older Dodge Ram pickups, go to our Dodge Ram history page.