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New car reviews

2009 Dodge Ram

An all new Ram

Wendy Stroud, Thu, 11 Sep 2008 08:00:00 PDT

A dramatic "V" of brown pelicans flew overhead as Chrysler's Senior Marketing Manager Jim Yetter was introducing the 2009 Dodge Ram lineup on a secluded beach north of Santa Barbara, California. Birds fly in a "V' formation to achieve the best aerodynamics as a team, taking turns leading and following. As Jim described the development of the 2009 Dodge Ram, it was obvious to me that both teamwork and aerodynamics have played a significant part here.

After a year of extensive customer research, Chrysler brought together all of their experts from every phase of development, and had them all work together on the 2009 Dodge Ram from the very beginning. We preach that to our kids all the time; cooperation and teamwork, amazing what happens when big people do it, too. Like the "V' of pelicans flying over that morning, what Dodge set out to accomplish seems to have been synergistically achieved as a result of that teamwork.

Until now, truck owners had to choose between purchasing a tool box and keeping their valuable stuff in the cab. I've seen nice collections of tools vulnerable in the back of a truck as often as I have seen passenger seats piled high with things effectively turning the truck into a single passenger vehicle.

Enter the brilliant idea of using the dead space in the bed rails for built-in cargo boxes. Two boxes big enough (7.4 cubic feet total) to hold golf clubs, tools, fishing poles, chainsaws, sports equipment or (the marketing guys love this one) 120 12oz beverages with ice... each. In other words, leave the icebox at home because your truck already has two! The RamBoxes are weatherproof, lockable, illuminated and drainable. What do I picture in these boxes? Kid's sports equipment, husband's tools, food/sodas for the family outing, anything too dirty to want in the cab or too light to put in the bed, my cloth shopping bags, an umbrella for the surprise rain storm, or beach towels for that spontaneous swim. In fact, I could end up competing with my husband for RamBox space unless we each claimed one for our own.

The boxes are part of the "RamBox Cargo Maintenance System' package, which is available as an option on 2009 Dodge Ram Crew 1500 models. It includes a multipurpose bed divider that will create individual compartments to separate and secure cargo or can be unfolded for use as a 2 foot bed extender with the tail gate down. Also in the RamBox package is a cargo rail system with infinitely adjustable sliding cleats for tying down pretty much whatever you need to.

They didn't stop there with the storage. There are 2 in-floor storage compartments in the back that can hold 10 12oz beverages with ice (so I guess there are technically 4 ice chests), or anything else that fits. The 2009 Dodge Ram offers almost twice as many storage compartments as the 2008; a total of 42. Get your kids to see if they can find every one.

Next to the RamBox, this may be the single most important improvement in the 2009 Dodge Ram. The new coil spring multi-link suspension provides a remarkably smooth ride. Such an improvement over the standard semi-bumpy truck ride I was expecting that it felt a bit like a luxury car. Cornering at 15 mph above the posted speed on the back roads was undemanding, with minimal bed sway and a solid road hugging feel. My 4WD adventure through rutted dirt roads and up sandy, steep hills lacked the usual jarring 4WD experience definitely smoother. I am a woman who does not do much 4-wheeling; it intimidates me a bit. With this truck it felt easy and fun.

Here is the aerodynamics part! Best in class aerodynamics resulted from extensive fine tuning of the exterior design. Add to that weight reduction and new drive train technologies and the result was an additional 4 MPG. With such high gas prices, every MPG helps. Let's face it; no matter how much you want to save energy, sometimes you just need a truck, because plywood sheets or a cord of wood won't fit in your Prius. The Crew Cab 1500 is rated at 18-20 on the highway, depending on your choice of 4x2 or 4x4.

I have driven a strange variety of trucks in my life from a '64 Ford to a 06 Toyota Tundra, but I don't drive trucks often. So I was really looking forward to exploring this question: If my husband decided he had to have a truck but I wanted a minivan/SUV to cart the kids, etc. around, was there a Dodge Ram truck that would satisfy both of us?

The 2009 Dodge Ram Crew Cab 1500 with a 5.7 liter Hemi V-8 looked like it might fit the bill...it has a base price of $32,530.

So how would this truck fit into the lifestyle of a family of four?

The Ram's excellent storage capabilities would be perfect for varied family needs. The interior has a surprising quality look and feel that would be equally at home on a fancy night out on the town with your spouse or taking the whole family on a camping trip.

A memory system recalls settings for the mirrors, driver seat, adjustable pedals and radio presets for spouses of varying heights (and music preferences). In fact smaller women driving this vehicle will find appropriate seat and pedal adjustments for a good fit. Lauren Fletcher, the (approx.) 5'6' Associate Editor of Automotive Fleet drove this truck easily and said she only had trouble with over-the-hood visibility when cresting the top of a steep hill during our 4WD test (so did everyone).

On the other end of things, Klaus Busse, the Director of Advance Interior and Component Design, stands 6 foot 6.75 inches tall. Being very tall myself, I often encounter insufficient leg room. With Klaus at the helm designing the interior, the amount of leg room felt luxurious; even sitting in the back seat I had at least 2 inches to spare!

The interior options available with this truck are like a whole new world to explore. Having driven economy cars most of my life, there are more bells and whistles than I could have imagined. I spent about an hour playing with all the buttons and screens and other surprises...like seat ventilation. You haven't lived until you have experienced ventilated seats. (Hey, we were in California and it was 90 degrees that day.) Now I know why Marketing Director Joe Veltri spoke of it with a certain reverence. This technology actually draws air into the bottom and back of the seat and around your body for a cool comfortable body/seat connection. Since I live in a place that commonly hits 100 degrees and higher in the summer. I would personally love this feature.

For the kids in the back seat, choose between a rear seat DVD entertainment system or the new SIRIUS Backseat TV with 3 live kids channels; Disney, Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network. Optional SIRIUS radio offers 130 channels of music, entertainment and information and can be operated from the rear or front seats.

The main 6.5' touch screen panel is easy to operate and, check this out, parents, you have a lot of control over how that TV and radio are used in the back seat! Lock out undesirable channels/stations or turn it off entirely.

You'll find 10-speaker surround sound plus voice controls for your mobile phone, the GPS and the radio/cd functions. I applaud all this voice-controlled technology for its safety factor; when driving we need to be looking at the road, nowhere else.

Two more optional safety features I tested and liked were the rear back-up camera that is automatically displayed on the main screen when the transmission is put in reverse, and the "Parksense' sensor warning system that uses interior lights and sound to warn the driver when backing up. I pictured myself parallel parking a truck full of loud teenagers (seats 6) and knew they would be an advantage to have.

So, did Dodge create a "family' truck? I believe they did. I can easily picture the 2009 Dodge Ram Crew Cab 1500 doing double duty for my husband's truck needs as well as my family vehicle requirements. Only thing is...we might be fighting over who gets to drive it...and those boxes.

 

 


2009 Dodge Ram front view


2009 Dodge Ram interior


2009 Dodge Ram rear coil spring suspension


2009 Dodge Ram rear shot

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