Road Test
Way back when, people who needed trucks-farmers, ranchers, delivery guys, construction workers, linemen-drove trucks. Then something weird happened: Pickups got cool. Everybody wanted to drive one. Suddenly, F-150s and C/Ks sprouted up like Starbucks coffee houses across the suburban landscape. These new drivers liked the "tough" style statement and defended the purchase by making two trips a year to Home Depot. Carrying nothing but air in their beds 99 percent of the time, the truck's capabilities were wasted. Damn poseurs.

But as sales of pickups skyrocketed in the '90s, manufacturers justified putting huge development dollars behind these supposed "work vehicles." The massive infusion of money resulted in fullsize trucks becoming incredibly refined even as their capacity for work increased (think about the luxurious but capable King Ranch F-350). Those damn poseurs paid for these improvements. Now, with gas so expensive, truck sales are in the crapper because the fake truckers are scurrying back to the holes they crawled out of.

So what's with the history lesson? It's our way of setting up a premise: Fullsize trucks may never be better than the Dodge you're looking at (or the '09 Ford F-150 that's coming soon). The '09 Dodge Ram 1500 is easily the best overall pickup from Chrysler-EVER.

The '09 Dodge Ram 1500 made its debut at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show and went on sale the first of September. Compared to the outgoing '08 model, the '09 is a near clean-sheet design. There's new and more aerodynamic sheetmetal, a new frame, a new coil-spring rear suspension, a new interior, improved V-8 engines, and the very cool RamBox.

The truck offers five trim levels to choose from-ST, SLT, TRX, Sport, Laramie-across three cab styles: the two-door regular cab, the two-door Quad Cab with reverse-opening rear half-doors, and the four-door crew cab. Three bed lengths-8 feet, 6 feet 4 inches, and 5 feet 7 inches-back the cabs, but only the regular cab offers a bed-length choice (8' or 6'4"). The Quad Cab gets followed by the 6'4" box, and the crew cab gets tailed by the 5'7" bed. The enormous Mega Cab is history, but not many people will miss it (Chrysler says) because it was just too big. About half of all Rams will be crew cabs. Two- and four-wheel-drive models are offered in every body configuration.

Dodge believes that its two-wheel-drive regular cab Sport model may be the most aerodynamic fullsize truck on the market with a drag coefficient of only 0.399 Cd. The outgoing truck measured about 0.467 Cd while other current fullsize trucks come in around 0.419 Cd. The exterior styling is clearly derivative of the outgoing Ram, which itself was a revamp of the bold original '94 Ram. The overall design is smooth-the result of multiple trips to the wind tunnel that began when the new shape was still made of clay. Aero details are everywhere. Note the integrated rear wing on the tailgate, the hidden windshield wipers, and the exterior rearview mirrors that are set farther out from the body than you're probably used to. Engineers even put a rubber seal between the cab and bed to make the truck slipperier.