Driving the New Ram
The perfect '09 Ram for Sport Truck to test is the regular cab Sport with the R/T option. With short gears, Dodge tells us this truck will run 0 to 60 mph in under 6 seconds. That's hauling. Unfortunately, we drove these new Dodges well before production started, and there weren't any R/Ts on hand. We picked the next best thing: a Hemi-powered Laramie. While it wasn't as quick at the R/T will be (and we'll test an R/T as soon as one becomes available), when we turned off the electronic nannies, the big Dodge would smoke its 20-inch tires effortlessly.
The new Hemi was impressive in many different driving situations. Flat-out acceleration was great. Passing on two-lanes was easy. Acceleration was even good after we put 1,000 pounds of cargo in the bed. The Hemi just didn't seem to care. Even at full throttle, the engine remained calm and quiet with only a bit of V-8 rumble coming from the exhaust. The Hemi is easily a match for the 6.0L V-8 from GM or the gas engines from Ford and Toyota. Plus, the cylinder deactivation helps you maximize mileage and minimize trips to the gas station.
So, the new Ram is faster than the old Ram (excluding the SRT10). It also handles and rides much better. The five-link coil-spring suspension does a great job controlling the live rear axle. Unlike traditional leaf springs that operate with a great degree of friction (and therefore less smoothness), the coils work smoothly. We think the ride is better than any '08 pickup we've driven. This may change with the introduction of the '09 Ford F-150, but we'll stand behind this impression for now.
Handling and steering are sharp-not exactly like a sports car, but more like a sporty big sedan. Body roll is well-controlled, and the chassis response to steering inputs is nearly immediate. The big Ram doesn't bob or weave or toss your head about over rough pavement, and the interior remains surprisingly quiet regardless of the road surface... or lack of road surface. We drove the Laramie off-road and it proved quite capable there too.
From the driver seat, you enjoy a quiet interior. Wind noise is minimal even at 70 or 80 mph. Road noise is likewise low. The seats are comfortable and the controls are easy to reach and use. The instrumentation is clear, and because of the high-contrast design, easy to read. Even the back seat of our crew cab was first-class thanks to the comfortable angle of the backrest and the ample legroom.
Our complaints are limited. The steering is responsive but lacks a level of communicativeness that the excellent chassis deserves. In other words, one might not miss talkative steering on a truck that handled less well, but you do miss it on the Ram. The second issue is the lack of a six-speed automatic transmission to back either V-8. As we've seen in other applications of six-speed gearboxes, mileage can increase 4 or 5 percent.