Sunday, January 13, 2008

Dodge Ram - Separating from the Herd

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True to Chrysler tradition, Dodge revealed the all-new 2009 Dodge Ram pickup in an unforgettable fashion on Sunday at the Detroit auto show. Amidst a herd of about 120 longhorn steer, the new Dodge Ram made is worldwide debut in front of COBO Hall.
Dodge Ram Laramie
“The goals were to do nothing less than redefine the American pickup truck,” said Ralph Gilles, Vice President – Jeep®/Truck Design Studio.
When it came time to design the 2009 Dodge Ram pickup, the entire Chrysler Design Studio played a role. The studio took the unusual step of creating 11 different Ram models to choose from before narrowing down to three finalists, Gilles said.
“We don’t usually have that luxury,” Gilles said in an interview with (you can hear the entire interview by clicking ‘download podcast’ below). “But we realized how important the truck is, and we definitely asked the entire studio to kick in, and they did. It was awesome to have that much input.”
Ralph Gilles at the auto show, with the Dodge Ram
“They were wildly different,” Gilles said of the three finalists. “Two of them kind of went a different direction from the current truck look, the kind of high-rise grille with the lower lamps.”
In the end, the team went with the unmistakable “grille forward” look that made the current Dodge Ram an icon in the segment, an interior that Gilles says “blurs the line between luxury car and truck” and more storage space than ever, including the segment-first RamBox.
“Our research told us loud and clear that we were an icon,” Gilles said. “There are very few cars that achieve that space. We decided to evolve the (Ram) design. But we did a lot. We really made the front end very recognizable, very aggressive, with the cab. We call it the grille-forward look. And the headlamps were designed to be more serious and really give the truck a much more commanding look, more presence.”
“Grille Forward” of the Dodge Ram Laramie
With premium touches throughout, culminating in the Laramie interior, the Dodge Ram adds higher levels of luxury, Gilles said.
“We really blurred the line between luxury car and truck, and also added a lot of functionality,” he said. “We realized a lot of people use it as personal transportation, as well as a work truck.”
Interior of the Dodge Ram Laramie
The Laramie interior includes full-width contrasting stitching on the soft instrument panel, chrome trim, wood-grain inserts on the doors and a center instrument panel stack that’s designed for easy reach. There’s also industry-first heated and ventilated front seats available in leather, heated rear seating on the crew cab models, and a heated steering wheel. The front seats also have improved bolsters for improved comfort.
“Our competitors have dabbled, especially Ford, have dabbled in the luxury segment. We kind of dipped our toe in that segment, and now we’re going to splash into it, and dive in completely into the luxury. We basically offer everything, all the way from a full workers truck to a luxury truck. Now there’s no such thing as a base truck anymore. It just gets better and better as you go up the price line.”
Interior of the Dodge Ram Sport
One thing that pickup truck owners seem to never have enough of is space to stow their gear. The industry-first RamBox, two 4.3 cubic feet storage compartments built into the bed rails add enough space to hold golf clubs, tool boxes or 240 12-ounce beverage cans.
The RamBox is lockable, weatherproof, illuminated and easy to reach.
“There’s places to put everything you can imagine. When you come in the truck, there’s storage bins everywhere,” Gilles said. “We kind of took pages from the minivan, we took pages from our best passenger cars, that luxury sense you get in a 300. So we’ve taken everything that we learned over the years and put it in one place.”
Two in-floor storage bins located in the rear footwells allow customers to store items out of the way. They’re large enough to hold ten 12-ounce cans along with ice for a thirsty crew. In total, there are 38 storage locations, nearly twice as many as the previous model.
In-floor storage bins
The in-your-face looks of the Dodge Ram extends from the grille in the front to the large Ram’s head badge on the tailgate and the chrome-tipped dual exhaust, a first in the segment “Anyone who’s a trucker knows that a lot of people go out and do their own dual exhaust. Now we have it from the factory. And it’s much more custom,” Gilles said. “It’s a first time that it’s ever been offered on a truck, and it really looks cool. The dealers have been absolutely applauding us for that.”
Chrome-tipped dual exhaust
The Ram’s-head badge on the tailgate is 250 percent larger than the previous badge. Other nameplates and badges are located on the driver and front-passenger doors and the box, and nearly all the badges on the pickup are three-dimensional.
Dodge Ram’s head badge on tailgate
Gilles was particularly proud of the aerodynamics of the new Ram, which help increase fuel economy and reduce interior noise. The 2009 Dodge Ram has a best-in-class overall coefficient of drag (Cd) estimated at .422 for a crew cab 4x4 model, compared with a Cd of .463 for a 2008 Ram Quad Cab 4x4.
“We found a lot on aero,” Gilles said. “A lot of that was a ton of details. I can’t even begin to tell you the details…”
I’ll try. They include a body-mounted grille which reduces gaps, and a new hood that shields wipers, a roll-frame design that relocates the door cut to the side and rearview mirrors repositioned lower and outboard to reduce turbulence.
For the first time, the Dodge Ram will compete in the crew cab segment of the market, the fastest-growing part of the pickup truck market. Crew cabs accounted for nearly 50 percent of pickup truck sales in 2007, up from only 8 percent in the 2002 model year.
“I feel so proud of this truck,” Gilles said. “To be very bold here, it really does move us to the top of the heap.”

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