Posted By MALCOLM GUNN
Posted 8 mins ago
It was a wild spectacle like no other in downtown Detroit, Mich., of all places. Among a specially imported herd of 120 longhorn cattle was a trio of 2009 Dodge Ram pickups, which created their own stampede of photographers directly outside Cobo Hall in January, the scene of the 2008 North American International Auto Show.
It was a raucous introduction for the all-new Ram, which parent Chrysler hopes will also steal sales and market share from General Motors, Ford and Toyota.
First impressions count for plenty in the fiercely competitive light-duty truck category, where brand loyalty runs chasm-deep and getting it right the first time is crucial.
Compared to its 2008 counterpart, the '09 Ram, which is slated to appear this fall, has undergone a character adjustment. The former blunt nosed, big-rig grille motif, first introduced back in the mid-1990s, has been considerably toned down. Dodge calls the look "grille forward," meaning the snout is now angled so that its leading edge is about even with the bumper. As a result, the Ram now appears more aerodynamic and less stubby, while still conveying a sense of strength that's further enhanced by a more prominent cowl bulge.
All three Ram body styles - regular cab, four-door Quad Cab and elongated four-door Ram Crew (which replaces the Mega Cab) - are perched atop a revised chassis that now uses rear coils in place of traditional leaf springs. The idea is to provide a better ride and road manners, while reducing weight (by about 18 kilograms when compared to a leaf-spring setup).
Regular-cab models are available with six-foot-four-inch (1.9-metre) or eight-foot-long (2.4-metre) pickup beds, while Quad Cabs are attached to the shorter box only. Selecting the Ram Crew gets you a five-foot-seven-inch (1.7-metre) bed. Payload capacity tops out at 840 kg, while maximum towing capacity is an estimated 4,140 kg.
The Ram's interior has also come in for some updating with an all-new dashboard and available extra-wide floor console that can be configured to secure all sorts of bulky gear. Heated and ventilated front seats can be ordered, not to mention a heated steering wheel and dual-zone climate control. Remember, this is a pickup truck we're talking about and not some posh luxury car.
As well, Ram Crew trucks feature two in-floor storage bins with removable liners that can store up to a dozen beverage cans each. There are also lockable storage compartments built into the rear fenders that can each hold up to 120 355-millilitre (12-ounce) cans. Engine choices remain similar to that of previous models with a 210-horsepower 3.7-litre V-6 offered as standard on rear-wheel-drive regular and Quad Cabs, while all four-wheel-drive and Ram Crew trucks run with a 310-horse 4.7-litre V-8. The optional 5.7-litre "Hemi" engine, however, comes in for some tuning and now generates a lively 380 hp and 404 pound-feet of torque, instead of the 345 hp and 375 pound-feet produced by the '08 version. Dodge claims the gutsier Hemi will propel the 4x2 Ram to 100 km-h in around 6.5 seconds. Hopefully, this engine will be made available in Chrysler's passenger-car line.
A five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic can be connected to the V6, while V8-equipped trucks come with a five-speed automatic.
When it comes to four-wheel-drive, buyers can choose between a parttime system and an on-demand setup that automatically engages when road conditions warrant.
Ram model designations include base ST, SLT, TRX, Sport and Laramie, SRT-8, with base content varying widely between each model. But what shouldn't change is the Dodge's ability to work and play with enough gusto to keep up with the competition.