Thursday, August 28, 2008

2009 Hurst Dodge Challenger SRT8 to be revealed at SEMA

Posted by admin in August 28th 2008

This November’s SEMA show will have a hot new edition. The 2009 HURST/HEMI Challenger will first be unveiled at the Las Vegas show, with production to begin in early 2009.

The limited edition Challenger SRT8 will have an output of 500+ HP. It will be available in four Stages of performance trim through participating Dodge dealerships. The details are iconic and impressive; the huge polished five-spoke HURST alloy wheels and the “Pistol-Grip” HURST shifter are inspired by the originals that helped make HURST the legendary brand that it is today.

August Sales updates

Well, sales again had slipped further now at [-]37-percent.

US: Next Nissan Titan said to be Chrysler V6 and V8-powered

By Glenn Brooks
28 August, 2008
Source: Automotive World
An automotive portal, quoting a senior staffer with Nissan North America, has revealed powertrain plans for the brand's next Titan pick-up.

With the replacement for its Titan full-sized pick-up confirmed to be outsourced to Chrysler LLC, a Nissan North America (NNA) executive has now reportedly stated that the vehicle's engines will not be Nissan units., which interviewed Bob Sump, the vice president of the Nissan Technical Center North America, has quotes which state that the Japanese OEM's US-built 5.6-litre V8 will not be used in the next Titan. The portal has also now added a statement from John Schilling of NNA's press relations department claiming that no decision has been made on the next-generation Titan's engine.

Both NNA and Chrysler LLC have been clear that the replacement for today's half-ton Titan pick-up will be built at Chrysler's plant in Saltillo, Mexico. It will be based upon the next Dodge Ram 1500. The current Titan, which has only ever been available with a 5.6-litre version of Nissan's 'Endurance' gasoline V8, has been built at NNA's Canton plant in Mississippi since October 2003. It is due for replacement in 2010 or 2011.

According to, normally a highly reliable source, NNA engineers will be responsible for defining and evaluating the Titan's performance criteria, not delivering it.

"Our engineering will get involved setting performance targets and evaluating whether (Chrysler) is achieving them or not, but we don't have any direct design responsibility for it," NNA's Sump told the portal at a media event. "It will all be done by Chrysler, including the powertrain. Nissan management will evaluate the prototypes to make sure they meet requirements."

The NNA vice president reportedly goes on to say that the OEM wishes to see a Chrysler Hemi V8 in the next Titan as this would keep costs down, the very reason for the decision not to redesign the vehicle itself.

"It would be a huge cost to try to put our engine in that vehicle," he adds. "The idea is to stay as common as we can (with the Dodge Ram) and change the styling. The Hemi would make the most sense, assuming Chrysler will sell us the Hemi."

Should the deal to use the V8 go ahead, speculates that this would also mean Chrysler's existing 3.7-litre V6 would also feature in the Titan replacement, as may a Cummins turbodiesel. Chrysler uses Hemi sub-branding on its 5.7- and 6.1-litre gasoline V8s.

Taking up the Titan's place at the Canton plant will be a new range of commercial vehicles, Nissan having taken a strategic decision to enter this segment of the North American market. The current market leaders, which are thought to be extremely profitable, include such vehicles as the Ford E-Series (Econoline) and GM's twins, the Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana vans.

Dodge Ram, Now Rolling Out

Stumble It!

Local Dodge dealer doesn’t have them yet, but in a matter of weeks they should be carrying the 2009 Dodge Ram, the fourth-generation pickup truck that at one time sold as many as 400,000 units annually. High gas prices and sharply lower demand will probably keep sales way down for the all-new Ram, but at least the truck has one thing going for it: it is a vast improvement over the third-generation line.

2009 Dodge Ram Laramie

This Day in Auto History:


Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly
This Day in Auto History:

Major-General Montgomery of Winchester purchases a Coventry-built Daimler in the first British sale of a vehicle to a person outside of the automobile industry
The Oakland Motor Car Company is organized in Pontiac, MI by Edward M. Murphy, Frank E. Kirby, Alanson P. Brush, R. F. Monroe, M. J. Hallinan, C. J. Cram, and James Dempsey
Lord Herbert Scott is elected Chairman of Rolls-Royce Ltd.
Allen Rae of A. Schrader’s Son and a former executive of the Dunlop Tire & Rubber Goods Company Ltd. dies
Halsey R. Jones of the Timken Roller Bearing Company dies at age 55

Source: Automobile History Day By Day, by Douglas A. Wick

WHo is behind the Viper Sell-off?

Lazard is advising car manufacturer Chrysler on strategic options for its Dodge Viper sports car business,

Can Chrysler compete with a TT-Hemi or TT-Phoenix. Ford goes first

Going In-Depth With Ford's Twin-Turbocharged V6 EcoBoost Engine

Today we made our way over to Ford's Beech Daly Technical Center, a nondescript building along the Dearborn side roads which houses what is, for lack of a better term, Ford's engine skunk works. Capable of doing everything from rapid-prototyped vinyl intakes to turning out fully functioning engines, the tech center is where all Ford's engines go to get the bugs worked out. Our mission was to get to know the 3.5-liter Ford EcoBoost on a nuts-and-bolts level by putting one together ourselves.

Twin Turbo Ford EcoBoost V6 Build

We met up with Patrick Hespen from SVT communications, who guided us through the rows of workbenches stacked high with engine parts from every imaginable engine product. Deep in the back was a set of parts which, when fully assembled, would form a production-intent twin-turbocharged, 340 HP, 340 lb-ft Ford EcoBoost engine. You know, the one they're touting as a V6 which delivers the power of a V8.

The beauty of the EcoBoost system is that it takes relatively few changes to go from a standard 3.5-liter V6 to a fire-breathing, twin-turbo monster developing peak torque at 1500 RPM. What it all boils down to is the combination of direct injection and two turbos. Those two main updates drive the smaller, but smartly executed, changes around them.

So, let's follow the fuel through the engine: The first difference the gas sees is the addition of a mechanically actuated, high-pressure fuel pump. The pump rides on top of the drivers' side cylinder bank and gets its motive power from a four-sided cam lobe, brilliantly added to the intake cam. The fuel then passes into a high-pressure (like 3000 PSI high) stainless-steel common fuel rail to which is mounted three injectors, one assembly per side. The injectors are mounted to the underside of the cylinder head and poke into the distal edge of the compression chamber.

Since the system direct-injects fuel into the chamber, games can be played with the actual flow of the spray. For instance, on start up, when the engine is cold and the catalysts aren't functioning, the engine injects a half-shot of fuel into chamber on the downward stroke of the intake cycle, then, as the piston comes back for ignition, a second half-shot is fired at the piston head. Notice the shape of top of the piston (sans the CNC'd EcoBoost logo): The little trough is designed specifically to ramp that secondary spray at the spark plug — the result is a locally rich mixture good for ignition, but a globally lean mixture, great for making heat fast.

As the spent fuel leaves the combustion chamber, it meets another innovative feature: a stainless steel, stamped and welded two-walled exhaust manifold. The manifold is much lighter than its cast counterparts, but more importantly, its insulative properties keep the exhaust hotter, transferring more energy directly to the turbo. Speaking of the turbo, surprisingly, when we get to the turbo we find nothing notably exciting. The impeller side of turbo itself is made of a high-nickel-content alloy good for an operating temperature up to 1750 degrees Fahrenheit. The compressor side, while rated up to 220,000 rpm maximum speed, isn't really all that different than the one found on every other turbo on the market.

Since the gas is spent, we're going to hop onto the intake air side now. That air gets compressed by the two turbos we just met, and then joins in a common tube. That tube has an electronic boost controller which dumps excess pressure electronically, instead of the "Fast and Furious" approved vacuum-driven blow-off valve. The air then makes it's way into an air-to-air intercooler, and the cooled air heads off to an all-new intake manifold, optimized for compact packaging and easy assembly. An interesting feature is the integration of the coolant pipe which runs under the whole length of the intake; it attaches at the rear to the coolant line in the valley and locates the thermostat and outlet for the heater core out of the way. Anyway, that air gets directed straight into the cylinders by valves enhanced with Inconel alloy for greater strength.

Because we're engine geeks, there are myriad little details and upgrades we could go on about, like the addition of piston head oil sprayers, used to keep the piston head cool by hitting the bottom side with oil, and how they're brilliantly integrated into the crankshaft bearing oil pocket. Or the million miles of durability testing the engine has already undergone. Or the crazy ability to retard the timing up to 20 degrees...but we won't. We're happy to sit back and let the pictures do the rest of the talking, eagerly awaiting the day we get to put that bonkers power curve to the test.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

2009 Dodge Viper ACR Steals Nürburgring Record From Corvette ZR1, Laps In 7:22

A 2009 Dodge Viper ACR has claimed the fastest time ever for a production car around the Nürburgring. The lap of 7:22 is just a few ticks quicker than the 7:26.4 lap set by the 2009 Corvette ZR1. It doesn't come as much of a surprise, since the ACR is the most brutal version of the already-unforgiving Viper, whereas the ZR1 actually drives well on the road. Nonetheless, the Viper ACR is the new unofficial king of the 'Ring.

If you'd like to compare its on-board video of the record lap to the ZR1's video, check it out over at Motor Trend. Looks like Jim Mero may have to head back to Germany and set that faster lap he was talking about after all. [Motor Trend]

2009 HURST/HEMI Dodge Challenger SRT8 coming to SEMA

Being one of the first aftermarket tuners, Hurst has announced that it will reveal its take on the new 2009 Dodge Challenger at the 2008 SEMA Auto Show in November. Hurst will first tackle the Challenger SRT8 giving a total of 500 horsepower.

Full technical details will be revealed at the show but HURST said that its HEMI Challenger will be available in four different trim-levels through participating Dodge dealerships. Each model will come with polished five-spoke HURST alloy wheels and the “Pistol-Grip” HURST shifter.

Production is scheduled to kick off in 2009. Prices will be $10,000 to $20,000 above MSRP.

Click through for the press release.

Press Release:

Chatsworth, California — HURST is one of the most recognized and revered names in the history of performance automobiles. The HURST brand has long been synonymous with speed, performance and quality, with an impressive track-record of pioneering performance products for all forms of motorsports and hot-rodding. HURST was one of the first to partner with the OEMs and bring enthusiasts limited edition performance vehicles like the legendary HURST/Olds 442.

HURST is at it again! The newest creation to be rolled out to continue the tradition is the 2009 HURST/HEMI® Challenger. Starting with the HEMI® powered Dodge Challenger SRT8, HURST takes it to the next level as a 500+ HP supercharged limited edition built and tuned by the best in the business.

Nate Shelton, Chairman of HURST, is committed to delivering the value that HURST is known for; “The new HURST/HEMI® Challenger is more than just another muscle car. It epitomizes the performance industries tradition of taking the best Detroit has to offer and adding 21st century performance parts to make your ride faster and cooler than the other guys. HURST has a long history of doing just that with guys like Don Garlits, Warren Johnson, Dick Landy and even celebrity racers Steve McQueen and Jim Garner. The new HURST/HEMI® Challenger is the first of many HURST Performance Vehicles to come. We are ready to make some more history.”

HURST has partnered with some of the best companies in the industry to create a collectible limited edition muscle car with the looks, attitude and credentials to back it up. The HURST/HEMI® Challenger will be available in four Stages of performance trim through participating Dodge dealerships. The details are iconic and impressive; the huge polished five-spoke HURST alloy wheels and the “Pistol-Grip” HURST shifter are inspired by the originals that helped make HURST the legendary brand that it is today.

HURST Performance Vehicles Program Director Ron Flint adds “The legacy of the HURST brand gives us a huge advantage and it sets the bar very high for our team. Our goal is simple; create serious driveway-envy in your neighborhood.”

The HURST/HEMI® Challenger makes its debut at the trade-only SEMA Show in Las Vegas this November. Vehicle production is slated for early 2009.

Source: Hurts (via InsideLine)

Sign up for Chrysler Family Fest by 4 p.m. today

calendar (1K) Posted Tuesday, Aug 26, 2008 at 4:17 pm in Employee News

As part of the 2008 Chrysler Arts, Beats & Eats festival this Labor Day weekend in downtown Pontiac, Mich., Chrysler LLC employees and contractors are invited to attend the Chrysler Family Fest on Saturday, Sunday and Monday mornings from 10 a.m.-noon.

This fest includes a complimentary continental breakfast, parking, carnival rides, children’s arts and crafts and VIP seating at concerts. The Chrysler Family Fest is being held in conjunction with the Chrysler Freedom Fest to honor Michigan National Guardsmen who have served a tour of duty in Iraq.

  • Admission cost for each Chrysler family is a canned good item or two to be donated to Lighthouse of Oakland County.
  • A guest list will be on hand during the festival to identify the Chrysler guests, and an onsite registration area will be located inside the Crofoot Entertainment Complex.
  • Registration will begin at 9:30 a.m, allowing families a full two hours as a Chrysler Family Fest guest starting at 10 a.m.
  • The festival will provide all registered guests with a special guest wristband to gain access to the carnival rides and the arts and crafts. Employee ID can be used for free parking between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. each morning at the Phoenix Plaza.

Employees wishing to participate can do so on a first-come, first-served basis by registering through TEDS (course codes ARTS830 for Aug. 30; BEATS831 for Aug. 31; EATS901 for Sept. 1). Please register before the cutoff time of 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27.

Festival hours
Friday 4 p.m.–11 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m.–11 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m.–11 p.m.
Monday 10 a.m.–8 p.m.

This year, there are two important ways you can support the festival:

1. Volunteer. The festival is rolling out major green initiatives with a focus on promoting recycling and educating people about trash receptacles. Donating one four-hour shift gets you free food tickets, a cool T-shirt, free parking and more! To sign up, please call today at (248) 334-4600 and ask for Lauren or Mallory to register over the phone.

2. Support the food drive. In the past year, the Lighthouse of Oakland County has seen a 50 percent increase in the number of people seeking emergency food provisions and expect more to come. You can help by bringing nonperishable food items to Chrysler Arts, Beats & Eats. Items most in need include protein-based foods, such as canned meat and fish, macaroni and cheese, and peanut butter.

Bonus: The first 1,000 people who bring the following food packages will receive a free custom 2008 Arts Beats & Eats poster:

  • five cans of canned meat or fish
  • five jars or peanut butter
  • five boxes of macaroni and cheese
  • any combination of the above
  • or any combination of five items on the Lighthouse Web site

Food drive drop-off locations

  • On Pike Street at Wayne
  • On Pike Street between Wayne and Saginaw

Food drive hours

  • Friday 4 p.m.–10 p.m.
  • Saturday 10 a.m.–10 p.m.
  • Sunday 10 a.m.–7 p.m.

For additional public information, please visit (Internet access required.)

Chrysler introduces new models in Moscow

Moscow, Russia - Chrysler has introduced two new vehicles to the Russian market at the Moscow International Auto Show. The new Jeep Cherokee (the Liberty in North America) and the all-new Dodge Journey were revealed to the media and public at the show.

Russia is now one of Chrysler’s top 10 markets in volume sales, following the establishment of Chrysler Russia SAO after the division of DaimlerChrysler AG. The company is the general importer for Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands in the country. During the first seven months of 2008, total sales of the three brands grew by 71 per cent compared with the same period in 2007.

“Although sales in Russia are growing significantly, Russians are in fact only now starting to discover Chrysler vehicles,” said John Stech, CEO of Chrysler Russia. “Let me remind you that Dodge brand was officially introduced in Russia as recently as two years ago here at the Moscow Motor Show. Now, every second car sold by us in Russia is a Dodge and I am sure that the new cars presented here in Moscow will contribute even further to Russians’ interest in our brands.”

This Day in Auto History:


Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly

Cyrus Richard Osborn of General Motors is born in Dayton, OH
The Houpt-Rockwell makes its debut in a 24-hour race at Brighton Beach, NY, but the car driven by George Robertson fails to finish
Thomas Wilby begins the first trans-Canada automobile trip
The Kinetic Chemical Company is formed as a joint venture of the DuPont Company and General Motors to manufacture and market freon
Henry Austin Clark opens the Long Island Automotive Museum in Southampton, NY on his 31st birthday

Source: Automobile History Day By Day, by Douglas A. Wick

Viper Update

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Aug. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Chrysler LLC announced today that it is preparing to explore strategic options for the Dodge Viper business. This strategic review comes as the Company focuses on enhancing its core business and leveraging its assets.

"We have been approached by third parties who are interested in exploring future possibilities for Viper," said Bob Nardelli, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer - Chrysler LLC. "As the Company evaluates strategic options to maximize core operations and leverage its assets, we have agreed to listen to these parties. We will do so keeping in mind the best interests of those who have shown tremendous support for the vehicle - including employees, suppliers, dealers and a worldwide group of loyal Viper owners and enthusiasts. Viper is an integral part of this Company's heritage. While this is a strategic review, our intent would be to offer strong operational and financial support during any potential transaction, in order to ensure a future for the Viper business and perpetuate the legacy of this great vehicle."

This review - unique to the Viper specialty vehicle - comes as the Company strengthens the Dodge brand's core portfolio with four all-new Dodge-branded offerings introduced for 2009 -- Dodge Journey, Dodge Challenger, Dodge Durango Hybrid and Dodge Ram - and prepares to bring even more exciting vehicles to its customers in the near future.

The Viper is hand-built in a low-volume, modular process at the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit, which operates largely independent of Chrysler's other production facilities. The vehicle was introduced as a concept vehicle at the 1989 Detroit auto show. It was first available as a production vehicle in the 1992 model year.

With today's announcement, the Company emphasizes that it has not set a definitive timetable for completion of the review of its strategic options, no final decision has been made with regard to the Viper business, and there can be no assurance that any transaction will take place as a result of this process. Chrysler has retained Lazard as its financial advisor in connection with this review.

Batmobile for sale on eBay

Chrysler 300 hid kits.
With record box office takings already under the belt of the new Batman movie, Dark Knight, now's a good time to sell a genuine Batmobile.

That's what one eBay seller claims to have in an auction that ends later today. At the time of writing, the Batmobile has five bids, with the highest, $110,000 (about £60,000) not yet meeting the seller's reserve.

Was it Just Luck for Chrysler?

By Lisa Ziegler

If there’s one thing that Chrysler— maker of Jeep vehicles and Jeep auto parts such as Jeep fuel pump— can boast of is its ability to produce a hit vehicle in times when everybody thought that all hopes are gone for the automaker.

There could never be a much perfect timing for the creation of the Chrysler 300 sedan. The production of the 300 sedan was a timely stroke of brilliance in Auburn Hills. It should be noted that in more years than anyone can remember the PT Cruiser, classic Jeep Grand Cherokee together with the range of innovative new minivans have saved Chrysler from near bankruptcy.

The only question now is: Does Chrysler has enough resources left to create another product-led comeback? The current cutting measures that the automaker is employing such as cutting jobs and stabilizing health care cost although it helps but is not enough to save the automaker from a possible buyout. It is also not a secret that DaimlerChrysler AG is looking for potential buyers for the Chrysler AG and if Chrysler will not exert effort to prove its worth to Daimler then it will have to find a new home.

Chrysler is not at all a bad company, as a fact, last year it was able to introduce a record of 10 vehicles of which there were no unqualified hits except for the four-door Wrangler Unlimited which is only a small part of the whole equation. And for this year, Chrysler will once again launch eight more new models. Not bad for a company that is on the brink of being torn to pieces.

Steve Bartoli, Chrysler’s Vice-President for global product planning said, “We just have to be competitive,” and further stated that the coming of new vehicles will help in paying dividends quickly. “It’s been a mixed mesh of new vehicles. And fortunately there haven’t been any disasters.”

Most analysts’ thinks that Chrysler needs to develop an emotional connection with its buyers. And at present Chrysler still designs and produces polarizing vehicles. As a fact, a great number of its newest models like the boxy and aggressive Dodge Nitro provide a distinctive look and one-of-a-kind features for its respective segment. According to Jim Sanfilippo, an automotive marketing expert with Team Detroit that handles advertising for several brands, “You don’t get 300s every year. They’re going to do OK. Chrysler has a lot of solid doubles and all of them four-cylinder engines, which is going to be important when gas prices start to climb again.”

Chrysler and its Minivans
And what about the Minivans will they be able to help Chrysler? One of the most important vehicle launches that Chrysler has for 2007 is in the segment it invented way back in the year 1983 which is the minivan. Starting from the time that Chrysler has introduced the minivans in the market it has been able to sell at least 11 million family haulers. “If Chrysler has a home run, it’s their new minivan,” said Erich Merkle, director of forecasting at IRN, an automotive consulting company in Grand Rapids.

The fifth generation 2008 Chrysler Town and Country minivan and top-selling Dodge Caravan which will hit dealerships this fall should be able to boost the lagging sales of Chrysler, according to Merkle. He also added, “The competition doesn’t have the ability to build more minivans. And Chrysler is introducing an excellent product.”

Despite the fact that Chrysler owns 28 percent of the segment, the sales for the Town and Country minivans still dropped by 12 percent last year while the Caravan sales decline by 6.9 percent that is according to Autodata. Fortunately for Chrysler, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. are now abandoning minivans which make Chrysler as the strongest producer in this segment and will be competing only against Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.holding No.2 and No.3 spots respectively.

Chrysler and its Sedan
Although Chrysler may not be as lucky in the midsize sedan segment with its two introductionsthe all new Dodge Avenger and the redesigned Sebring— but both of these vehicles possess distinctive designs and economical advantage since both were built on the same platform in Sterling Heights. The Avenger was given an aggressive and meaner look while the Sebring was given a face that is made for rental car fleet.

The Sebring sedan is scheduled to hit showrooms in December but sales remain sluggish which Bartoli blames to an end-of-year launch. The Sebring sedan with its short deck and snubbed nose makes it an ugly duckling in the range but wait till you see the convertible version of the sedan which is scheduled to come out later this year. The dropping of the top and the removal of the two doors makes the convertible Sebring sedan a standout.

The Avenger on the other hand is already available in dealerships and offers an attractive alternative to a segment that is filled with hot-selling bland vehicles. It resembles a small Charger and its unique features, strong styling, and good gas mileage is expected to attract new customers.

Dodge which is a brand that appeals to more men than women has a car on its hands that could pull more drivers who are looking for vehicles that have a sporty look and utility that is similar to that of the sedan.

The Dodge Caliber which has given Chrysler with a moderate success has continued the tradition of the automaker when it comes to offering a distinct alternative to the traditional competitors. Although the interior may seem simple but it comes with clever features such as a cooler in the glove box and a detachable cabin light. More than 90,000 units of Dodge Caliber were sold since its launching last year. Also a 300 horsepower high performance SRT version of the Caliber is scheduled for release later this year.

For more about your Jeep parts needs like Jeep fuel pump, visit your trusted online source.

Lisa Ziegler is a 29-year old native of Waldport, Oregon and is currently working as a senior research analyst in a top Automotive Research Consultancy firm.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

We Drive the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500

If you've driven pickups much over the last thirty years, when you're behind the wheel of the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500, the notion might occur that pickups shouldn't be so quiet, ride so smoothly, carve corners so competently, accelerate so quickly, or have so many features. These were our prevailing thoughts as we drove a Laramie 4x4 through the Tennessee countryside, enjoying a driving experience so good that it provides a compelling argument to drive a full-size truck if you can figure out how to rationalize it.

And if you don’t require frequent hauling for work or hobby, rationalizing driving the Ram 1500 is going to be tough with fuel prices where they are. Fuel economy of 13 miles-per-gallon city and 19 mpg highway for Hemi-powered two-wheel drive models (13/18 for four-wheel drive) will quickly burn through the truck's fuel tank (26- or 32-gallon). The bottom line is, people who need a full-size pickup will be able to make the argument, but those posing or posturing will have a harder time.

Regardless of why one might buy a Ram 1500, the truck performs as designed. Most of the new Ram is evolutionary—there's little new ground broken, but we'll get to the Ram's two notable exceptions.

Starting outside, the look is clearly derivative of the outgoing Ram, which itself was a revamp of the bold original 1994 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. We do wish Dodge had pushed its styling team more, as once your eyes pass the forward canted grille, there's not much to keep your attention. By comparison, the 2009 Ford F-150 shows better detailing in the fenders and around back with its ribbed tailgate, both of which give it the impression of a more complete design package.

The interior is likewise evolutionary, but it is well laid out and (thankfully) covered in high-quality materials. The analog gauges are especially easy to read given their blue/white over black design. Wisely, Dodge transferred corporate knowledge gained in the development of their minivan to expand the previously untapped storage space on this new Ram—witness the under-floor (second-row) storage bins on crew cab models. The rear seat of the Crew Cab Laramie we drove was comfortable thanks to the well-chosen rake of the back rest, and the seat bottoms easily fold up and out of the way to reveal yet another storage area.

While interior storage is important, you buy a pickup for the bed. It's back here where Dodge did something truly revolutionary: the Ram Box. This option provides in-fender, weather-proof, lockable storage that is easy to access and genuinely practical to use (unlike the lame in-fender storage provided on the Chevrolet Avalanche and Cadillac Escalade EXT). There's room for plenty of gear on either side, including items as large as golf clubs. The Ram Box option also includes a movable bed divider and bed rail cargo management system. The total package provides more in-bed storage options than any other pickup.

The second revolutionary feature on the Ram is under the bed; it's a multi-link coil spring rear suspension that positions the solid rear axle. Unlike traditional leaf springs that operate with a great degree of friction (and therefore less smoothness), the coils provide a vastly improved ride compared to the outgoing Ram—or any other 2008 pickup we've driven. This may change with the introduction of the 2009 Ford F-150, but we'll stand behind this impression for now.

The 2009 Ram's stiffer frame makes a solid platform for the new rear suspension. Together, the new Ram delivers ride and handling that are the current best of breed. 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 usefully capable.

Another element that made the Laramie an impressive drive was its 390-horsepower 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. The improved engine delivers on its power, and the Laramie never felt as if it needed more juice, even when it was loaded with half a ton in the bed. Dodge has also tuned the powertrain so there's virtually no induction noise. The only thing you hear when you're on the throttle is a pleasantly muted rumble from the exhaust.

The Hemi’s cylinder deactivation technology is also improved for 2009. Because the engine is more powerful, it can run on four cylinders more capably and therefore more often. The Ram can maintain a 70-miles-per-hour cruise running on only four cylinders—something it couldn't do in 2008. To help drivers better modulate their fuel economy, an attentive pilot can now hear when the engine shuts down half its cylinders, and this audible but unobtrusive cue helps change one's driving habits.

Our complaints are limited but significant; the steering is responsive but lacks a key element of communicativeness that this chassis is good enough to deserve. Said another way, one might not miss talkative steering on a truck that handles 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 four or five percent.

Beyond engines, the level of refinement in the new Ram 1500 is impressive, and clearly ahead of Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota’s current offerings. In terms of ride smoothness and handling, this is easily the best Dodge has ever produced. In fact, the Ram moves the benchmark incrementally higher, eclipsing even the trucks from General Motors, our past favorite.

The team from Chrysler made it clear that this is what they're capable of producing under their leadership of Cerberus. If this is the standard, then we’re looking forward to seeing more.

This Day in Auto History:

Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly

The Smith Automobile Company, a Kansas corporation, reorganizes as a Missouri corporation
Racer Bobby Ball is born in Phoenix, AZ
The first Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental is completed
John North Willys dies in Riverdale, NY at age 61
George W. Christ, develop of steel-backed bearings and a design engineer with E-M-F and Studebaker, dies at age 59

Source: Automobile History Day By Day, by Douglas A. Wick