It all started on a frigid morning in downtown Detroit outside the North American International Auto Show in January, 2008. Anticipation was in the air (along with our frozen breath) as thousands of journalists eagerly waited for the thunderous roar that was coming around the corner.
Dodge decided to introduce the all-new Ram 1500 pickup to the world in unique fashion Ð a cattle drive through the streets of motor city. About one hundred longhorn steers escorted the new Dodge Ram to the press event.
Pickups have been extremely important to U.S. automakers as they historically account for the top sales and largest profits. Recent economic trends, however, have sought to undermine the efforts of Detroit’s Big Three.
Pickups will always have a place in our society as they are the backbone of the working force. They tow, they haul, they carry all the junk we would not think of putting in our precious cars Ð they do the work nothing else can. Sales to the image crowd have decreased but the loyal truck owner will continue to purchase pickups.
To stay competitive, truck makers are adding more convenience and more comfort while addressing fuel economy issues as quickly as they can. Modern engines are producing more power than ever while at the same time edging up on the environmentally-friendly scale.
After a week in the new Ram (a fully-loaded TRX 4×4 Crew Cab model this time around), I find myself smitten.
The new Ram 1500 is a huge changeover from the previous model. Inside and out, Dodge has made significant enhancements and improvements.
And in a surprise move, engineers have changed the rear suspension design from leaf springs to coils Ð herecy to some truck aficionados Ð but the improved ride and handling will quickly silence many of the naysayers.
Seating is comfortable and spacious, and the power is riotous Ð nearly as much as we enjoyed in the hotrod SRT-8 Challenger.
Our tester came with the new unique RamBox option that puts cargo bed-length lockable storage compartments in the top of the bedsides. They feature adjustable dividers and drain plugs and are even illuminated.
The new styling is a bold move as well. Dodge has moved from the “big rig” look of recent years and is taking design cues from the front fascia of the Dodge Charger, kind of like a running back lowering his head and shoulders as he prepares to “charge” through the line of scrimmage.
Segment-first features of the new Ram include: solid axle, coil spring, multi-link rear suspension; versatile cargo management system including unique RamBox weatherproof, lockable, illuminated, drainable storage bins; store-in-the-floor bins with removable liners; factory-installed 4-inch dual exhaust; live Sirius Backseat TV”! and surround-sound audio system and Dodge Ram’s first crew-sized cab model.
A new 5.7-liter HEMI (with MDS cylinder deactivation technology) provides 390 horsepower and 407 lb.-ft. of torque, with 20 miles per gallon highway (4×2 models, 18 on 4x4s) and 0-60 mph times of under 6 seconds.
All-new interiors feature significantly upgraded materials and nearly double the storage options to 42, while 35 safety and security features, including standard four-wheel anti-lock braking system and Electronic Stability Program, are thrown in for good measure.
We love the new Dodge for its styling (inside and out) and onroad handling, but when made to work like a truck it began showing some slight weaknesses when stacked up against the likes of the new F-150. We admire the new RamBox storage as quite unique and useful. However, when matched up against the Ford’s new tailgate step and boxside step, we give the nod to the Ford in this category as well.
Pricing for our Ram 1500 TRX 4×4 Crew Cab tester starts at $35,100 with our loaded model coming in at nearly 46 grand thanks to a bunch of extra goodies including 115 volt auxiliary power, ParkSense rear park assist and ParkView rear back-up camera, 506-watt Alpine audio system with HDD, remote start, power sunroof and navigation system.