Reviews say the redesigned 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 shines on the road, with loads of passenger room, a strong engine and a very smooth ride. But although it's brawny enough for most tasks, critics say the new Dodge Ram sacrifices quite a bit of towing and hauling capacity in its quest to be the ultimate passenger pickup. Most reviews say the new Ford F-150 (*Est. $21,565 to $44,355) strikes a better balance.
Still, Popular Mechanics' Larry Webster says, "We all fought for the keys to drive this Ram home each night" during a lengthy comparison of five 2009 pickups. "The Ram was like the sport sedan of the test," with powerful acceleration, quick handling and a muscle-car-meets-big-rig look that appeals to most critics, although some find it overdone. Steering feel is a low point; several testers find it extremely numb.
Dodge decided to eliminate the usual jittery pickup-truck ride by abandoning the traditional leaf-spring rear suspension. The new Ram is the first pickup to use coil springs like a car, and reviewers say it definitely works on pavement. "The advantages of that coil-spring rear suspension are clear at every bump, break, bobble and turn in the road," says Christopher Jensen at The New York Times. "The Dodge's ride remained comfortable and composed at all times…On the rough stuff, however, the Ram's body didn't feel nearly as solid as the F-150's." The Dodge Ram's maximum towing (9,100 pounds) and hauling capacities (1,850 pounds) are also significantly lower than the Ford F-150's.
Three cab styles are offered for the 2009 Dodge Ram pickup. The regular cab has room for three with a bench seat and is paired with either a 6-foot-4-inch bed or 8-foot bed. The extended Quad Cab can seat up to six with a rear bench; it comes with narrow rear doors and the 6-foot-4-inch bed. The crew cab can also seat up to six with its bigger back seat; it has four full-size doors and a 5-foot-7-inch bed. Reviewers usually test the crew cab and find it very comfortable, with copious front and rear legroom for tall people.
Dodge also usually supplies reviewers with the top-of-the-line Ram Laramie trim (*Est. $38,120 to $43,490), which testers say is one of the swankiest pickup trucks on the market. It comes with many of the same features as the 2009 Ford F-150 Platinum (*Est. $40,910 to $44,355) -- 20-inch chrome-clad wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated leather seats, woodgrain and chrome trim and more.
But when TheTruthAboutCars.com tests the step-down Dodge Ram SLT (*Est. $25,715 to $35,100), reviewer Don Gammill Jr. finds its interior disappointing, with a poor stereo and chintzy plastic controls. "Other than the fairly comfortable but cheaply upholstered cloth seats, the interior leaves a lot to be desired," Gammill says. The SLT is the lowest trim to offer some of reviewers' favorite options, including the waterproof, lockable RamBox storage bins concealed in the sides of the cargo bed. You can opt for a Sirius backseat TV on the SLT, adding Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel to the usual backseat DVD capability.
The Dodge Ram SLT also branches off into different packages for the same price. A Sport package includes bucket seats, 20-inch chrome-clad wheels and sporty trim. A TRX off-road package features two-tone paint, all-terrain tires, underbody skid plates and tow hooks. Regional Big Horn and Lonestar editions bundle certain options with unique trim.
Entry-level buyers will want to look at the Dodge Ram ST (*Est. $21,520 to $32,750), which has vinyl seats, but reviewers say it comes better-equipped than some rivals' stripped-down models, with power windows and locks, a CD player, air conditioning and tilt steering.
A trio of engine offerings powers the 2009 Dodge Ram. Reviewers say the base 215-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 struggles under the weight of such a big truck, and its fuel economy is a lackluster 16 mpg in mixed driving with the standard four-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive (14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway).
All four-wheel-drive Dodge Rams get at least the second-tier engine, a 310-horsepower, 4.7-liter V-8 with a five-speed automatic transmission. Reviewers say this setup is capable, but fuel economy suffers. FuelEconomy.gov says to expect 15 mpg in mixed driving (14 mpg city and 19 mpg highway) with rear-wheel drive, or 1 mpg less with four-wheel drive (a real-world test at Edmunds.com says it's more like 2 mpg less).
When critics liken the Dodge Ram to a sports car, they're testing the top-of-the-line, 390-horsepower, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. Experts say acceleration is outstanding, and thanks to a feature that shuts four down cylinders when they aren't needed, the big engine's fuel economy is about the same as the base engine's (14 mpg city, 20 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined with the five-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive, or one mpg less with four-wheel drive).
When it comes to reliability and resale value, experts say the Dodge Ram trails the Ford F-150 and Toyota Tundra (*Est. $22,490 to $41,605). Safety organizations report that the Dodge Ram has a greater rollover risk than some other pickups, and it does only a "marginal" job protecting occupants in side crash tests conducted by the insurance industry-backed Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, even with its standard side airbags. Because of Chrysler's financial difficulties, its warranties are now backed by the U.S. government; the Dodge Ram carries a three-year, 36,000-mile basic warranty and a lifetime limited powertrain warranty.
Since the 2009 Dodge Ram is a new model, we found plenty of excellent reviews. Most of them test the Ram head-to-head against its top competitors, including the first nine sources listed here. TheTruthAboutCars.com and Kelley Blue Book both cover most aspects of the Ram in their single-truck reviews. Government side crash ratings are missing for the Ram at SaferCar.gov, but the IIHS includes them. We found official fuel-economy estimates at FuelEconomy.gov. J.D. Power and Associates bases its ratings on owner surveys.
1. Truck Trend
The 2009 Dodge Ram puts up better numbers than the Ford F-150 in this six-truck comparison, but testers still like the Ford better, giving it higher subjective scores for its interior, exterior and "intangibles." Neither truck wins, though -- the Chevy Silverado does.
Review: Half-Ton Fight Club: 2009 Ford vs. Chevy vs. Dodge vs. Nissan vs. GMC vs. Toyota, Mark Williams, Nov. 2008
2. Edmunds Inside Line
The 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 wins this competition, which tests the four top-selling full-size pickup trucks on sand, commuting and towing uphill. The Ram drives and tows well, looks good, has lots of useful features (like the RamBox) and an impressive suspension, reviewer Dan Edmunds says.
Review: Chevy Silverado vs. Dodge Ram vs. Ford F-150 vs. Toyota Tundra, Dan Edmunds, May 3, 2009
The Dodge Ram 1500 takes second place to the Ford F-150 in this comparison. It's cushy, quick and full of handy storage spaces, but editors prefer the better tow rating and lower price of the more work-oriented F-150.
Review: 2009 Full-Size Pickup Truck Comparison Test Drives: Exclusive, Larry Webster, Oct. 17, 2008
4. Car and Driver
The 2009 Dodge Ram wins this contest, even though its towing capacity and fuel economy are the worst of the three trucks tested. Editors like its styling, suspension, quick acceleration and the popular RamBox.
Review: Dodge Ram vs. Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado, Tony Swan, March 2009
ConsumerReports.org includes the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 in its latest pickup truck ratings. Experts here test mostly on-road, putting particular emphasis on handling, comfort, fuel economy, safety and reliability.
Review: Dodge Ram 1500, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
This video review finds a lot to like about the Dodge Ram 1500, but reviewer Chris Shunk ultimately prefers the Ford F-150. The Ram's plush ride and interior, quick acceleration and handy RamBox get noticed, as usual, but Shunk finds the F-150 a better worker.
Review: Video: 2009 Ford F-150 Versus 2009 Dodge Ram, Chris Shunk, Feb. 23, 2009
LeftLaneNews.com puts more emphasis on power and style than other reviewers, and so the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 wins this showdown. Reviewer Andrew Ganz doesn't conduct any towing tests, but he notes the F-150's bigger towing capacity.
Review: Showdown: Dodge Ram Laramie 4x4 vs. Ford F-150 Lariat 4x4, Andrew Ganz, Feb. 5, 2009
8. The New York Times
Reviewer Christopher Jensen tests and compares the 2009 Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram 1500, but he doesn't pick a favorite. He says the F-150's handling feels more confident and precise than the Ram's, but the Ram's ride is smoother.
Review: Carrying a Load for 2 Automakers, Christopher Jensen, April 23, 2009
9. Petersen's 4 Wheel & Off Road
This magazine's off-road shootout includes five 2009 pickups: the Dodge Ram TRX4, Hummer H3 Alpha, Ford F-150 FX4, Hummer H3T Adventure and Suzuki Equator Crew Cab RMZ-4. The Suzuki wins, with the Dodge as runner-up. This results page shows which categories each pickup wins, but there are no further details.
Review: 2009 4x4 of the Year Results, Fred Williams
10. The Truth About Cars
Reviewer Don Gammill Jr. gives the Dodge Ram 1500 four stars (out of five). He worries about buying any new Chrysler model, given that company's financial straits (it has since been taken over by Italy's Fiat auto), but he implies that the Dodge's cool styling, clever storage and powerful engine are worth the risk.
Review: Review: 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 SLT Quad Cab, Don Gammill Jr., Nov. 12, 2008
11. Kelley Blue Book
Both the Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram 1500 make Kelley Blue Book's 2009 Recommended list. Editors praise the Ram's smooth, quiet ride and bold styling, but they predict it won't hold its value as well as an F-150.
Review: 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab Review, Editors of Kelley Blue Book
The Dodge Ram 1500 isn't the most efficient pickup, but it's not the worst, either, according to this Environmental Protection Agency chart. Fuel-economy estimates are posted here for each version of the Ram and most of its competitors.
Review: 2009 Standard Pickup Trucks, Editors of FuelEconomy.gov
13. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
The Dodge Ram 1500 gets perfect five-star frontal crash ratings, but it had not been side crash tested by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration when we checked. In rollover tests, the rear-wheel-drive Ram gets the same score as most other pickups (four stars), but its rating drops to three stars for the more rollover-prone four-wheel-drive version.
Review: 5-Star Safety Ratings, Editors of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
14. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
The Dodge Ram 1500 falls short of a Top Safety Pick designation here, thanks to a "marginal" rating in side crash tests conducted by this nonprofit, insurance-industry-funded agency.
Review: Large Pickups, Editors of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
15. J.D. Power and Associates
The Dodge Ram 1500 earns the lowest dependability scores of any large pickup in J.D. Power and Associates' most recent survey. Owners who bought their trucks in 2006 were surveyed for the 2009 rankings. Click on the Ratings tab to see more rankings; in surveys here, the Ram has average initial quality and low consumer appeal.
Review: 2009 Vehicle Dependability Study -- Large Pickup, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates