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Review | 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4

Dodge Ram pickup makeover makes it good

To quote an annoying, button-eyed orphan, the sun will come out tomorrow. The stirrings of an American rally are just underfoot, as the first birds of spring are chirping overhead.

I have been given a sign. I like the new Dodge Ram pickup.

When I drive around in this monster pickup, I am reminded that, though Germans fairly own the luxury sedan business and Italians still make unconquerable sports cars, Americans completely dominate the full-sized truck market.

Even with the Detroit automakers hanging on by the increasingly strained mercy of U.S. taxpayers, and with the full-sized truck segment down a well like nobody's seen since Baby Jessica, the Detroit Three are pickup gods.

Look, America is a huge country whose economic backbone is the entrepreneurial class. Pickups are an utter necessity for work, business and recreation.

Meanwhile, the general excellence of the redesigned-for-2009 Dodge Ram provides a hedge against despair.

The complaints in Ram's past were all related to drift and neglect, an ongoing starvation of investment in engineering, design and materials. The Ram's lameness seemed all the more acute given the steadily improving quality of the Ford, Chevy, Toyota and Nissan full-sizers.

The 2009 Dodge Ram answers with a well-fitted interior stitched together from premium materials; touches of tasteful bright-work; smart, legible electronic readouts; beefier switches and knobs; sculpted seats; and cubbies and storage bins galore.

Buyers can add a 10-speaker sound system, Sirius satellite radio, built-in Wi-Fi and a rear seat entertainment system. With the remote start feature, you can fire the truck up on a cold day and turn on the heated seats and heated steering wheel.

The rear-seat in-floor storage bin, one Dodge engineer said, is large enough to hold 10 12-ounce beverages with ice.

The 1500 Ram comes in five trim levels (from base ST to Laramie) and three cab configurations (regular, quad and crew); three bed lengths (5 feet 7, 6 feet 4 and 8 feet); a choice of engines — a 3.7-liter, 210-horsepower V-6; a 4.7-liter, 310-hp V-8 and the heavy-breathing 5.7-liter, 390-hp "Hemi"; and in rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive.

The base ST with the V-6 and four-speed automatic costs $22,420. The Laramie Crew Cab starts at $41,520. If you load it to the gills you can get to $50,000

Truckmakers are vying to see which can come up with the coolest storage options for the cargo bed. Ram's entry in this competition is the RamBox storage system, which comprises large and lockable storage compartments built into the side of the cargo box. These are terrific.

The compartments do intrude on the cargo bed floor area, but it's still possible to lay a 4- by 8-foot sheet of drywall flat.

The other bit of headlining news is the use of a coil-spring rear suspension. This gets a bit technical, but the choice of a coil spring over a traditional leaf spring rear-end favors ride quality and handling at the expense of overall towing and hauling.

And, just as you'd expect, the Ram has very civil road manners for a pickup. The penalty is that the Ram cedes a few hundred pounds of payload capacity to the reigning champ, the Ford F-150.

Powerful, well crafted, thought through, completely desirable, the new Ram feels like a huge win for the company, a knockout punch thrown while flat on the canvas.

2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4

Base price: $44,285

Price, as tested: $48,890

Power train: 5.7-liter SOHC V-8 with multidisplacement system; five-speed automatic transmission; part-time four-wheel drive with two-speed transfer case

Horsepower: 390 at 5,600 rpm

Torque: 410 pound-feet at 3,900 rpm

Curb weight: 5,542 pounds

0 to 60 mph: under 8 seconds

Wheelbase: 140 inches

Overall length: 227.5 inches

EPA fuel economy: 13 miles per gallon city/18 mpg highway/15 mpg combined

Final thoughts: A Pyrrhic victory is still a win.

Dodge Ram pickup makeover makes it good 04/03/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 3, 2009 4:30am]
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