What we have here is a bit of truck heaven if you are an urban cowboy or if you are someone who needs a rugged four-wheel drive. The Dodge Ram got a redesign for 2009, and the optioned-out Laramie model is equal parts pickup, muscle car and comfortable sedan. It has everything you'll need except for a ladder to climb into its tall cab.
Appearance: The stout front end, with its angled face, large chrome grille and bulging hood, screams 18-wheeler, but its design is aerodynamic . . . for a truck.
Performance: The most notable change for '09 is the suspension. The Ram trades a truck's traditional leaf springs for multilink coils — much like a passenger car. So we were pleasantly surprised at its smooth ride and agile handling. Peter liked it even more when he had to dodge something that fell off a vehicle on the interstate. Lyra drove it in a heavy downpour with confidence. Under the hood is a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with 390 horsepower. The Challenger we drove this year had a 6.1-liter HEMI. So this truck, even at 5,612 pounds, can get up and go. Of course, you pay at the pump: 13 city, 18 highway. The automatic transmission shifts smoothly, and the shift-on-the-fly transfer to four-wheel drive is seamless.
Interior: Inside, the Laramie is loaded with features — once you hoist yourself into the cab. We both needed to grab the door frame's grip. A running board would help. (Lyra: Don't even think about hopping out of it with heels on — it's a long drop.) Despite its size, the seat and pedals adjusted well, even for a short driver. Our tester had the optional leather-trimmed buckets, which were comfortable and supportive. The armrest storage is like a mini desk with a deep bin, a shallow tray and writing surface. There's a two-tiered glove box and nooks for pens, coins and a cell phone. It's like a home office on wheels. The backseats are roomy, even for adults. Under the rear floorboard is a hidden bin, and the seats fold up to reveal a storage compartment in the transmission hump. If you need to load things, like a bike, it's doable.
Exterior: The best storage feature is Dodge's RamBox, a pair of narrow lockable bins built into the rear fenders. They're perfect for storing tools and parts. Peter found them helpful when grocery shopping, but because of the protruding wheel wells, you can't get anything big in them. The bins can be used as a cooler (it's not insulated, but it's drainable). The bed of the truck is shorter because of the Crew Cab configuration, but you can still fit in a sheet of plywood with the tailgate down. We also like the accompanying cargo management system that has the sliding cargo divider and adjustable tie-down cleats.
Our 3 favorites
HEMI power: Think of it as a muscle car with a cargo bed.
Dashboard: Attractive gauges and easy-to-use controls.
Back window: It's electric. No more reaching back.
Inverter power outlet: You can use regular plugs, not the ones you put in a cigarette lighter.
Adjustable pedals: A must-have for short drivers like me.
RamBox: Perfect for tools or drinks, and the bins are lockable.
The bottom line: There's talk that Fiat-controlled Chrysler wants to spin off Ram as its own brand, and we can understand why. Trucks are a Dodge strength. The Laramie has most of the comforts of home and still handles the range.