From The Desk of Mike (The Hammer) Garvin

2009 Dodge Ram Preview

By Amyot Bachand,
auto123.com
Dodge firmly intends to gain new market shares in the pickup/truck segment despite skyrocketing gas prices. The company's diesel engines already enjoy a solid reputation with the heavy-duty Ram models (2500+). For 2009, the most significant changes were made to the bodywork and cabin.

For 2009, the most significant changes were made to the bodywork and cabin.

Focus on aerodynamics
Ralph Gilles, who designed the Ram 1500, happily agreed to talk about this new pickup. Special attention was paid to aerodynamics, styling and functionality. Dodge's truck team surveyed pickup owners and users to collect precious data that would serve as the basis for the various upgrades.

The Montreal native explained to us that the game is no longer about getting bigger; rather, it's a matter of style. The grille is equally massive as the previous model's, but the now-aluminum hood design is lower to optimize airflow. The front wheel arches have also been lowered to reduce turbulence between the wheel and fender. Additionally, the new flush-mounted body panels help reduce drag.

The threshold of the Ram 1500 is now lower, while a rubber seal is fitted between the cabin and cargo box for improved aerodynamics. The mirrors might be larger, but their new shape makes them more wind-efficient. Likewise, the front and rear bumpers are fully integrated to the bodywork instead of being bolted to it like on some rivals.

Surprising quietness

The roof of the Crew Cab model has been lowered so as to improve airflow toward the back. The tailgate is lighter and more balanced while featuring an integrated spoiler. According to Ralph Gilles, it's actually more fuel-efficient to drive with the tailgate up. With all these exterior upgrades, the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 boasts a drag coefficient of 0.419, one of the best, if not the best in its class. Consequently, engineers managed to create a much quieter cabin.

As soon as you sit inside this Ram, you'll notice the great material selection and quality fit and finish.

New and improved cabin
As soon as you sit inside this Ram, you'll notice the great material selection and quality fit and finish. The arrival of Cerberus and Jim Press at Chrysler has led to quite a turnaround. No more compromises will be made here. At last, the final product reflects the exact sketches of designers. Every control is now bigger and wrapped in rubber for easier manipulation, even with gloves.

The bulging rear fenders integrate industry-exclusive, weatherproof, lockable compartments.

For 2009, the Ram 1500 finally offers a true 4-door cabin, the Crew Cab. The new layout incorporates almost twice as many storage compartments as before (42 vs 26), which will meet the expectations of potential buyers. While I stopped counting after 30, I spent a few minutes marvelling at the in-floor storage bins; you could put a dozen beer cans with ice in there.

Innovative RamBox

One of the most impressive additions is the new RamBox designed by Gilles and his team. The bulging rear fenders integrate industry-exclusive, weatherproof, lockable compartments. How brilliant! At first, this feature will only be available with the 6-foot cargo box, but Dodge promises to offer it with the longer boxes in the near future. I should also point out that the tailgate includes a torsion beam that makes it easier to fold down.

Revised rear suspension

Another surprise is the new coil-spring, five-link suspension which replaces the old leaf-spring setup. Comfort is enhanced, not to mention stability under load or when towing. Engineers made sure that the new Ram offers the same payload and towing capacities. I can't wait to compare the various models during an upcoming test-drive in late August.

Powertrains
For 2009, the 5.7L HEMI benefits from yet another series of improvements, like variable valve timing, with the goal of further increasing fuel economy. The 4.7L V8 and 3.7L V6 are still on the menu. In 2010, a yet-to-built diesel will be introduced. Cummins and Chrysler are working relentlessly to achieve unprecedented levels of smoothness, efficiency and reliability.

Another surprise is the new coil-spring, five-link suspension which replaces the old leaf-spring setup.

2009 lineup
Five different Ram 1500 models will be available, with a choice of three cabins: Standard, Quad Cab and Crew Cab. Dodge will put an emphasis on the latter since it accounts for over half of all pickup truck sales.

The 5.7L HEMI benefits from improvements with the goal of further increasing fuel economy.

The base ST or commercial model sports plastic bumpers and steel wheels. The well-equipped SLT is the 1500's spearhead. The Sport model adds more features, while the R/T (standard cab, short box) is a hot-rod truck. Then there's the high-end Laramie, targeting entrepreneurs who need a work truck on weekdays and want to go out in style on weeknights.

When looking at the comprehensive menus and spec sheets, you quickly realize that buying a truck is not like buying a car. You have to clearly define your needs and find the appropriate size, setup and powertrain to match those needs. Dodge engineers clearly did their homeworks -- and they were pretty serious about it, too.

Photos: Luc Gagné, Amyot Bachand

Monday, July 14, 2008

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