- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2008

For decades, automakers have focused — and limited — the cargo-toting capabilities of pickup trucks to that large box behind the cab. Times have changed and designers have taken significant steps to maximize storage by incorporating “cubbies” into a number of spaces.

Dodge’s all-new full-size 2009 Ram 1500 and freshened compact/midsize 2008 Dakota stretch practicality with clever new storage features.

The Ram features 41 different storage spaces. Fitted for the first time with an available true center console and floor shifter, this sporty-looking unit boosts storage capacity. The large center console is bi-level, featuring a deep bin for storage of large items and a shallow upper tray, just right for smaller items, such as cellphones and sunglasses.

Designers also doubled the practicality with the Ram’s glove boxes, consisting of a lower conventional-style glove box and a narrow rectangular cubby with a lid, above. This system allows important papers to be stored separately from other items. The upper storage bin provides a convenient place for storing beverage cans.

“It’s something we took straight from the minivan,” said Ralph Gilles, vice president, Jeep/truck design studio. “I think you can put 10 pop cans in there.”

Optional in-floor storage bins — positioned on the outboard sides of the rear floorboard — provide more beverage storage for crew cabs. These “store in the floor” up to 10 cans of beverages with ice, or items such as small tools. Hidden beneath rugged-textured hinged doors, these bins are insulated, removable and can be drained.

There’s another option for stowing items out of sight. Quad Cabs and Ram Crew 1500s are offered with dual storage bins with lids, positioned beneath the split rear-seat cushions.

“It’s easily the best interior we’ve ever done as a company,” Gilles said of the cab’s styling and storage capabilities, noting the spotlight storage option is located on the exterior.

Located in each cargo box’s sidewall are optional RamBoxes. Providing 4.3 cubic feet of storage per side, the RamBox cargo management system — offered on crew-size cabs — hold up to 10 cases of 12-ounce beverages. It features removable liners and dividers, and is illuminated, lockable and sealed. A drain tube allows bins to be filled with ice. Pulling out an array of bulky sports gear and tools, Gilles demonstrated the bins’ excellent storage capacity. “It’s big enough for helmets, for golf clubs and chain saws,” he said.

Ram trim levels include Laramie, Sport, TRX, SLT and ST. Box-length choices are 8-foot on the regular cab; 6-foot-4-inch on the regular and Quad Cab; and a new 5-foot-7-inch box on the Ram Crew.

Pricing for the 2009 Ram, which is set to go on sale this fall, will be announced later.

Designers also provide the Ram’s smaller Dakota sibling with innovative storage solutions, tailored for younger consumers (ages 25 to 35), who likely lean more toward the “play” than “work” side of the truck’s use. “We position it not as a mini Ram, but as a lifestyle vehicle,” said Marc Seguin, senior manager, Dodge truck marketing.

The Dakota features an industry-first storage system beneath its folding-split rear seat cushions. Tagged Crate ‘N Go, it’s standard on SLT-and-above crew-cab models. Flipping up the 60/40-split rear seat cushions unveils a pair of collapsed plastic crates, one large and one small.

These can be pulled up, and sides locked into place, to form crates that together hold about 2 cubic feet of cargo.

After loading the crates, they can be lifted and toted away. It’s beneficial, especially during grocery-store trips.

Dakota’s new, tall and narrow center console features space for items such as CDs, a flip-out electronics organizer and integrated beverage holders.

It’s standard on all but ST models. The Dakota has a separate open storage cubby above the glovebox, and rear-seat grocery-bag hooks are available on extended-cab models.

Jim Press, vice chairman and president, Chrysler LLC, said a pickup in today’s competitive market has to offer consumers above-and-beyond styling and features. “It’s got to be a really great truck to cut through in this market.”

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