- The Washington Times - Friday, October 24, 2008

Lots of trucks have been sold to those who didn’t really need trucks — they just wanted one. Those wannabe truckers quickly abandoned their “rigs” when the cost of fuel became a serious expense. Their departure from the market has left every manufacturer with excess truck capacity.

Logically it seems like a lousy time to introduce a new full-size pickup into this over-supplied market. But the marketing folks at Dodge say “not so.” They contend that trucks with the best features and the best value will succeed, even in a tight market.

In the past, cars and trucks built by the Chrysler Group, and Dodge in particular, were well known for their cheap hard plastic interiors. That’s all changed now. Top management has sent down a clear message to fix the interiors and designers have done just that, with emphasis on style, comfort and convenience.

All 2009 Dodge Ram interiors are significantly upgraded with a focus on craftsmanship and premium appointments, such as six-ring instrumentation, redesigned controls, chrome accents, first-rate seating with improved bolsters, two-tone upholstery with soft-touch materials and premium fit and finish. Full-width contrasting stitching is offered on soft-touch instrument panels for Sport and Laramie models.

The rear seat in the new Crew Cab has a seating angle of 24 degrees, the same as a typical front seat. There’s also plenty of bottom cushion length for extra comfort.

The Crew Cab 1500 has an available “RamBox” cargo management system. This clever feature provides weatherproof, lockable, illuminated and drainable storage compartments integrated into both fender sides for easy access. Total capacity is 7.4 cubic feet. In more understandable terms, each box holds the equivalent of five cases of 12-ounce beverages.

The RamBox system includes a bed divider, a 2-foot bed extender for oversize loads and a rail system with sliding, adjustable cleats for tie-down capability. The tailgate is spring-loaded to reduce the effort needed to raise and close the tailgate.

During the new Ram’s design phase, Dodge engineers examined typical uses of their truck and found that buyers will tow around 5,000-pounds and infrequent towing might be 7,500-pounds. They also found that owners would like more ride comfort, especially when operating empty or with light loads.

The result was the recognition that there was one area where Dodge could lead the segment — ride comfort. And one area where Dodge would accept being a step behind its competing full-size trucks: towing capacity.

For 2009, Dodge introduces a multi-link coil-spring rear suspension, which provides improved ride and handling with no loss of capability. A coil-spring setup centralizes and absorbs bumps and impacts, while reducing the amount of friction in the spring system. This setup also weighs 40 pounds less than a leaf-spring configuration. Shock absorbers are forward-facing and positioned on the outside of the frame for optimum damping.

There are no plans to compete with Ford or Toyota for maximum towing honors. Dodge is keeping towing capacity about the same as the previous Ram. Buyers towing the big stuff already recognize the need for a heavy-duty model.

The Ram won’t have an optional tow package, but will have standard tow/haul mode and 4-pin and 7-pin connectors integrated in the rear bumper. Ram is capable of handling a payload of up to 1,850 pounds and towing up to 9,100 pounds.

The 2009 Dodge offers a new generation of the famous 5.7-liter HEMI V-8. It has been optimized to improve engine breathing, and new technologies have been added. The result is improved idle quality and overall refinement, more horsepower, more torque and better fuel economy. The new HEMI delivers 390 hp and 407 lb.-ft. of torque, with an estimated 4 percent improvement in fuel economy.

The new HEMI powers the all-new 2009 Dodge Ram to best-in-class performance. The R/T regular-cab 4x2 model equipped with a short bed and 4:10 gears can accelerate from 0-60 mph in less than 6 seconds.

The HEMI take-rate for Dodge Ram continues to hover above 40 percent. Available in three cab configurations, five trim levels and three box lengths, powertrain choices include the 390-horsepower, 5.7-liter HEMI; 310-horsepower, 4.7-liter V-8; and a 215-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6. Prices start at $22,170. When equipped with all of the bells and whistles prices go through the stratosphere. Style and comfort have a price. Photo: 2009 Dodge Ram features new coil spring rear suspension for a car-like ride.

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