What determines any new vehicle’s true worth is what happens when tires touch ground with a load in the bed or a boat in tow. By that measure, the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 4x4 Crew Cab has a lot of worth, and it’s in more than just one area of use.
Dodge spent an inordinate amount of time over the past few years talking with current Ram owners and holding idea sessions with consumers who own other brands to see what they thought would be the ideal combination in the next-generation Ram 1500.
The result is a truck that reflects dozens of design changes and improvements. The difference between the ’08 and the ’09 is huge. Dodge engineers and designers have taken a pickup that was several steps behind its half-ton competitors in comfort, power, fuel economy, styling and utility value, and repositioned it as the new class leader.
The most dramatic change is ride and handling. In the past, I’d use the Ram as my example of a hard, harsh ride when talking about daily driving manners. I have to find a new example now. Dodge’s use of a coil-sprung solid-axle rear suspension in the ’09 Rams takes them from worst to first in ride quality.
I spent hours driving both a Quad Cab and the all-new Crew Cab Ram 1500 4x4 models over interstates, along twisting mountain highways and over a sandy ranch road along Central California’s coastal foothills. Dodge even threw in a 6,000-pound Airstream travel trailer to test the Ram’s towing prowess. Not once was there any hint of sloppy handling.
This switch from leaf springs to coils, while retaining the solid rear axle housing, dramatically improves ride and handling while retaining acceptable half-ton pickup payload numbers for a Crew Cab 4x4 equipped with the 5.7-liter Hemi and stock 17-inch wheels (up to 1,360 pounds). Maximum towing with a weight-distribution hitch is 8,400 pounds. If you get the optional 20-inch wheels, maximum towing capacity drops by 1,000 pounds.
Dodge offers the new Rams with three engine options: 215-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 (two-wheel-drive regular cab and quad cab); 310-horsepower, 4.7-liter V-8 (all four-wheel-drive models); and the 390-horsepower, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, which is standard in Sport/Laramie models.
For towing, go with the Hemi. It delivers ample power and the Multiple Displacement System lets it switch between V-4/V-8 modes as you drive, improving fuel economy. Hemi-equipped Rams come with the five-speed automatic, but you do have the option of part-time or on-demand four-wheel-drive, and 3.21, 3.55, 3.92 and 4.10 (regular cab only) axle ratios. If you tow, get the 3.92.
The on-demand four-wheel-drive system, which I prefer, can be shifted into high-range on the fly or left in automatic mode. The only item the new Ram appears to lack is an electronic-lock rear differential. It has a limited-slip, but that’s not nearly as nice as having a full locker at your disposal.
Dodge offers the Ram in a wide variety of two- and four-wheel-drive configurations starting with Regular ($22,170), Quad Cab ($26,225) and Crew Cab ($32,530) models. In addition, it is available in five trim levels within each cab style: ST, SLT, TRX, Sport and the top-of-the-line Crew Cab 4x4 Laramie ($45,490, loaded.) Expect some good discounts after the newness wears off.
Overall, Dodge should be really proud of what it’s brought to the pickup-buying masses.
Click here for specs on the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500