By on August 6, 2007

t2006_026highuse.jpgThe American pickup truck wars have become a series of increasingly pitched battles. Even as the pickup market tanks, the main players have regrouped, refreshed and rejoined the fight. As we await the new Dodge Ram pickup, a major candidate for the "I coulda been a contender" award, questions must be asked. Does the current Ram have what it takes to hold the fort against the [ostensibly] reliable Toyota Tundra, the built-like-a-rock Chevy Silverado and the tough luxury Ford F-150? What battles will the new Dodge Ram have to win?

Dodge last refreshed the Ram's design back in '02. At the time, The Dodge Boys' sheetmetal sculptors did little more than give the existing design a huge shot of whatever made Barry Bonds into such a serious slugger. The resulting big rig ‘tude was a huge hit. Protruding tail-lights, endless chrome, two levels of hood bulges and a Freightliner snout gave the pickup what the Germans call "uberholprestige," or what Good Old Boys call "Get the **** out of my way."

While there's nothing particularly wrong with the Ram's current design– provided you eat nails for breakfast– one wonders how long Dodge can play the machismo card in a world increasing filled with PC hybrids and CUVs (castrated utility vehicles). Even if Dodge stays on message, how much louder can they shout? Other than flaring the bed's flat flanks with Audi Quattro wheel arches or fitting the Ram's roof with standard air horns and running lights, there's not much room for "improvement."    

interiorhemistar__mid.jpgInside, there's PLENTY of room for improvement. The Ram's expansive center stack is bogged down by the same nasty plastic and generic interior cues plaguing all Chrysler-family models– right down to that irritating radio with its counter-intuitive controls.

Comfort also takes a back seat– or not. The Quad Cab's rear seats' obvious malevolence towards the human form provides surreptitious encouragement for a Mega Cab upgrade. The front seats aren't much better; the thinly padded chairs are no friend to anyone who's spent the day loading and emptying the cargo bed. 

Thankfully, the Quad Cab's forward compartment is large enough for a brace of small gladiators to engage in relatively unfettered combat. The center armrest is the crown jewel of the Ram's cabin (just ask Toyota). This feature, beloved of laptop-toting foremen, is unbelievably accommodating. Lids down, both my ThinkPad and widescreen Dell fit in the space at the same time. As Paris Hilton would say (if she were the dual-laptop type), that's hot.  

dg007_003rm.jpgLast year, Dodge redesigned the Ram's frame and suspension to improve the pickup's class-following ride and handling. Clearly, much work remains to be done. While the F-150 turns road imperfections into a delicate lumbar massage, the Ram sends all shocks straight through to its passengers, unfiltered. Unless the Ram is fully loaded with passengers and cargo, the bed jumps around like children trapped in what the English call a bouncy castle.

Still, the Ram's got soul where it matters. The SLT trim holsters the company's trusty 4.7-liter V8. With this mighty motor, the Ram leaps long lines of traffic in a single bound, or, alternatively, tows small garages without complaint. The highway is the Ram's happy place; whether fully loaded or as empty as Congress' promises of energy independence, the pickup doesn't break a sweat at 70 mph. And speaking of sucking-up natural resources from foreign climes, I clocked 11 mpg in mixed driving, towing and hauling nothing heavier than thin air.  

Sadly, the Ram's five-speed transmission (fifth is for overdrive) isn't up to the task of channeling 300 ft.-lbs. of twist. Upshifts are as abrupt as the downshifts are fashionably late. After lurching into second gear a few times, I found myself checking the transfer case switch to see if I hadn't somehow dropped into 4WD-Lo.

img_4678.jpgWhen push comes to shove, the current Ram trails all its competitors in nearly every category. It burns more fuel, isn't nearly as comfortable and doesn't drive as well. So why does it still sell so well? Because the Ram's cachet has nothing to do with handling, utility, longevity or efficiency.

Every time I passed another Ram, the driver would nod, admitting membership in the cult of the Ram. Dodge's pickup is the poseur truck par excellence, right down to its [where the Hell do I find] E85 [and why in God's name would I want to get less mpg] badge on the tailgate.  

If I cared about my spinal cord, I'd get an F-150. If I wanted my truck to last 362,000 miles, I'd get a Silverado. If I wanted to haul ass in a rolling pantomime of bling and bravado (and occasionally tow a boat), there's no question I'd get a Ram. In short, the Dodge Ram is the Cadillac Escalade of pick-ups. Word.  

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42 Comments on “Dodge Ram 1500 Review...”


  • avatar
    JJ

    And here was I thinking the Sclade EXT was the Sclade of pick-ups.

    Anyway, I liked the design much more before the redesign, but it doesn’t matter. All of it’s competitors are better choices. And if the new one has that same stupid plastic that’s still applied in all the new chrysler products, which it probably will, the rest of it better be really, really good for it to be a legitimate contender.

    And that IS considering pick-ups probably aren’t bought for their soft touch interior plastics…

    The version with the viper-V10 used to be cool though, for a minute or 5. Until Michael Schumacher bought one…

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Bob Nardelli, your limo just arrived!

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    The Ram is a Cars.com “best bet” and yet it trails all its competitors in nearly every category.

    Hmmmm.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Starlight,
    Limo or hearse?

  • avatar

    Sadly, the advent of the original Freightliner design has changed each of the pickups, the Ram, the F150, the Silverado and the Tundra into a “…poseur truck par excellence.” A friend still drives a very durable and useful ’71 F250 and next to any of these it looks like a toy. And when following that old Ford in a regular car, it seems to block out only half as much sky as any of the current offerings.

    11 mpg as well. My friend’s F250 gets 12 or so whilst consuming dino fluid far less precisely than any modern truck. Now that’s progress.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    SherbornSean:

    If the bed has a cap on it, then definitely hearse.

  • avatar
    TwingoV12

    In spite of the dubious interior quality, the guy on the second photo seems desperate to get inside (was that HIS car you stole for the review?).

    Then again, this man might just have taken a close look inside and is now traumatized.

    ;-P

  • avatar
    LK

    Having driven a couple of Dodge pickups with the 4.7L, I’m not sure I’d call it a “mighty motor” – perhaps “barely adequate motor” would be a better term to use. 235hp sounds good until you match it with a 5,200+ pound curb weight…and then imagine using the truck to haul a load or pull a trailer.

    Plus, the 11mpg figure seems awfully low – while Dodges aren’t known for good mileage, that’s even lower than most owners are getting with the larger 5.7L (which I refuse to call a Hemi). I would expect that combination to get closer to 14 or 15mpg…not great, but fairly typical for that type of truck.

    I’ll agree that the Dodge is probably the worst full-size pickup on the market – which is why they’re offering $6,000 rebates and selling them for $10,000+ off the sticker price. Problem is, even at the lower price they’re still no bargain.

    I do wonder about the new lifetime powertrain warranty, though…with the current rebates you can pick up a base-model truck for about $15K, and with the new warranty that might be a good deal for contractors and those who put a lot of miles on their vehicles. Not that I’d want to drive one for 300,000 miles, but it might make some sense from a financial standpoint.

    Edited to add: I just checked a couple of the Dodge pickup forums, and there are a couple owners out there getting similar mileage – 11mpg or so with the 4.7L V8. Wow…that is amazingly horrible mileage for an unloaded half-ton with the smaller V8. That’s actually worse mileage than I got with my crew-cab 1-ton 4×4 Ford with the 6.8L V10 – and it weighed about 7,000 pounds empty. No wonder they put a $6,000 rebate on them…you’d need it just to pay for the gas!

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    If Dodge wanted to disrupt the full-size pickup truck market, they’d drop a 6-cylinder turbodiesel under the hood that can match the 4.7L’s 300ft-lbs with 30% better economy (is 20mpg too much to ask?) and greatly improved longevity. Too bad it’s too late to get their hands on MB’s 3.0-liter.

    Make this the standard engine (except in California and its posse of states that mindlessly follow her lead on environmental policy) for trucks starting under $25,000 and I think they would achieve through bold engineering what they achieved by bold design in 1994 (i.e. a quadrupling of sales from ’93 to‘99).

  • avatar
    Matthew Danda

    Interesting how Cerberus just hired a disgraced executive with absolutely nothing to lose to lead the company in this new era. Very interesting indeed.

  • avatar
    ronbo456

    That’s incredibly unfair to the Escalade. The Slade might be a Suburban for poseurs (trust me, I own one), but the Suburban is a tank.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Dodge Ram is a Great truck. A majority of interiors for cars and trucks are now made of hard plastic because of durablility and quality compared to the old school leather dash board that needs a lot of TLC according to my dad who drives Trucks and other american cars.
    He doesn’t have to worry throwing his muddy tools on his dash.

    I think all trucks are gaz guzzler and tough and

    Samir you meant “For Real” right?

  • avatar

    No, BEAT, I really meant for poseurs.

    Every single time I passed another Dodge Ram while driving this one, its truck bed was empty. Technically, the Ram is inferior to its competitors; discerning truck buyers are going to go somewhere else.

    There’s nothing wrong with plastic per sé, especially in a work truck, however the Dodge Ram’s plastic is behind the times. It’s not so much the cheapness that bothers me, it’s the sheer ugliness of the plastic. It can be made more aesthetically appealing without sacrificing any durability.

    To others:
    -I really did get 11 MPG. I used this truck to help a friend move, so it was loaded half the time, and half the time it wasn’t. For this task the 4.7L was much more than adequate.

    -Great point about the Escalade EXT. Like the Explorer SportTrac, it is a disgusting mongrel abomination that tries to be too much at once. I guess it wasn’t on my radar for that reason. There’s nothing inherently wrong getting a poseur truck, one just has to own up to the fact, that’s all. It’s no worse than a FWD car with a rear wing.

    -I never dissed the Chevrolet Suburban. I have a lot of respect for this oft-maligned truck. Comparing the Ram to the Suburban, in my view, would have been an insult to the Suburban.

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    # Matthew Danda:
    August 6th, 2007 at 10:18 am

    Interesting how Cerberus just hired a disgraced executive with absolutely nothing to lose to lead the company in this new era. Very interesting indeed.

    Disgraced? In CEO/Board of Director circles, it appears that success is measured by the size of your severance package. $210 million (for failing at HD) means that Nadelli’s a winner.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    For my entire lifetime Dodge has made the also-ran entry in the pickup truck race. When they were plain looking they sold on price … and now that they are macho looking they sell only on price.

    Nardelli as the new CEO of Chrysler is a real head scratcher move. Maybe this is another sign that Chrysler plans to move out of the manufacturing business and just be a design and distribution company. Nardelli made a real mess of Home Depot, but I guess he did get some experience setting up supply relationships in China!

  • avatar
    jackc10

    If Nardelli does to Chrysler what he did for Home Depot, Chrysler is doomed and Ford and GM are tempoarily saved.

    BTW, I have a Dodge Ram, bought well used and it performs with 160,000+ miles on it pulling my boat, hauling dogs, bikes and the like. I do laugh at the commercial of the robot banging against the front grill. It may look like metal, but underneath the paint it is good old plastic.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    Someone forgot to mention how the Ram eats transmissions.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    I wouldn’t tar and feather all Rams with the poseur label; just saw multitudes of them in CO towing all kinds of huge trailers, though mostly diesels, either crew cabs or cab and chassis with a 5th wheel setup

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    There’s a reason I still see plenty of 80s GM trucks and (to a lesser extent) the Ford F150 on the road. Months go by before I see a pre-94 Ram, even the newer ones are hard to come by. And this is in Texas of all places!

    The Dodge boys have always been a distant third in trucks, bargain basement prices (guess which 1 ton diesel is the cheapest?) and mediocre quality (esp. crap transmissions) won’t cut it anymore. Slapping a Cummins (1993?) and giving it macho styling (1994) won’t save the Ram from obscurity like before.

  • avatar
    ejacobs

    @ cheezeweggie,
    A Chrysler product that eats transmissions? Unheard of!

  • avatar
    saleenstang

    ive ridden in a dodge ram many times (its my uncles) he hauls stuff around all the time cause hes a handyman he works on other peoples house and his own and hes always hauling around plumbing equipment tools furniture and stuff like that and he loves that truck. its never broken down hes had it for about 2 or 3 years now. at one point he though it was to big and got an f150 and he was dissapointed with it and got rid of it right away. i think the ram is an excellent pickup the interiors not so bad and im a big guy im 6’0 and i fit comfortably in the back seat and man that thing goes fast.

  • avatar

    I owned 1995 Ram 2500 4×4 with the Cummins. The only thing good about it was the engine. The sheet metal was so thin than leaning on it the wrong way would dent it. Then there was the windshield leak and the lousy front disc brakes that always seemed to need the rotors turned. Maybe they have improved but I am not going to find out the hard way agian.

  • avatar
    Johnson

    One reason why it keeps selling is that the Ram has the highest incentives in the segment. You can easily find a new Ram for 10K off sticker price.

    One thing is clear though: with the pickup market contracting, and the segment getting more competitive than ever before, Dodge will definitely have to do more than just add macho styling and heavy incentives to sell it’s truck.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    There’s a reason I still see plenty of 80s GM trucks and (to a lesser extent) the Ford F150 on the road. Months go by before I see a pre-94 Ram, even the newer ones are hard to come by. And this is in Texas of all places!

    I’ll echo that with my experiences in the Cowboy State (Wyoming) where pickup trucks are right up there next to God, apple pie and the flag. Fords and Chevy/GM trucks are all over the place, Dodges are much more rare. And it may be only anecdotal but in my observation it’s much more likely that Dodge will be a fleet vehicle. From that one can surmise that the bean counters in the fleet department are willing to take the risk on a less-than-reliable truck if it means a cost savings.

    But when the roughnecks and ranchers of Wyoming choose their own vehicle, it’s almost invariably a Ford or Chevy/GMC.

  • avatar
    michaelfrankie

    I think the 5.9 Cummins is the best pickup engine you can get. I just wish they put it in a Tundra.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    On the plus side, I think Dodge is the only pickup company to allow MT options on its V8 pickups.

    re michaelfrankie:
    I think the 5.9 Cummins is the best pickup engine you can get. I just wish they put it in a Tundra.

    Yup. Too bad Chryslerberus couldn’t put the 5.9 Cummins in the Dodge 1500 with a Ford-like IRS and a good tranny…

  • avatar

    The Ram is a lot of things, but, macho looking isn’t one of them.

  • avatar
    fallout11

    I worked for the USDA for years, and the agency regularly bought bottom-end Dodge Ram pickups (and Chevy S-10’s….now Canyon/Colorados) for fleet use. Cheap. Hose out interiors all around.

    At the local office level, both of our Ram’s (’96 and ’98) ate their own transmissions within 50,000 miles. Radio quit working on one, windshield started leaking on the other in the same two-year period, and front disks shot on both.
    No thanks, glad they weren’t mine.

  • avatar
    paradigm_shift

    Nice review, but what’s with the freaky guy outside the window on the second picture???

  • avatar
    blautens

    In the past 6 months I spent a week with a 2007 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab (with the base 4.7L) and another week with a 2007 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab (with the base 4.8L) I agree with virtually every part of your review except reference the motor. It was gutless compared to some of the optional engines.

    I’d say it was just mine, but my colleague was so impressed by it that he bought a lightly used 2006 model identical in spec (for chump change) and it drives the same way.

    But it’s a lot of truck for the money (if you really NEED a truck). But if it were me, I’d still pick the Silverado. The interior alone is worth it.

  • avatar
    The Ninjalectual

    So is it dodging or is it ramming?

  • avatar
    86er

    Sadly, the Ram’s five-speed transmission (fifth is for overdrive) isn’t up to the task of channeling 300 ft.-lbs. of twist. Upshifts are as abrupt as the downshifts are fashionably late. After lurching into second gear a few times, I found myself checking the transfer case switch to see if I hadn’t somehow dropped into 4WD-Lo.

    Dodge has had and continues to have problems with this. My 2000 Dakota with the 4 spd is a pain in the ass. Slight inclines and it has to downshift, bringing the rpm up by 1000. I would state however that in my experience upshifts are often late as well, especially when going into overdrive.

    Wasn’t the “hill-holder” feature something they brought out in the 50’s? [/sarcasm]

    Methinks Chrysler should’ve been in on the Ford/GM 6 speed auto.

  • avatar
    drifter

    Those who drive 11mpg vehicles for personal transportation must be booked under terrorism prevention law.

  • avatar
    svensk

    “Those who drive 11mpg vehicles for personal transportation must be booked under terrorism prevention law.”

    lol ok algore! Some of us weren’t born average height and might want to drive with the comfort a modern truck provides.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    svensk: That’s why the Scion xB exists. 30 MPG+ and a front seat that Shaq will feel comfortable in. (Well, at least the old version got 30 MPG+…) The 2006 xB has 5.1 more inches of head room and 4.3 more inches of leg room in the front seats than the 2007 Dodge Ram.

  • avatar

    “That’s why the Scion xB exists. 30 MPG+ and a front seat that Shaq will feel comfortable in.”

    Yes, I have to agree. I recently rented a Chevy Aveo while my wife’s car and mine were in the shop. It was the cheapest thing they had so I thought I would “tough it out” for a day. I am 6 ft. 4 in. and 300 pounds and surprisingly I had enough room in it. And I’ve ridden in a Xb and had even more room. If I can fit then most people can.

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    The Ram is the most definitely the man-costume truck of choice in the Bay Area. Usually driven alone, with no load in the bed, but with chrome dubs, moaning mud tires, and about a one-foot lift.

    Typically lots of cab-window stickers to associate the owner with trendy brands, too. “DC Shoes,” “Fox Racing,” “Spy” sunglasses, and so on. Pose more than that and your name’s Derek Zoolander.

  • avatar
    Dr. Strangelove

    The “I need a truck because I’m tall” meme is really quite outdated; I drive a Honda Fit that provides me ample room and I’m 6’3″. Others have mentioned the Scion xB which has even more headroom.

  • avatar
    Dr. No

    The Ram is routinely rated near the bottom in most truck comparos. It’s like the Harley of the motorcycle set: cartoon looks, bereft of modern day technology. I guess it’s fun to dress up on Halloween, but shouldn’t you feel ridiculous wearing make up every day?

    If you want a truck this size (whether you need it is another thread), go with the Silverado or the Tundra. The writer omitted the latter, and I can’t imagine why.

    P.S. The pick of Nardelli over Wolfgang is a very worrisome sign for Dodge.

  • avatar

    I just went through the process of buying a full-size/half ton truck a couple of weeks ago and drove the F-150, Ram, Silverado and Tundra before making a decision. While I didn’t go with the Ram (got the Silverado), it had some features I really dug on. For one, to my taste it had the most comfortable cab in the business. Just space, layout, suspension, whatever, it felt the best to me and that’s important because I travel in my trucks to and from races that are sometimes 300-500 miles away and also occasionally have to tow loads of lumber (father is a woodworker) over long distances as well, so comfort is a big one for me.

    As far as the cockpit instrumentation and its fit and finish, both seemed fine to me, especially for “being a truck” but it was definitely a tick behind the Tundra and F150, and a good deal behind the Chevy. This wasn’t a deal breaker for me, but I could definitely see the reviewer’s point on that.

    On the engine, I knew better than to even test drive the 4.8. A co-worker had that engine in another vehicle and it felt anemic (for a V8) then, let alone in a big truck. I really dug the Hemi’s performance and my fishing buddy has the 5.7MDS Hemi in his truck and has gotten great service along with better mileage than the 4.8, which I can’t really believe they even sell.

    I was a huge fan of the famous “Freightliner” redesign and still like the look of the Ram but I would agree it’s gotten slightly bubblier and cartoonier over the years. I live in the Mid South and you see those things all over the place which leads me to one of the major reasons I didn’t purchase the Ram. I guess those things sell themselves because trying to get a response out of the dealer was nigh impossible when it came down to “buy” time. They were extremely unresponsive to my initial requests for quotes and to start working on a deal and by the time they did get back with me, they had sold the one I was interested in and were trying to bait and switch with another, down-spec’d one. I suppose maybe Ram’s are so popular here they sell easy, but I’m a stickler for service and just wasn’t going to start playing that game. You’d think with all the incentives and supposed overstock out there, they’d be a little more desparate to move those things.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    I’m kind of puzzled, as I just traded my Ram off recently, due to no fault of it’s own, I suffered two serious knee injuries, and getting into it was just too much of a risk anymore. I had very few problems with it, and all around, I liked it better than any vehicle I have ever owned in 35+ years of driving. The only real negative to it was the lousy gas milage, about 12 is what I got going back and forth to work. If I hadn’t hurt my knee, I would have kept it. I know quite a few people who own Rams from 2002-present, and all are quite happy with them. Except for the milage.

    It almost seems like the author of the review was sitting in a different truck than I had. I found the seats as comfortable as anything I have ever sat in, and easily equal to my last truck, a 2000 Sierra. I was very happy with it too, but it was never the same after a serious wreck.

  • avatar
    dodgeb123

    I read the review and comments with much interest. I just bought a 2008 4.7 liter V8 Dodge Ram 1500 Big Horn edition, and yes, much of it due to price–it is hard to beat the rebates offered at this time.

    Still, I became familiar with the Ram in 2006 filming a documentary on global supply chains. We ended up featuring the Ram because Dodge granted us access to the assembly plant in Warren MI. It was very interesting to see and film the truck be assembled. I guess I also gained an affinity for the vehicle itself, drawn to its style compared with Ford and Chevy trucks.

    I guess time will tell if the purchase was a good one. Your review isn’t very optimistic, but while my father swears by his Fords 150 and 350, my brother-in-law and father-in-law both have Ram’s and the brother-in-law’s 1500 has gone 112,000 miles with no maintenance issues. I’ll keep you posted.

    A final comment regarding the interior review, yes, it is all plastic, but I bought a truck for truck reasons. I have a luxury car, with all leather this and that, heated seats, and steering wheel control for nearly everything. I just wasn’t looking for that this time around. I am happy to live with the two tone grey plastic.


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