New for 2009, the Dodge Ram is probably the largest vehicle to ever grace the CNET garage. This two ton brute managed to surprise us with an impressive level of cabin tech.
In a word, the Dodge Ram is imposing. The forward raked grill and chest height hood give the full sized pickup a menacing appearance.
In this Crew cab configuration, the Ram has four full sized doors and ample space for six adults. Getting into the Ram takes a big step up, but getting out proved to be tricky for passengers used to riding in low slung sports cars.
The Ram 1500 can be had in dozens of cab, bed, and drivetrain combinations. From the single cab, standard bed ST to the Crew Cab Laramie with Ram Box bed that we tested, there's a Ram for almost any sized job and budget.
With its high tailgate and huge rear blind spot, the Ram desperately needs a backup camera. Unfortunately, our tester only came equipped with a beeping rear proximity sensor.
The Ram Box storage bins on the rear fenders are a class first and make up for the truck's lack of an enclosed trunk.
The Ram Box storage does impede on the bed's volume. Width is reduced from 66.4 inches down to 51 inches. However, the Ram Box bed does include the Grab and Drag divider which makes sectioning off the bed easy.
The rearview mirrors have turn indicators built-in. The Ram's designers weren't stingy with the chrome, but for those who need more bling, our vehicle is equipped with the optional chrome upgrade package.
There it is. Underneath all of that plastic cladding, lies the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with MDS. It's a testament to the size of the Ram's engine bay that such a large engine looks so tiny sitting in it. Though it may look small, the power output is big at 390 horsepower and 407 pound-feet of stump-pulling torque. Put your foot into it and the Dodge Ram will show you that it is no slouch in the power department.
While most of the Ram's interior is composed of plastic, it doesn't really feel cheap to the touch. The crown jewel is this wood finish dash pod with tasteful chrome trim.
The brains behind the Ram's cabin tech is the UConnect multimedia system. This unit features a touch-screen interface and commands the Bluetooth hands-free system, Sirius satellite radio, AM/FM/CD playback, and playback of digital audio from its built-in hard drive. While GPS navigation is available as an option, our Ram wasn't equipped with it.
Hidden under a false button is the front USB port. The system doesn't support iPod playback, so you'll have to use the aux-in. It reads MP3 and WMA files off of USB thumbdrives. Oddly, the system doesn't support playback directly from the device, requiring users to import files to the built-in hard drive.
Climb into the Ram's cabin and you'll find one of the most functional interiors you've ever sat in. There are hidden storage pockets everywhere and a surprising array of cabin tech.
The system also lets tracks be ripped from audio CDs. Discs encoded with CD-Text are automatically tagged with artist and album information. While ripping or importing from USB, you can continue to listen to AM/FM or satellite radio.
Once imported, digital audio can be browsed by artist, genre, or album. Custom playlists can also be built and organized.
We really wish that finding and choosing channels with the Sirius satellite radio was as easy as finding MP3s on the HDD. While the UConnect system will let you restrict the radio to only the genres of your choosing, scanning stations is handled one at a time. That being said, reception is excellent and sound quality is exceptional.
The Dodge surprised us by offering Sirius Backseat TV. Channel lineup is limited to youth-friendly Disney, Nickelodeon, and the Cartoon Network, so the system is only really good for entertaining children.
Video can be piped back to the rear seat entertainment system's flip down LCD monitor. The dual zone system can send one audiovisual source to the rear monitor and the included two sets of IR wireless headphones, while sending a different source through the front speakers. This is a great feature for parents not wanting to listen to Nickelodeon all day!
The rear entertainment option also includes a set of audiovisual inputs for connecting portable DVD players or video game systems.
Being a 4x4 model, our Ram comes with a differential control knob that allows us to switch from a fuel saving 2WD mode to a grippy 4WD mode. Between, there's an automatic mode that let's the computer decide how many wheels get power. Finally, there's an off-road 4WD low gearing mode that requires the vehicle be in park or neutral to switch into. While in 4WD Low, traction control is disabled and top speed is limited.
The center pod is home to this switchable 110V power outlet that's great for powering small electric devices. The lack of a grounding prong may be an issue for some laptop adapters. Further down, you'll find two standard 12V adapters for powering even more devices.
Regardless of audio source, sound is output through a nine speaker Alpine audio system. Dodge hasn't published the power output of the system, but it sounds plenty good, with very clean, punchy bass.
The steering wheel is home to buttons controlling the audiovisual system and the trip computer. Audio volume and track/channel seek rocker switches are located on the back of the steering wheel and are actuated by the fingertips. We oftentimes found ourselves skipping a track when trying to adjust the volume, because the switches are identical and unlabeled. There is no button for answering calls on a Bluetooth pared phone, so users will have to reach across the cabin to the UConnect receiver.
The trip computer is a small monochromatic LCD screen located in the instrument cluster. It displays information about mileage, fuel economy, and maintenance. The front of the steering wheel is where you'll find four huge buttons for controlling the trip computer. This seems like a waste of real estate and we'd like to see the volume and skip buttons relocated to the front where they can be seen.
There are hidden storage compartments all over the Ram's cab, including this one hidden under the carpet in the backseat foot well.