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2008 Dodge Ram 2500
New Car Test Drive

Introduction
For full-size pickup buyers, these are the good old days. Never before have trucks been more capable for hauling and towing nor more competent at coddling passengers. Moreover, today's trucks make bold styling statements. There is no mistaking a Ford F-150 for a Nissan Titan or a Toyota Tundra, nor even confusing a Chevy Silverado with a GMC Sierra. Any one of them would be a good choice from a consumer's point of view.

But it was the Ram that started the high-style-truck trend back in 1994 when Dodge took a risk with a bold, retro big-rig design. That truck transformed Ram from a bit player with staid styling to a big-stage event. The Dodge Ram has run with the big boys ever since, sometimes leading, sometimes trailing, but always solidly on the bill. Whether the '08 Ram is merely as good as the trucks listed above, or somewhat better, is more a matter of personal preference than anything else.

The Dodge Ram 1500 light-duty pickups are smooth and refined. Their cabs are comfortable and convenient, among the roomiest in their respective classes. The Quad Cab is handy for hauling friends and family but even the Regular Cab is roomy.

Arguably, the Ram is the best-looking truck on the market. Its styling is bold and handsome, even more so in its latest incarnation.

Ram was extensively re-engineered for 2006, with a new hydroformed frame that's boxed its full length; plus new suspension and body mounts that improved ride, handling, and quietness. That same year, Ram was modestly restyled inside and out.

The 2008 model year brings new life to the 4.7-liter V8, with horsepower up 31 percent to 310 hp and torque up 10 percent to 330 pound-feet. Other updates to the 2008 Dodge Ram lineup include simpler maintenance intervals, trailer sway control added to the optional stability system, available tire pressure monitors, new steering hardware for 4WDs, dark maple woodgrain trim on Laramie, and two new colors right out of the muscle car age: Sunburst Orange and Detonator Yellow.

Ram's optional Hemi engine delivers power and efficiency. The Hemi features Chrysler's Multi-Displacement System, which shuts down four of the eight cylinders when they are not needed. The switchover is seamless, and fuel economy is improved by as much as 20 percent, says Dodge. Step on the gas, however, and the cylinders reawaken, ready to deliver the 345 peak ponies that make the Hemi-powered Ram one of the most exciting light-duty pickups on the market. Adding to the Hemi's responsiveness is a five-speed automatic. Model Lineup
The 2008 Dodge Ram is available as a Regular Cab or four-door Quad Cab. (Dodge also offers a Mega Cab 500, which is built on a heavy-duty chassis and reviewed by New Car Test Drive with the Ram heavy-duty models).

Two bed lengths are available: a 6-foot, 3-inch short-bed and an 8-foot long-bed. Several engines are offered: A 3.7-liter overhead-cam V6, 4.7-liter V8, and the 5.7-liter Hemi V8. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard with the 3.7-liter V6 and 4.7 V8 and the 5.7 V8s use a five-speed automatic; a four-speed auto for the V6 and five-speed auto for the 4.7 are available. Several trim levels are offered:

ST is the base model with vinyl upholstery and wind-up windows. ST comes standard with air conditioning, tilt steering, variable intermittent wipers, 40/20/40 vinyl seat, AM/FM/CD stereo, rear-wheel ABS, 17-inch steel wheels and a full-size spare tire, and a V8 and electric-shift transfer case on 4WD. Options include a bed liner, trailer tow mirrors, cruise control, four-wheel ABS, side-curtain airbags, power adjustable pedals, 17-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels, and a power sliding rear window for the Quad Cab.

SXT is essentially an ST with cloth upholstery, active turn signals (touch once for 3 blinks) and remote keyless entry. Options parallel those on the ST, although the STX is the trim level for the TRX4 Off-Road package.

SLT comes standard with the 4.7-liter flex-fuel V8, six-disc CD changer, carpeting, power windows/door locks/heated mirrors, overhead console with mini-trip computer and compass, cruise control, and 17-inch painted aluminum wheels. Options include a navigation system, Sirius Satellite Radio, UConnect Bluetooth hands-free wireless communication, 5.7 V8, on-demand 4WD, bucket seats, six-way power driver seat and 20-inch aluminum wheels. A power sunroof and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system are available for SLT Quad Cabs.

The Sport group for the SLT comes with the Hemi engine and five-speed automatic transmission, unique cloth-faced bucket seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, body-color grille and bumper fascia, fog lamps, and 20-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels. Options are the same as for the SLT.

Laramie is the luxury trim level, offered only as Quad Cab automatic. It comes standard with dual-zone climate control, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, four-wheel ABS, security alarm, and 20-inch wheels on 2WD models. Leather seats are standard, with a heated, split 40/20/40 bench up front and power adjustment for the driver. Options include navigation, power sunroof, adjustable pedals, and electronic upgrades.

Safety features include optional side-curtain airbags designed to provide head protection in a side impact or rollover. We recommend getting them; head injuries are the leading cause of death in side impacts. The Ram was awarded the highest possible rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's offset frontal crash test. Three-point shoulder belts are provided at all locations, including the rear center seat; wear them, because seat belts are your first line of defense in a crash. An electronic stability program (ESP) is optional. Walkaround
The 2008 Dodge Ram presents a bold, distinctive appearance with its big horse-collar grille and Freightliner fenders. The concept dates back a dozen years, but it received a major redesign for 2002 and a makeover for 2006. The headlamps cut back deeper into the fenders, and a flattened front bumper on Sport and Laramie emphasizes Ram's big-rig image. A slot in the front bumper aids engine cooling and air conditioner performance.

Ram's trademark front grille remains one of the most instantly recognizable front ends on the road. A thick band of chrome surrounds the grille on ST, SLT and Laramie; the band is body color on Sport models. The broad, sloping hood has a pronounced crown that falls over the sides to the prominent front fenders, helpful for clearance, less so for seeing edges in tight quarters.

A fast, raked-back windshield enhances aerodynamics and water management, while gracefully blending modern sleekness with Ram's retro lower body. The leading edge of the front door overlaps the A-pillar, creating a smooth transition from the front of the cab to the side. Everything is smooth and integrated. The big side mirrors, great for visibility, are mounted on platforms to minimize wind noise, and a channel has been specially designed to keep water off of the mirrors. A small spoiler at the top of the tailgate, new last year, is said to improve fuel efficiency.

Rams sit relatively high off the ground, particularly the four-wheel-drive models. Tailgate load height is 35 inches on four-wheel-drive models, and a little over 33-1/2 inches with two-wheel-drive. That seems high when trying to heave heavy gear aboard. All beds are fitted with boat cleats designed to handle 1,000 pounds each.

Ordering the long bed adds 20 inches to the wheelbase of a Dodge Ram. And a Quad Cab wheelbase is 20 inches longer than a Regular Cab. So a Quad Cab long bed has 40 more inches of wheelbase than a Regular Cab short bed. Long-bed Rams also get a bigger fuel tank, 35 gallons in place of the standard 26 gallons; some of the latter offer a 34-gallon option. Interior
The Dodge Ram is among the roomiest of the full-size pickups, and its cab is a pleasant place to be. It sacrifices a few inches of bed space for interior space.

Regular Cab and Quad Cab versions offer identical roominess in the front seats. Standard front seating in the Ram is a bench split 40/20/40. The narrow center section features a large fold-down armrest with a compartment big enough to hold a laptop.

We've found both the cloth and the leather seats comfortable. The driving position is good, with good visibility in all directions, though the aerodynamic front end makes it impossible to see the front corners. Big mirrors on the Ram make it easy to see what's behind.

We found the bucket seats in the Sport version comfortable and supportive and the sporty fabric looks durable. The latest fabrics, first introduced with the 2007 models, are designed to be more stain and odor-resistant than before, while also reducing static cling. Laramie models get silver trim adorning the door panels and instrument bezels. Laramie comes with distinctive leather trim, with higher-contrast color seat inserts.

The Ram interior shows attention to details that add utility and convenience. The big fold-down center armrest/console comes with adjustable dividers and a power outlet. A hook on the passenger-side floor well is provided for securing a plastic grocery bag or anything else with suitable handles.

Premium amenities such as the full-screen GPS navigation radio and Bluetooth hands-free communications are available, along with a rear-seat DVD system for Quad Cabs. We found the navigation radio to be a nice design and relatively easy to operate; these systems are getting better all the time and the latest Chrysler Group's systems work quite well.

Overall, the center dash is a paradigm of convenience. Large heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) buttons can be operated while wearing gloves. A textured fabric is used for trim around the audio and HVAC controls that gives the center dash a nice look and feel. Just below the heating controls is a slot lined with a rubber mat that's perfect for a wallet. A big panel below that folds down with adjustable cup holders. Overhead is a console with an effective pair of map lights, a trip computer, a compartment for sunglasses, and a compass, perhaps redundant on navigation-equipped models.

The design of the standard audio system could be improved for ease of use. Sometimes you have to search for the right button to press. Since preset buttons store more than one station in memory, setting a preset for a station requires pressing a separate Set button, rather than just holding the preset button down. Small, sliding bass and treble controls are harder to adjust than knobs when bouncing around in a pickup truck. Steering wheel audio controls improve this situation with brilliantly designed buttons behind the steering wheel that are easy to use, at least until you have an awkward driving moment and grip the wheel and crank up the volume by mistake. Likewise, cruise controls on the steering wheel are easy to operate and come packaged with a tilt steering column.

The interior materials appear to be of good quality. The available faux wood surface on the center stack looks okay, though it's clearly not wood, partly because of the way it's molded around the nooks and crannies. White-faced instruments with turquoise numbers look sporty and trendy, but don't offer the legibility of traditional white-on-black designs, particularly at dusk. The top brow of the instrument panel provides glare protection in bright sunlight. At night, the instruments are nicely illuminated in green.

Power adjustable pedals let shorter drivers adjust their seating position better so they aren't sitting so close to the airbag. This improves comfort, safety, and drivability. Power adjustable pedals are a good choice for two-driver families because they allow shorter drivers to move farther away from the airbag-armed steering wheel, reducing the chance of airbag injuries.

Regular Cab models come fitted with a tray behind the seats big enough to hold a large bucket. Dodge even supplies the bucket, and a tray designed to carry tools and such. Big hooks behind the seats are handy for hanging dry cleaning or plastic shopping bags.

The Quad Cab features a roomy rear seat, with enough rake to the seatback to make it comfortable for two adults, though there isn't a lot of legroom. The size of the rear bench makes it suitable for child safety seats, and all three rear seating positions are fitted with tether anchors. With one hand you can flip the Quad Cab's rear seat down. An optional metal frame then folds into place to create a rigid platform designed to support 500 pounds, useful for carrying cargo. The rear doors open 85 degrees, making it easy to get in or load gear, and the rear windows glide all the way down. Overall, the Quad Cab is a friendly, practical design for hauling people and gear; it features four conventional doors. If you need even more room, take a look at the Mega Cab. Driving Impressions
The Dodge Ram rides nicely, even when empty, but it rides better with some weight in the bed. The Ram's rigid chassis minimizes road vibration. Rack-and-pinion steering contributes to sharp handling. The result overall is that the Ram offers responsive handling, a comfortable ride, and a general feeling of tightness.

The Ram is a big truck and on narrow roads it feels big and tall, with broad fenders that seem to fill small country roads. The ride height of the Ram adds to this sensation. It's sometimes difficult to be sure exactly where your fenders are because you can't see them.

Quad Cab models add 20 inches to the wheelbase and a long bed adds another 20 inches, so a Quad Cab long bed is a long truck, riding on a 160.5-inch wheelbase. Like others in its class, it is long on roominess and utility, but not the easiest to turn around.

That said, the Ram handles reasonably well and powers through or over just about anything, even when the tires aren't always precisely where you intended to place them.

All Rams come standard with big four-wheel disc brakes that are smooth and easy to modulate.

The 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is the most popular engine choice. Fire up the Hemi, let it idle, and it burbles like a good old American V8, though there's nothing old or outdated about this engine. Although technically a traditional pushrod design with its camshaft in the block, the Hemi's head geometry is more like that of a multiple-overhead-cam engine and features twin spark plugs, direct ignition, and electronic throttle control. It's a thoroughly modern engine. The Hemi features Chrysler's Multi-Displacement System, which can deactivate four of the eight cylinders when cruising for as much as a 20 percent gain in fuel economy. The switch from eight cylinders to four is usually undetectable to the driver, but since the Ram is heavier and less aerodynamic than Hemi sedans and wagons, don't expect the same percentage increase in economy.

The Hemi's peak power and torque ratings are 345 horsepower at 5400 rpm and 375 pound-feet of at 4200. It comes with a modern five-speed automatic transmission that adds to its responsiveness and flexibility. Punch it and you know you've got a Hemi under the hood. A properly equipped Hemi increases the Ram's towing capacity to 9,100 pounds yet it's rated 14/18 mpg with 2WD.

The smaller, 4.7-liter V8 has been thoroughly revised for 2008 with more than 30 percent more power. Now at 310 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, ratings just 35 and 45, respectively, behind the Hemi, and the 4.7 is more efficient, has a wider powerband, runs on regular unleaded (mid-grade is recommended for the Hemi) and is smoother yet than the Hemi. Unike the Hemi it can be mated to a manual transmission, and the automatic is the same five-speed unit the Hemi uses. The 4.7-liter V8 is available in most states with Flex Fuel Vehicle (FFV) capability, meaning it can run on gasoline or up to E85 Ethanol.

The 3.7-liter overhead-cam V6 is smooth and works well with the manual six-speed gearbox. If you don't tow more than the occasional tent or personal watercraft, or live in the mountains where long grades and high altitudes conspire against you, then it may offer enough power in a light-duty truck. The V6 develops 215 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque, and is rated 16/21 mpg with manual transmission, 15/21 mpg with automatic.

Trailer towing capacities range from 2,900 pounds to 9,100 pounds depending on engine, transmission, axle ratio, cab style, wheelbase, trim, and wheels; consult Dodge towing guidelines for particulars. The available 20-inch wheels typically reduce towing capacity by 1,000 pounds. Payloads range from about half a ton to almost a ton. In short, if you tow or haul, compare these capacities before selecting a model. On automatic Rams, a Tow/Haul mode for the transmission provides crisper shifts and reduces gear searching for reduced heat buildup when towing.

Four-wheel-drive models use a part-time transfer case that can be shifted electrically from two-wheel drive without stopping. Shifting into 4WD High locks the center differential. Shifting down to low range provides superior traction in extreme conditions. The front axle driveshaft is automatically disengaged when operating in two-wheel drive. This minimizes the front-drive system's energy consumption and improves fuel economy.

A full-time four-wheel-drive system is also available. Under normal driving conditions, the full-time system delivers 48 percent of the torque to the front wheels and 52 percent to the rear wheels. It's an excellent choice for icy conditions, gravel roads, or any situation that presents inconsistent grip. This system includes a locking transfer case that features 4WD High and Low modes.

A limited-slip rear differential is available and we recommend it for drivers who intend to go off road. A Protection Group includes tow hooks plus skid plates for the front suspension and transfer case. Automatics are available with a 3.55:1 axle ratio, or a 3.92:1 ratio, the latter better for towing and off-road driving. Some manual transmission models come with a 3.21:1 ratio for maximum highway economy. Summary
The Dodge Ram offers big power and big capabilities. It's responsive and comfortable as an everyday driver and it's ready to do some serious work when called upon. Ram's distinctive styling makes it stand out in a rapidly improving field. Ram Quad Cab models offer a brilliant combination of comfort and utility. Even Regular Cabs are generously roomy and are thoughtfully set up to accommodate gear behind the seat. The new 4.7-liter V8 delivers good acceleration and is paired well with the smooth, responsive five-speed automatic. The 5.7-liter Hemi delivers stronger acceleration performance and is an excellent choice for the heaviest trailers.

NewCarTestDrive.com editor Mitch McCullough reported from Los Angeles, with Sam Moses in San Antonio, John Katz in Pennsylvania, and G.R. Whale in Los Angeles.

Model as tested
Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab Laramie 4WD SWB ($38,785)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
St. Louis, Missouri; Warren, Michigan; Saltillo, Mexico
Destination charge
900
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
21155
Price as tested
40485
Options as tested
Limited-slip differential ($325); Protection Group ($140) includes tow hooks, skid plates; trailer tow package ($335)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Dodge Ram 1500 Regular Cab ST 2WD SWB ($21,025), Regular Cab ST 4WD SWB ($25,710); Quad Cab SLT 2WD LWB ($30,450); Quad Cab SLT 4WD SWB ($33,280); Quad Cab Laramie 4WD SWB ($38,785)
Safety equipment (standard)
rear-wheel ABS, dual front multi-stage airbags
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
5.7-liter Hemi overhead-valve V8
Transmissions
5-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
leather-trimmed seats, dual-zone air conditioning, tilt steering column, speed control, power windows w/driver auto-down, power locks w/keyless entry, tachometer, security alarm, power adjustable pedals, 240-watt AM/FM audio with six-CD changer, steering-wheel audio controls, deluxe overhead console, split folding rear seat, rear underseat compartment, auxiliary power outlet, fog lamps

Engine & Transmission
Engine
5.7-liter Hemi overhead-valve V8
Drivetrain type
four-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
345 @ 5400
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
13/17
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
vented disc/disc with four-wheel ABS
Suspension, front
independent, double-wishbone, coil springs over gas-charged shock absorbers, anti-roll bar
Tires
P265/70R17
Suspension, rear
live axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs, gas-charged shock absorbers

Accomodations
Seating capacity
6
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
40.8/64.9/41.0
Head/hip/leg room, rear
40.0/64.6/36.7

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
Wheelbase
140.5
Length/width/height
227.7/79.5/75.9
Turning circle
46.0
Payload
1210
Towing capacity
N/A
Track, front/rear
68.6/67.9
Ground clearance
7.4
Curb weight
8350

2008 Dodge Ram 2500
New Car Test Drive

Introduction
The current generation of Dodge Ram heavy-duty pickups has been with us for a few years now. Last redesigned for 2003, the Dodge Ram 2500 and Dodge Ram 3500 models aren't nearly as new as the latest from Ford and General Motors. However, they do benefit from some recent freshening such as the diesel and six-speed automatic that were added last year.

For 2008, Dodge Ram heavy-duty line gets a new model, the SXT which slots between the ST and SLT lines. Also updated are woodgrain trim (dark maple burl), electric-switch 4WD on SLT and higher trim, tire pressure monitors on single-rear wheel models, and a slight increase in maximum weight for the largest models.

The Dodge Ram Mega Cab was launched as a 2006 model. Mega Cab is built on the Heavy Duty chassis and comes fitted with the Hemi engine. The extra-large Mega cab was created by re-proportioning the relationship between cab and bed on a long wheelbase truck, adding 20 inches to the cab and shortening the bed to 6 feet, three inches.

The result is acres of cab space, with six seats and plenty of head, shoulder, leg and hip room. The Mega Cab is aptly named. The back seats are roomy and comfortable with reclining seatbacks, separate rear heating and air conditioning outlets, reading lights and a center armrest with cup holders, and available DVD entertainment. there's space behind the back seats for cargo. Folding down the back seats reveals a huge cargo area (more than 70 cubic feet) with a flat load floor. The rear doors open big and wide, making it easy to load stuff inside. Covered bins are provided back there for storing gear and smaller items, and hooks are provided for hanging things.

The Ram Mega Cab rides and drives like a heavy duty pickup, regardless of the 1500, 2500, or 3500 rating, and it doesn't make sense unless you're towing heavy loads or have a big work crew.

We found the Dodge Ram Cummins turbo diesel quiet, powerful and responsive. The exhaust brake provides engine braking down long highway grades, thereby leaving the brakes cool, fade-free, and ready for stopping. The diesel's power and fuel economy make it an excellent choice for owners who tow heavy trailers long distances.

The Ram Heavy Duty models are equally at home serving solo contractors, landscape crews or families with heavy toys, and everyone in between. Despite a reputation for being the most truck-like, the heavy-duty Rams are civilized and make trucking enjoyable. Model Lineup
The 2008 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 versions come in four trim levels, ST, SXT, SLT and Laramie, and three cabs (regular, Quad, Mega) with a range of engine choices, payloads and towing capacities. A TRX4 (mild off-road) is available for 2500 and 3500 while the Power Wagon (more severe off-road) is 2500-series only.

The Mega Cab 1500 is the light-duty configuration, but still has the heavy parts underneath and can haul payloads of up to 2,430 pounds and trailers of up to 8,750 pounds when equipped with 4.10:1 axle gears. The Mega Cab 1500 comes with the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 and a five-speed automatic transmission, and prices range from SLT 4x2 ($32,735) to the Laramie 4x4 ($40,325).

The 2500 ($26,140-$42,410) comes standard with the Hemi V8 with six-speed manual or available five-speed automatic, optional with the Cummins 6.7-liter Turbo Diesel (about $7,100) and a six speed manual or six-speed automatic. The Power Wagon is $37,950-$41,185 depending on cab, and 4WD adds about $3,000 to any standard 2500-series.

The 3500 ($28,345-$49,920) may appear pricey because the Cummins diesel is often standard equipment, especially on dual rear wheel models. Engine and transmissions are similar to 2500 models, though the Hemi doesn't rev as much and is detuned to 330 hp.

For adding your own box or work platform, Chassis Cab models are offered in regular and Quad cab versions of 2500 and 3500-series trucks, starting at $21,940.

ST models are workhorses, with standard vinyl floor and upholstery, although they do include chrome bumpers and grille outline, air conditioning, ABS, CD player, intermittent wipers, sliding sun visors, a full-size spare, and tinted glass. Options are limited to powertrain and chassis equipment, side curtain airbags, and a few cosmetic upgrades.

SXT adds a bit more bright trim and chrome, including the wheels, power mirrors/windows/locks, cruise control, remote keyless entry, carpet, and cloth upholstery. A TRX4 Off-Road package may be added, consisting of aluminum wheels and more aggressive tires, limited-slip differential, skid plates, tow hooks, fog lamps, and unique shocks.

SLT, the standard trim on Mega Cabs, includes an overhead console, speed control, power windows and door locks, keyless entry, and power mirrors. Options for SLT include a power-sliding rear window, a bed liner, powered trailer tow mirrors, sun roof, power adjustable pedals and driver seat, AM/FM/6CD/MP3 with Infinity speaker, navigation, Sirius satellite radio, DVD rear-seat entertainment system, UConnect Bluetooth hands-free wireless communication system, bucket seats, YES Essentials stain-repellent cloth upholstery, and 17-inch forged aluminum wheels. A part-time electric shift transfer case is available on 4WD models.

Laramie models add leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, heated front seats, security alarm, auto-dimming rearview mirror, chrome moldings and Sentry Key engine immobilizer. Options on the Laramie package include an entertainment system, sun roof, bucket seats, Bluetooth, and the navigation radio.

The 2500 Power Wagon comes with the Hemi only, electric-locking front and rear differentials, disconnecting front sway bar, Warn 12,000-lb winch, and 32-inch BFGoodrich off-road tires. It can be outfitted with leather, sunroof, DVD entertainment, and towing mirrors, among other items.

Safety features include dual front multi-stage airbags, three-point belts in all seating positions with constant-force retractors, LATCH child-seat anchors, child-protection rear door locks, and four-wheel anti-lock brakes. Side-curtain airbags for front and rear seats are optional ($490). Walkaround
The Dodge Ram 3500 Mega Cab offers a striking presence, taking the Big Rig look to another level. From the front, a more refined crosshair grille with strong, full-chrome collar remains instantly recognizable as a strong Dodge Ram signature. With the front-end restyled last year and a dual-rear wheel option added after introduction, the tail now gets attention with new taillight styling similar to the Dodge Durango and Dakota.

From the side, the Mega Cab makes an even more dramatic impression. Very wide rear doors are unique to the immense Mega Cab, with a very large proportion of window glass to door. The dark glass rear doors and wide pillar suggest a limousine, and interior volume reinforces the impression. Behind this huge cab, the bed looks small, but it remains significantly large: 6 feet, 3 inches in length and 51 inches wide between the wheel wells. There is no factory long-bed Mega Cab so use a sliding hitch for your fifth-wheel.

Long-bed Ram dually models have fender flares that look tacked on but are often cheaper to repair after impact, compared with the more integrated designs from Chevy, GMC, and Ford. Interior
All Dodge Ram pickups offer wide, roomy cabs with lots of storage.

Mega Cab and Quad Cab interior space is nearly identical with the exception of rear legroom. The Mega Cab adds some 22 inches of cab length to the already-wide interior, taking second-row spaciousness beyond any previous production pickup. The Mega Cab's rear seats offer 44.2 inches of legroom, compared with 36.7 inches for a Quad Cab. And there is room for the rear seats to recline, tilting up to 37-degrees for added comfort. The rear seats also have their own reading lights and a center armrest with cup holders, plus separate rear air conditioning and heat outlets.

DVD entertainment for rear seat passengers is available, with wireless headsets and integrated game ports. Behind the passengers is a power sliding rear window for flow-through ventilation. Because of the added length of the second-row seating area, the air bag system had to be redesigned with larger side curtain air bags. Each side air bag has its own impact sensor in order to trigger the air bag on the side where impact occurs.

From the driver's seat, the view is of a wide center stack with large knobs and buttons, precisely finished with consistent angles and cut lines throughout. The instrument panel cluster is located under a prominent dash brow to reduce glare and improve visibility of six white-faced gauges, the latter numbered on diesel-engine models. A substantial four-spoke steering wheel houses cruise control buttons and available stereo controls. Rectangular, slat-type air vents close flush.

Interior trim is markedly different among the trim levels. In ST trim, the dash is textured plastic with synthetic-look inserts on the SLT. The Laramie package makes extensive use of woodgrain trim inside, with less plastic, for a more distinctive appearance.

The seats are generously padded and we found them to be comfortable, especially the six-way driver's seat in the Laramie, which can be shifted around as any particular position becomes tiresome on long trips. The leather upholstery adds a rich appearance to the interior of Laramie models. With the optional front bucket seats, a new center console extends from the dashboard. Bench seat models still have a shallow floor console which may not be comfortable for the center rider.

Everything about the Ram is full size. Even those of us used to operating domestic pickups and tow vehicles are aware of the Ram's imposing size and stance. Inside the cabin, it is a long reach to hand something across the console to a passenger, and there would be no hope of leaning across to open the passenger door, or grab something from the opposite door pocket. Interior door handles are large and heavily built, consistent with the large size of the Ram doors.

The cabin is loaded with nicely sized trays, slots and pockets. It seemed there was always a safe place to put something down, yet keep it within easy reach. The armrest opens in two parts and center console is big enough for a laptop, and is designed with fold-down dividers.

The navigation screen, measuring 5.8 inches, is surrounded by buttons and knobs; perhaps a bit on the small side but located up high for good viewing. With the standard front bench seat, a very wide center console flips up to allow makeshift center seating. There is additional storage under the front seat.

Power outlets are provided for the front seats. The dash power outlet is ignition switched, while the cigar lighter is always on, so we used it to charge a cell phone. A third outlet is available in the center console.

Testing the rear seat was a defining moment. One passenger, six-feet, three-inches tall, had no problem stretching out completely with the rear seats reclined. A rear-seat passenger spent an entire day with us, and declined to move up front at the halfway point. It takes a while to cool on hot days as the rear AC vents are just above floor level; adding heavier tint may be wise in sunny climes.

Getting in a 4WD Mega Cab requires a big step up, but the rear doors swing open almost 90 degrees and there's a convenient grab handle on the door pillar, so access is easier for people or cargo. Behind the rear seats is even more storage, in the form of bins that are designed to accommodate tools or sports equipment.

We found the optional seven-speaker, 384-watt Infinity sound system to be remarkably good for a truck of any kind, and especially a pickup. Our suspicion is that this is at least partly due to superior sound deadening and wind noise control (Mega Cabs have laminated front door glass), providing an environment in which the sound system can really be appreciated. Driving Impressions
The Dodge Ram Mega Cab feels like a big, heavy duty pickup because it is a big, heavy duty pickup. All Rams are wide: eight feet on duallies. On small, rural roads oncoming traffic sometimes required us to edge away from the center line to create comfortable passing for both parties. Fold-out mirrors demarcate width well: The rear fenders should pass through any tight places the mirrors fit.

Parking a truck as big as a Mega Cab requires some care and attention. We found it necessary to execute three-point turns into most parking spaces and sometimes to get out and look to check our final position. This, even with a very quick 2.75-turn steering ratio that helps maneuvering at low speeds, and you'll maneuver often with 50 feet needed for a U-turn, a condition not unique to the Ram.

The steering has been improved on all Rams. The 2WD Mega Cab comes with rack-and-pinion steering, while 4WD models come with a recirculating ball system. We found a minimum of bump steer and relatively precise tracking, not easy to engineer on a tall 4x4.

We noticed right away that the use of laminated front window glass and re-designed door seals has cut down on wind noise, inherent in big pickups with wide mirrors. The interior is remarkably quiet, even as we ran the air conditioning, which offers minimal fan noise on the lower settings. With any pickup, especially a 4x4, a certain amount of noise and vibration is to be expected.

We were quite comfortable in an all-day drive in a Laramie model through Virginia. With the heavier spring package that comes on dual-wheel 3500 models, we noticed some vibration leaking through to the cabin as we passed over rough railroad tracks and bridged creek crossings, but overall, found the chassis to be well damped, with a nice balance between the opposing priorities of comfort, control, and load-bearing capability. As a general rule, the more weight a heavy-duty pickup carries, the more the ride improves.

The 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is EPA-rated at 13/17 mpg City/Highway in the 1500 (2500-and-higher models are not rated) and any real-world mileage in the teens is doing well. The Hemi is an overhead-valve, pushrod V8, with a cast-iron block and hemispherical combustion chambers. It develops 345 horsepower at 5400 rpm and like any good truck engine, it makes more torque than horsepower, delivering 375 pound-feet at 4200 rpm.

The vaunted Cummins Turbo Diesel was enlarged to 6.7 liters for 2007, meets 2010 emissions requirements and has an exhaust brake as standard. The option price is listed at $6,100 but it requires an Ultra Clean Diesel charge of $995, making it about the same price as Ford and GM diesel options. Unlike the GM the Cummins comes with a six-speed manual, and unlike Ford the new automatic is a six-speed unit. Neither Ford nor GM offer the exhaust brake that makes intermountain towing stress free by delivering up to 190 braking horsepower (bhp) to control descent speed, thereby leaving the service brakes cool and free for more immediate stopping.

The Cummins is an inline six-cylinder built like a tractor-trailer engine, with exceptional longevity and low-end grunt, and it's frequently used in trucks and motorhomes that carry 2-10 times what a Ram pickup will. With the latest injection system, it is very clean (the tailpipe won't even go dark), much quieter (you won't hear it with the stereo on), more responsive, and more powerful. With either transmission it makes 350 hp at 3000 rpm, in the same neighborhood as Ford (350) and GM (365). Torque with the standard manual gearbox is 610 lb-ft at just 1400 rpm; with the automatic it rises to 650 lb-ft at 1500 rpm. Torque is what gets a load in motion, and with the Cummins making as much torque when you let the clutch out as the Hemi does at 4,000 rpm, it is the obvious choice. Many RVers report better fuel mileage towing 10,000 pounds with their Cummins than a Hemi gets in an empty truck.

Top tow rating with the Hemi is in the mid-11,000 pounds range, on a 2500 series regular cab. Adding a larger cab or 4WD will lower the rating. Since Mega Cabs are the heaviest models they do not carry the highest payload or tow ratings, but this example still rates 2,681 pounds of carrying capacity. The highest payload for a new Ram HD is more than 5,000 pounds, the maximum tow rating above 16,000 pounds. Summary
The Dodge Ram HD Mega Cab is designed to be the flagship of the heavy haulers. The Ram Quad Cab may be big, but the Mega Cab is bigger. It has the power and weight to tow heavy loads for long distances. And there is comfort for passengers in the process. For better ride and handling, the 2WD 1500 Mega Cab will be the choice. For best control handling heavy loads, the 3500 dually 2WD with Cummins would do the job. For heavy hauling, and accessing rough terrain when you get there, the 4x4 regular or Quad Cab 3500 single-rear wheel would be just the ticket.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent John Stewart filed this report from Manassas, Virginia. NCTD.com editor Mitch McCullough and correspondent G.R. Whale contributed to this report.

Model as tested
Dodge Ram Mega Cab 3500 Laramie 4x4 ($49,920)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico; St. Louis, Missouri
Destination charge
900
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
26140
Price as tested
56680
Options as tested
side curtain airbags ($490); 6-speed automatic transmission ($1,575); bucket seats ($490); entertainment/radio system ($1,500); limited-slip differential ($325); towing mirrors ($100); sunroof ($850); state surcharge ($535)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Dodge Ram Mega Cab 1500 SLT 2WD ($32,735); Laramie 4WD ($40,335); 2500 ST 2WD regular cab ($26,140); Laramie 4WD Mega Cab ($42,410); 2500 Power Wagon regular cab ($37,950); 3500 ST 2WD regular cab ($28,345); 3500 Laramie 4WD Mega Cab ($49,920)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual front multi-stage airbags, three-point belts in all seating positions with constant-force retractors, LATCH child-seat anchors, child-protection rear door locks; four-wheel ABS
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
6.7-Liter Cummins Turbo Diesel I-6
Transmissions
six-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, heated front seats, security alarm, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Sentry Key engine immobilizer; overhead console with mini trip computer and compass, cruise control, power windows and door locks, keyless entry, four-wheel disc brakes with four-wheel ABS; part-time manual shift transfer case.

Engine & Transmission
Engine
6.7-Liter Cummins Turbo Diesel I-6
Drivetrain type
four-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
350 @ 3000
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
vented disc/vented disc with ABS, EBD
Suspension, front
live axle, four-link plus track bar, coil springs, stabilizer bar, monotube shock absorbers
Tires
LT235/80R17E
Suspension, rear
live axle, longitudinal leaf springs, monotube shock absorbers

Accomodations
Seating capacity
5
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
40.8/64.9/41.0
Head/hip/leg room, rear
40.5/64.6/44.2

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
Wheelbase
160.3
Length/width/height
247.7/96.0/79.1
Turning circle
49.7
Payload
2681
Towing capacity
16,400
Track, front/rear
69.5/75.8
Ground clearance
7.7
Curb weight
7819


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