2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Crew Cab Laramie 4x4
We really like the all-new 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup and the innovations it brings to the half-ton segment. Dodge clearly delineated the latest Ram 1500’s capabilities from those of its heavy-duty big brothers, keeping towing and payload ratings at the same levels as the truck it replaced rather than pushing into three-quarter-ton territory, and focusing on smart features like a coil spring rear suspension and lots of built-in storage.
The Ram we tested came with Dodge’s renewed 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, rated at 390 hp and 407 pounds-feet of torque. While new engine technology — like variable cam timing, more-efficient active cylinder shutoff and an active intake manifold — help improve the Hemi’s power, emissions and fuel economy, the Ram was still paired with Chrysler’s legacy 545RFE five-speed transmission. The transmission ratios are identical to the old Ram’s gearbox.
The Laramie Ram’s near-luxury interior was well-executed, with materials that felt and looked good, and above-average ergonomics. Its interior layout, along with the Ford-150’s, was better than every other truck in the competition. Material quality was almost as good as the GM and Ford pickups, and it was ahead of the Nissan and Toyota trucks. The Ram’s bucket seats were also excellent. They were supportive and comfortable for long and short trips. The seats were also appreciated during towing, as the Ram was challenged by the weight we had on the truck and we didn’t have to worry about the distraction of an uncomfortable seat. Every truck should have a dash-mounted trip computer as easy to read as the Ram’s, but the separate 6.5-inch navigation and infotainment display in the center stack was too small for a vehicle this large. We liked the Ram’s gated shifter in the center console, but not as much as we liked the Titan’s.
Dodge doesn’t offer an integrated trailer brake controller option on the Ram, so we purchased and installed an aftermarket controller to ensure we had maximum control over our 6,500-pound trailer, whose weight was 90 percent of the maximum towing rating for our truck’s configuration.
In a case of function following form, the Ram’s dual exhaust pipes that are attractively scalloped into each side of the rear bumper were annoyingly warm during our frequent trailer swaps. In two-person teams of a driver (to back the truck up) and a trailer attacher, the person who hooked the trailer up worked in hot air and had to breathe fumes unless we let the truck sit for a few minutes. Hot exhaust aside, the Ram’s electrical trailer connections were well-placed in the top of the rear bumper, separated by the license plate holder and integrated step from road grime and mud, in a similar manner as the GM trucks’ bumpers.
The Ram and F-150 were the only trucks with trailer-sway control for additional towing safety, though the Ram’s variable front-wheel ABS application for sway mitigation wasn’t as sophisticated as the F-150’s strategy, which uses the truck’s ABS system and trailer brakes to halt dangerous trailer yaw.
The Ram had the best unloaded driving feel and stability of all the trucks we tested. That wasn’t surprising considering that its multi-link coil spring setup seemed to easily control even the harshest vertical and lateral motion from rough road input. Some who drove the Ram reported slight porpoising on the freeway without the trailer, but the truck always continued in a straight line. Empty acceleration was very good. The steering feel was remarkably similar to the GM pickups, but road input felt more numb.
The Ram still handled well when loaded with a trailer, but we all agreed it felt like its handling was right at the edge of its maximum capability. We wouldn’t have felt comfortable towing more with this configuration — especially if we hadn’t installed the aftermarket trailer brake controller to help stop the burdened Ram.