2010 Dodge Ram 1500 Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on November 16, 2010

You won't see any Dodge badging on Rams built towards the end of the 2010 cycle. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on November 16, 2010

The Ram continues to offer a lot of room up front. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on November 16, 2010

The Crew Cab adds a much larger rear door for ease of entrance and exit plus much needed rear legroom. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on November 16, 2010

The Laramie cab is filled with soft-touch surfaces, leather, woodgrain, metallic trim and top-tier electronics. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on November 16, 2010

The detailing is very nice. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on November 16, 2010

Optional alloy rims spiff up the styling. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on November 16, 2010

Lockable side panel storage bins dubbed "Rambox" are ultra handy. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on November 16, 2010

The weatherproof bins are 4' long and plenty deep. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on November 16, 2010

The Rambox side panel storage system cuts into the box slightly, but 4x8 sheets of building material still fit in perfectly. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on November 16, 2010

The 5.7L Hemi is one sweet engine! (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on November 16, 2010

Dual exhaust looks great and sounds fabulous. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on November 16, 2010

As big, bold and beautiful as ever, the Ram strikes an intimidating presence in anyone's rearview mirror. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Published on November 16, 2010

Of the four brands in Chrysler's portfolio, the latter being Ram, which has now been spun off into its own separate entity, it's difficult to knock the newest. Dodge, the brand that until recently carried the Ram nameplate, has had its fair share of ill-conceived products, or at least vehicles that haven't measured up to their segment rivals, whereas Ram trucks are every bit as good as their competitors and clearly better than each and every one of them in some respects.

Most noticeable is styling, although this is a personal preference issue. I've always liked the highway rig design elements Dodge has incorporated into its Ram, a design language that's so good that number one truck seller Ford emulated it for its heavy duty F-250, F-350 and F-450 models. The new Ram 2500 and 3500 models offer a bigger and bolder grille too, although while not as intimidating as the heavy duty Fords or its own heavy duty siblings, the reverse-canted chrome crosshair grille on my recent tester is hardly something to scoff at, especially if it's coming up into your rearview mirror.

The revised Ram 1500 was all-new last year, so there aren't a lot of changes for 2010. Then again, for some the addition of the new Crew Cab layout will be reason enough to opt for a Ram over one of its competitors, or at least the Auburn Hills-based truck maker is hoping for this type of reaction. Ram also added back its SXT trim line as a move upwards from the base ST, while the SLT Plus model is now being offered on Quad Cab models, and new TRX and TRX4 packages spiff up the truck's performance image. Just to be clear, from entry-level to top-of-the-line, trim choices include the ST, SXT, SLT, Sport and Laramie, while the TRX Off-Road package and R/T package can be added.

Not quite as visually exciting but nevertheless important, all 2010 Ram 1500s get a 700-amp battery, while SLT models get a tire pressure monitoring system. The carryover Sport trim level now includes an on-demand automatic transfer case and optional Sport performance hood, while the top-line Laramie adds the aforementioned tire pressure monitoring system, as well as iPod connectivity and an auto-dimming exterior driver's mirror. Trailer brake control is now optional across the line. Finally, Ram deleted Sunburst Orange and Stone White exterior colours for Mango Tango and Bright White.

While the new Crew Cab adds interior space and therefore comfort, some don't need the extra room inside and therefore would rather have either a shorter truck for ease of parking and better fuel economy, or the benefits of a longer box out back, so Ram 1500 buyers can still get Regular Cab and Quad Cab models. Those lighter weight pickups can be had with a base 3.7-litre V6 mated to a four-speed automatic, or performance can be improved by opting for a flexible-fuel 4.7-litre V8 connected to a thriftier five-speed automatic. The top-line engine choice is the 5.7-litre Hemi V8 with the same five-speed automatic. The larger, heavier Crew Cab can only be had with the V8s, and no diesel is offered with Ram 1500s, par for the course in the half-ton light truck segment. No matter what cab choice you opt for, you can get rear- or four-wheel drive, and Ram offers a robust part-time 4x4 system that's as good as any in the industry.

As far as base trucks go, the Ram 1500 ST Regular Cab treats its driver with a modicum of respect thanks to standard air conditioning, tilt steering, automatic headlamps, and a CD/MP3 audio system, plus side and curtain airbags, electronic stability program, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, a folding rear seat, and trailer towing package with a four-pin wiring harness, but there's no questioning its work truck pretensions when looking at the 40/20/40 heavy-duty vinyl bench seat and black vinyl floor covering. Likewise on the outside the ST makes do with grey bumpers and upper fascia, plus black door handles and 17-inch steel wheels on 245/70R17 all-season tires, although its bright grille adds a little pizzazz. If you move up to the Quad Cab ST, amenities improve measurably with power windows, locks and mirrors plus rear under-seat storage.
 
The SXT, alternatively, dotes on its driver nicely. The 40/20/40 bench seat is fabric and the floor is covered with carpeting, while carpeted floor mats are thrown overtop. The features list continues with cruise control and Sirius satellite radio. The exterior of the SXT is enhanced with bright front and rear bumpers plus chrome-clad 17-inch steel wheels, so when you drive onto the construction site the guys all know you're making some decent coin.

For a work truck with site superintendent credentials the SLT adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a chrome grille and a body-colour upper fascia to the exterior, plus keyless remote entry to get inside. Once in the driver's seat a colour-keyed instrument panel bezel adds functionality and style, as does premium door trim with a handy map pocket, an overhead console with a trip computer, and a vehicle information centre with exterior temperature gauge and compass, whereas the upgraded cloth seats feature Stain Repel fabric. The Quad and Crew Cab models spruce up the exterior with a blacked out B-pillar and a power-sliding rear window.

The Sport, which comes standard with the grin-inducing 5.7-litre Hemi and a sweet sounding dual exhaust system, will spin the rubber off of its 275/60R20 all-season tires if you don't watch it. Those shoes are shod to a set of 20-inch chrome-clad wheels with locking nuts that look fabulous. The Sport also comes with a body-colour front fascia, rear bumper, grille and door handles, halogen quad headlamps and fog lamps, plus ten-way power cloth bucket seats, power mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, a 115-volt outlet and light group package. The Quad Cab adds a split rear fold-flat steel floor.

The top-line Laramie is pimped to luxury car standards with dual-zone automatic climate control, heated leather seats with memory, interior woodgrain and bright accents, a remote starter, MyGIG entertainment system, UConnect hands-free, surround sound with subwoofer, a security alarm, rear parking assist and power-adjustable pedals on the inside, plus a bright grille, lower two-tone paint, fog lamps and chromed mirrors on the outside.

Over and above the trim levels, two packages are offered. Visually the TRX Off-Road package is set apart by lower two-tone and painted bumpers in Mineral Grey Metallic, TRX fender flares, 17-inch aluminum wheels with all-terrain tires, tow hooks, a body-colour grille, halogen quad headlamps and fog lamps. Under the skin the TRX4 gets extra-heavy-duty front and rear shock absorbers, a 3.92 axle ratio, an anti-spin differential, plus front suspension and transfer case skid plate shields.

The R/T Package features an exclusive torque converter and 4.10 axle, plus a sport performance hood and R/T badging, while special 22-inch forged and polished alloy rims inside performance tires are optional.

My test truck was licensed earlier in the year, so the name "Dodge" was still scripted into the tailgate badge, but other than that it's identical to the rebadged version. The Ram division went all out in outfitting my rig too, starting off with the Laramie package and then adding the ultra-useful weatherproof 1219-millimetre (4-foot) long side panel compartments the brand calls "Rambox". I found these really useful from stowing smaller items that I'd rather not have had in the cab, as it doesn't matter if they get dirty and they're lockable. They'd be great for camping or for a worker who needed to store valuable tools, etc.

The interior is easily the best in the industry from a perceived quality perspective, in that the majority of surfaces are soft to the touch like premium luxury cars and its two-tone motif with mocha leather and chocolate brown dash, trim and carpeting was a real feast for the eyes. I'm not a big fan of faux woodgrain, but it was tastefully (read minimally) applied in the Ram and looked authentic enough, plus wood kind of goes with the outdoorsy feel of a pickup truck. The chrome detailing was nice too, but the real reason to step up to the Laramie has to be the electronic upgrades. First and foremost with me is the dual-zone automatic climate control. I just like to find my temperature and leave it there without fussing over it all the time, and the heated seats were especially nice on cold mornings. To that end I used the remote starter a few times, despite my neighbour's frowns about the anti-environmental implications of leaving a vehicle idling without anyone in it. Being a music lover the icing on the cake was the MyGIG entertainment system, which not only delivers brilliant sound quality but also does it in a totally user-friendly way. I could load tunes via USB or connect with my iPhone, or I suppose it would let me do so any number of other ways, while its UConnect hands-free phone system worked without difficulty too. Another bonus of the Laramie was the rear park assist, necessary on a truck this large, especially if you haven't spent a lot of time in it and don't know its dimensions.

From a driving perspective the Ram 1500 delivers tremendous performance from its 5.7-litre Hemi thanks to 390 horsepower and 407 lb-ft of torque on tap, and the five-speed automatic moves through its shift intervals quickly and does so smoothly. What's surprising is that the bigger engine's fuel economy is better than that of the 4.7! The 5.7 gets an estimated 15.4 L/100km in the city and 10.2 on the highway, whereas the 4.7 is slightly less thrifty at 15.6 L/100km in the city and 10.8 on the highway. Why? The 5.7 gets Chrysler's cylinder-deactivation system, which cuts off four-cylinders when under light loads, plus when pushing this heavy truck around it doesn't need to work as hard, keeping revs lower and therefore reducing consumption. If you're towing, the same scenario applies.

Ride and handling are good for a pickup truck, which means it is comfortable over smooth surfaces, but can be a bit harsh and will step out in the rear over rougher roads or gravel. There isn't a truck on the market that doesn't react the same way, however, so it won't disappoint if you're used to driving pickups. Handling is pretty good too, or in other words in the same league as its rivals. I certainly couldn't complain, and having driven all of its competitors on numerous occasions would be totally happy with the Ram.

Functionality is great too. I love the new Crew Cab layout, as it gives better ingress and egress to the rear and offers full-size sedan-like rear seat accommodations, plus the under-seat storage I mentioned earlier. Whether or not to go with the Rambox side panel storage bins will have to come down to your personal needs, as they do infringe on box space.

Speaking of cargo carrying capacity, you can get three different box sizes ranging from 6-foot-4 to 8-feet, with a 5-foot-7 box slotting in between. The smallest can hold up to 1,300 litres (45.9 cubic feet) of gear, with the 6-foot-4 box capable of 1,627 litres (57.5 cubic feet) and the largest measuring 2,116 litres (74.7 cubic feet). The Ram 1500 can manage a payload that ranges from 616 kilos (1,360 lbs) to 839 kilos (1,850 lbs), depending on how you configure it, while its towing capacity ranges from 1,338 kilograms (2,950 lbs) to 4,127 (9,100).

When towing, or any other time for that matter, you'll appreciate the standard four-wheel discs with ABS, while traction and stability control comes standard too. Passive safety includes front, side and curtain-type airbags, so you and your passengers will be as protected as possible.

Yes, trucks have come a long way since the utilitarian appliances I remember growing up with in the '70s, and while they're just as useful now as they've ever been, a pickup like the Ram 1500, especially in Laramie trim, doesn't make you long for a luxury car or sport utility. Capable of hauling the entire family or crew, plus all your gear in style and comfort, even if that gear includes a heavy trailer, the Ram 1500 is a workhorse with thoroughbred credentials and not only up to par with its rivals but better in many respects.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Pickup, Dodge, 2010, 2011, Ram, $20,000 - $29,999, $30,000 - $39,999, $40,000 - $49,999, $50,000 - $74,999,

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