Bigger, badder, beefier . . . and beautiful, too.
It probably goes without saying that this is not exactly the optimal time for any automaker to be unveiling a new fullsize pickup truck to consumers. Cash-for-Clunker programs aside, the number of new car buyers prowling the aisles at dealerships--let alone buyers looking for large vehicles that deliver less-than-stellar mileage---have been as rare as Elvis sightings in recent months. On the other hand, more than 1.6 million pickups were sold in the US last year, even in a terrible economic climate, so consumer demand for these vehicles will always be present, if not overwhelming. And when you represent a brand that’s as closely identified with pickup trucks as is Dodge, you can’t afford to stand pat in an ever-evolving market, especially when your competitors have launched recent updates of their heavy-duty truck lines. To that end, the folks at Chrysler have rolled out the latest generation of the heavy-duty Ram for 2010.
For 2010, buyers can choose their Ram HD in Standard, Crew, and Mega Cab configurations, in wheelbases ranging from 140 to 169 inches, with either 6-foot, 4-inch or 8-foot beds, and in five distinct trim levels: ST, SLT, TRX, Laramie and, thankfully, Power Wagon, which was once rumored to be on the chopping block but which, we’re happy to say, is going to be around for at least another year.
While the Ram HD is all-new, inside and out, the truck’s basic powertrains carry over from 2009. The 5.7L Hemi V-8 has been tweaked for 2010 with variable valve timing, increased compression and improved cylinder head flow efficiency, and is now rated at 383 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. The 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel Six still produces 650 stump-pulling lb-ft of torque, and it’s also cleaner for 2010, having been equipped with a new particulate filter and NOx absorber catalyst that enable it to meet 2010 ½ federal clean-diesel standards without the need for a more costly (and heavier) urea-based emissions system. The Hemi is backed by the reliable 545RFE five-speed automatic transmission, while the Cummins offers either the G56 six-speed manual or the optional Kokomo-sourced 68RFE six-speed automatic. Transfer cases are the standard electric-shift NVG 273 or (for the Power Wagon) the manual-shift NV 271 with 2.72:1 low-range. Solid axles hold up both ends of the Ram; the suspension comprises coils and struts up front, and leaf springs and overload leaves in the rear; and you can still get 4.56:1 axle gears with the Power Wagon.
You can read all of our driving impression in the February 2010 issue of Four Wheeler (on sale December 22), but bottom line: Dodge needed badly to upgrade the Ram HD, inside and out, to match the levels of refinement offered in current HD trucks from Ford and GM. And judging by our time behind the wheel, we’d have to say they’ve met the challenge---and in some cases, surpassed it. Naturally, in challenging economic times, the $64-billion question remains: now that Dodge has got the product, will buyers come calling soon? Only time will tell, but Chrysler can be justifiably proud of this truck all the same. It's a really impressive piece of work. Pricing for the new Ram HD 4x4 starts at $34,810, and the trucks should be rolling into your local dealer showroom any day now.