Both driver and passenger front airbags are standard on all models, and unlike the Ford F-150 and the Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra twins, the Ram 1500 offers optional side-curtain airbags. To accommodate a child-safety seat on two-door models, the passenger airbag can be switched on and off. Brakes are another area where the Ram sets itself apart: Large-diameter disc brakes at all four wheels are standard, as is rear-wheel ABS. The Laramie package upgrades to ABS at all four corners. Rear-drive models may have a tricky time navigating snowy winter roads, as traction and stability control are conspicuously absent.
The mix of powertrains offered in the Ram 1500 ranges from the overtaxed 3.7-liter V-6 to the mighty 8.3-liter V-10 lifted from the Dodge Viper. The V-6 hooks up only to rear-wheel-drive, and the SRT-10 is a low-volume model, so most buyers will choose from two V-8s. The smaller of the two, a 4.7-liter unit making 235 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque, connects to either the standard six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. A "kick-down" mode is featured in the automatic, allowing the transmission to grab a lower ratio for second gear under high-load situations. The real star of the drivetrain lineup is the 5.7-liter/345-horse Hemi V-8 with 375 lb-ft of torque mated to the same five -speed automatic. Two 4WD transfer cases are offered: one part-time, one full-time. Properly equipped, the Ram 1500 is rated to tow up to 9,250 pounds.
Behind the Wheel
Driving the Ram, you're constantly aware of its tremendous size. For someone unaccustomed to sitting up this high, piloting this truck the first time can be dizzying. Despite its scale, however, the Ram has relatively good road manners. Its light steering provides precise action with decent feel, and this pickup takes corners reasonably well--credit the enormous wheels and tires and stiff hydroformed frame. But while cornering ability may be a strength, the suspension refinement overall is a critical weakness of the Ram, as it bows to the more refined manners of the F-150 and Nissan Titan. The smaller 4.7-liter V-8 has satisfactory power and torque; it'll get the job done, but that's all. Hemi-engined Rams, on the other hand, are a blast to drive. They can sprint to 60 mph in a sport-sedan-matching seven seconds, and make enough torque to tow a large trailer with ease.
A versatile machine, the Ram 1500 fits well into a wide variety of do-it-yourself lifestyles. It's a comfortable family vehicle for Sunday trips to the home-improvement store. It's at home on the farm, hauling hay bales and horse trailers. It can even be a sport truck or a mud-slinger. As with all pickup trucks, Ram body, engine, and trim choices all can dramatically impact resale value and fuel economy, making it important to determine your real driving needs and desires and balance them against the IntelliChoice Five-Year Cost of Ownership data. If fuel economy figures in the low to mid-teens are acceptable to you, the Hemi engine is tough to beat.
Casting a formidable shadow, the Dodge Ram 1500 is a well-mannered workhorse, offering an appealing range of comfort, power, and configurations, with even more choices to come for the 2006 model year.