2007 Dodge Ram 1500 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
More efficient but just as tough.
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, or even a Chevrolet Silverado for a GMC Sierra. And every 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, and it's run with the big boys ever since, sometimes leading, sometimes trailing, but always solidly on the bill. Whether the '07 Ram is merely as good as the trucks listed above, or somewhat better, is more a matter of personal preference than anything else.
The light-duty Ram 1500 models 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. At the same time, Ram was modestly restyled, with a new bumper fascia, grille, headlamps, fenders and wheels. Inside, the instrument panel, center console and seats were revised for more car-like comfort, while new radios and entertainment features were added.
The 2007 model year brings refinements that stress safety and efficiency. An Electronic Stability Program and remote start are now optional. Fuel efficiency is enhanced on all Ram 1500s by reduce-drag brake calipers and low-rolling-resistance tires. On four-wheel-drive models, the standard transfer case is electronically controlled, and a front-axle disconnect system reduces friction in 2WD mode.
Ram's optional Hemi engine delivers power and efficiency. It is an exceptionally good engine, smooth and very responsive. 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.
Ram's standard 4.7-liter V8, while not as powerful as the Hemi, delivers responsive performance and is smooth and sophisticated, benefiting from a modern overhead-cam design. For 2007, it's available with FFV capability (flexible-fuel vehicle), allowing the option of running on standard gasoline or E-85 ethanol. Full-time four-wheel drive (all-wheel drive) is available with the 4.7-liter V8 for improved stability in slippery conditions.
Dodge Ram is available as a Regular Cab or four-door Quad Cab. (Dodge also offers the Mega Cab, which is built on a heavy-duty chassis. The Mega Cab is reviewed separately by New Car Test Drive. There is no extended-cab Ram.)
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-liter V8. A four-speed automatic is optional with the V6. A five-speed automatic is optional with the 4.7-liter V8 and standard with the 5.7-liter. Several trim levels are available:
ST is the base model with vinyl upholstery and wind-up windows. ST comes standard with air conditioning, AM/FM/CD stereo, rear-wheel ABS, 17-inch steel wheels and a full-size spare tire. Options include a bed liner, trailer tow mirrors, speed control, four-wheel ABS, power adjustable pedals, 17-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels, and a power sliding rear window for the Quad Cab.
SLT comes standard with the 4.7-liter V8, six-disc CD changer, power windows and door locks, keyless entry, overhead console with mini-trip computer and compass, speed control, and 17-inch aluminum wheels. Options include a navigation system, Sirius Satellite Radio, UConnect Bluetooth hands-free wireless communication, bucket seats with leather upholstery, 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.
Laramie is the luxury trim level. It comes standard with dual-zone climate control, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, four-wheel ABS, security alarm, and Sentry Key engine immobilizer. Leather seats are standard, with a split 40/20/40 bench up front and power adjustment for the driver. Laramie is available only with the Quad Cab and comes with the automatic transmission.
The Ram Sport 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.
The TRX4 Off-Road model comes with unique 17-inch aluminum wheels, P265 all-terrain tires, limited-slip differential, skid plates for the transfer case and front suspension, special red-painted shock absorbers, body-color grille surround, tow hooks, and fog lamps. Otherwise, TRX4 is trimmed like an SLT. TRX4 comes with 4WD only, but there's also a TRX package for 2WD models. Options exclusive to TRX4 include LT275 light-truck tires.
A Trailer Tow Group includes a Class IV hitch receiver, seven-circuit wiring harness, 750-amp battery, heavy-duty engine cooling and auxiliary transmission oil cooler when equipped with automatic transmission. There's also a Work Special package designed for affordability with gray bumpers, grille, and 17x7 steel wheels.
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. An electronic stability program (ESP) is optional.
The 2007 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 and grey on Work Specials. The broad, sloping hood has a pronounced crown that falls over the sides to the prominent front fenders.
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.
The frame is fully boxed and hydroformed.
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. New fabrics for '07 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.
A power accessory delay and active turn signals have been added for '07. 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, which every self-respecting truck should have.
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. 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. 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.
The Dodge Ram rides nicely even when empty, but it rides better with a 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. It's 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.
As mentioned, a choice of engines is available for the Ram. 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 (MDS), 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.
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 delivers responsive performance, though it doesn't offer the trailer-towing torque of the Hemi. Equipped with the 4.7-liter, the Ram feels eager around town and on winding roads. It accelerates quickly onto freeways and has no trouble powering up grades. This is a smooth, sophisticated engine that always feels ready to go. Its overhead-cam design makes it smaller and more efficient than overhead-valve engines. Fuel efficiency ratings are 14/19 mpg (with 2WD). For 2007, 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 4.7-liter V8 revs higher than an overhead-valve engine and generates 235 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. It feels smooth and refined, emitting a pleasant American burble while underway. We really liked it. The optional five-speed automatic is responsive.
The 3.7-liter overhead-cam V6 is smooth and works well with the manual six-speed gearbox. If you don't live in the mountains where long grades and high altitudes conspire against you, then it may offer enough power in a light-duty truck. It's not a good choice for pulling trailers or hauling heavy loads. The V6 develops 215 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque, and is rated 16/21 mpg with manual transmission, 15/21 with automatic.
Trailer towing capacities range from 2,900 pounds for the V6 to 9,100 pounds for a Hemi 2WD Regular Cab. A 4WD Quad Cab with the 4.7-liter and automatic transmission is rated to pull a 7,050-pound trailer with the 3.92 rear axle ratio. The available 20-inch wheels reduce towing capacity by about 1,000 pounds. Payloads r.
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 responsive 4.7-liter V8 delivers good acceleration and is paired well with the smooth, responsive five-speed automatic. The 5.7-liter Hemi delivers strong acceleration performance and is an excellent choice for towing.
NewCarTestDrive.com editor Mitch McCullough reported from Los Angeles, with Sam Moses in San Antonio, and John Katz in Pennsylvania.
Dodge Ram 1500 Regular Cab ST 2WD SWB ($21,235), Regular Cab ST 4WD SWB ($25,490); Regular Cab Sport 2WD SWB ($27,625); Regular Cab TRX4 Off-Road 4WD SWB ($29,300); Quad Cab SLT 2WD LWB ($29,450); Quad Cab SLT 4WD SWB ($31,220); Quad Cab Laramie 4WD SWB ($37,405).
St. Louis, Missouri; Warren, Michigan; Saltillo, Mexico.
Options As Tested
5.7-liter V8 ($995); anti-spin differential ($285); 3.92 axle ratio ($50); Protection Group ($140) includes tow hooks, skid plates; trailer tow package ($335); heated front seats ($140); under-rail bed liner ($245).
Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab Laramie 4WD SWB ($37,405).
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