2006 Dodge Ram 2500
2006 Dodge Ram 2500 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Strong lineup includes Viper-powered SRT-10.
This may be the golden age of the full-size pickup. Indeed, it's impossible to buy a bad full-size pickup nowadays. The all-new Ford F-150 and Nissan Titan have made headlines. Toyota has a new Double Cab model, and there are strong entries from Chevrolet and GMC. In spite of all this, the Dodge Ram remains an excellent choice. It may be the best choice, depending on what you want in a truck.
Rams are smooth and refined, particularly when compared with the previous generation. The 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 standard cab is roomy. Arguably, the Ram is the best-looking truck on the market. The styling is bold and handsome, more sophisticated than the previous design.
The Hemi V8 engine has drawn much attention for its power and efficiency as well as the heritage its name evokes. It is an exceptionally good engine, smooth and very responsive. Adding to its responsiveness is a five-speed automatic. The popular 4.7-liter V8 delivers responsive performance. It's also smooth and sophisticated, benefiting from a modern overhead-cam design. Full-time four-wheel drive (all-wheel drive) is available with the 4.7-liter for improved stability in slippery conditions.
New SRT-10 models, available in both Quad Cab and Regular Cab models for 2005, look like NASCAR Craftsman Trucks and run like race cars, with stunning performance from their Viper V10 engines and high-performance brakes and suspensions. The Guinness Book of World Records called the SRT-10 the fastest production pickup.
Dodge Ram is available in two cab configurations, Regular Cab and Quad Cab. Regular Cab models start at $20,180 for a 4x2, $24,285 for a 4x4. Quad Cabs are four-door models that ride on a wheelbase 20 inches longer than comparable Regular Cab models. Quad Cabs start at $24,190 for a 4x2, $28,175 for a 4x4.
Two bed lengths are available, a 6-foot, 3-inch standard bed and an 8-foot long-bed. Ordering the long bed adds 20 inches to the wheelbase. Long-bed Rams also get a bigger fuel tank, 35 gallons in place of the standard 26-gallon tank. Long beds add $300-$350 to the price.
Several engines are offered: Most popular is the 4.7-liter V8, a modern overhead-cam engine. The most powerful engine in the regular lineup is the 5.7-liter Hemi V8, which adds $795 to the price. A 3.7-liter V6 is available for those who want the lowest price and maximum economy, but only with two-wheel drive. At the other end of the scale, there's the rip-snortin' 8.3-liter V10 in the SRT-10 models rated 500 horsepower and 525 pound-feet of torque.
New for 2005 is a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment with the 3.7-liter V6 and 4.7-liter V8.
ST is the base level. It comes standard with air conditioning, but is equipped with wind-up windows, manual door locks, and vinyl upholstery.
SLT adds $1,700-$3,200, depending on cab style and driveline. It comes standard with the 4.7-liter V8, and adds cloth upholstery, nicer interior trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a host of convenience items, and wider tires.
Laramie is the top trim level, with leather seating surfaces, dual-zone air conditioning, a premium stereo, 17-inch cast aluminum wheels, and a long list of luxury features. Offered in two packages, Laramie retails for $7,800-$8,900 more than the base trim level.
Sport trim, available for most models, includes fog lights, 17-inch aluminum wheels, body-colored exterior trim, and special interior trim. Aggressive 20-inch wheels and tires are also available.
The SRT-10 is available in both regular cab ($45,000) and Quad Cab ($50,000) models for 2005.
A power sunroof with one-touch open and close features is a new option for 2005 Quad Cab models. Sirius Satellite Radio is available for 2005 Quad Cabs as well. A new UConnect hands-free cellular telephone system that can communicate with Bluetooth-enabled cell phones is available, and there's a new integrated radio/navigation system.
The Off-Road package ($870-$1,405) comes with unique 17-inch aluminum wheels on LT275/70R17 off-road tires, 3.92 rear axle, limited-slip differential, skid plates for the transfer case and front suspension, special shocks, tow hooks, fog lamps, and a heavy-duty cooling system.
The Work Special package is designed to deliver affordability with gray bumpers, grille, and 17x7 steel wheels.
The Dodge Ram presents a bold, distinctive appearance with its big horse-collar grille and Freightliner fenders. The basic look goes back 10 years, but received a major redesign for 2002. Modern and contemporary, the current design improved on the best of the previous, ground-breaking design. We think it looks terrific. 2005 brings new rear badging, including a chrome Ram's head on the center of the tailgate.
Few grilles are as instantly recognizable as the Ram's massive horse collar. The color of the grille provides trim-level identification: The outside rim is all chrome on SLTs, with a gray honeycomb center. Laramie models are distinguished by an all-chrome grille surround and chrome billet grille center, along with chrome bodyside moldings. Sport trim features a body-colored grille surround and body-colored crosshairs with unique chrome billets in the center. The most noticeable exterior feature of the SRT-10 is a unique hood that features a wide power bulge and scoop sitting atop the signature cross-hair grille.
Moving rearward, the Ram presents robust appearance. 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, and gives the Ram a modern appearance. 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 reduce wind noise, and a channel has been specially designed to keep water off of the mirrors. An integrated air dam aids engine cooling and air conditioner performance.
Ram beds are fitted with boat cleats designed to handle 1,000 pounds each.
Rams sit relatively high off the ground, particularly the four-wheel-drive models. Tailgate load height is 35 inches on four-wheel-drive models, 33.6 inches on two-wheel-drive Rams. That's seems high when trying to heave heavy gear aboard.
The Dodge Ram is among the roomiest of the full-size pickups and its cab is a pleasant place to be. Dodge added 3 inches to the cab's total length when the Ram was redesigned for 2002, stealing that space from the bed. So you sacrifice a little bed space for a lot more wiggle room. Regular Cab and Quad Cab versions offer identical roominess in the front seats.
The Ram comes with a front bench seat 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, though they could use more support on the side bolsters. Laramie models get silver trim adorning the door panels and instrument bezels. Laramie comes with distinctive leather trim, with higher contrast color seat inserts.
We've found the interior materials in Rams to be good quality overall, though not all is perfect in Truckville. The faux wood trim on the center stack reminds us of plastic. On leather-trimmed models, cloth is used on the inboard seat-bottom trim where leather would have offered a cleaner appearance. The cup holders can be fussy. 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. At night, the instruments are nicely illuminated in green.
However, the Ram interior is quite nice and 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.
Three-point shoulder belts are used at all locations, including the rear center seat. 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 and is a smart option for two-driver families. Big mirrors on the Ram make it easier to see what's behind.
Side-curtain airbags are a $390 option on Regular Cabs, $490 on Quad Cabs. Curtain-style airbags are designed to provide head protection in a side impact along with protection in the event of a rollover. We highly recommend them. The Ram was awarded the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest possible rating in its offset frontal crash test.
The design of the audio system could be improved for ease of use. Sometimes you have to search for the right button to press. Setting a button for a station, for example, requires pressing a separate Set button, rather than just holding the station button down. Small, sliding bass and treble controls are harder to adjust than knobs when bouncing around in a pickup truck. Optional steering wheel audio controls ($75) improve this situation with brilliantly designed buttons behind the steering wheel that are easy to use. Likewise, cruise controls ($390) on the steering wheel are easy to operate and come packaged with a tilt steering column.
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 HVAC 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.
Regular Cab models come fitted with a tray behind the seats big enough to hold a large bucket. Dodge even supplies the bucket, a tray designed to carry tools and such. Big hooks behind the seats are handy for hanging dry cleaning or plastic shopping bags.
About 80 percent of all Ram.
The new 5.7-liter Hemi V8 gives the Dodge Ram responsive performance. Fire up the Hemi, let it idle, and it burbles like a good old American V8, sounding like an engine in a cabin cruiser or a '60s muscle car. In spite of the hot-rod term 'Hemi,' there's nothing old or outdated about this engine. It does, indeed, have hemispherical combustion chambers, but this is a thoroughly modern engine. Apparently, Dodge was researching ways to gain power and fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, objectives that often run counter to one another. While studying some of the older powertrain designs, Dodge engineers rediscovered that swirling the fuel-air mixture around a hemispherical combustion chamber achieves a clean, efficient burn. Though it's an overhead-valve design, the Hemi features twin spark plugs, direct ignition, and electronic throttle control. It achieves the holy grail of engine improvement, increasing power while improving fuel economy at the same time. The Hemi generates 345 horsepower at 5400 rpm and 375 pound-feet of torque at 4200 rpm. It comes with a newly developed five-speed automatic 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 9200 pounds and payload by an additional 500 pounds. It gets an impressive 14/18 mpg with 2WD.
The popular 4.7-liter V8 delivers responsive performance as well, though it doesn't offer the trailer-towing torque of the 5.7-liter. 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. It's a smooth, sophisticated engine that always feels ready to go. The 4.7-liter V8 uses an overhead-cam design, smaller and more efficient than the overhead-valve engine it replaced. It also achieves good fuel efficiency (14/19 mpg with 2WD). It revs higher than an overhead valve engine and generates 240 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The 4.7-liter V8 feels smooth and refined, emitting a pleasant American burble while underway. We really liked it. The optional five-speed automatic improves the responsiveness of the 4.7-liter engine and is more responsive than four-speed automatics.
The 3.7-liter 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 as a light-duty truck. It's not the best choice for pulling trailers or heavy loads, however. The overhead-cam 3.7-liter V6 has been upgraded for 2005 for a smoother idle, improved fuel efficiency and more low-end torque. It delivers 215 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque and 16/21 mpg with the manual.
The Ram has a pleasant ride quality, important on long days. It's much smoother than the previous-generation Ram. Its rigid chassis minimizes road vibration. Dodge uses hydroforming to fashion the frame. Instead of having to weld a bunch of straight pieces together, hydroforming uses ultra-high water pressure to force the metal into shape. This highly rigid frame is a key component to the ride and handling of the Ram. It allowed Dodge engineers to redesign the Ram suspension and tune it precisely, without having to work around a lot of chassis flex. Rack-and-pinion steering sharpens handling, though we've noticed some on-center vagueness. Big 17-inch wheels are standard. 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 like one. It feels big and tall, and its fenders 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, so it's not the best vehicle for the timid. In this regard, the Ram is at the opposite end of the spec.
The Dodge Ram offers big power and big capabilities. It's responsive and comfortable as an every day 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. Regular Cab versions are far roomier than they used to be, and are thoughtfully set up to accommodate gear behind the seat.
The responsive 4.7-liter V8 delivers good acceleration and gets the job done; it's paired well with a new five-speed automatic that's smooth and responsive. The new 5.7-liter Hemi delivers strong acceleration performance and is an excellent choice for towing. The SRT-10s make you feel like you're qualifying for a NASCAR Craftsman Truck race.
Dodge Ram 1500 4x2 Regular Cab ST SWB ($20,180); 4x4 ($24,285; Quad Cab 4x2 ($24,190); 4x4 ($28,175); SRT-10 Regular Cab ($45,000); Quad Cab ($50,000).
St. Louis, Missouri; Warren, Michigan; Mexico.
Options As Tested
5.7-liter V8 ($795); 5-speed automatic ($1,170); anti-spin differential ($285); Package 29 H ($4,775) includes leather-trimmed seats, split rear seats, dual-zone air conditioning, keyless remote entry, security alarm, power adjustable pedals, AM/FM/CD/cassette w 7 Infinity speakers, steering-wheel audio controls, deluxe overhead console, folding cargo load floor, sliding rear window, auto-dimming rearview mirror, woodgrain instrument panel trim, P265/70R17 tires on 17x8-inch cast-aluminum wheels, four-wheel ABS, 4WD electric transfer case, tow hooks, fog lamps, bright/body color grille, skid plates; Sport appearance group ($170) includes body-color trim; trailer tow package ($465); heated front seats ($140); tonneau cover ($290); under-rail bed liner ($245).
Dodge Ram 1500 4x4 Quad Cab SLT.
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