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The New Dodge Ram (Part II)

It's a rig that any outdoorsman would be proud to own.

Mean, Lean And, Hopefully, Never Seen

  

There's no need to worry whether Dodge retained one of its most treasured features-the 5.7-liter Hemi engine is back in an all-new, more intelligent form, with variable valve timing, active intake flow and the company's Multiple Displacement System of cylinder-deactivation technology. The latter means the truck's engine operates in a gas-conserving four-cylinder mode when less power is needed and on all eight cylinders when conditions demand. The new Hemi, rated at 390 hp and 407 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,950 rpm is claimed to offer 6.5 percent more fuel economy, 13 percent more horsepower and 8 percent more torque than earlier models.

  

Other engine options include the Flexible Fuel Vehicle-designated 4.7-liter V8, which is compatible with E85 ethanol/gasoline fuels, and a 3.7-litre V6 with Electronic Throttle Control to account for changing engine loads. Both a two-mode hybrid powertrain and a light-duty diesel powerplant are scheduled to arrive sometime after the current calendar year.

  

The truck's more efficient engine and lighter overall weight, gained from such features as a more strength-to-weight-efficient steel in the frame, an aluminum hood and aluminum front A-arms, add up to a 6.5 percent improvement in fuel efficiency over its predecessor.
Along with its smooth bodyworks and engine performance, the new Ram is replete with safety features that one hopes will never be needed. Advanced multi-stage air bags, anti-lock brakes, all-speed traction control, electronic stability program braking and throttle inputs, Hill Start Assist, and a rear backup camera are just some of the 35 security and safety features.

Driving Impressions

  

Journalists were given the opportunity last year to test drive all major configurations of Dodge Rams on and off the road. Vehicles included Rams equipped with Off Road suspension packages, fully loaded beds and even trailers in tow, and driving included touring winding highway roads paralleling the Pacific Coast and the Santa Ynez Mountains and maneuvering through urban traffic and parking at a small-town coffee shop on the way to off-roading at a sprawling private ranch. Through it all, new Ram exhibited impeccable handling characteristics even when it was pushed hard through turns and fast across railroad tracks at speeds that exceeded the road's intended design parameters.

  

But it was on the meandering dirt tracks at the ranch that the coil-spring suspension really came into play. The truck simply adhered to the irregular terrain with firm, yet comfortable, manners, dispensing with the "buckboard"-like sensation inherent in stacked-leaf assemblies.


Overall, the New Ram appears to be solid, well-constructed and thoughtfully designed. Whether on the highway, around town or in the dirt, it never seemed overbearing but also never shirked its assigned tasks. In the New Ram, Dodge has created an American-made truck that performs brilliantly and is easily among the best-appointed, best-built pickups on the market. It's a rig that any outdoorsman would be proud to own.

The New Dodge Ram specs.

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