2009 Dodge Ram 1500, the Super Handling Hemi

Driving the all new 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 in Santa Barbara last week, I parked the new Ram R/T with the other well handling automobiles at the Bacara resort (those are Bentley’s on each side). That’s the theme of the new Ram with rear coil springs, handling, cornering, stability and storage. I’ve been a fan of rear leaf springs for decades and considered coil springs that most SUV’s have now, as less desirable for towing. But if you put a truck on a lift with rear leafs and move the axle, it’s surprising how much play is back there with the axle hanging. The Ram rear coil suspension has a tracking bar on top and anti-sway bar on bottom for a tight rear (axle). I towed a horse trailer and a travel trailer, was impressed with the handling.

Dodge isn’t going to be the trailer capacity leader in the 1/2 ton class and I see the wisdom in that. When you have a capable 3/4 ton truck, why try to overlap what a 1/2 ton is for. The 09 Ram in single cab configuration can have a payload of 1850 lbs and trailer capacity of 9100 lbs. But even on what should be a popular configuration, Ram Crew with Hemi, 4×4, 3.92 axle and 17 inch wheels, can have a 8400 lb trailer capacity. Dodge was the first that I know of to use Electronic Stability Control to control trailer sway.  Using the ABS computer to control an outrageously swaying trailer, Electronic Stability Program is standard on all 09 1500 Rams. All the 09 Ram 1500’s are made in the US, built in Michigan and Missouri, which is a plus with all the plant closures in the auto business.

Finally a crew cab, no more Mega Cab in the 1/2 ton class, still the Quad Cab and regular cab. The Ram Crew only with the 5’7″ bed, is same overall length as Quad Cab with 6’4″ bed.  Lower prices on the 09 Ram, is the theme lately of the Big Three. Three bed sizes, 8 ft only available on the regular cab. Quad cab with 6’4″ bed, Crew cab with 5′ 7″ . Five trim levels, ST, SLT, TRX, Sport and Laramie.

First floor mounted shifter with a console full of pockets and door pockets for Dodge. Dramatic changes in looks and comforts.  Lean in grill similar to the new charger. The Bighorn Ram has his head down for the attack. Still aggressive nose, more of a drill sergeant than the big rig look that started in 04. Aluminum hood, and all steel bumper. Dodge didn’t lower the beltline, lower sill, smaller wheel well opening and same bed height, it’s a balanced sharp look. Tailgate now has extended wing, with the tailgate latch up in the wing for lowering gate with new lift assist, locking tailgate and backup camera. Rail cap and wheel liner standard. Bigger anti-sway bars that are hollow tubes front and back.

The all-new Ram Crew cab 1500 has a unique option RamBox. Storage in the fenders takes out the inside fender, so you have a rectangular bed with sliding  bed gate for cargo management. 49 inches wide, so plywood still fits. Fender lockable storage with a plastic lighted liner and drain hole, equal in space of 55 gallon drum 7.4 cu ft.. And in the Ram Crew features storage bins in the floor under the rear seat. Same leg room as the Mega-cab at 42 inches. Storage is an obvious theme here and why not, you never have too much room to put stuff away instead of on the dash.

The 5.7L Hemi engine grows in power for 2009 with 390 hp and 407 lb.-ft of torque. The 4.7L V-8 has 310 hp and 330 torque, a 3.7L V-6, 215 hp and 235 torque. 5-speed automatic transmission with the Hemi. Axle ratio’s are 3.21 for fuel economy, mid 3.55 and 3.92 for towing. MDS gets the mpg up to 20 on the highway. Bushings in the piston wristpin with floating wrist pins similar to performance cars. 5.7L Hemi has long and short runners intake manifold for better non lagging breathing. Long runners help the bottom end torque, short runners for power at top rpm. Variable Valve Timing on exhaust and intake part of the equation for more power with higher compression ratio’s (10.5 to 1). All Hemi’s have less restrictive dual exhaust which exit out the rear bumper with flare. 6000 mile oil change.

Trannies are basically the same, the 545-RFE with double overdrives and two prime gears in 2nd, standard on Hemi 5.7L and 4.7L gas engines. Gated shifter or toggle if on the stem. ERS for forced grade shifting lets you manually limit the highest available transmission gear, you just hold the lever to the negative side and the tranny will down shift to the next gear without over wrapping the engine. Nice for trailers in the mountains. The 3.7L V-6 still gets the 4-speed auto.

Drive train improvements with two transfer cases, the NVG 246 has auto engaging  4×4. Improved drive shafts, new aluminum lower control arms on front spindles and improved braking with less shutter and quicker response. Warping and lower life brake rotors is a problem addressed in the new 1500, should make past Ram owners happy.

With numerous new options, the 09 Ram gets fancy with optional heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats for cooling, heat seats, both rows, auto headlights, auto up and down front row windows and moon roof. The Laramie model has more chrome. Triple seal doors in a new side frame door is very quiet, the quietest Ram I’ve been in.  Four bulb bright lights will help find the deer at night that hang on the side of the I-70 in the Rockies. Full size 17 inch spare.

Single rate coil, 5 link suspension. Spring only has to deal with suspension, while the 4 drag link arms deal with attachment and the track bar keeps it all tight side to side. Verses leaf springs that have to do it all. Double lateral stiffness. less fish tailing, easier cornering, make more of a car like feel. Outboard shocks improve ride by controlling spring reaction to the expansion joints on the California freeways.

It will be up to aftermarket companies, maybe Mopar, to get a progressive spring for max payloads. Drove Ram Crew Cab with 1000 lbs in the bed. It handled well, but with some squat past level, it’s max payload 1360 lbs would be worse. I towed a horse trailer and a Airstream travel trailer weighing 5800 lbs. No problem towing or handling those trailers.

115 volt outlet works for my laptop. Seats are more comfortable than previous Rams with improved side bolsters. Bottom line, if you have a Ram 1500 now, you’ll notice the improvements to the 09 Ram. If you have the other brands, this Dodge will impress you, good job Dodge Brothers!

4″ dual exhaust on the Hemi, blue shows the rear axle tracking bar Improved mirror over last year, no trailer mirrors for 09 except Mopar. All Hemi’s have dual exhaust and 4″ chrome tips. Cool look with bumpers cut out for dual exhaust.

Front air dam like a belly pan, aerodynamic as in go fast stock car


New kind of key

Hood now closes at grill instead of below it. Top glove box must be for the 45 cal. Storage in the door and on the side of the console, never can have too many pockets to organize

New readout, tranny temp, tow haul, oil temp, range selector, well organized cluster


New Console and Arm Rest

Sport model has the 5.7L Hemi, five-speed auto, body color bumpers, fog lamps and 20-inch aluminum wheels. The dual exhaust has a louder note on the Sport and Sport R/T.

Mopar has grill inserts for the hood (right picture) should be popular.

R/T vroom, vroom

The Sport R/T comes in regular cab, 6’4″ bed and 4.10 axle ratio. The 5-speed auto tranny has higher stall torque converter. TRX is the off-road option with electric shift on the 4×4, unique shocks and ride height. vinyl floor, 3.92 anti-spin axle.

Looking back at 08 shows how dramatic the changes for 09 are

Big difference in cab layout, left 2008, right 2009

Dodge started the grill hooked to the hood in 04, Ford copied and now Dodge is hood by itself with a tall hood.

Full cut-line doors on side instead of into the roof, better aero, better water gutter and contributes to a much quieter Ram. Mirrors designed for aerodynamics and to deflect noise on side windows (2009 right)