Dodge flexes new truck muscle

Dodge flexes new truck muscle

Dodge displayed its new entries into the commercial truck market, along with the newly designed Dakota mid-sized pickup, at a press event in Dallas, Texas.

The chassis cabs, Dodge's first Class 4 and 5 model trucks, were previewed at this year's Work Truck Show. They shared the spotlight with the 2008 model Dakota, a little beefier pickup that splits the difference between compacts and full-size models. Much of the added muscle comes from a new flex-fuel V-8 engine that boasts 31% more horsepower, generates 13% more torque, and yet is 5% more fuel efficient.

For the commercial truck market, the key product is the all-new 2008 Ram 4500 and 5500 chassis cabs. The vehicles are equipped with:

  • The 6.7-liter Cummins turbo diesel, which generates 610 lb-ft of torque.

  • Six-speed automatic or manual transmission with power take-off capability.

  • A 52-gallon fuel tank as standard equipment.

  • 390 mm brake rotors

  • 66 mm caliper pistons.

  • Standard diesel exhaust brake system.

  • Frame made of 50,000-psi steel, designed to maximize strength and reduce weight.

  • Flat, “clean” frame rails, with industry standard 34“ spacing. All chassis components are below the frame surface for easy adaptability and versatility for virtually any upfit application.

“We built the all-new 2008 Dodge Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs for heavy-duty chassis cab buyers who want a powerful, capable, and versatile commercial-quality vehicle,” said George Murphy, senior vice-president, global brand marketing, Chrysler Group. “With commercial performance, durability, and capability, the 2008 Dodge Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs offer dominant powertrain packages, a commercial-grade upfit-friendly chassis, and bold, ‘big-rig’ Ram styling.”

The new Ram chassis cabs will be offered as dual-rear-wheel modes with a choice of four cab-axle lengths — 60", 84", 108" and 120") are available. The Ram 4500 and 5500 chassis cabs will compete within the Class 4 and 5 segments with a gross vehicle weight range of 14,000 to 19,500 lb. Overall industry forecasts for this range of chassis cab vehicles were 140,000 units in 2006 with growth expectations to 156,000 units by 2012. The Class 4-5 chassis cab segment is expecting further growth to 18 percent by 2015.

The 6.7-liter engine has B5 biodiesel compatibility and reduction in particulates and nitrogen oxide that comply with the 50-state 2007 heavy-duty emission standards. It has life-to-major overhaul intervals of 350,000 miles.

Two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive models feature a recirculating ball system that provides precise response and an on-center steering feel through lower internal friction. Improved power steering lines contribute to the delivery of precise feel and response for better handling. Featuring solid-beam front and rear axles, and a five-link, coil-spring front suspension with beam axle, a front and rear link-type sway bar and heavy-duty tubular shock absorbers are standard.

The rear suspension on two- and four-wheel-drive models is equipped with leaf springs and includes standard two-stage springs as part of the spring design for greater load-carrying capability.

Maximum gross vehicle weight rating for 4500 models is 16,500. For 5500 models, the maximum GVWR is 19,500 lb. The GCWR for both 4500 and 5500 models is 26,000 lb.

Bolt-on and riveted-on exhaust hanger brackets provide increased upfitter flexibility, and riveted cross-members behind the cab allow for easier modification. The one-piece C-channel frame, shear plate or u-bolt access along the length of the frame, and shear plate mounting locations identified along the frame contribute to the Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs' upfitter friendliness.

The fuel filler is routed through the frame and an optional mid-ship fuel tank frees up more space behind the rear axle for special upfit applications. Fuel and brake lines are routed together on the frame's left side to make better use of space along the frame, which also has clearance for rear-exhaust routing.

Electrical connections are user-friendly thanks to three-fused battery feeds routed into the cab and on to the rear of the chassis. A high-current 50-amp ground stud is located at the rear of the frame. Upfitter wire circuits and electrical schematics are identified in the body builder guide.

Twin 7×10-inch trailer tow mirrors are standard, as are 19.5-inch wheels. The Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs are available in three trim lines: ST, SLT, and Laramie.

Quad Cab models provide seating for six passengers and are equipped with four standard doors and 60/40 folding rear seat. Seat cushions fold up to create a tall storage area from floor to ceiling. An optional floor section under the back seat folds open to form a flat-load floor with additional storage in each of the foot wells.

Following is a list of safety and security features found in the all-new 2008 Dodge Ram 4500 and 5500 chassis cabs:

  • Constant Force Retractors (CFR) — Front outboard seat belts include a mechanical device designed to distribute the force of a seat belt according to the load of force exerted on it. CFRs are engineered to force-limit the belt system, and gradually release seat belt webbing in a controlled manner during an impact.

  • Enhanced Accident Response System (EARS) — In the event of an impact, this system makes it easier for emergency personnel to see and reach occupants by turning on the interior lighting and unlocking doors after air bag deployment.

  • Four-wheel Anti-lock-brake System (ABS) — Senses and prevents wheel lockup, offering improved steering control under extreme braking and/or slippery conditions.

  • Integrated Remote Keyless Entry Transmitter and Ignition Key — The remote keyless entry locks and unlocks doors and turns on interior lamps. If the vehicle is equipped with a vehicle-theft security alarm, the remote also arms and disarms that system.

  • Knee Bolsters — The steering column lower instrument panel and the glove-box door are reinforced to further protect occupants during frontal impacts. They both restrain and position the occupant properly and enable air bags to work effectively.

  • Multi-stage Air Bag System — Offering enhanced protection, this system is designed to deploy based on the severity of an impact.

  • Seat Belt Pretensioners — During a collision, impact sensors initiate front outboard seat belt pretensioners to immediately remove slack from seat belts, thereby reducing the forward movement of the occupant's head and torso.

  • Security Alarm — Arms and disarms alarm feature through remote control, flashes lights and sounds horn upon unauthorized entry.

  • Sentry Key Engine Immobilizer Theft Deterrent System — This utilizes an engine key that has an embedded transponder with a pre-programmed security key code. When the key is inserted into the ignition, the controller sends a random number to the transponder and the engine is allowed to start. If the correct key is not used, the engine will shut off after only a few seconds.

The all-new 2008 Dodge Ram 4500 and 5500 chassis cabs will be built at Chrysler Group's Saltillo Assembly Plant in Coahuila, Mexico. One of the company's most flexible plants, the Saltillo Plant — which also produces the all-new Dodge Ram 3500 chassis cab, Dodge Ram Mega Cab, Dodge Ram Power Wagon, and Dodge Ram Heavy Duty 2500 and 3500 models — takes on production of the Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs as part of the company's Flexible Manufacturing Strategy (FMS).

The FMS approach allows the company to not only balance production with demand, but to also efficiently build low-volume vehicles that take advantage of market niches, and to quickly shift production volumes between different models within a single plant or among multiple plants.

For production of the Dodge Ram 4500 and 5500 chassis cabs, Chrysler Group recently invested an additional $48 million into the plant, which follows a $210 million investment in 2005 for production of the all-new 2006 Dodge Ram Mega Cab. Enlarging the facility by 120,000 square feet enables the plant to produce commercial vehicles and accommodate new frame configurations. In addition, the expansion increases production capacity and enables the plant to manage the added complexity of the Dodge Ram 4500/5500's all-new commercial-grade chassis and suspensions, including two cab-axle lengths, regular and Quad Cab versions, 4×2 and 4×4 variants, and single- and dual-rear-wheel models.

The new 2008 Dodge Dakota mid-size pickup has new sheet metal to go along with the new engine.

Production began August 6. The mid-size pickup arrives in Dodge dealerships this August.

Truck equipment distributors and manufacturers should not be appreciably affected by the design. Critical dimensions of the pickup box are unchanged from the 2007 model.

The new 2008 Dodge Dakota comes standard with a 3.7-liter Magnum V-6 engine producing 210 horsepower and 235 lb-ft of torque. The engine also comes with electronic throttle control for positive throttle response, and exhaust gas recirculation to help lower emissions.

For 2008, the Dodge Dakota will again be offered in two body styles — extended cab and crew cab — and six trim levels: ST, SXT, SLT, TRX/TRX4, Sport, and Laramie.

The 2008 Dodge Dakota's dual-position tailgate may be secured in a mid-position, which provides support for extra-wide or -long cargo laid on top of wheel wells and extending beyond the end of the bed.

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