Dodge serves up a crew

With a new crew-sized cab model, Dodge is now competing in the fastest-growing and highest-volume part of the light-duty pickup segment.

“It's certainly the most important launch we have in the company,” said Joe Veltri, director of product marketing. “This vehicle is very critical to us this year.”

The 2009 Dodge Ram 1500, offering more content and a lower price than current models, features three cab configurations, five trim levels, and new exterior and interior styling.

The Ram will be offered in regular cab, Quad Cab and crew-size cab configurations, with three box lengths: 8' (regular cab), 6'4" (regular cab and Quad Cab) and a new-for-2009 box length of 5'7" (Ram Crew 1500).

The Ram features an available RamBox cargo-management system that provides weatherproof, lockable, illuminated, and drainable storage compartments integrated into both fender sides. Each box holds up to five cases (120 cans) of 12-ounce beverages. Total capacity is 7.4 cubic feet — slightly more than the capacity of a 55-gallon drum.

A pair of “store-in-the-floor” storage bins with removable liners provide additional storage — large enough for ten 12-ounce beverages and ice.

Powertrain choices include a new 5.7-liter HEMI that produces 390 hp and 407 lb-ft of torque. Also available: a 4.7-liter V-8 providing 310 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, and a 3.7-liter V-6 generating 215 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque; four- and five-speed automatic transmissions; part-time and on-demand 4WD transfer cases; and 3.21, 3.55, 3.92, and 4.10 axle ratios.

Equipped with the new HEMI, the Ram R/T regular-cab 4×2 model with a short bed and 4:10 gears goes from 0-60 mph in less than six seconds. An improved frame design incorporating high-strength steel supports a new solid-axle, multi-link coil spring rear suspension. The suspension improves ride and handling characteristics without sacrificing payload (up to 1850 lb) and towing capability (up to 9100 lb).

The Ram also offers 35 active and passive safety features, including standard front and rear side-curtain air bags with Enhanced Accident Response System, knee bolsters, adjustable rear head restraints, remote keyless entry, seat-belt pre-tensioners, anti-lock brake system, BeltAlert System, Sentry Key engine immobilizer, tire pressure monitoring system, HomeLink universal home security system transceiver and electronic stability program with hill start assist, brake assist, rollover mitigation, and trailer sway control.

Engineers conducted approximately 40,000 hours of full-scale vehicle and system testing for durability and reliability of the ‘09 Ram. Testing and validation in various climates included road trips to a variety of locations, including Death Valley, Nevada, Bemidji, Minnesota, Tampa, and Denver. In addition, the Ram went through more than 200 hours of wind noise and aerodynamic evaluations in Chrysler LLC's state-of-the-art aerodynamic and acoustic test facility in Auburn Hills, Mich.

By the time the 2009 Dodge Ram went on sale in the fall, nearly nine million customer-equivalent miles were logged by Dodge Truck engineers.

The Ram ST regular cab and Quad Cab are powered by a 3.7-liter V-6 engine producing 215 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque backed by a four-speed automatic transmission (4×2 models) or a 4.7-liter V-8 producing 310 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque with a five-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include 17" styled steel wheels, four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock braking system (ABS), electric-shift transfer case (4×4 models), power rack-and-pinion steering, and heavy-duty vinyl floor covering.

In addition to standard features offered on the ST, the SLT adds carpet floor covering with floor mats, 40/20/40 split-bench seat, overhead console, speed control, remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks, heated mirrors, and 17" painted aluminum wheels.

The 2009 Dodge Ram is built at the Warren (Michigan) Truck Assembly Plant and the St. Louis North Assembly Plant in Fenton, Missouri.

Sprinter Cargo van

On the 2009 Sprinter Cargo van, the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 is now the only available engine because last year's optional 3.5-liter gasoline V-6 is no longer offered.

The V-6 generates 154 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque and is capable of fuel economy in the mid-20s. A five-speed automatic with an auto-manual mode is the only available transmission.

The Sprinter Cargo can tow 5000 lb; its maximum payload ratings range from 3155 lb (2500 extended length high roof) to 5649 lb (3500 regular length standard roof).

The Sprinter has a standard 144" wheelbase and is available at 170". It can be ordered in three body lengths (233", 273", and 289") and three roof heights (65", 76", and 84").

Standard equipment includes 16" steel wheels, automatic climate control, sliding passenger-side door, keyless entry. Optional items include alloy wheels, rear seating, rear compartment windows, a sliding driver-side cargo door, power mirrors, an auxiliary battery, cruise control, bi-xenon headlamps, fog lamps, cargo-area partitions, and upgraded front seats. Also available is a fixed cargo-area skylight or dual sunroofs (the latter on standard-height roofs only), a front auxiliary heater, rear area heater ducts, heated driver and/or passenger seats, front and rear park assist, a rearview camera, motion-sensing cargo compartment lighting, a six-CD changer, and a 74-mph speed limiter.

All vans come standard with antilock disc brakes and stability control. Optional safety equipment includes front-seat side and head curtain airbags, front and rear parking sensors, and a rear parking camera.

With the High Roof (76") and Mega Roof (84") options, the van can be used as a work space where passengers can walk upright. Rear doors open to 270 degrees for ease of access, and it has a low step-in height and optional dual sliding doors.

Ram Chassis Cab

For the '09 Ram Chassis Cab, the 3500 gas/manual powertrain was eliminated, along with the optional heated backglass and the optional power slider on SLT. Cruise control is now standard.

Coming soon are power locks and windows on ST retail trucks (sales code AJW/AJH) and open fleet paint colors to retail trucks.

Improvements to the 3500 Chassis Cab include: GCWR increased to 1000 lb to 24,000 lb; new ambulance prep group; optional remote start on Cummins diesel automatic; improved 5.7L HEMI with better torque, horsepower, and fuel economy; optional voltage monitoring and idle-up feature; new axle ratios of 3.42 on diesel manual and 3.73 on diesel auto; and bigger brakes.

Improvements on the 4500/5500 chassis cab include: new ambulance prep group; optional remote start on Cummins diesel automatic; and optional voltage monitoring and idle-up feature.

In his 2010 emissions update, chassis cab product marketing manager Brad Pugh said the emissions system will not interfere with typical upfits.

“We have a well-planned strategy for driver interface and system maintenance,” he said. “We have extensive testing under way at the component, system, and vehicle level. We'll have an upfitter measuring session approximately six to eight months prior to the launch.”

Dave Donnelly of the commercial vehicle team said the '09 chassis cab will have the ability to be reprogrammed to allow for LED rear lighting without the need for a dropping resistor. A dealership tool is required for reprogramming.

He said the automatic idle control includes a voltage monitoring system that monitors the state of charge of the batteries and adjusts the idle speed when the vehicle is under heavy electrical load; that increases the idle engine RPM to 1150. It's included in the ambulance prep package (AH2), but also can be ordered as a stand-alone option.

He said the 2009½ mid-model software change allows a customer-programmable remote PTO idle speed that does not require any tools. The speed is reprogrammable from 900 to 2000 RPMs in 25-RPM increments. There is no limit on the number of times the idle speed can be reprogrammed.

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