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Original MSRP: $22,150 - $41,350
MPG: 16 City / 19 Hwy
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2008 Dodge Ram 1500 Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 was new.

The 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 earns an acceptable score for its performance, and falls at the bottom of the rankings for its class. Although the Ram offers impressive power, its large dimensions and truck-like ride are not for everyone. AutoWeek reports, "Driving this beast is like driving most other huge pickups. You climb way up to the cab, and the ride is stiff but not overly so, just big, heavy-duty-truck stiff."

Car and Driver says, "Cornering ranks in the class's bottom half, braking is average." Others find the ride a bit harsh. Kelley Blue Book adds, "Though the big, optional 20-inch wheels may look terrific, they make for a harsh ride over pavement that's broken or even the slightest bit bumpy, and fore-and-aft 'hobby-horsing' can occur at freeway speeds." Some were pleased with the Ram's capabilities, given its size. "On the road, the central revelation is how this truck, big as it is, drives smaller." says Edmunds. "The four-wheel disc brakes are effective, handling is better than you'd think, and its weight is only oppressive when you jam the Mega Cab into a tight turn."

Acceleration and Power

Under the hood, the 1500 has several powertrain options. The base ST comes standard with the base engine -- a 3.7-liter Magnum V6. However, three other engine choices are optional: a 4.7-liter Magnum V8, a Flexible Fuel Vehicle V8 or a 5.7-liter Hemi Multi Displacement V8. Reviewers find the base V6 engine smooth, but feel it lacks power in certain situations. Consumer Guide says the V6 "labors under heavy load, when passing, or climbing hills." Automotive.com similarly points out: "If you don't live in the mountains where long grades and high altitudes conspire against you, then it may offer enough power in a light-duty truck. It's not a good choice for pulling trailers or hauling heavy loads."

The SLT, Sport and TRX4 Off-Road trims come standard with the mid-level 4.7-liter V8 and optional with the Flexible Fuel Vehicle V8 (at no extra cost) or 5.7-liter Hemi V8. The mid-level V8 is new for 2008 and replaces last year's less powerful version. Automotive.com says: "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." The Automotive.com reviewer later adds, "This is a smooth, sophisticated engine that always feels ready to go." The 4.7-liter is available with flexible-fuel vehicle capacity, which allows it to run on cost-saving E85 ethanol fuel. Edmunds writes, "Unless you plan on heavy towing, the more efficient 4.7-liter V8 would probably serve your needs just fine."

The Laramie comes standard with the most powerful drivetrain: the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with automatic transmission. Ultimately, reviewers see the 5.7-liter Hemi engine as the best choice for hauling or towing. Motor Trend calls its 345 horsepower "best in class" and says, "With the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine, the Dodge Ram 1500 claims to be the most powerful light-duty pickup truck in the market." Likewise, Automotive.com proclaims the V8 "an exceptionally good engine, smooth and very responsive." The Orlando Sentinel sees the Hemi as a good choice even for smaller Regular Cab models, commenting: "Chrysler's 5.7-liter V8 makes 345 horsepower, which means lots of pulling power in the bigger Rams. In the smaller Rams, such as the test model -- a short-bed, regular-cab Ram Sport -- the Hemi means it accelerates with authority and sounds just great."

Reviewers have mixed opinions on the Ram's fuel economy, which varies by engine. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the 1500 in two-wheel drive to net 16 miles per gallon in the city and 19 on the highway with the base engine and manual transmission. A sizable camp find the Ram's fuel economy to be poor. Kelley Blue Book finds gas mileage "less-than-stellar, with the V6 earning an EPA fuel rating of 16-miles per gallon in city driving and the two V8s barely breaking 14-miles per gallon." According to Edmunds, "Dodge is quick to point out that the 4.7-liter gets slightly better fuel economy to match its power boost … but that's like saying getting punched in the head by Hulk Hogan is slightly better than getting a roundhouse from Lennox Lewis." Dodge recommends 89-octane fuel for the Hemi and regular fuel for the other engines.

However, some are impressed with the Ram's new fuel-saving technology. The Hemi V8 features the first-ever fully-functioning cylinder deactivation system on a pickup truck. Motor Trend marvels, "The Hemi V-8 engine can transition from eight cylinders to four in 40 milliseconds (0.040 seconds) -- quicker than the blink of an eye," and notes, "Customers may experience fuel economy gains of up to 20 percent under certain driving conditions." PickupTruck.com finds the fuel-saving system "very smooth."

A six-speed manual transmission is standard for the base engine, and a multi-speed overdrive automatic is optional. For the optional engines, a five-speed automatic is the only available transmission. Reviewers are generally pleased with the five-speed automatic, which A Car Place says "shifts properly, and is quite well-behaved for an automatic." USA Today offers even more praise, noting it "shifts promptly and smoothly, better at changing gears than transmissions in some premium cars." Automotive.com says the automatic adds to the responsiveness and flexibility of the Hemi: "Punch it and you know you've got a Hemi under the hood."

Handling and Braking

Reviewers generally feel the Ram 1500 handles well for its size. Edmunds says: "For such a big vehicle, the 2006 Dodge Ram 1500 is nimble and easy to drive. The suspension can still be a bit bouncy at times, but when loaded up with passengers and cargo, the Ram's ride quality is downright comfortable." The 1500's independent front suspension and live axle rear suspension, updated in 2005, "deliver a smooth, confident and highly capable driving experience," according to Motor Trend. Four-wheel-drive models get a solid front axle with five-link/coil spring suspension. The newest Mega Cab sits on the same frame and suspension as the larger three-quarter-ton Ram 2500. The Orlando Sentinel says, "Even the stiffest-sprung Mega Cab has a surprisingly compliant ride."

Reviewers note that the ride is smoother on the highway than in around-town driving. Cars.com says, "Although the suspension regains control fairly quickly, quite a bit of jolting occurs in city driving. The ride improves on the highway." Reflecting the views of several others, A Car Place reports that ride quality improves when the truck is carrying a load: "The ride is good for a high-capacity pickup; there is some jouncing with an empty bed, and the suspension is fairly firm, but it is considerably gentler than one would expect with this gross weight rating. Adding a heavy load to the bed dampens the suspension and makes the ride better, albeit at the cost of gas mileage."

The 1500's power rack-and-pinion steering is generally viewed as good for a large pickup, but reviewers see maneuverability in turns or tight spaces as too difficult to be practical. The 1500's turning diameter measures 47 feet for short bed models and 52.5 feet for standard beds. USA Today calls the truck "agile," but notes, "If you just hopped out of, say, a Miata, you wouldn't agree. But compared with other big trucks, Ram Mega Cab steers and corners with confidence and without drama."

According to USA Today, "Don't buy this truck just to get the Mega Cab. To be at ease with it, you need to be handy at wheeling around a vehicle that weighs as much as two Camry's and sticks out into the traffic aisle when parked in almost any lot or garage." As for maneuverability, the Detroit News writes, "going anywhere in the Mega Cab requires a certain amount of pre-planning and logistics. You're left thinking 'this truck is so big, it should have its own ZIP code.'"

The 1500 features front and rear disc brakes. Rear anti-lock brakes (ABS) are standard; four-wheel ABS is standard on the Laramie trim, optional on the others. Automotive.com calls the brakes "smooth and easy to modulate," and Consumer Guide says, "Brakes perform well in routine use, though some testers complain of poor pedal modulation." A few others are less pleased, however, with USA Today reporting, "Stops are less impressive, taking a lot of leg for a little result."

Four-Wheel Drive

The Ram 1500 comes standard in rear-wheel drive, but four-wheel-drive (4WD) configurations are available on any trim. They use a part-time transfer case that can be shifted from two-wheel-drive with the car in use. It features four modes, including 4WD, HI and LO. For improved fuel economy, the front axle driveshaft is automatically disengaged when in two-wheel drive.

A full-time 4WD system (all-wheel drive) is optional for the SLT and Laramie models. It includes a locking transfer case and is "an excellent choice for icy conditions, gravel roads, or any situation that presents inconsistent grip," says Automotive.com. Cars.com finds, "A four-wheel-drive version maneuvers capably and takes curves passably well at modest speeds."

The TRX4 Off-Road model is built for trudging through the muck and features front suspension and transfer case skid plates, an antispin differential, unique shocks and 17-inch wheels. Four Wheeler tested it with positive results. "As we crossed over the Rocky Mountains on Interstate 70, we encountered a quasi-blizzard, which whipped our Ram with horizontal snow and decreased visibility to near-whiteout conditions," the reviewer reports, later adding, "With the TRX4's transfer case locked in 4-High and the Goodyear Wranglers providing bite, we were able to navigate the treacherous high country without incident. The Ram felt composed and solid, thanks in part to the new-for-'06 coilover front suspension." Four Wheeler  concludes, "The TRX4 package is worth every penny."

Several axle ratios are available. Most automatics come with a 3.55 ratio or a 3.92 ratio, which Automotive.com notes is better for towing or off-roading. The Laramie trim, which also has an automatic transmission, has a standard 3.73 axle ratio and an available 4.10 ratio.

Hauling

"If hauling is your top priority and you need a traveling office besides, the Ram is your truck," Car and Driver says. The 1500 comes with a choice of two bed sizes: the 76.3-inch short bed or the 98.3-inch standard bed. Payload capacity for short beds is 1,470 pounds, and 1,810 pounds for standard beds. Regular Cab and Quad Cab models are available with either bed, while Mega Cab models come only with the shorter bed to allow for an extra 21.6 cubic feet of cabin space. "The result is a pickup with a huge cabin and a short bed, though still long enough to hold those 4x8 sheets of plywood if you lower the tailgate," says the Chicago Tribune.

Some reviewers point out that loading the beds can be difficult, thanks to a high tailgate. Automotive.com notes: "Tailgate load height is 35 inches on four-wheel-drive models, and a little over 33-1/2 inches with two-wheel-drive. That seems high when trying to heave heavy gear aboard." However, a step-in bumper helps, prompting A Car Place to note, "Getting into the bed is easier than in some other trucks." But the reviewer also mentions the "rather heavy liftgate" -- another obstacle to easy cargo loading.

Reviewers are more pleased with bed accessories. Car and Driver finds the factory bed liner "superb," noting that "it doesn't hide the tie-downs deep in hard-to-reach recesses. The cleats are proud of the walls, low and fully exposed. Cleats are better than the loops of all the other trucks…you can loop or hook to them."

Towing

Reviewers largely feel towing is one of the Ram 1500's greatest strengths, especially in its Mega Cab version. According to the manufacturer, short bed 1500 models can tow 2,900 pounds up to a maximum of 8,750 pounds when properly equipped.

The Detroit News calls the Mega Cab "a workhorse" and USA Today echoes, "Mega can tow and haul more than an average full-size, true-crew can."

However, USA Today goes on to note that the Mega's closest rival, Chevrolet's Silverado 1500HD crew cab, "is rated to carry 2,838 to 3,129 pounds" -- giving the Ram 1500 a run for its money. But PickupTruck.com describes pulling "a 4,000-pound boat behind a Hemi-powered 1500 Mega Cab. Again, smooth and plenty of power when needed." A Class IV trailer hitch and harness are optional on all trims.

Performance Options

ST base model

The base model comes standard with a 3.7-liter 215-horsepower Magnum V6. However, three other engine choices are optional: a 4.7-liter Magnum V8, a Flexible Fuel Vehicle V8 or a 5.7-liter Hemi Multi Displacement V8. A six-speed manual transmission is standard for the base engine, and a four- or five-speed overdrive automatic is optional.

SLT

The SLT comes standard with the mid-level 4.7-liter 310-horsepower V8 and optional with the Flexible Fuel Vehicle V8 (at no extra cost) or 5.7-liter Hemi V8. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a five-speed overdrive automatic is optional.

Sport

The Sport comes standard with the mid-level 4.7-liter 310-horsepower V8 and optional with the Flexible Fuel Vehicle V8 (at no extra cost) or 5.7-liter Hemi V8. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a five-speed overdrive automatic is optional.

TRX4 Off-Road

The TRX-4 Off-Road comes standard with the mid-level 4.7-liter 310-horsepower V8 and optional with the Flexible Fuel Vehicle V8 (at no extra cost) or 5.7-liter Hemi V8. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a five-speed overdrive automatic is optional.

This special off-road trim comes with multiple skid plates, front and rear heavy-duty shock absorbers and a front stabilizer bar.

Laramie

The Laramie comes standard with the most powerful drivetrain: the 5.7-liter 345-horsepower Hemi V8 paired with a five-speed overdrive automatic transmission.

Review Last Updated: 3/10/09

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