2011 Ram 1500 SLT: Introduction
The RAM 1500 pickup truck, formerly known as the Dodge Ram, has always reflected the heart and soul of what is Americana. It is large, in charge and bigger than life. It is like the all you can eat buffet of the automobile world, offering more than you will probably ever need at a very affordable price. It is also big enough inside that if you regularly dine at all-you-can-eat establishments then it still has room for you and four extra-large passengers. Have we mentioned this is a big truck?
The 2011 Ram 1500 SLT Crew Cab 4x4 model tested here is a mid-range model that came equipped with the legendary 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. This engine emits an endearing rumble so notable that friends will know you have arrived at their house before you have to ring the doorbell. Trust us, if you drive a 2011 Ram 1500 with the Hemi V-8, you will always get noticed.
Beyond the 2011 Ram 1500’s appearance and its engine lies the heart of a very capable, comfortable and cleverly engineered work truck. It also, thanks to a cleverly designed rear suspension, banishes the term “it rides like a truck” to the history books. Seriously, the competition needs to follow Ram’s lead because this is one serious mother trucker that is as smooth and easy to drive as any car. Not that you could tell just by looking at it.
2011 Ram 1500 SLT: Exterior
Ease of entrance into the cabin of the 2011 Ram 1500 Crew Cab (which got longer rear doors in the 2010 redesign) really makes a huge difference in how useful this pickup is for hauling five adults in comfort. Rear seat legroom is incredibly generous and during back to back road tests of this Ram, a Toyota Tundra and a Ford F-150 we found that dogs had a much easier time hopping into the back of the Ram. This was down to the lower than usual foot well for the back seat which proved a perfect place to jump for canine companions who sometimes need a boost to get into a pickup truck.
Exterior detailing has always been a Chrysler strong suit and the red 2011 Ram we tested is the head turner among full size pickups. Its gapingly over-sized grille, high hood line and abuse of the chrome concept all combine to create a look that is unquestionably macho and most unapologetically American.
The one part of the 2011 Ram 1500’s exterior design that most impressed us, however, had to be the utterly ingenious and incredibly useful RamBoxes located on both sides of the pickup bed. This feature adds two lockable utility boxes built into a space that is left totally unused in other competitor’s trucks and proved more useful than even Ford’s slightly gimmicky “Man Step” which adds a built in step into the rear tailgate. Frankly, we’d rather have more room for cargo than be able to gracefully hop into a pickup truck bed, but then it all depends on how you would use your 2011 Ram Crew Cab.
The RamBox option adds $1,895 to the price of a Ram but do keep in mind that we were able to fit over $300 worth of goodies from a monthly trip to Costco into both of these side trunks so no back seat space had to be used to store our industrial sized vat of peanut butter. Also, a feature like the RamBox is something that will definitely add value to your truck once it comes time to sell it on.
2011 Ram 1500 SLT: Interior
Let’s face facts here: the last-generation Dodge Ram had an interior made from such low-rent plastic, with so many fit and finish issues, that it looked like it had been created with recycled and melted down Legos. It truly had an interior that looked ready to throw in the towel quicker than a politician in the middle of a Twitter “sexting” scandal. More seriously, it was really quite unforgivable for a full size “work truck” to have an interior that can’t take some abuse.
Thankfully, when the Ram 1500 was for the 2010 model year, they took what was an ergonomic disaster area and turned it into a soft touch plastic wonderland where controls are easy to use and the layout is pleasing to the eye and hand. The 2011 Ram 1500 Crew Cab we tested did just have cloth seats so it lacked a bit of the pizazz you find in top of the line F-150 models but for most buyers the Ram’s interior will be just the right balance of elegance and durability.
Our test Ram came extremely well equipped with power adjustable pedals, air conditioning, power windows and locks, a 506-watt Alpine audio system with 9-speakers and a subwoofer, iPod integration, steering wheel mounted audio controls, power driver seat, Sirius satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity and a navigation unit with 30 GB of hard drive storage. The one missing piece was a rear backup camera which was missed in a vehicle this size but the “Park Sense” system did help backing out of supermarket parking spots with some carefully timed beeps.
Given the multi-faceted nature of the 2011 Ram 1500 Crew Cab, it could be the only vehicle a family, construction foreman, weekend landscaper, boat owner, plumber or commuter would really ever need. There is nothing this truck can’t tow, haul or carry. The interior is full of so many gigantic cubby holes, pockets and storage nooks that you will no doubt start losing things in there during the first week of ownership. And if you feel like you live your life in your pickup you will feel very comfortable in the latest Ram 1500.
2011 Ram 1500 SLT: Performance and Safety
Our 2011 Ram 1500 equipped with the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 (with 390 horsepower and 407 ft-lb. of torque) and five-speed automatic, like the model we tested, offers up a tremendous 10,450 lb. tow capacity and a class-competitive 1,900-pound payload capacity. That means this truck is ready for some serious work even if you aren’t. Just don't think that the 2011 Ram 1500 is all business and no pleasure.
Besides the throaty burble of the Hemi V-8 that elevates the whole macho vibe of this wild-child pickup, the 2011 Ram 1500 has another unique feature in that it is the only full size truck that doesn’t use the traditional rear leaf springs in favor of an independent rear suspension. The result is a ride that is, despite the cliché, truly car-like with none of the obnoxious jittering thumps you hear and feel on freeways in a Toyota Tundra.
Although the five-speed automatic is down a gear on what some of the competition offers, it does its job smoothly and has no problem extracting the most accelerative thrust from the Hemi V-8 which is really your best choice in the Ram lineup. It may have only averaged 13 miles per gallon over a week of testing but that’s pretty much what you should expect from a vehicle this heavy and this powerful.
Steering feel is much more linear and car-like than in previous generations of this truck and while it doesn’t exactly corner like it’s on rails, the smooth ride more than makes up for that. Besides, the F-150 and Tundra aren’t exactly sports cars either, but there is still a pleasure to piloting a full-size pickup. The 2011 Ram 1500 driving experience will make you feel just a little bit cooler and a bit tougher even if you will find yourself struggling to park this monster in shopping mall parking lots.
2011 Ram 1500 SLT: Summary
Full-size pickup truck buyers are spoiled for choice thanks to big league heavy hitters like the Ford F-150 which now has the most expansive range of engines in its class and is easily the 2011 Ram 1500’s biggest adversary. The Chevy Silverado is nice if not a bit too vanilla for our truck tastes and the Toyota Tundra is very capable and quick but suffers from terrible ride quality.
So really, your smartest choices come down to either an F-150 or a 2011 Ram 1500. Admittedly, the Ford offers buyers more choice, technology and the highest quality interior among full size pickups but it utterly lacks the charismatic machismo that makes the Ram so appealing. Also, if you are going to be using your full size pickup for family duty, the RamBoxes make the purchase of this Ram Truck a no brainer.
You just need to decide if you have the personality to pull off driving a truck like the 2011 Ram. Don’t worry, this pickup truck may look mean and sound menacing, but it’s really just a soothing pussycat on the inside. Oh yes, and make sure your gas card has a high enough credit limit to handle frequent stops.
Ram provided the vehicle for this review