The straight black coffee of Dodge Rams
It seems in recent years the trucks filling America's driveways have been jazzed up with everything from butt-warmers fitted under top-notch leather to full-on entertainment systems with concert-quality sound. Many of us would be lucky to have apartments as nice. But for some shoppers, a truck is still about utility and little more, and that's just what they'll find with the 2009 Dodge Ram Regular Cab ST 2WD. We took one for a short drive during a recent Dodge-sponsored media event and walked away impressed with the essential usefulness of this light-duty pickup truck.
Priced from $22,170 including a $900 destination charge, the two-door Ram Regular Cab ST comes standard with basics like power steering and brakes, with a CD player and air conditioning tossed in for good measure; you'll pay extra for luxuries such as power windows and door locks. In light of how most of today's light-duty pickups are used (or, more accurately, aren't used), this bare-bones approach may not make a lot of sense, yet in the eyes of the weekend warrior who wants a simple rig for runs to Home Depot or a tool to tow the boat to the lake, a truck like the Ram ST fits the bill. Just don't ask it to return excellent fuel economy, because with ratings as low as 14 mpg in the city, that's one chore this workhorse won't take on willingly.
Engine choices for the 2009 Dodge Ram Regular Cab ST, available only as a two-wheel-drive model, include a 3.7-liter V-6 that's good for 215 horses and 235 lb.-ft. of torque, and a 4.7-liter V-8 that busts out 310 horsepower and 330 lb.-ft. of torque. The six-banger is mated to a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic tranny; the V-8 works with a five-speed automatic.
We put a few miles on a Ram ST with the V-6/four-speed automatic combo, and though this powertrain won't win any awards for refinement, it's not quite the dog that you might expect. Acceleration is smooth and actually quite good (our tester was unladen), allowing us to merge onto California's Highway 101 without worry of being plowed out of the way by a big rig. Raucous engine noise is ever-present, but the V-6 revs willingly and the four-speed gearbox provides clean shifts. However, during one long gradual uphill stint, the transmission exhibited its tendency to hunt, as it never quite found a gear to settle on.
As is the case with all 2009 Dodge Rams, the Regular Cab ST features a coil spring front suspension paired with an all-new coil-spring rear suspension. Engineers abandoned the leaf spring setup in an effort to improve the Ram's ride and handling, and based on our test drive, we'd say they've succeeded. First and foremost, the Ram remains a true truck, so you'll still be bouncing a bit over bumps, and the steering, while adequately responsive, doesn't offer much in the way of translating road feel. But compared to the previous-generation Ram and its current competitors, Dodge's 2009 model is a noticeable improvement. You can take this full-size pickup along a rough country road at moderate speed without the tail end being kicked around, with the end result being a sense of greater driver control.
Dodge is very proud of the 2009 Ram's overhauled interior, and when talk is focused on the higher trim levels, praise is indeed warranted. The Regular Cab ST we drove was another story. While we do give designers kudos for the cabin's more contemporary styling, the materials we came to appreciate in the SLT, Sport, and Laramie were absent from our base model. In particular, we missed the padded window sills featured on the more expensive Ram variant, and for $22,000, standard power windows and door locks shouldn't be out of the question, either. At least there's air conditioning and a CD player to keep you cool and entertained.
In terms of comfort, the 2009 Dodge Ram Regular Cab ST need not offer any apologies. The bench seat is spacious and well-padded, passenger room is generous, and a tilt steering wheel helps secure a suitable driving position. Behind the seat are storage slots for items you wish not to leave out in the open bed, and above the glovebox is a sizeable cubby.
Though there's a lot to like about the 2009 Ram, from its freshened look to its coil spring rear suspension, the Regular Cab ST might not forge its way to the front of what is a small niche within the full-size, light-duty truck space. The starting price of $22,170 is thousands more than a base-level 2008 Chevy Silverado or 2008 Ford F-150, and though you might get a bit more content in the Dodge, the appeal of these trucks is utility on a budget. In that regard, the Dodge Ram doesn't take the prize.
Automatic transmission, chrome wheels
215 hp @ 5,200 rpm
235 lb. ft. @ 4,000 rpm
4-speed automatic with manual shift mode
14 city/20 hwy
N/A cu. ft.
By Thom Blackett Photo credit: Dodge