January 3, 2013
Review by Chris Chase
In 2011, Canadians bought about 250,000 full-size pickup trucks. No doubt, that’s a lot of trucks, and the Dodge Ram 1500 (or, Ram 1500, following a rebranding in 2010) makes up a significant portion of that sales total.
2009 DODGE RAM. Click image to enlarge
A 2009 redesign signalled the arrival of the fourth generation Ram, whose styling was an evolution of the popular “big rig” look first seen in 1994. Engine choices in 2009 were a 3.7L V6 (215 hp/235 lb-ft), a 4.7L V8 (310 hp/330 lb-ft) and the best known of them all, a 5.7L Hemi V8 (350 hp/407 lb-ft). Transmissions were all automatics, starting with a four-speed to go with the V6, and a five-speed for both V8 motors.
Key features included a Crew Cab model that replaced 2008′s Mega Cab, and the fourth generation Ram was the first with Dodge’s nifty “RamBox” cargo management system, with storage bins in the box sides. Basic ST trim kit included air conditioning, side and head curtain airbags, stability control, automatic headlights and a four-pin trailer wiring harness. You had to move up to an SLT to get cloth seats (instead of vinyl), keyless entry, cruise control and a carpeted floor. As with most trucks, if you were willing to spend the money, you could outfit a Ram, essentially, as a luxury car with a pickup bed.
2010 DODGE RAM. Click image to enlarge
For 2010, Dodge introduced an SXT trim that added a few convenience features to the base ST’s list. A pair of off-road packages – TRX and TRX4 – added all-terrain tires and loads of other mudding goodies.
2011 brought Outdoorsman and Big Horn trim lines. The former added some rugged functionality, with tougher shocks, a lower rear axle ratio and skid plates; the Big Horn was all about showy chrome.
The 2012 model year brought the only major mechanical update to this point, a six-speed automatic transmission to replace the five-speed in V8-powered models. Otherwise, there was a new steering wheel and optional power-folding trailer tow mirrors.
2011 DODGE RAM. Click image to enlarge
Natural Resources Canada fuel consumption figures range from 14.8/10.0 L/100 km (all figures city/highway) for the 3.7L engine, with rear-wheel drive, to 15.6/10.8 for a RWD, 4.7L model. The 5.7L engine is actually the more efficient V8, rated 15.4/10.2 with RWD, and 16.2/10.8 with 4WD.
To this point (December 2012), the fourth-gen Ram has proven itself a durable truck, with few common mechanical problems to report. Consumer Reports notes some minor engine and transmission complaints, but a search of Ram-centric discussion forums and TrueDelta.com’s reliability data reveals few troubling common problems.
2012 DODGE RAM TRADESMAN. Click image to enlarge
This discussion at RamForumz.com has to do with drive shafts falling out while the truck is being driven. Besides the obvious result of rendering the truck immobile, it can also cause the rear axle to lock up, which creates some interesting handling characteristics. Transport Canada issued a recall for 2009 and 2010 models, in September 2012.
Here’s a discussion that hints at the possibility of transfer case leaks.
I came across a few mentions of failed valve lifters, but if this is a common thing in the Ram, I couldn’t find enough evidence to suggest it. A bad lifter will cause the engine to run badly.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Ram a “good” rating in its moderate overlap front crash test, and a “marginal” score in side impact tests, owing to a high likelihood of rib fractures and internal organ injuries.
2011 DODGE RAM. Click image to enlarge
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Ram a five-star rating for driver and front passenger in its frontal crash test, but didn’t conduct side impact testing.
Ram resale values are close to those of its domestic competitors – the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado (and the near-identical GMC Sierra); only the Toyota Tundra commands much more money than anything else in the full-size truck class.
I’d guess that this truck’s aggressive looks are part of the reason it sells as well as it does, but it appears that it’s also a decently-made truck, though it’ll take another year or two to see whether any more common flaws crop up.
For the time being, I’d recommend a used Ram as a solid used pickup, providing you follow the usual advice: look for one that comes with detailed service records, and get it checked by a trusted mechanic before you buy.
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