First Place: Dodge Ram 1500
Dodge added "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" swagger to its Ram act in 1994 and has been amplifying it ever since, including the Ram's makeover for 2009. Research tells product planners that pickup buyers like chrome surfaces on the fronts of their trucks. If that's true, the latest Ram is likely to seduce potential customers at first sight. There's enough bright stuff — chrome-plated plastic — on the front of this bad boy to make it visible on Google Earth. This affinity for pickup brightwork is a little mystifying in the Lone Star state, as just about every other truck we encountered had a massive deer bumper covering its grille — apparently Texas deer are particularly suicidal — although, to be fair, some of those bumpers were chromed.
Perhaps this sounds a little caustic? It's not. We gave the Ram top styling marks. There was some concern about how the two-tone paint job would be perceived in Texas — perhaps a little fancy for cowboy country — but we liked it, and the forward-canted grille is a welcome change from decades of bows whose designs seem to have been inspired by Great Lakes iron-ore freighters.
There are other design touches that scored big. Although it was upstaged by Ford's King Ranch treatment, the Ram's leather-lined Laramie interior is almost as handsome and almost as roomy, rivaling the F-150 in terms of dashboard design, general comfort, and fancy stitchery. The double-decked glove box is the only useful glove box in the group, almost every small storage nook in the cab has a rubber liner to damp out rattles, the dashboard sports a 115-volt outlet, and though the rear cabin still has a driveline tunnel down the middle, it also has a pair of fairly deep under-floor storage wells and two storage bins under the seat.
As in the Ford, one of the Ram's under-seat bins was preempted by a big amplifier. And like all three trucks, this one could be acquired for much less money without diluting its basic strengths — $33,890 for the basic rear-drive SLT version, $37,285 for the four-wheel-drive Sport model. That's a long way from the $48,965 as-tested total for our gussied-up 4WD Laramie test truck.
Back to design. A big plus was out back, where Dodge has created covered storage — the Ram Boxes — in the cargo-bed side rails. They measure 57 inches long by 10 inches wide, with a lot of space under each cover. And there's still enough width between the rails for your four-by-eight sheet of whatever.
The other big deal here lies beneath the cargo bed. Although the Ram retains a traditional live axle, it has forsaken traditional leaf springs for a coil-spring setup. This has produced two effects: one positive, the other not. Positive: Ride quality is distinctly superior to the Ram's rivals, particularly in the dirt.
Negative: The coil-spring rear suspension limits towing capacity to 8700 pounds max. Which do you think our scoring prioritized, comfort or towing? Right, comfort.
Though the Dodge was only 40 pounds lighter than the F-150, it was quicker than either of its rivals, as you'd expect with a 390-hp Hemi under the hood and a 3.55:1 rear end. The downside of this, of course, was the worst fuel economy, 14 mpg. Even so, the thrust of that engine and the sounds that go with it are hard to resist. Add that to a solid platform and innovative design, and you have a winner. Our Pat Bedard went so far as to call it a "breakthrough truck." He didn't get much argument.
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The Chevy pulls more, is faster, cheaper, handles the best, and got the best gas mileage.
But C&D doesn`t like the interior... not enough pockets? WOW...ridiculous.
A TRUCK review?...Really?