If you believe the commercials, trucks can do anything. They can bring a 30,000-pound C-123 cargo plane to a stop after dropping out of its tail. They can drive around our country accompanied by the incessant playback of John Mellencamp music. The 2008 Dodge Ram is apparently capable of withstanding an incessant pounding from a 13-foot-tall Rock-'Em Sock-'Em robot. Although these are obvious exaggerations, they demonstrate what full-size heavy-duty trucks are meant to convey: all-American macho machines that are indestructible. With its big-rig styling and workhorse capabilities, the 2008 Dodge Ram 2500 personifies this image.
Only three automakers offer heavy-duty trucks, and the Dodge is the elder statesman of the group, having been introduced in 2003. An interior redesign a few years ago maintained the truck's freshness, while a new 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel debuted last year that seriously upped the Ram 2500's towing and hauling potential. Packing 350 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque, the big six-cylinder diesel helps this Ram tow up to 13,350 pounds.
The Ram 2500 is, of course, available in two-wheel- and four-wheel-drive configurations, with the latter being controlled electronically on all but the lowest trim level. The four-wheel-drive 2500 has a solid front axle and recirculating-ball steering setup, while the two-wheel-drive model gets an independent front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering.
For heavy-duty truck buyers looking for an off-road-capable truck without any aftermarket modifications, Dodge offers the Ram Power Wagon. This big boy comes with electric driver-controlled locking front and rear differentials, an electronic disconnecting front antiroll bar, 33-inch off-road tires, a 12,000-pound winch and unique suspension tuning.
Against the Ford F-250 and Chevy Silverado 2500, the 2008 Dodge Ram 2500 is definitely worthy of consideration. Its Rock-'Em Sock-'Em styling makes it arguably the manliest of this most manly truck category, while its Mega Cab model should appeal to those who need a maximum amount of passenger space. However, bed capacity is one area where the Ram suffers. The standard bed is shorter than expected, while the Mega Cab's truncated bed could potentially limit fifth-wheel trailering applications. Other than that, the 2008 Ram 2500 should meet the needs of anyone seeking an all-American macho machine.
The 2008 Dodge Ram 2500 3/4-ton pickup is available in three cab styles: regular, Quad Cab (crew cab) and Mega Cab (a jumbo crew cab). The regular cabs come with a long bed only, while the Quad Cab has either a short or long cargo bed. The Mega Cab rides on the same wheelbase as the Quad Cab long bed but pairs an even bigger cabin with the short bed. The regular cab comes in ST or SLT trims; the Quad Cab in ST, SLT or Laramie trims; and the Mega Cab in SXT or Laramie only.
The Ram ST is pretty bare-bones, offering little more than17-inch wheels, vinyl upholstery, 40/20/40 front bench seat, air-conditioning and a CD player. The SLT adds alloy wheels, cruise control, cloth upholstery, power accessories and keyless entry. The SXT is equipped similarly, but comes only with the Mega Cab. The luxurious Laramie comes with standard upgrades like dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating, a power driver seat, upgraded speakers and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. Options on the upper trims include niceties like a sunroof, power-adjustable pedals, front bucket seats, Bluetooth, navigation system, satellite radio, an upgraded stereo and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
For 4x4 regular cabs and Quad Cabs, Dodge also offers the Power Wagon trim. This Ram is highly specialized for off-road duty with its raised suspension, front and rear differential locks, electronically disengaging front stabilizer bar, 33-inch tires, 12,000-pound winch and full skid plates.
The 2008 Ram's cabin features white-faced gauges, simple twist-knob climate controls and a huge center armrest/bin. Although it is a straightforward, user-friendly design, materials quality could be a bit better. Crew cabs can seat up to six people and the rear seats fold up to reveal a flat load floor for carrying large items inside. Unfortunately, rear seating in Quad Cabs is noticeably more cramped than in competitors' crew-cab trucks. The Mega Cab more than compensates by expanding legroom by nearly a foot and offering a comfy, reclining backseat. If carrying passengers in comfort is a priority equal to pickup utility, it's hard to do better than a Ram 2500 Mega Cab model.
The Ram 2500 is available with rear-wheel or four-wheel drive and comes standard with a 5.7-liter V8 engine that makes 345 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. For the V8, a six-speed manual transmission is standard and a five-speed automatic is optional. The latter comes standard with the Laramie trim. Most buyers, however, go for the optional diesel-fueled 6.7-liter turbocharged inline-6 that produces 350 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. This mighty diesel engine can be paired to six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. For the diesel, Dodge also includes an exhaust brake. An unusual feature for a from-the-factory pickup, an exhaust brake provides additional stability and braking power when towing very heavy loads. The big Cummins is also the first diesel engine in the truck market to meet the more stringent 2010 federal emissions requirements.
Although it's built to take on the most demanding tasks, the 2008 Dodge Ram 2500 is still a surprisingly comfortable truck for daily use. Its steering is light and its turning circle is smaller than that of other heavy-duty trucks. Ride quality is also respectably supple and is nearly as comfortable as most half-tons. The V8 is a competent all-around engine, but for serious towing and hauling (plus decent fuel economy), the 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel is essential.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard on the heavy-duty Ram 2500, and side curtain airbags are optional. Optional on the SLT and standard on the Laramie are power-adjustable pedals. No crash tests have been performed on the 2008 Dodge Ram 2500, but in government crash tests, the lighter Ram 1500 earned five out of five stars for its protection of front occupants in head-on collisions. Frontal-offset collision testing performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety similarly resulted in a top rating of "Good."
Other than some minor trim level and feature adjustments, the 2008 Dodge Ram 2500 is unchanged.