2009-2012 Dodge RAM 1500: Used Truck Review
For 2009, Dodge updated the big rig styling it originated back in 1994 with elements of the Dodge Charger muscle sedan and crafted an upscale interior with premium soft-touch materials and in-floor concealed storage. A segment-exclusive feature of the Dodge RAM 1500 is its 4-link coil-spring rear suspension that delivers superior ride quality, especially when lightly loaded. The pickup bed can be optioned with a spray-in factory bed liner, a cargo-rail system and flip-out bed divider/extender.
What We Like
Superior ride quality with an empty bed; RamBox lockable bed storage compartments; sporty R/T option package
What We Don't
Five-speed automatic leaves big ratio gap between first and second gears; rear anti-roll bar is vulnerable to damage; rear-axle lockup failures
Fuel Economy & Engine Specs
The base engine on 2-wheel-drive Regular Cabs and Quad Cabs is an underpowered 215-horsepower 3.7-liter SOHC V6 with an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rating of 14 miles per gallon city/20 mpg hwy. It is hooked to a 4-speed automatic transmission. Standard on all 4-wheel-drive models and Crew Cabs is an E85-compatible 310-hp 4.7-liter SOHC flex-fuel V6 (13-14 mpg city/18-19 mpg hwy EPA rating) and a 5-speed automatic (6-speed beginning in 2012). Standard on Tradesman, Express, Lone Star, Big Horn, Sport and Laramie trims and optional on other RAM 1500s is the Hemi 5.7-liter V8, good for 390 hp and 407 lb-ft of torque. The Hemi is teamed with a 5-speed automatic transmission on 2009-2011 models and a 6-speed starting in 2012. Its EPA-rated fuel economy (13-14 mpg city/19-20 mpg hwy) compares to the smaller 4.7-liter V8 and the V6 because it doesn't have to work as hard.
Notable Features & Options
The pickup is available in 2-door Regular, and 4-door Quad Cab and Crew Cab body styles, with a short or long bed and rear-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive. RAM 1500 pickups are available in base ST and Tradesman, mid-level SLT and Sport, performance-oriented R/T and top-of-the-line Laramie trims. Typical ST/Tradesman fare consists of rubber/vinyl flooring, a vinyl split-bench front seat, a fixed back window, manual-adjusting side mirrors and rearview mirror, manual A/C, 17-inch steel wheels, painted bumpers and, on 4-wheel-drive models, a 2-speed part-time transfer case.
Mid-level SLT trim upgrades to chrome bumpers, heated power side mirrors, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, a trip computer, floor carpeting, a cloth split-bench front seat, cruise control, Sirius satellite radio, 17-in aluminum wheels, dual glove boxes, in-floor and under-seat storage (Crew Cabs) and a power sliding rear window.
Moving up to Laramie typically nets dual-zone auto A/C, power adjustable pedals, power front seats with memory, surround-sound audio with Uconnect infotainment, navigation and Bluetooth phone connectability, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, back-up camera and sonar sensors, 20-in chrome wheels and, on 4-wheel-drive models, electric on-demand 2-speed transfer case.
Pickup trucks are always in demand, because that's how work gets done in America. And full-size pickups hold their value best because their payload and towing capabilities make them so versatile -- and even with minimum maintenance, they're tough enough to provide several hundred thousand miles of service without major repairs. To get a good idea of the Dodge RAM 1500's price range, we recommend consulting the used-car values at KBB.com. You can also search the AutoTrader Classifieds to see what models are for sale in your area.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced the following safety recalls for the 2009 to 2012 RAM 1500 pickup:
2009: Incorrectly programmed defroster/defogger unable to clear windshield on trucks with manual temperature control.
2009: Water may enter wiper motor, preventing wipers from functioning.
2009-12: Defective differential pinion nut can lead to rear-axle lockup at speed and loss of control.
Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed; if the repairs were not performed, they will fix the car at no charge to you.
Safety Ratings & Warranties
In tests, NHTSA gave the 2009 RAM 1500 five stars each for driver and passenger protection in frontal impacts but did not test for side-impact performance. Test standards increased for 2011, the 2011 model receiving only two stars for frontal-impact performance, but front-crash performance improved to four stars for 2012. 2011-2012 RAM 1500s got five stars for side impacts, however.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2009-2012 RAM 1500 a Good rating for offset frontal and rear impacts and rated it Marginal for side impacts.
Chrysler Corporation covered the 2009-2012 RAM 1500 with a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty with roadside assistance and a 5-year/100,000-mile corrosion perforation warranty. The powertrain warranty on 2009 models had unlimited mileage and time restrictions; beginning with the 2010 models, it's five years and 100,000 miles.
Dodge/RAM Certified Used Trucks must be five years old or less and with no more than 75,000 miles on the odometer. The vehicles get a 125-point inspection, come with a CARFAX report, a 3-month/3,000-mile Max Care all-inclusive warranty and an extended powertrain warranty.
Behind the Wheel
While the RAM 1500 steers and brakes about as well as other full-size pickups, its ride quality is a few notches above the rest thanks to its car-like coil-spring rear suspension. The only potential downside is a tow rating that's 1,000 or 2,000 pounds less than the competition. Opt for the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 and the RAM 1500's 390 hp gets this truck down the road in a hurry. The interior is quiet, seats are comfortable, storage is plentiful and materials are a cut above Chevy and Ford. It just may be the best product Chrysler makes.
Other Cars to Consider
The Chevrolet Silverado offers good fit and finish, standard OnStar connectability and gas-saving AFM variable displacement on 5.3-liter V8s, but the base 4.7-liter V6 is underpowered, and extended-cab models are short on rear-seat space.
The top-selling Ford F-150 is a choice you'll never have to explain to friends and co-workers. It comes in the most trim choices and is available with unique cargo box accessories. The tall hood, however, blocks forward visibility. Ride quality can be harsh, and early versions are available only with a 4-speed automatic.
The Toyota Tundra offers a spacious interior, big front brakes and a lineup of powerful engines, but its exterior styling is blocky, interior materials look plasticky and no integrated trailer brake control is available.
Go for a Double Cab or Crew Cab with a 5.7-liter Hemi V8. The V6 is underpowered, and the 4.7-liter V8 doesn't get any better fuel economy than the 5.7-liter Hemi. And when it comes time to resell, everyone wants that Hemi. Four-wheel drive is a good choice if you'll be driving in wintry climes, but it's an unnecessary expense down south and out west. Make sure the rear-axle pinion recall fix has already been done. Carcomplaints.com and NHTSA report numerous rear-axle pinion lockup failures on 2009-2010 models. Look for a model from one of the later production years that benefited from continuous improvements, such as the 6-speed automatic transmission on 2012s.