2012 Dodge Ram Runner

If you're a Dodge Ram owner longing for the brawny looks and go-anywhere capabilities of Ford's F-150 SVT Raptor, yearn no more: your time has come. On Thursday, Mopar announced a new off-road kit for the Ram, capable of transforming Dodge's full-size truck from a traditional pickup to a bona fide sand dune-tackling desert racer.

Dubbed the Ram Runner kit, Mopar says the aftermarket package increases ground clearance, reinforces the suspension, and even changes the Ram's look and engine note. Modeled after Baja-series racing trucks, the Ram Runner kit will allow the Ram considerably more off-road capability, letting it bound over any rough surface with relative ease.

"At Mopar, our image vehicles showcase potential directions that we may take and the Ram Runner kit is a good example," said Pietro Gorlier, Mopar's president and chief executive. "We saw the reception that the Ram Runner received last year and quickly moved to offer kits that will allow off-road enthusiasts to transform their stock Ram 1500 into a desert racer."

Gorlier is referring to the 2010 SEMA show, where Chrysler showed off a concept of the bulky Ram Runner – complete with a fresh coat of dirt from an off-road adventure. The concept truck featured wider fenders, upgraded suspension, and a spare tire relocated to its bed, all of which carried over to the production Ram Runner kit.

Also included in the kit will be a dual-scoop "Sport Performance Hood" and a cat-back exhaust, giving the off-road Ram a meaty engine note to match its fierce looks. All told, the kit will run $19,683 – and of course, that's in addition to the cost of the truck, which can be any Ram 1500 made since 2009. The bulk of the kit's cost – around $13,000 – comes from its extensive suspension upgrades.

Of course, the inspiration behind the Ram Runner is likely Ford's F-150 SVT Raptor, an off-road-focused, pumped-up version of Ford's F-150 pickup. While the Raptor has proven surprisingly popular for the Blue Oval, we don't expect the Ram Runner to make quite the same splash – mostly because it's not available from the factory. But for the desert racers out there looking for some variety, Ram Runner adds another choice to the mix.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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