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2006 Dodge Ram1500 SLT Quad Cab 4x4 Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

By Steve Purdy Detroit Bureau

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Dodge

The Dodge Ram pickup still has the most truck-like look and personality of all the entries in this most popular segment of the automotive market. The best-selling F-150 Ford has more style and sophistication. The full-size Chevy and GMCs are perhaps more luxurious and cushy. There is no question that all vehicles in the segment are competent, tough and tight. But the Ram is as a truck man’s truck.

Our test truck is the Ram 1500 SLT Quad Cab 4X4. That’s a lot of nomenclature, don’t you think? Base price is $30,960 and our example has almost $13,000-worth of options, pushing the sticker past 43-grand. Seems like a lot for a pickup that doesn’t even have leather.

Without running boards it’s a long step up into the cabin. I’m able to pull my oversized self in with the help of the steering wheel and the big, solid grab handle. Once up and into the seat (these fabric six-way power buckets are a $1,000 option) it’s firm and comfortable with a good driving position. My pretty blonde, though, has a tough time getting in on her side. We’ve had a lot of big vehicles these past few weeks and she’s getting a bit tired of them. She’s just a little short on one end. But, like Tim Allen, I never get enough of these big macho machines.

This four-door has an adequate rear seat - not very roomy but enough to accommodate that extra couple of crew members. The mechanisms that flip up the rear seat and fold out a little flat floor panel are easily operated with one hand – perhaps one of the easiest-to-operate systems we’ve encountered. With minimal wood inserts in the dash and doors it has a nicely finished look inside without being ostentatious.

We have the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 in this ‘Mineral Gray Metallic’ test truck. (That paint is a $150 option.) This Hemi is “Multi Displacement,” that is, able to shut off half its cylinders when they’re not needed. I didn’t get an opportunity to pull a trailer or haul a load but I can say without equivocation that this Ram has bucket loads of power and acceleration. The gearing is quick as well. The 5-speed automatic 545RFE transmission seems pretty well balanced over all in terms of grunt off the line versus highway cruising. EPA rates the Hemi at 14-mpg city and 14 highway. Standard is a 26-gallon fuel tank but our test truck has the optional ($55) 34-gallon tank. Let’s see – at $3/gallon that’s just about an even hundred-bucks per fill.

The “Customer Preferred Package,” at $1,250, includes a bunch of off-road stuff, 17-inch by 8-inch aluminum wheels, Sirrus satellite radio including one year of service, tow hooks, Anti-Spin Differential rear axle, fog lamps, and skid plates protecting front suspension and transfer case. The tow hook loops are tucked into the bumper so deeply that it looks like it would be impossible to grab them with a typical, heavy-duty hook.

The DVD-based GPS navigation system ($2,620) includes a 6-CD changer with MP3 compatibility and 7 Infinity speakers. These, too, are reasonably easy to manage. I find it a bit annoying, though, that I have to go through two functions when starting up just to get to the map. First, like all systems, I have to agree not to input too much data while I’m driving, then I have to push the navigation button to get to the map. What’s up with that? Let’s just keep it as simple as we can.

The ride is a bit jouncy, but that’s to be expected in a heavy-duty pickup without a load. The real test is how it rides with a couple yards of gravel in the back. Sorry, good readers, I didn’t get a chance to load it up for a test.

Warranty is 3-year/36,000-miles. Now that GM has announced a 100,000-mile warranty plan DCX may have to rethink this minimal coverage.

Both Ford and GM have freshened their entries in the full-size pickups so now Dodge will have to do that to say in the hunt. Can’t wait to see what they do.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved