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In other powertrain news, the base 3.7-liter V6 engine will be mated to a new Variable Line Pressure (VLP) transmission. All 4x4 models will have electronically controlled transfer cases, and the 1500 models will be equipped with a front-axle disconnect system to disengage the front shafts while on 2WD. This move should help with fuel economy as will new brake calipers designed to offer less drag and a rear spoiler on the tailgate to improve airflow over the bed.

When Dodge last redesigned the Ram in 2002, the company introduced a hydroformed, fully boxed frame. That configuration returns but in a stiffer mode to accommodate an improved 4x4 front suspension and other improvements to reduce noise and road harshness transferred to the cab. Dodge also developed new body mounts based on a “shear” design. It consists of two concentric tubes: one bolted to the frame and the other bolted to the body structure. There are internal steel reinforcements and rubber bonded in between. Four-wheel-drive models no longer have torsion bars up front. They’ve been replaced with a coil-over-shock double-wishbone similar to the 2WD models. Dodge also retuned the springs, monotube shocks, jounce bumpers and bushings to achieve a more respectable ride. Max GVWR remains at 6800 pounds.

“Keeping in mind that more and more truck buyers use their vehicles for both work and personal use, we designed the new Ram to strike a perfect balance of comfort and refinement with exceptional capability. The ride is refined while controlled, the steering is taut and the cab is quiet.”

Also helping to reduce noise are laminated front-door glass, improved door seals and extensive use of Polymer Constraint Layer (PCL) materials in the dash and firewall area to reduce road noise. Ford has garnered considerable praise for the quiet ride in the F-150 that was introduced two years ago.

“I think the level of refinement in terms of quietness will put us up there with anybody,” boasts Donoughe.

The interior received a makeover to go along with the quieter, refined ride. A new instrument panel is under a redesigned cluster brow to reduce glare. The center stack is wider to accommodate full-screen nav system and new HVAC controls. The seats were restructured to increase bolstering and support. Also, bucket seats in optional leather trim, power sliding rear window, adjustable pedals, sunroof, satellite radio, Infinity sound system and a rear-seat DVD system (in Quad Cab only) will be available.

Knowing the Ram was going to be redesigned for the 2006, some observers expected it to follow the sharp-edged styling of the Dakota. While the Ram steals some cues from the Dakota, it has softer blending of sheet metal to juxtapose with its big, bold grille and angular headlights. The Ram has a new fully chromed, ingot-like grille that sits over the massive front bumper. The crosshair design remains a focal point, but the signature ram head logo has been moved from the top of the grille to the center ala Dakota. Optional 20-inch chrome wheels will also be offered.

Following the success of the Dodge Power Wagon, the Ram 1500 will get it own off-road trim package. Called the TRX4, this model includes 17-inch alloy wheels, aggressive off-road tires, painted monotube shocks, tow hooks, skid plates and a limited-slip differential. Other features include fog lamps, body-color grille and TRX4 decals. The TRX4 package is available in 2- or 4-wheel-drive models, both regular and Quad cab configurations and with all three trim levels: ST, SLT and Laramie. Officials don’t expect the TRX4 to draw customers away from the highly-praised Power Wagon.

“The Power Wagon has its own unique solution for the real extremist,” explains Donoughe. “If anything, what the TRX4 will do is further enhance the capability of the Power Wagon in the market for those who want to step up.”

Two new colors will be added to the 2006 line: Inferno Crystal Metallic and Light Khaki. There was no indication of pricing. A closer look at the truck and driving impressions will be available in the fall.

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