Truck: 2009 Dodge Ram
The story of the 1994 Dodge Ram is the Hail Mary of American pickups.
While the Chrysler Group isn't facing the same life or death situation that Chrysler survived in the early nineties, the 2009 Dodge Ram is so important that TCG has tapped its hottest designer, Ralph Gilles, to head this redo. Gilles (pronounced 'jeels') is the man responsible for penning the retro-gangsta style Chrysler 300C that's reinvented the American full size sedan.
There's two design directions the next Ram may take - continue to evolve the current big rig looks or move forward with an all new theme, likely based on last year's sleek Dodge Rampage concept.
Gilles has stated that improving aerodynamics is one of his top objectives, lending weight to a Rampage-based path, but we're placing our bet that the instantly recognizable snout of the current Ram is going to continue to set this pickup apart from its five full size competitors.
Inspiration for our speculation about the '09 Ram's sheetmetal comes from the new 2007 Dodge Nitro SUV (Gilles also worked on this program), and 2002 Dodge M80 and 1999 Dodge Power Wagon concept pickups.
What other changes can we expect to find?
An improved HEMI V8 with a six-speed transmission is a virtual certainty but it's the alternative powertrains where the 2009 Dodge Ram will truly innovate over the current Ram.
Chrysler Group CEO Tom LaSorda recently promised that after 2009 1500 series half-ton Rams will be powered by an optional Cummins diesel engine - the first time a manufacturer has announced such an offering in the light duty segment. With high fuel prices, and increased scrutiny around CO2 emissions, we expect compression ignition engines to be a popular choice with buyers.
Fuel economy concerns are also likely to find the future Ram powered by a dual mode hybrid V8. DaimlerChrysler has partnered with General Motors and BMW on the technology, which offers up to 25% improvements in mpg on the highway over single mode hybrids like the Toyota Prius. Even better, dual mode hybrid technology will work with the current 5.7-liter HEMI's Multi-Displacement System (MDS) that can switch off half the cylinders during off-load running.
Inside the Ram, Gilles promises a renewed focus on the interior components, so expect a spiffed up cabin to support the contractor on the go when it comes to work and luxury touches to take the missus out on the town.
2009 is looking kind of far out right now after the introduction of the new Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, and Toyota Tundra pickups, but If Dodge can deliver distinctively stylish looks with innovative powertrain and interior improvements, it will continue to score touchdowns with buyers.