Quick Drive: 2010 Dodge Ram 1500 Sport R/T 4x2

By Tom Martin

January 05, 2011

The “performance truck” is in keeping with the general drift of pickup trucks sold in the US in the Swiss Army Knife direction. There is a definite appeal to the idea of a vehicle that can do many things: take the kids to school, haul kitchen cabinets home, pick up a plasma TV, and go on an off-road expedition in a national park. That list of consumer needs has led to the popularity of full-size crew cab pickups. Change up the list to: commute comfortably to work, pick up a plasma TV from Best Buy, haul kitchen cabinets home, and deliver some semblance of quickness and responsiveness while doing it all and you get various sport trucks like the Toyota X-Runner, the Ford Raptor and this week’s Quick Drive, the Dodge Ram 1500 R/T.

Those three trucks are aimed at different definitions of “performance” and “utility”, but each sacrifices some of the luxury-car-meets-pickup aspect of things to gain some sporting chops. In the case of the Ram, the give up is that this is a regular cab pickup. That means no back seat, and not a whole lot of interior cargo room. The other trucks in this class generally give up on interior space too, being extended cab vehicles (though the Raptor has been released as a Crew Cab for 2011). The idea is to trade interior space for a shorter, more responsive wheelbase. In the case of the Ram, for example, the wheelbase of the R/T is 120.5 inches, while a Crew Cab 1500 has a wheelbase of 140.5 inches. While 120.5 inches is still a pretty long wheelbase, the 20 inch reduction makes a difference.
In my week with the Ram 1500 R/T, I was impressed with the combination of relatively quick and direct steering and a willingness to turn-in. This is no Mini Cooper S or Mitsubishi Evo, but for a full-size truck it is rather enjoyable to wheel around. Of course, the Nissan Titan is decently responsive too, so to put the Ram in context it is good but no world-beater among full-size trucks. A truck like the Raptor extended cab feels softer and squishier by comparison, though it too is reasonably willing to turn.
While on the subject of handling, the R/T delivers this reasonable turning behavior while also offering the best ride among full-size pickups. This is a consistent element of the new Ram package. It doesn’t feel as truck-like, which may be a drawback for some, but in a strange way the R/T is the BMW of full-size pickups.
To complement the handling, there is a Hemi engine, naturally. It propels the 1500 R/T well, though with 4754 pounds to move you won’t win many drag races. I enjoyed the dual exhaust tuning which gives you some sense that there is 390 horsepower on the fancy hood. My main criticism of the drivetrain is the initial slop in the five-speed automatic on throttle tip in. This diminishes the impression of responsiveness.
The other aspect of the Ram 1500 R/T that I liked was the visibility from the driver’s seat. Of course you are sitting up very high, but what I forgot is that rear three-quarter visibility is very good with the window right behind you and very little B pillar blockage. Still the Ram is a giant vehicle compared to a car, but just small enough that it is more usable in a city than most big pickups that are a handful in a parking lot or a tight driveway.
I used the Ram to haul various items, and I found the regular cab a bit limiting. That new multi-function printer won’t fit in the cab with a passenger, but you also don’t want to put it in the bed if it is raining. This observation, along with the pleasant handling of the Ram, did get me to wondering why there are essentially no extended cab short bed full-size pickups? I suppose they didn’t sell in the past, but it seems like that would be a perfectly good combination if you care about driving dynamics and ease of use in the city. In that case I guess you buy a Tacoma or a Frontier, but it seems like Ford, Dodge, and Chevy are missing an opportunity given that their small pickups are so uncompetitive while they dominate the full-size segment(s).
—Tom Martin, Editorial Director
  • It’s got a Hemi
  • Best ride of the full-size pickups
  • Excellent visibility, especially in the rear three-quarters
  • Hemi V-8 can get thirsty
  • Sloppy five-speed auto can diminish the fun
  • Interior cargo room is lacking, opt for an extended cab if you need the space