I may be a bit biased 😉
By Greg Riley
March 23, 2020
A Bit of History
I have a confession to make, I may be a bit biased...I love Dodge and Ram Trucks. It started when I was a kid. My friend Jack's dad had a 1970 Dodge LWB. Mr. Dennis' truck was the fancy D100 Custom in Blue and White just like the one shown below. At the time it was the fanciest truck I'd ever seen.
Mr. Dennis used to go out to Village Creek every couple of days to check his trot-lines, and Jack and I always rode the fifteen miles or so in the bed. My how times have changed. Sadly both my friend Jack and Mr. Dennis have both passed on, but my love for Dodge/Ram trucks endures.
Ram is a top tier brand today making world-class trucks that are capable, comfortable, with excellent road manners and great interiors that compete with the best of the best. Seldom do you hear anyone mention the history of Dodge/Ram trucks and the fact that not long ago they were an "also-ran" brand.
The first "Dodge-Brothers" truck was actually a sort of panel van offered during WWI. It was basically a Dodge Brothers car chassis with a panel van body built by Graham Brothers. In about 1926 Dodge bought Graham Brothers, before being taken over themselves in 1929 by the nascent Chrysler Corporation. Dodge marketed various truck models through-out the 1920's and 1930's, but it wasn't until they introduced the legendary Dodge Power-Wagon that the market paid much attention to their truck offerings.
The Power Wagon was introduced as a military-spec vehicle in 1939 and was introduced to the civilian market in 1945. Some claim that Dodge single-handedly created the civilian market for four-wheel-drive trucks. Up until that time most 4WD trucks were 2WD trucks converted using Marmon-Harrington aftermarket parts. The Power Wagon was dead simple, capable of climbing a tree, and almost indestructible. These capabilities became a legend, and they are highly collectible today with many still in service and working for a living. The one shown in the photo's is owned by my friend and neighbor, car-collector Billy Thomas. This is but one of the numerous restored Power Wagons in his stable.
Although the Power Wagon was legendary and capable, Dodge never had much luck capturing market share in the highly important light-duty 1/2 ton and 3/4 ton truck segments, or really in any other segment of the truck market other than the high-spec four wheel drive truck.
That began to change for Dodge in 1989 with the introduction of the Cummins Diesel. Initially the big diesel six came with only 160hp and 400 lb/ft of torque. This was enough to begin the catapult of Dodge to the big leagues. Suddenly a 2500 or 3500 series truck had the hauling and towing capability of a much larger medium duty commercial truck and competitors had nothing like it. Today the evolution of that same basic Cummins six is available with 400 horsepower, and up to 1,000 lb/ft of torque capable of towing 35,000 pounds.
Dodge built on this with the introduction in 1994 of an all new truck with aggressive styling and world-class features. Suddenly truck buyers were pouring into Dodge showrooms to see a truck unlike any other. Overnight also-ran Dodge was the one to beat in the truck business and the competitors from GM and Ford were again caught flat-footed.
In 2010 Dodge Ram became the stand-alone Ram brand. Now unshackled from Dodge, over the last decade Ram has produced a series of ever more desirable and capable trucks season after season with legions of awards from the top car magazines and journalists in the biz.
Our Test Truck
Fast forward to today, and our test truck. I recently spent a week with the 2019 Ram Big Horn Sport Crew Cab 4X4 in Blue-Streak Pearl with black stripes. Ram, sorry I returned your truck filthy-dirty and muddy, but I had a blast on my friend's ranch and on the trails of the nearby Sam Houston National Forest.
Base price is $42,240 and as tested $54,585. It's equipped with the 5.7-Liter Hemi V8 with MDS (multiple displacement system) also know as cylinder deactivation and VVT (Variable Valve Timing.) Fuel mileage is a combined 17 mpg, 15 in the city, and 21 on the highway.
Base Price $42,240
As Tested $54,585
Engine 5.7-Liter Hemi V8 with MDS and VVT
Performance 395 hp/410lb.-ft. torque
Transmission 8-Speed Automatic 8HP75 with rotary dial shifter
Combined MPG 17
City MPG 15
Highway MPG 21
Rear Axle 3.21:1
The styling is contemporary, aggressive, and got lots of comments from the local ranchers up to Haynies Cafe near our HQ in rural Richards, Texas. Folks up here know their trucks, and the Big-Horn got more notice than a recent Mercedes SUV I reviewed. Trucks around here are as big a style statement as a Benz at a county-club, but they also gotta work for their living. Being just another pretty face up here in Grimes county just doesn't cut it.
The Big-Horn proved it's chops to me both on and off-road. On-road the ride was somewhat harsher than a recent 2WD model I drove, but that's to be expected with the fat-ass ground clearance and big knobby treads. Off-road it comes into it's on. The unpaved roads and creeks of my friends ranch was nothing for this big 4X4. I also flew down some of the local forest trails at speeds I better not tell 😉
The Hemi has great performance and also makes such great sounds I found myself puttin' 'er her to the wood just to hear her sing that song.
This truck is up-fitted with a dizzying array of performance, comfort, and Infotainment options that would have been more typical of a high-end luxury car a few years back. Rather than go over every option, I'll post the window sticker below, and tell you about a few of my favorite features.
The truck was equipped with the Ram bar, including LED lighting. I've got to say I've never seen anything that lights up the road like this! Up here with all the deer, wild boar and other animals that run across the road it's a must have safety option.
Some folks know I'm a music nerd and sometime DJ. The 8.4" U-Connect system is full HD and comes with a complimentary Sirius XM music subscription, and 5-Years Sirius XM Traffic Service. The 9-amplified speakers with sub-woofer can out-blast Waylon and Willie better than your local Honky Tonk.
This particular truck was also equipped with a bed-organizer system. It ain't necessary my cup 'o tea, but I can see where it would be as handy as a Swiss Army knife for some folks.
Today Ram makes a truck for almost any need on and off-road. The Eco-Diesel delivers over 30mpg in a 1/2 ton truck, producing 480lb/ft of torque with over 12,000 towing capacity when properly equipped. The Hemi is perfect for that everyday truck that occasionally tows or goes off road or for those the crave acceleration and performance. My favorite is the low-cost the Ram Tradesman with the 305hp Pentastar which I plan to add to my personal fleet in 2020.
Nope, there is nothing wrong with those brand-X trucks and they sell a lot of them, but I have a soft spot for the Ram's and lots of other folks apparently agree. If you truck shopping and you don't cross shop the Ram you are missing out.
Hop in and lets for a drive!