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Dodge Ram 2500 SLT Mega Cab 4x4

Paradigm Shift

Dodge’s new Ram Mega Cab will make you wonder why no one thought of it before.

In academic and scientific research, scholars reference prior work of other researchers and use it before adding the results of their own studies. The idea is to build upon a body of knowledge little by little and move the field forward.

     Building pickup trucks is similar, in a way, believe it or not. Each new model capitalizes upon the successes of those in the past, in the hope of creating something just a little bit better. The 2006 Dodge Ram certainly builds upon the cornerstones of previous models, but the idea behind the Mega Cab seems so obvious it makes you wonder how no one thought of it before—and it marks a significant leap forward in the industry.

     That leap didn’t cost Dodge all of its tuition, either. For starters, the company only needed to tool up a new larger cabin based on the popular Quad Cab and some of the rear interior bits. Everything else, for the most part, was conveniently lying on the parts shelf. The frame Dodge used for the Mega Cab was filched from a Quad Cab with a long bed. Dodge merely installed the shorter 6-foot bed and bolted a cavernous cabin in front of it. Simple and intelligent.

     And roomy. The Mega Cab features the longest cab, the largest interior cargo volume and flat-load floor area of any full-size pickup truck. It also boasts the largest cargo volume behind the rear seat, the most second-row legroom and the largest rear-door opening, which is made even bigger by an 85-degree door-opening angle. To top it off, the Mega Cab offers the first-ever reclining rear seats.

     All that is cool, especially since the rear seatbacks fold flat with no need to remove the headrests. They fold down quickly with one lever and a tug at the seatback. They flip up with one hand, and split 70/30 if you need to carry cargo and passengers. Behind the rear seats, Dodge left enough room to stash a small bag of golf clubs and provided storage compartments in the floor. According to Dodge, it is the largest pickup cab ever.

     However, the best part of the rear portion of the Mega Cab is in front of the rear seats. With only a hint of exaggeration, we can say the legroom is, well, limousine-like. In a conventional extended or four-door pickup, the test of a 6-foot, 4-inch passenger sitting behind a 6-foot, 4-inch driver often means the front seatback rubs the knees of the guy in the back. Not so in the Mega Cab. They don’t even touch, and there are even a few inches to spare. So what you get is a truck that can fit the whole family when the kids are in grammar school, and still accommodate everyone and their gear as those kids become lanky, big-footed teen-agers.

“Since the year 2000, demand for full-size crew cab pickup trucks has tripled,” said Darryl Jackson, vice president of Dodge marketing in a news release. “Dodge Ram Mega Cab is the first and only pickup truck to comfortably seat six adults and provide enough interior storage space to bring along plenty of gear.”

     Nearly everywhere inside the cabin is evidence that Dodge did its homework. With the front armrest folded up, the truck really would seat six adults. And you just might need that many people to help chip in for gas these days. As equipped, our test model netted less than 10 mpg during the week we had it. Sure, the boat we towed around for one of those days had a hand in the low average, but we also did a lot of highway and uncrowded suburban driving.

     The reasons for the abysmal fuel mileage are many. First, the truck in four-wheel-drive SLT trim weighed a whopping 6,682 pounds, according to Dodge literature. That’s heavy in anyone’s book. Second, a four-wheel drive has a lot of running gear and it takes horsepower to drive all of it. And third, the torque curve of the engine seemed so high that we often used a heavier foot than normal. Peak torque doesn’t occur until 4,200 rpm. We’ve said it before with previous Hemi models we’ve tested, and it bears repeating: Dodge should find a way to lower peak torque in the rpm range.

     Were it ours to equip as we pleased, we’d pass on the four-wheel drive and opt for the Cummins turbodiesel and four-speed automatic, which we’ve tested in other Dodge models and seen as much as 17 mpg. That would make it a better tow vehicle by raising the rated capacity to 13,000 pounds and make it go farther between $85 fill-ups.

     Dressed as it was, the truck pulled and stopped a Velocity 322 just fine, and didn’t feel at all taxed by the 8,000-pound load. For a four-wheel drive model, the Mega Cab’s ride was firm but livable. The suspension got a little unsettled over shoddy pavement, but thanks to a nice stiff frame, the cabin was free of squeaks and rattles.

     Sure the same old annoyances are still there, such as the wide-base A-pillars, which produce a forward blind spot we’ve never gotten used to no matter how many of these trucks we’ve driven. The cruise control switches are more intuitive than ever, but they’re still not lighted. But that’s about it.

     However, the same great stuff is on hand, such as the cavernous armrest large enough to swallow a laptop computer, or be reconfigured to organize your stuff and power your cell phone. And Dodge has ponied up some nice new features such as the power-sliding rear window and a power-sliding sunroof. We also liked the new navigation screen, which was much larger than that of the 2005 model, which was too small compared with other systems on the market.

     In the future, when automakers do research for designing a new four-door pickup, they likely will look hard at the Dodge Ram Mega Cab. The innovation was as ingenious as it was obvious. Either way you look at it, the Mega Cab shifts the paradigm and has moved industry thinking forward.

SPECIFICATIONS

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy Estimates
City    NA
Highway   NA

ACCELERATION
0-60 mph towing         23.44 seconds
40-60 mph towing     10.18 seconds
0-60 mph nontowing     9.90 seconds
40-60 mph nontowing     5.97 seconds

POWERTRAIN
Engine     5.7-liter Hemi
Horsepower     345 at 5,400 rpm
Torque     375 at 4,200 rpm
Compression ratio     9.6:1
Transmission     Five-speed electronic automatic

WEIGHTS
Curb weight     6,682     pounds
Tow rating     10,150 pounds
Gross vehicle weight rating     8,800 pounds
Gross combined weight rating     17,000 pounds

CHASSIS
Axle ratio             4.10:1
Fuel capacity     35 gallons
Tire size     LT265/70R17   
Brakes     Four-wheel disc with antilock
Suspension Front:      Live axle with five-link and track bar, coil springs and gas shocks
Rear:      Live axle with multileaf springs

DIMENSIONS
Overall length     247.7”
Maximum width     80”
Wheelbase 160.3”

Base price     $37,280
Price as tested     $44,140

TRAILER TOWED
2006 Velocity 322
Weight: 8,000 pounds with trailer

INFORMATION
Customer service       800-423-6343
Web site    www.dodge.com

 

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