2008 Tundra vs. 2009 Dodge Ram Part One – Mechanicals
Dodge and the new Dodge Ram have been under fire quite a bit lately, and for good reason:
- Two years in a row, the Toyota Tundra has been more American than the Dodge Ram.
- With the price of gas dropping every day, Dodge’s “fuel price protection program” officially ripped-off thousands of truck buyers.
- The auto industry has been ablaze with predictions that Chrysler will file bankruptcy, thereby completing destroying the resale value of their vehicles (not to mention thousands of jobs lost).
- The new 2009 Dodge Ram launched with a $1000 customer cash incentive, which doesn’t speak well to the truck’s appeal or value.
- Finally, Dodge’s emphasis on the new Ram’s luxury and superior ride have us wondering if the new Dodge Ram is soft.
While everything we’ve said above is true, one thing is certain. The new Dodge Ram 1500 is a hell of a truck. Our official comparison of the 2008 Tundra and the 2009 Ram will follow our previous 2007 Tundra vs. 2007 Ram comparison format – we’ll give you the highs and lows around the important distinctions and evaluate the key components. In an effort to decrease the perception of bias, we’ve pulled in freelance writer Dan Murphy to assist us with this comparison.
Let the showdown begin!
There are new components and improvements to the �09 1500�s engine line-up, but Dodge hasn�t reinvented the wheel here. Instead, they’ve fine-tuned the original with updated technologies. The “new” 5.7-liter V8 HEMI has been revamped with new cylinder heads with high-flow ports, larger valves, and an increased compression ratio. The HEMI is now rated at 390 horsepower (up from 345 for the ’08 HEMI) and 407 lbs/ft of torque (up from 375). Newly added variable valve timing (VVT) and the new short runner valve (SRV) active intake manifold improve efficiency and performance, and fine-tuning has allowed for a more aggressive multi-displacement system (MDS). At cruising speeds with low demand on the HEMI, four cylinders are deactivated for fuel savings. Dodge must be given credit as the MDS system is seamless. The net result is that fuel economy has improved. A fully-loaded, 2009 Laramie 4×4 is rated at 13 mpg city and 19 mpg highway. Not bad.
Performance tests, according to Edmunds.com, indicate the 2009 Ram with the 5.7 HEMI can hit 60 in 7.6 seconds and take the quarter-mile in 15.6 seconds topping out at 87.7 mph. On our test drive, mashing the throttle didn’t get that instant, pinned-to-your-seat feel we craved. Still, you can’t ignore the HEMI’s power.
Optional Ram 1500 engines include a 4.7 V-8 with E85 compatibility, 310 horsepower and 330 lb./ft. of torque and the 3.7 V-6, rated at 215 horsepower and 235 lb./ft. of torque.
On paper, the Tundra 5.7-liter V-8 hits just below the Ram’s performance numbers: 381 horsepower and 401 lb./ft. of torque. Dodge is probably jumping up and down with glee, but they shouldn’t be. The Tundra’s power is more readily accessible – you hit the pedal and all those horses are ready to ride. Toyota is still a step ahead in the performance technology department with a more sophisticated variable valve timing system (VVT-i), 32-valve head, acoustically controlled induction system (ACIS), dual stage intake manifold, and exhaust headers. All this adds up to a 5.68 second 0-60 mph run. If you compare the charts on the two engines, Ram’s torque line takes longer to peak out, but stays high through a longer rpm range. Fuel economy for the Tundra 5.7L isn’t quite as good – 13 mpg city and 17 mpg highway.
The ratings on Tundra’s optional engines: 4.7-liter V-8, 276 horsepower, 313 lb/ft of torque; 4.0- liter V-6, 236 horsepower, 266 lb/ft of torque.
Winner: Dodge’s new high-tech HEMI is a huge improvement over the old motor and the higher performance ratings would seem to indicate the new HEMI trumps the Tundra’s 5.7. However, the fact remains that real-life performance figures (0 to 60 and 1/4 mile times) and our observations don’t agree with the statistics on paper. While some will argue that performance figures have little to do with real-world usability, they’re the best objective measurement we have. The Tundra’s engine is a better real-world performer. As far as fuel-economy is concerned, the Ram’s better rating definitely makes this decision tough. We’ll have to call it a tie, which means the Tundra (the older engine design) wins.
When we took these two trucks up a local mountain road (about 4000′ of elevation gained on a nice long twisting route), it occurred to us that the fading population of manual transmission fanatics will be disappointed with both of these trucks. All ’09 Ram models are automatics – no clutch pedals in sight. Tundra doesn’t offer one either. So it goes.
The shift control in the Laramie’s center floor console has a nice, firm feel. The transmission in the Ram V-8s is a 5-speed with a tow/haul mode option and new Electronic Range Select feature that should satisfy most everyone looking for control. To Dodge’s credit, the 5-speed is as smooth as glass with imperceptible shifts.
The Tundra’s standard 6-speed transmission (when paired with the 5.7) offers excellent performance, even on our mountain road. You could easily edge off the gas through the turns and regain speed on the straights. Even at 65 mph on the steepest grades, there was more power left to tap into. The Tundra’s transmission seems to holds gears longer under acceleration, and shifts are heard rather than felt. The difference between the two transmissions is fairly obvious, and that is likely a function of the Tundra automatic’s extra gear.
Winner: Tundra. When it comes to transmissions, more speeds almost always equals better performance, and this test was no exception. The Tundra’s 6-speed transmission is arguably the best in the class.
The Ram features 4-wheel discs with ABS plus a nice, confident brake pedal feel. The system is supplemented with an Electronic Stability Program that keeps the stops straight, as well as brake assist for emergency stops. The Ram 1500 has 13.2-inch vented discs with two-piston calipers up front and 13.8″ discs with single-piston calipers on the rear. Other testers (with big budgets and access to test equipment) have reported a 60 to 0 154-foot braking distance with the off-road package’s Wrangler ATS tires. Not bad, but not as good as our Tundra. On our own un-measured panic stop, the Ram’s brakes were also a little “grabby.” To be fair, Popular Mechanics tested a Ram that achieved a 60 to 0 distance of 131 feet. Clearly tires are a factor.
The Tundra’s brakes are quite a bit bigger (13.9 inches vs 13.2 inches) and thicker (1.26 inches vs. 1.10 inches) than the Ram 1500’s brakes. The Tundra’s pedal feel is just as firm, and our Tundra panic stop felt less grabby. Edmunds.com tested a range of Tundras and measured 60 to 0 braking distances measured from 145.5 to 131 feet, depending on the configuration.
Winner: Tundra. Bigger brakes make for shorter stops, not to mention better resistance to brake fade under towing. At worst (depending upon the brake test results you choose to believe), this category is a tie.
The Ram’s frame is hydroformed (reducing the number of welds) with fully boxed rails, carrying a tensile strength rating of 85,000 psi. The advantages are strength and a 30 lb. weight savings. It’s hard to beat. The rear section is a complete re-design to accommodate the new coil spring rear suspension.
The Tundra’s frame is arguably it’s weak spot. While the jury is still out on Toyota’s choice to use the triple-tech frame instead of a more traditional fully-boxed frame (like the Ram, F150, and GM trucks), it’s clear from stories of bed-bounce that Toyota hasn’t gotten the frame completely right.
Winner: Ram. Toyota’s decision to use a frame completely different than every other truck seems like an unwise decision.
The Ram 1500 payload maxes out at 1,910 lbs (regular cab, long bed, V-6, when properly equipped). The Crew Cabs are limited to shorter beds, reducing the max payload to 1,620 lbs. Bed options include four adjustable cleats for tie-downs and a bed divider/extender on the Crew cab.
The highest payload capacity for a Tundra is 2,060 when properly equipped. The 5’5″ bed available on the CrewMax tops out at 1680.
Winner: For most intents and purposes, it’s a tie. Ties always go to the vehicle with the older design (it’s only fair). Tundra wins.
This one is fairly cut-and-dry. Tow capacity on the Ram: 9,100 lbs. (again, when properly equipped). Tundra’s top tow rating is 10,800 on the Tundra grade 4×2 5.7-liter V-8, regular cab, long bed.
Winner: The Tundra – by a ton (pun intended).
Make sure to read part two – 2008 Tundra vs 2009 Dodge Ram Part Two – Features and Pricing.
Filed Under: Toyota Tundra Reviews and Comparisons