On occasion, we’ll review a new vehicle in terms of service and accessibility, in order to provide you with a heads-up on a vehicle that you may not have seen in your shop yet. In this issue, I’ll take a walk-through of a 2011 Dodge Ram 1500. This particular model is the option-laden Outdoorsman Crew Cab 4x4.
Our first review vehicle features a very potent 5.7L V8 Hemi engine and 5-speed automatic 545RFE transmission. Other features include a 26-gallon fuel tank, advanced multi-stage front airbags, supplemental side-curtain front and rear airbags, tire pressure monitoring display, electronic stability control, 4-wheel ABS, electric shift on the fly part-time transfer case, 205MM heavy duty front axle, optional 3.92 “anti-spin” rear axle, heavy-duty cooling system, heavy-duty transmission cooler, speed control, remote keyless entry, power locks, power accessory delay, variable intermittent wipers, locking tailgate, A/C, a media center that includes CD, DVD, MP3, HDD and a Garmin NAV system with touch-screen controls.
A backup-camera is also featured, with both day and night vision viewing on the large 6.5-inch dash-mounted central display screen. The vehicle is also equipped with the outdoor-fun and utility extras including a spray-in bedliner, trailer brake control, tow hooks, skid plates for the transfer case and front suspension, in addition to locking storage compartments on each side of the bed (one is equipped for shotgun/rifle storage).
Basically, this is a dream truck for any outdoor-sport fan. This truck is base-price listed at $34,810, but our fully equipped model stickered out at a hefty $44,310. As any truck guy already knows, today’s light trucks aren’t exactly cheap.
This is one tough little monkey of a truck. My week-long loan of this vehicle coincided with some of the nastiest winter weather Ohio has ever seen. While everyone else seemed to be either stuck, skidding or slipping, the combination of this truck’s 4-wheel-drive system, well-balanced weight distribution and LT275/70R 17 all-terrain tires made traversing both country roads and freeways an absolute confidence-building dream. Given the toughness of this guy, I was very surprised at the ride -- unexpectedly comfy, smooth and quiet.
The engine/tranny/final drive combo provided a real hoot. This little bugger had gobs of power throughout the band (rated at 390 hp @ 5,600 rpm), from low-end, mid-range and top-end. Throttle response (fly by wire) was crisp, and the little “Hemi” planted you back into the seat with plenty of ponies to spare. Definitely a fun ride for any throttle-hungry driver. On the downside, fuel economy wasn’t exactly stingy. I managed to average about 13 mpg (about 12-13 on secondary roads and about 14-15 cruising the freeway, even though the EPA estimate is listed as 19 mpg highway).
But, on the torque and power side, you get what you pay for. Because of the severe winter weather during my time with this truck, I didn’t have the chance to do any towing (my car trailers were buried). But given the available torque (rated at a healthy 407 ft.-lb. @ 4,000 rpm), I feel confident that this truck would be more than adequate for pulling a single-car, horse or boat trailer.
Braking performance was absolutely outstanding, providing excellent pedal feel and downright solid and predictable braking during both light and high-speed haul-downs.
BRIEF SERVICE PERSPECTIVE
Even though the 5.7L smallblock isn’t dimensionally huge, the engine bay is, as expected these days, a bit on the cramped side. The battery is mounted at the left (driver side) between the master cylinder and fender. The battery is encased in a boxed insulator (a bit on the flimsy side, but it helps to protect the battery from road grime and likely aids a bit in insulating it from the cold). A simple Velcro strap retains the box lid. Accessing fuel injectors will require a stretch, given the fairly low engine location and the immense front cowling/radiator shroud panel (hey, if it was easy, everybody would do it, right?).
The power brake fluid reservoir is remote and made of white plastic, and plumbed with crimped hose fittings. The reservoir is mounted at the immediate left (driver side) of the steering pump and does not obstruct access to the drive belt area. The intake air system is located on the right (passenger) side, which is nice, since it doesn’t obstruct access to the brake master cylinder.
The main ECM harness connections all take place at a central location on the right side firewall, behind the air cleaner unit. Water pump hoses (including heater hoses) are secured with spring tension clamps (access of the heater hoses at the pump is actually fairly accessible).
The belly of the beast (on the Outdoorsman model) features two hefty steel skid plates, one to protect the transfer case and one for the front suspension. Anti-roll bars are featured front and rear.
The front suspension features forged aluminum lower control arms and uprights, coilover front shocks, and adjustable (eccentric) lower arm pivots for camber and caster adjustment.
The front primary driveshaft (transfer case to rear features a primary and secondary shaft assembly) is very accessible. The shaft’s front U-joint is easy to access, with no obstructions. The front shaft is, however, is close proximity to the engine’s exhaust pipe/resonator, so it’s best to allow the exhaust to cool before attempting any driveshaft work.
The Outdoorsman model features a factory electronic trailer brake controller, located in the lower left dash area (above the parking brake release). If controller service is needed, it appears that the fascia panel that houses the controller will pop out, but I don’t know how much harness free length is available, so I’m not sure how far you can pull the controller out. A dual-outlet trailer brake/light unit is mounted in the rear bumper to the left of the license plate. A 4-pin connector is at top, with a round sevin-pin connector below. Each connection features its own spring-loaded protector lid, which is a great design idea. Since this dual connector is placed high instead of at the hitch receiver, it’s kept out of harm’s way, providing superior protection from both impact and weather damage.
5.7L V8 Hemi MDS VVT
The 2011 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman Crew Cab 4x4 features a stout 5.7L Hemi V8 that utilizes MDS (multi displacement system) and VVT (variable valve timing).
Bore/stroke: 3.92 inch / 3.58 inch
Compression ratio: 10.5:1
Horsepower: 390 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 407 ft.-lb. @ 4,000 rpm
Fuel system: Sequential multi-port fuel injection
OUR SAMPLE VEHICLE
2011 DODGE RAM 1500 OUTDOORSMAN CREW CAB 4X4
Engine: 5.7L V8 Hemi MDS VVT
Transmission: 5-speed automatic 545RFE
Fuel tank: 32 gallons (standard is 26 gallons)
Advanced multi-stage front airbags
Supplemental side-curtain front and rear airbags
Tire pressure monitoring display
Electronic stability control
Antilock 4-wheel disc brakes
Sentry key theft deterrent system
Electric shift-on-the-fly part time transfer case
205mm heavy duty front axle
3.92:1 ratio anti-spin rear axle (3.55:1 is standard)
Heavy-duty engine cooling
Heavy-duty transmission oil cooler
Remote keyless entry
Power accessory delay
Intermittent windshield wipers
Front and rear rubber floor mats
Auto-dimming exterior mirrors
Power lumbar adjust
115-volt auxiliary power outlet
Steering wheel audio controls
Auto-dim rearview mirror
Exterior mirrors with supplemental signals and courtesy lamps and heating elements
Halogen quad headlamps
LT275/70R17C all-terrain tires
Transfer case skid plate shield
Front suspension skid plate
Rear park assist system
Fold-away power trailer tow mirrors
Media center with Garmin GPS navigation
6.5-inch touch screen display
Voice connect with Bluetooth
Rear backup camera
Power adjustable pedals
Cargo management system in bed
Trailer brake controller
Ground clearance: 7.7 inch to 8.1 inch
Curb weight: 5,256 lbs.
GVWR: 6,800 lbs.
Wheelbase: 140.0 inch
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