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TCC review: Dodge Ram Mega Cab

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2006 Dodge Ram Mega Cab
Too much is never enough—or is it, now?
by Gary Witzenburg

From TCC

You say you're feelin' a bit cramped and capacity limited in your full-size crew cab pickup lately? Well, Dodge may have the truck for you.

Obviously unsatisfied with bragging rights for the most available pickup power (with the 345-hp HEMI V-8) and torque (with the 610-lb-ft Cummins Turbo Diesel six), Dodge now boasts the longest, roomiest crew-cab cabin with the most people and cargo room. And just so no one misses the point, they're callin' it "Mega" Cab.

Dodge created this super-size showcase of pickup innovation by bolting its six-foot, three-inch bed onto its long-wheelbase heavy-duty 2500 chassis and extending the cab 20 inches beyond where it ends with the eight-foot bed. The resulting 111.1-in cab is a full foot longer than that on Ford's F-150 Crew Cab, and that added length is apportioned into a clever combination of unprecedented rear passenger room and cargo space behind the seats.

Three models, two trims, multiple features

Available in 1500, 2500 and 3500 models and SLT and Laramie trim, Mega Cabs boast 44.2 limo-like inches of rear legroom and the first reclining rear seats ever offered in a pickup. Not only does each section of the 60/40 split rear bench recline from 22 to 37 degrees, it also slides forward and folds flat to provide a class-leading 72.2 cu ft of inside storage volume.

Mega Cab 1500 and 2500 come standard with the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 and a five-speed automatic, while the latter offers the muscular turbo diesel as an option with six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. The extra-brawny 3500 gets only the diesel.

The $32,760 base SLT is well-equipped with air conditioning, AM/FM/CD four-speaker stereo, speed control, power windows and locks, keyless entry, overhead console with "mini" trip computer/compass and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS. For roughly $5K more, the Laramie adds leather upholstery, six-way power driver's seat, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, power sliding rear window (because it's too far back to reach), chromed aluminum wheels, security alarm, Sentry Key engine immobilizer and upscale audio with a six-disc CD changer, Infiniti speakers, SIRIUS satellite radio and steering wheel spoke-mounted controls. Major options include full-screen navigation (integrated into the radio), rear-seat DVD, power sunroof and adjustable pedals.

Bold outside, plush inside

Dodge Truck Design VP Rick Aneiros succinctly sums up the styling: "The prominent chrome grille, supported by strong contemporary headlamps and a massive front bumper, gives the Dodge Ram Mega Cab a tough and intimidating appearance that is undoubtedly the face of Dodge Ram." Laramies also wear chrome on their front bumper and side sills.

The spacious six-grown-up cabin has a wide front-center console full of bins and cupholders, and an optional "business console" under the middle front seat cushion provides convenient storage for a laptop and/or other stuff. The gauges and controls have a precise look and feel, and the materials are surprisingly nice even in the base SLT.

The front-hinged rear doors swing out nearly perpendicular (85 degrees) to the body, opening a cavernous 34.5-inch-wide portal to ease getting in and out of the back - especially useful for loading and unloading large items such as, maybe, a big flat-screen TV. In addition to prodigious room and reclining seats, lucky rear-seat riders will enjoy their own HVAC outlets, reading lamps, stowable center armrest with cupholders and (available) DVD with wireless headsets and integrated game ports. (Who wants to drive this time?)

Driving impressions

We drove HEMI V-8 and turbodiesel Mega Cabs on freeways and rural roads and found them, well, BIG. Yet they ride and drive much more comfortably than you might expect-as well as any long-wheelbase full-size heavy-duty pickup and better than most.

The 5.7-liter HEMI gives strong response at a touch of the throttle and hits its 375-lb-ft torque peak at 4200 rpm and its 345 max hp at 5400 rpm while the five-speed automatic shifts smoothly and unobtrusively. As those fortunate to have experienced this delightful engine already know, the result is smooth power delivery from rest and at any reasonable speed.

The 5.9-liter Cummins turbo diesel six, by contrast, unleashes all of its massive 610 lb-ft of torque by 1600 rpm and its 325 peak horses at just 2900 rpm. This is great for off road and quick launches with heavy loads but renders the first two ratios of the six-speed manual of little use on the road. If you start in first (not recommended for normal launches), you'll need to shift almost as soon as you release the clutch and again by maybe 15 mph. The optional automatic upshifts quickly enough to mask this musclebound oil-burner's narrow torque band.

Standard on 2WD models is relatively precise rack-and-pinion steering, while 4x4s use a quick-ratio (13.4:1) recirculating ball setup with just 2.75 turns lock-to-lock and (Dodge says) the industry's tightest turning circle for sharp corners and close-quarter trailer maneuverability. Front suspensions also differ: 2WDs sport a sturdy independent layout; 4WDs an even more rugged rigid-beam front axle. Both use durable mono-tube shocks and a heavy-duty solid axle with longitudinal multi-stage leaf springs. The large, strong, fade-free four-wheel disc brakes are ably assisted by standard ABS with Electronic Variable Brake Proportioning (EVBP), which improves front-to-rear braking balance at light loads.

Who is it for?

In this day of sky-high fuel prices and no relief in sight, who really needs a truck this big or a cab this roomy? We can envision a lot of potential buyers. First in line will be contractors, construction workers and other professionals with heavy-duty towing and hauling needs. Then will come lots of racers, boaters, horse haulers and fifth-wheel trailer campers whose long-distance travel needs and desires will outweigh the added fuel expense over somewhat smaller rigs.

Not to mention NFL linemen and NBA centers eager for spacious room in chauffeur-driven vehicles less ostentatious and with more cargo capacity than your average stretch limo.

Because these heavy-duty trucks fall above the 8500-lb ceiling for fuel economy ratings, EPA city/highway numbers are not available. If you have to ask, you probably don't want to know.
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This truck is really quite astounding, it's so massive. I wonder what the tree huggers are thinking?
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Isn't this simply a resolution of Dodge's traditional lack of second-row pickup seating roominess?
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Isn't this simply a resolution of Dodge's traditional lack of second-row pickup seating roominess?

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Yes.... Dodge hasn't had a traditional crew cab since the '72-93 generation trucks.... the '94-02 didn't have one, and the 4dr in the current line is really the club cab (extended cab) with forward opening rather than rear-opening doors like everyone else...
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I predict that this will sell better than expected. If you can afford a $45K truck - then you probably can afford the gas. Besides - if you are towing a big boat or trailer then are you really worried about MPG? It will be interesting to see if the competition responds to this. By the way, now that the Expedition is dead and Hummer has the more tree friendly H3 - this will give the tree huggers something to complain about.
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I predict that this will sell better than expected.  If you can afford a $45K truck - then you probably can afford the gas.  Besides - if you are towing a big boat or trailer then are you really worried about MPG?

It will be interesting to see if the competition responds to this.

By the way, now that the Expedition is dead and Hummer has the more tree friendly H3 - this will give the tree huggers something to complain about.

[post="12992"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Yeah, but then Toyota will come out with this.......oh wait, nobody will care though because Detroit automakers eat babies, and Toyota's run on hugs and rainbows:

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