2011 Dodge Ram 1500 Review and Prices

Last Updated: Oct 11, 2011

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2011 Dodge Ram 1500 Buying Advice

The 2011 Dodge Ram 1500 is the best pickup for you if you want to experience how good Chrysler design and engineering can be when it’s really good.  

The 2011 Dodge Ram 1500 remains a full-size pickup leader, with stand-out styling, plenty of muscle, and a level of refinement no other half-ton quite matches. Changes to the 2011 Dodge Ram 1500 involve new trim packages and upgraded accessories. Added to the SLT trim level is an Outdoorsman package that replaces the previous TRX version and includes assorted off-road upgrades. Also new is the Laramie Longhorn package, the 2011 Dodge Ram 1500’s luxury-minded answer to the plush Ford F-150 King Ranch and GMC Sierra Denali models. Newly offered features include power folding heated side mirrors, a new navigation system, and a factory spray-on cargo-bed liner.

Should you buy the 2011 Dodge Ram 1500 or wait for the 2012 Dodge Ram 1500? Wait for the 2012 Ram 1500 only if you’re curious about how Chrysler’s heavily promoted new Pentastar V-6 might perform in this big pickup. The company is rolling versions of this engine into nearly every one of its model lines – from minivans to Jeeps – and it could be the Ram 1500’s turn for model-year 2012. Buy the 2011 Ram 1500 if you’re inclined to stick with one of Ram’s V-8s – including the mighty-fine Hemi -- that have proven their mettle.

2011 Dodge Ram 1500 Changes back to top

Styling: The 2011 Dodge Ram 1500 styling is the same as the 2010 Ram 1500’s. It’s again  highlighted by the buzz-cut, forwarding-leaning grille that gives this truck much of its character. This pickup’s body itself is surprisingly aerodynamic, which helps reduce wind noise

The 2011 Ram 1500 comes in three cab styles: a two-door regular cab, an extended-length Quad Cab with two small rear doors, and the longer Crew Cab body with four conventional doors. The regular cab rides a 120.5-inch wheelbase and offers cargo-bed lengths of 6.3 feet and 8 feet. The 2011 Ram 1500 Quad Cab and Crew Cab use a 140.5-inch wheelbase. The Quad Cab has the 6.3-foot cargo box. The Crew Cab has a 5.6-foot box; all beds are wide enough to hold a 4x8 sheet laid flat.

The 2011 Ram 1500 returns a broad range of trim levels, from work-truck basic ST, better equipped SLT, lively Sport, and the luxury Laramie. Added to the SLT trim level for model-year 2011 is an Outdoorsman package that replaces the previous TRX version and includes assorted off-road upgrades. Also new is the luxury Laramie Longhorn package with a unique two-tone paint treatment and a rich leather and wood-trimmed interior.

The 2011 Ram 1500 remains the only full-size pickup to use coil-springs instead of leaf springs in conjunction with its solid rear axle. The affect is class-leading ride comfort and chassis control over bumps. Its towing capacity, when properly equipped, ranges from a meek 3,600 pounds with the V-6 all the way up to a class-competitive 10,450 with the Hemi.

Trucks like the 2011 Ram 1500 are categorized as “half-ton” pickups based on a loose definition of their payload, which is the maximum weight a truck can carry in passengers and cargo. Payload varies by body style, bed, and engine, but the 2011 Ram 1500’s payload ratings range from 1,340 pounds to 1,860. That’s generally class-competitive, though the 2011 Ford F-150 with its turbocharged V-6 claims a 3,060-pound payload ceiling. Heavier-duty versions of these pickups are also available. With beefier chassis and offering diesel engines, they’re tailored for commercial users, tradespeople, and serious towing. The Dodge Ram 2500, for example, falls into the three-quarter-ton category and the Ram 3500 into the one-ton category. The Ram 3500 has a payload ceiling of 5,130 pounds and can tow up to 17,500 pounds.  

The 2011 Ram 1500 trim configurations start with ST and SLT designations, ascend through Outdoorsman and Sport trims, and top-off with the Laramie. The Laramie is available as a Quad Cab and Crew Cab only; other Ram trims are available in all three cab styles. Technically, the Outdoorsman is a package available on SLT models and replaces the TRX version; it includes assorted off-road upgrades. Also new is the Longhorn package for Laramie models. Other packages include the sporty R/T for two-wheel-drive regular cabs; it adds a 4.10:1 performance axle ratio and 22-inch polished forged aluminum wheels, among other items  

Mechanical: The 2011 Dodge Ram 1500 is available with an advanced new four-wheel-drive system but carries over the 2010 Ram 1500’s engine lineup. That’s a small surprise because many observers expected the 2011 Ram 1500 to be available with Chrysler’s new Pentastar V-6, which was introduced in the redesigned 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee and is filtering through the 2011 Chrysler Group (Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram brands) lineup. The dual-overhead cam all-aluminum V-6 launches in a 3.6-liter displacement with horsepower ratings ranging between 280-305 and a minimum of 260 pound-feet of torque, depending on the model. The Pentastar eventually will replace seven less-sophisticated Chrysler Group V-6s and the company says it’ll bring an average 7 percent fuel efficiency improvement compared to those engines.   

At this point it looks like the Ram 1500 won’t get a Pentastar V-6 until model-year 2012 at the earliest, and it could well wait until the truck’s next major update, which is reportedly scheduled for model-year 2013.

When it does make it to the Ram 1500, it’ll be a welcome replacement for the base engine. That 3.7-liter V-6 has a mediocre 215 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque and labors to move this big truck. The V-6 is available only in two-wheel-drive (2wd) Rams and comes with an aged four-speed automatic transmission.

We recommend one of the V-8s available in the 2011 Ram 1500. Choices begin with a 4.7-liter V-8 rated at 310 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. It’s a good match for medium-duty work in this truck. Top-of-the heap is the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 with 390 horsepower and 407 pound-feet of torque. Strong and smooth, this Hemi saves gas by automatically deactivating four cylinders in low-demand idle and cruising. Both V-8s use a five-speed automatic transmission.
Dodge was preparing to introduce a 2011 Ram 1500 Hybrid model but canceled the plan before production began. Aimed at maximizing fuel economy, the hybrid would have combined the Hemi V-8 with electric motors charged by on-board batteries. But slow sales of the similarly engineered Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid and Sierra 1500 Hybrid revealed very limited demand for gas-electric pickups.  

Like all full-size pickups, the 2011 Ram 1500 is based on a rear-wheel-drive design. Referred to in this context as two-wheel drive (2wd), rear-drive is an advantage when the cargo bed is full and there’s traction-enhancing weight over the wheels that also propel the truck. A 2wd pickup with a bed that’s empty or lightly loaded, however, can suffer poor grip on slippery surfaces. That’s where four-wheel drive (4wd) comes in.

The 2011 Ram 1500’s basic 4wd system apportions power between the front and rear wheels for better traction, but does not have a center differential that would allow it to remain engaged on dry pavement without risking drivetrain damage. This is referred to as part-time 4wd.

However, the 2011 Ram 1500 is one of only three full-size pickups (the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 /GMC Sierra 1500 are the others) to offer the convenience of full-time 4wd that can be left engaged on dry pavement. The driver can still choose to run in 2ed, but full-time 4wd is an advantage because the driver doesn’t need to monitor weather and road surfaced to decide when 4wd should be engaged and disengaged. And when the bed isn’t weighed down, it allows better grip in rain or on damp pavement, where part-time 4wd wouldn’t be suitable.

Full-time 4wd had been standard only on the Ram 1500’s top-line Laramie model. For 2011 it’s standard on the Sport version, too, and is included with the SLT’s Big Horn package. Moreover, the full-time 4wd system is Chrysler’s new Active Transfer Case and Front-axle Disconnect setup. These two independent technologies are not offered together by any other manufacturer. The system seamlessly transitions between 2wd and full-tine 4wd without driver intervention by disconnecting the front wheels from the drivetrain in order to reduce friction and rotational inertia. The Ram 1500’s previous full-time 4wd system did not feature this disconnect. Dodge says the new system provides a fuel economy improvement of 1 mpg (combined city/highway), optimal traction, and improved performance. Both Ram 1500 4wd systems include low-range gearing for off-road use.

Features: The 2011 Dodge Ram 1500 continues to expand on an already broad choice of trim levels and options packages. Added for model-year 2011 in place of the former TRX4 configuration is the Ram 1500 Outdoorsman. This includes trailer-towing upgrades, lighting enhancements, all-terrain tires, and underbody protection for the benefit of active owners and off-road enthusiasts. Also newly available as a dealer-installed option is a fishing rod and gun rack that can hold two rifles or shotguns or six fishing rods.

Also added is the 2011 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn edition. This new flagship rides on 20-inch aluminum wheels but concentrates mostly on interior enhancements. It gets a dressier instrument panel trimmed in burled walnut and an interior than can be clad in a choice of two exclusive leather treatments, one with laser-etched filigrees to suggest a hand-worked southwestern appearance. The front seatbacks include saddlebag-like flap-closure pockets. In addition to the standard Laramie’s full feature set, the Longhorn adds items like a navigation system, remote starter, back-up camera, front ventilated seats, and rear heated seats.

The 2011 Ram 1500 is offered with an impressive array of cargo and convenience amenities. Foremost is a cargo bed with insulated, drainable, locking plastic bins built into its sides. Unfortunately it’s offered only on Crew Cab models. The four-door versions also come with in-floor storage bins with removable liners that can double as rolling coolers. A factory-applied spray-on bedliner is newly optional across the model line for 2011.

A plethora of useful cubbies and pockets makes the Ram 1500 a leader in in-cab storage, but a broader mix of cargo-box lengths – a long-bed Quad Cab, for example – would go a long way toward keeping up with its Ford F-150 and Silverado/GMC archrivals. The Ram 1500 is already among class leaders in infotainment, with available satellite TV, voice-activated navigation with real-time traffic and weather, USB iPod and Bluetooth cell-phone interface, even mobile WiFi for the truck and its perimeter. It’s available navigation system now includes software that’s supplied by GPS-industry leader Garmin.

We’re a little disappointed Dodge didn’t increase the 2011 Ram 1500’s appeal to commercial users by matching Ford’s innovative Tool Link system that uses radio frequency identification (RDF) to inventory and track tools stored aboard the truck.

All 2011 Ram 1500s include standard safety features that include head-protecting curtain side airbags for both front and rear seating rows and an antiskid system that includes trailer-sway control.

2011 Dodge Ram 1500 Prices back to top

The 2011 Dodge Ram 1500 pricing hasn’t changed much from its 2010 levels and again depends on cab style, bed length, trim level, and options.

The base ST model with a standard cab starts out at $21,510; it’s $25,565 with a Quad Cab and $29,910 with a Crew Cab. Adding 4wd boosts those prices to $25,965, $29,975, and $33,130, respectively.  (All prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Dodge’s fee for the 2011 Ram 1500 is $900.)

The 2011 Dodge Ram SLT versions are priced from $25,755 for a regular cab and $29,835 for a Quad Cab with 2wd and from $29,325 and $33,055, respectively, with 4wd. The Outdoorsman edition adds $2,595 to the cost of an SLT.

With 2wd, the 2011 Ram 1500 Sport Quad Cab has a base price of $34,800 and starts at $36,995 with a Crew Cab. With 4wd, base price is $34,360 for the Sport regular cab, $38,020 for the Sport Quad Cab, and $40,174 for the Sport Crew Cab.

The 2011 Dodge Ram Laramie has a base price of $37,580 for a 2wd Quad Cab and $39,340 for a 2wd Crew Cab; 4wd versions start $40,330 and $42,485, respectively. The Laramie Longhorn edition prices won’t be announced until early in calendar 2011.

Among prices for notable options, the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 on ST and SLT models is priced at $1,310, a rear backup camera is $200, the RamBox is $1,895, the rear-seat DVD and satellite-TV video combo is $1,695, and the spray-on bedliner costs $450. Load them with options, and prices for top-line Laramie models and upper-level SLT Crew Cabs can easily cross the $50,000 mark.

2011 Dodge Ram 1500 Fuel Economy back to top

The 2011 Dodge Ram 1500 fuel-economy ratings are 14/20 for the 3.7-liter V-6, which comes only with 2wd.

Fuel-economy ratings are 14/19 mpg for 2wd Ram 1500s with the 4.7-liter V-8 and 14/20 for 2wd Ram 150s the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8.

Ram 1500s with 4wd and the 4.7-liter V-8 are rated 13/18 mpg and with 4wd and the 5.7-liter V-8 are rated at 13/19 mpg.

Dodge recommends mid-grade 89-octane gas for the Hemi. Ram’s other engines use less expensive regular 87-octane. The 4.7 V-8 can also run on E85 ethanol, but fuel economy declines by some 30 percent, to 9/13 with 4wd and 9/12 with 4wd.

2011 Dodge Ram 1500 Release Date back to top

The 2011 Dodge Ram 1500 went on sale in October 2010.

What's next for the 2011 Dodge Ram 1500 back to top

Today’s Ram 1500 traces its design to the half-ton Ram redesigned for model-year 2009 and should remain basically unchanged until model year 2013 at the earliest. Even then, the Ram 1500 isn’t likely to get a full redesign.

Expect some exterior styling updates, an upgraded interior, added high-tech connectivity and communications features, and – finally – the Pentastar V-6 engine in addition to or in place of the current V-6 and probably the 4.7-liter V-8, as well. The 5.7-liter Hemi will remain, though could see revisions to power ratings and perhaps even displacement. And some reports suggest Chrysler is looking at turbo, even twin-turbocharged editions of the Pentastar V-6 and displacements down to 3.0 liters. Ford is making waves by offering its EcoBoost twin-turbo V-6 in the 2011 F-150, so there’s a precedent for this sort of engine in a full-size pickup.    

Nearer term, there’s action on the Ram front, too. Italy’s Fiat in 2009 assumed control of the post-bankruptcy company now called Chrysler Group LLC and one of its first moves was to create a marketing divide between Dodge trucks and cars. It formed the separate “Ram” brand to concentrate on pickups and commercial vehicles. The Dodge brand will focus on cars and crossovers. The truck brand, by the way, retains the traditional ram’s-head symbol while the car brand uses a new logo that incorporates two red stripes at the end of the word Dodge. Some early speculation held that the strategy would enable Fiat to more easily sell off Ram as a turn-key truck operation. But it now looks as if Fiat is committed to retaining Ram as part of a global product strategy.      

We now know that strategy doesn’t include a Ram 1500 Hybrid, but whether it contains the possibility of a Ram 1500 diesel may be less certain. Half-ton diesel models were in the works for all three domestic pickup makers, as well for the Toyota Tundra. But the one-two punch of escalating fuel prices and the recession prompted them all to table those plans. Diesels promise more miles per gallon and substantially more torque than comparable gas engines. But the high initial purchase cost of a diesel and diesel fuel’s fluctuating price advantage/disadvantage relationship relative to gasoline have so far confined diesels to the three-quarter and one-ton pickup segments. What economic or regulatory circumstances might compel the manufacturers to reconsider half-ton diesel pickups are hard to predict.  

Complicating all of this is the fact that stricter federal fuel economy regulations are starting to phase in for model-year 2012, resulting in a substantial increase in automakers’ fleet-wide fuel economy which, for trucks will rise to 28.8 mpg by 2016. Fortunately for automakers and those with a need for heavy-duty hauling and towing needs, the federal government’s definition of “light trucks” includes the industry’s growing fleet of smaller and more efficient crossover SUVs. Still, the next generation of full-size trucks, including a future Ram 1500, will likely be leaner and offer more fuel-efficient engines to help meet the requirements.

2011 Dodge Ram 1500 Competition back to top

2011 Chevrolet Silverado 1500/GMC Sierra 1500: Their last redesign was for model-year 2007, making these General Motors corporate cousins the elder statesmen among the most popular big pickups. But a fiercely loyal owner base, a solid basic design, keen pricing, and carefully considered upgrades have kept them second only to the F-Series trucks in sales. A variety of engines, cab and bed choices, and features mean they’re attractive for work and play, and they’re the only full-size pickups to offer a gas-electric hybrid model. Still, Silverado and Sierra are beginning to show their age with fewer leading-edge tech toys and slightly less accommodating crew-cab comfort. The next all-new Silverado/Sierra will likely arrive for model-year 2013 or 2014.    

2011 Ford F-150: America’s best-selling vehicle, car or truck, joined the Dodge Ram 1500 with a full redesign for model-year 2009, gaining evolutionary styling and some attractive new features. Cabs were enlarged, cargo beds got compartments and dividers, and the structure was improved for an outstandingly solid feel. The Ford arguably trails the Ram 1500 for refinement and handling, but the F-150 takes a big step forward on the powertrain front for model-year 2011 with sweeping changes to its engine lineup. These include introduction of the twin-turbocharged EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6 (365 horsepower, 420 pounds-feet of torque), a new 302-horsepower base V-6, and new V-8s of 360 and 411 horsepower. Look for the next all-new F-150 around model-year 2014.

2011 Toyota Tundra: Toyota jumped into the full-size fray with the model-year 2007 redesign of its half-ton pickup. Built in the U.S., Tundra has the size and power to tackle the domestic brands but hasn’t quite won over the serious-user and commercial audience. Tundra can seem more ponderous to drive than the domestic competition. And Ford and Dodge seem to be moving ahead on the infotainment and storage-innovation fronts. But this Toyota fights back with plenty of interior comfort, competitive towing and payload capability, and strong, smooth V-8 powertrains. Don’t expect major Tundra changes before model year 2014.