To this writer's eyes, the biggest news to come out of this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit was that two major light-duty truck manufacturers introduced new models.

Last year, Chevrolet's Silverado was selected North American Truck of the Year by a panel of independent journalists, and Motor Trend Magazine named the Toyota Tundra its Truck of the Year. This year was Dodge's and Ford's turns in the spotlight.

Despite high fuel prices and dire predictions that full-size pickup trucks are going the way of the dinosaurs, there will always be a place for a capable, competitive truck. Both new trucks, the Dodge Ram 1500 and Ford F-150, run the gamut from stark, stripped-out work trucks to luxurious, full-featured personal transportation.

We'll skip the back-seat video players and luxury leathers for now and take a sneak peak at what makes these 2009 model year pickups, which will go on sale in October, so appealing.


The Ram 1500 starts with an aggressive look. It's based on the traditional crosshair Dodge grill, the “power dome” hood styling reminiscent of a big rig, and the forward-thrust front taken from last year's Dodge Challenger concept car. The net effect is both stylish and aerodynamic, helping to improve fuel mileage.

Three engines will be available to match capability with needs.

A 3.7-liter V-6 sends 210 hp and 235 foot-pounds of torque through a four-speed automatic or a six-speed manual, and offers EPA ratings of up to 20 mpg highway. Most applications will use the 4.7-liter V-8. It produces 310 hp and 330 foot-pounds of torque. That's more than the most powerful pickups did a few years ago. It gets 18 mpg highway in four-wheel drive or 19 mpg with two-wheel drive.

Dodge also offers the big, bad Hemi for those who need extra capability. Cranking out a massive 380 hp and 404 foot-pounds of torque, it will yield the same mileage as the 4.7 or take you from 0 to 60 mph in less than seven seconds.

Ride and storage round out the Ram story. Rear coil springs, a first for pickups, work with a multilink rear suspension to improve ride regardless of load.

The Ram has up to 38 storage compartments; from in-floor bins with liners that hold 10 12-ounce cans each, to the Rambox storage system in each bed side. The Ramboxes hold a total of 8.6 cubic feet. They have lockable lids, interior lighting, and drains.