From all the attributes of a Dodge Ram-driver-side air bag, solid (but not harsh) road-holding suspension, anti-lock brakes, roomy and comfortable passenger cabin, stowage holders and racks behind the seat for tools/gear/food/drinks, mini-work station in the fold-down center seat back-and add a V-10 engine and Chrysler's first remake of its full-size pickup in a couple of decades becomes even more attractive to those who need added power.The V-10 is smooth and quiet, yet energetic. The 8-liter, 300-h.p. engine provides more pulling and hill climbing oomph than the 5.2-liter, 220-h.p., V-8 or the 5.9-liter, 230-h.p., V-8 also offered in the Ram. And, of course, another benefit is that when someone asks you, "What's it got in it?" you can reply "A V-10-like in the Viper. "Then, too, neither Chevy nor Ford offers a V-10 in their trucks. The price you pay for being able to fill the cargo box or hook the camper onto the trailer hitch or brag to your friends aboutV-10 power is the need for an oil company credit card-or two. With the V-10 the Ram we drove tops 8,500 pounds gross vehicle weight so it doesn't require a federal city/highway mileage rating label on the window sticker. A government estimate, however, is that you just might obtain 14 m.p.g. in city/highway driving combined. To compensate, the fuel tank holds 35 gallons, versus the 26 gallons common with most other Ram engines. You also should be aware that unlike a 3.9-liter, V-6 or the 5.2/5.9-liter V-8's offered in Ram, the V-10 will cost a little more for routine service because it holds seven quarts of oil (versus four/five quarts for the V-6/V-8) and nearly 31 pints of automatic transmission fluid (versus 20/22 pints in the V-6/V-8). While the Ram has grown in popularity, there still is one problem that Chrysler needs to address: The work station hidden in the fold-down middle seat back will hold phone, notebooks, fax machine, justabout anything the on-the-road contractor needs to conduct a day's work. But when open, the top is too heavy and tends to fall without notice. If you are reaching for a pen when the top plops, they may start calling you "Lefty" until you're fully healed. We tested that Ram in Laramie SLT trim, a package that adds $3,806 to the $17,102 base price and includes air conditioning, power windows and door locks, speed control, tilt steering, AM/FM stereo with cassette, rear-step bumper, chrome wheels, heavy-duty alternator and battery and automatic transmission auxiliary oil cooler in addition to the SLT badges. A trailer towing package with platform hitch and wiring harness added $242; four-wheel ABS added $500 (rear wheel ABS is standard); 4-speed automatic added $927; anti-spin differential added $257; the 8-liter, V-8$470; slide-open rear window $134; power driver's seat $296; Infinity system radio upgrade $331; tire upgrade from all-season to all-terrain $112; and 7- by 10-inch outside mirrors added $48. The outside mirrors may help vision when towing, but they must be manually adjusted, which is a pain for such large mirrors. And they are bolted to the doors with three large aluminum arms. That means three bolt holes and unsightly aluminum arms on each door. With a few other odds and ends, the sticker came to $24,256 after subtracting an $800 option discount but adding a $600 freight charge. If you need more room for the family and can wait a few more weeks, Chrysler said the new extended-cab version of its Ram pickup will be available this fall. It will be priced from$17,716 to$21,343 in two-wheel-drive version and $20,194 to $23,960 in four-wheel-drive version.
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