For those who find full-size crew cabs a bit too restrictive, or who have NFL linebackers to transport, here's a pickup truck of monumental proportions with the biggest backseat on the market. Dodge Ram Mega Cab is a mega-truck in every dimension, standing tall, broad and really long. And that cab, about 6 inches longer than a regular crew cab, can contain six burly construction workers wearing hard hats and tool belts. Which may be the point here, that Mega Cab is designed not so much as a family vehicle than as a work truck for the entire crew along with most of their equipment. Although I'm sure plenty of guys are buying these behemoths for the bragging rights. Just throw on a 10-inch lift kit and a set of earth-mover tires. I'm sure it's been done. But for all practical purposes, Mega Cab is a fairly impractical vehicle for regular family use. My double-wide driveway can usually accommodate four cars, even when one of them the size of a Chevy Suburban. But during its stay, Mega Cab kicked one of my sons' cars to the curb. Forget about fitting this thing in the garage. A Mega Cab driver can also forget about normal parking spaces or even maneuvering in parking lots. This truck was built for wide-open spaces and major construction sites. On balance, the biggest Ram drives pretty well, considering its size and heft, certainly no worse than any big pickup. And the test truck's Mega Cab had enough features to make the ride pleasant as well as roomy. PERFORMANCE: The 345-horsepower V-8 provides plenty of pull, although not surprisingly, gas mileage for this three-and-a-quarter-ton pickup is abysmal. I averaged about 10 miles per gallon, according to the on-board computer. The Ram also comes with an optional 5.9-liter Cummins turbo-diesel engine that will be replaced by a 6.7-liter version in January. Mileage and torque improves with the diesels, but add about $5,500 to the base price. The five-speed automatic worked very well.
DRIVABILITY: Handling and steering response were considerably better than expected, just don't push it. The ride is stiff and jiggly, but not bad for a heavy-duty truck. The greatest challenge is dealing with an ungainly vehicle that's 20.5 feet long, such as getting around tight corners or dicing through traffic. The wheelbase is nearly as long as an entire PT Cruiser. Rear visibility is problematic, with a 6-foot-plus bed hanging out behind the long cab. Reverse radar would be appreciated.
STYLING: From its mammoth big-rig grille on back, Ram Mega Cab ranks high on the macho scale. Visually, the extra cab length can be noticed behind the rear doors.
INTERIOR: On the midrange XLT tester, the interior felt very comfortable and well-appointed, with a load of luxury features. Plenty of room for six with the front bench seat. But it takes a jump to get up into the cab, which is pretty darn high above the pavement. There are no running boards or other steps, which this truck sorely needs.
BOTTOM LINE: The $35,000 base price seems reasonable enough, until you start counting up the gasoline bills. The Mega Cab is certainly convenient, but I expect most of these will go to fleets and construction companies that need to carry manpower plus material. For a family, it's just too much truck.
Dodge Ram 1500 SLT Mega Cab
Vehicle type: Six-passenger, four-door pickup, four-wheel drive. Engine: 5.7-liter V-8, 345 horsepower at 5,200 rpm, 375 pound-feet torque at 4,200 rpm. Transmission: Five-speed automatic. Wheelbase: 160.5 inches. Overall length: 247.7 inches. Curb weight: 6,529 pounds. Towing capacity: 7,400 pounds. EPA rating: 14 city, 18 highway.
HIGHS: Huge interior space, decent drivability, powerful engine. LOWS: Ponderous size, paltry gas mileage, big jump to get in.
Base price: $35,280. Price as tested: $38,915
OPTIONS - Upgraded audio with seven Infinity speakers, 6-disc CD and MP3, $1,025. - Side air bags, $450. - Premium bench seat, $405. - Bedliner, $245. - Sirius satellite radio, $195. - Lighting group, $180. - Premium paint, $150. - Leather steering rim, $45. - Shipping, $900.