Dodge Ram Laramie 1500

YI-HAA!

The last thing the world needs is a bigger, more powerful pickup truck, right? Wrong, at least if you own a boat. For boaters such trucks make life a beach, and a husky vehicle capable of hauling a vessel with ease will always be desired -- and the new-for-2009 Dodge Ram Laramie 1500 is one such object of desire. Lucky for us, it happens to be one of the best tow machines ever, too.

The list of new features includes smooth-riding coil-spring rear suspension, a RamBox bed ($1,895) with two lockable side stowage pockets, and handy rear-inside floor bins with space for ten 12-ounce iced cold ones. Also, the Ram's frame is stiffer, the exterior design has been updated, and the legendary Hemi V-8 is not only more powerful but stingier with fuel, too.

Hitched to a 24' runabout, the Laramie 1500 didn't hesitate getting out of Dodge. With 5,150 pounds in tow, it hit 60 mph in only 13.8 seconds. To activate the shift controls of the five-speed automatic, you flick a handy toggle on the column-mounted lever. Placing the shifter there clears the way for a convenient three-person, slide-across front seat. This big rig also turned in exemplary passing and braking performance.

Straight-line stability was flawless, and the steering is tight and precise with and without a trailer in tow. The new rear suspension helps this pickup float like a cloud over pavement blistered with potholes and expansion joints.

Entering the cockpit is a 2' climb, but once you're inside, you ride at eye level with roofs of minivans. This is Dodge's first true crew cab, and the old saw about last-in, best-dressed definitely applies. A fully outfitted and trimmed Laramie 1500 tops $44,000 in a crew cab, 4x4 configuration. But the double-stitched leather, faux wood paneling, and chrome interior trim accents are more than fit to tow the king of cowboys.

There are dual gloveboxes and stowage bins galore. The $200 backup camera turns trailer hooking into a one-person, one-stop task. The $1,695 back seat entertainment system receives Sirius satellite television programming.

MSRP: As tested - $49,960

Contact: 800.423.6343) www.dodge.com/ram