Enormous power: Dodge Mega Cab is King Kong of pickups

Friday, December 16, 2005

Bigger is better. Size matters. The more you have the more you want. Increased, expanded, extended, enlarged. Welcome to the 2006 Dodge Mega Cab, a truck that sets new standards.

The Mega Cab has the largest, longest cab. Its interior volume is unmatched. It has the largest cargo volume behind the rear seat and the largest interior flat floor-load area. Its back seat has the most legroom, and the largest rear door opening.

Dodge truck history

The Dodge boys, brothers John and Horace, got their start making parts for other manufacturers, namely Ford. The first Dodge Brothers automobile was introduced in 1914 and earned a reputation for durability and quality. But a pickup truck did not appear until 1917, and it was powered by a four-cylinder, 35 horsepower engine -- a far cry from the impressive Cummins turbodiesel 325-horsepower Ram that I tested recently.

In 1928 Chrysler acquired the Dodge Brothers company, and a year later Dodge introduced a half-ton pickup with four-wheel hydraulic brakes, a significant safety feature back then. Dodge offered its first diesel truck in 1939, and the following year began work on a military four-wheel-drive truck, leading to the first light-duty four-wheel-drive pickup in 1946. Other innovations followed, but 1994 was the year most of us remember, when the all-new Ram was introduced. That almost intimidating truck was an immediate hit thanks to its big-rig styling, powerful engines, handsome interior and comfortable ride.

The 2006 Mega Cab features a 20-inch-longer cabin than the Dodge Quad Cab, and is available across the Dodge line, in 1500, 2500 and 3500 models. The 2500 that I tested features a new dash, center console, seats and radios for 2006, along with freshened front-end styling. A navigation system and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system are now optional.

First Impression

Enormous! The Mega Cab sits on 17-inch all-season tires beneath huge wheel openings. This four-wheel-drive model stands tall on heavy-duty rear leaf springs and front coil springs. Because 2500 trucks carry much heavier loads, their frames are noticeably more robust. Extensive use of hydroform technology results in outstanding frame stiffness. To make room for the big passenger compartment, three inches was removed from the standard 6-foot 6-inch bed length. There's an 8-foot bed option.

It's a tall climb up to the driver's seat, but a conveniently placed handgrip makes the trip easier. It's easy to get comfortable thanks to power-adjustable foot pedals, power seat and leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. The instrument panel is handsome and car-like. The front center seat does double-duty as a giant storage box/ armrest. The driver and passenger seats are man-sized, easy-chair affairs that should still feel comfortable at the end of a 700-mile day. The cabin is spacious, the workmanship excellent. The rear seats have to be seen to be appreciated -- they are the first reclining seats installed in a pickup truck and they have more legroom (42 inches) than most luxury cars on the market today. You can fold them flat to enjoy an expansive area for safe and dry storage or split them 60/40. Behind is an optional power rear sliding window, and mounted on the rear ceiling is an optional entertainment video system. A power sunroof occupied the roof above the front seats. Materials were rich looking, and fit and finish matched the overall feeling of quality and workmanship.

Driving the Mega Cab

The Ram 2500 is built to take all the punishment a contractor can dish out, while delivering a surprisingly comfortable ride. It can be used for daily family duties, and then pull a heavy horse trailer to the trailhead on the weekend. My Cummins turbodiesel had remarkable low-speed grunt, considering this is an easy-to-maintain 6-cylinder design. Gone is the long wait for glow plug warm-up and the sluggish diesel feeling. There is so much torque available that throttle response is instantaneous, without the turbocharger lag that plagues some designs. The 5.9-liter inline six produces 325-horsepower and 610 pound-feet of explosive torque. It was coupled to a four-speed automatic transmission, but a six-speed manual transmission is standard. A properly equipped Ram 2500 with this engine has an awesome 13,700-pound tow rating.

Safety

These trucks feature standard antilock disc brakes. Although heavy-duty versions of the Ram have not been crash tested, the Ram 1500 received a "Good" rating (the highest possible) from the IIHS. Side curtain airbags are optional, and the center seats have three-point seatbelts.

Steve Robertson of Robertson's Creative Photography is a car enthusiast and former staff writer/photographer for the Southeast Missourian. Contact him at Steve@RobertsonsPhotography.com.

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