When a new vehicle is ready to hit showrooms, manufacturers get us automotive writers in a big group at some nice location to show off the goods, load us up with press materials and put us on a scenic test drive.

Such was the case when Dodge showcased the brand new heavy-duty 2008 Dodge Ram 4500/5500 Chassis Cab in September at the Los Angeles Fire Department Museum in Hollywood. Hollywood?

This is a work truck – Dodge's return volley into Class 4 and 5, no less. And this magazine is, after all, about vehicles used in your business, not on the Walk of Fame. So we convinced Dodge to loan us a 2008 Dodge Ram 5500 4x4 regular cab with a dump bed body by Reading Truck Body.

Then we found Bob Martin, a Dodge fleet customer, to give the truck a workout. How did Bob's real-world work test compare with Dodge's press materials?

A Brand New Truck

Says Dodge: Targeted at small-business tradesmen, fleet customers and traditional chassis cab users, the Dodge Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs expand on a solid commercial foundation and lineup of full-size van, minivan and body-on-frame commercial vehicles joining the Dodge Ram 2500/3500 Box-Off models, Dodge Ram 3500 Chassis Cab, Dodge Sprinter, Dodge Ram pickup and Dodge Caravan and Grand Caravan cargo vans in the Dodge commercial vehicle lineup.

Bob Martin is one such small-business tradesman; a heavy equipment "gun for hire" out of Thousand Oaks, Calif., Bob knows his trucks. He owns a gas-powered 2004 Dodge Ram 2500 with a stake body, a Ford L9000 Transport with a Cummins diesel and a 1986 Kenworth T600 with a Cummins as well.

Bob met us at a maintenance yard for the truck's mission: pick up a load of gravel from the local quarry and bring it back to the yard for a pending job. Bob took the wheel; we climbed in. Bob is not shy on the gas pedal. {+PAGEBREAK+}

Power to Spare

The all-new 2008 Dodge Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs offer leading commercial performance with a dominant powertrain package. Maintaining its reign at the top of the heavy-duty diesel pickup segment, the standard 6.7-liter Cummins High Output Turbo Diesel engine generates 305 horsepower at 3,000 rpm and 610 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,600 rpm.

"Did you like that little burnout back there?" Bob says, referring to our exit from the yard. "Cummins' engines obviously haul ass." As durable as it is powerful, the Cummins 6.7-liter turbo-diesel engine has life-to-major overhaul intervals of 350,000 miles. Bob's Dodge Ram 2500 is gas-powered. ("I love my Hemi," he says.)

But when it comes to diesel, Bob has been a Cummins loyalist for more than 20 years. Bob's Transport has a Cummins 6.0L with 360,000 miles. The truck was abused by its former owner, he says, but is running fine. "They're really durable motors. I'm going to have the fuel pump rebuilt but that's all it really needs."

Carrying the Load

The all-new 2008 Dodge Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs offer a six-speed automatic transmission with Power Take Off (PTO) capability or a six-speed manual transmission with PTO capability.

"I'm a manual guy, but this automatic is sweet. It has plenty of power," says Bob, as he powers us down the freeway to the quarry.


The Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs feature numerous class-leading attributes, including the largest standard fuel tank (52 gallons).

"The longer I can stay away from a fuel station, the better." The Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs will compete within the Class 4 and 5 segments with a gross vehicle weight range of 14,000 to 19,500 lbs.

We enter the quarry, on the fringes of Simi Valley.

"We'll load this thing to the gills." Bob loads the bed over the bed walls, then thinks better of spill-age and decides to flatten the load "so the CHP [California Highway Patrol] are a little happier with us."

Completing a few doughnuts around the yard shakes off the excess gravel. "This truck feels as tight as heck," Bob yells after his yeehaw maneuver. "You can see it can take a punishing." Before we exit the quarry we hit the scales and top out at just over 3 tons – a good test weight for the Ram 5500 but well under its GVWR abilities. The standard diesel exhaust brake system, together with class-leading brakes and pistons, provides extended brake life and increased driver control while contributing to enhanced safety performance. Standard four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock braking system (ABS) ensure superior safety and crash-avoidance capability.

"This truck's brakes are phenomenal," Bob says on the way out of the quarry. "These are big ass heavy truck breaks."

We come out of a construction zone into a residential area with a sign warning against exhaust brake use. The exhaust brakes on this truck have no telltale squeal.

Commercial Grade Everything

Armed with Dodge Ram Heavy Duty's superior suspension system, beefed up even more for commercial applications, Dodge Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs provide expanded capability and durability with a commercial-grade chassis mated to a one-piece C-channel rear-frame rail (50,000 psi steel).

We take the truck back onto the freeway. "The truck doesn't have any roll at all," says Bob. "It's got a nice stiff suspension and it feels good on the road when loaded." We make it back to the yard by dusk and dump the load.

Final impressions

"It stayed nice and level when we were shifting the load over," Bob says. "It went down the road real nice, both light and loaded. Power is great. All-around, it's a wonderful truck." Bob looks at the truck and then down to the gravel pile. "I gypped myself," he says. "I could have gotten so much more gravel."