SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — When the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 reaches dealerships this month, it will be the only full-sized pickup offering a five-link, coil spring rear suspension.
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By talking with its customers, particularly those trying pickups for the first time, Dodge learned they were not enamored of the bouncy, jittery ride that comes with traditional elliptical leaf-spring rear suspensions, which descend directly from the horse and buggy. Dodge will continue to use leaf springs in heavy-duty versions of the Ram.
Although carmakers have switched to link and coil spring arrangements on the rear suspensions of full-sized, body-on-frame SUVs, they've stuck with leaf springs on pickups. Leaf springs have an aura of toughness, and they've proved themselves over generations in pickups, where users care more about payload and towing capacity than a silky ride.
But Dodge thinks it has engineered a system that will handle tough loads and improve ride quality.
"There was clearly a demand for better ride," Scott Kunselman, Chrysler LLC vice president of truck product development, said here last month at the Ram media introduction.
Now Dodge must convince pickup customers that the new rear suspension is as tough and durable as leaf-spring rear suspensions. Dodge should find early road tests encouraging.
"The new Ram delivers ride and handling that are the current best of breed," wrote NextAutos.com, a road test Web site. "The big Ram doesn't bob or weave or toss your head about over rough pavement, and the interior remains surprisingly quiet regardless of the road surface — or lack of road surface."