We requested the 1500 knowing that the Mega Cab doesn't truly come into its own until you get the industrial-grade performance and Cummins diesel of the 2500 and 3500. While all three are built on a heavy duty platform, those latter two models should be evaluated in the same context as other diesel-powered heavy duty pickups. Including one of them in this story would have simply thrown out of whack an already diverse test group. That said, the 1500 still managed to pull ahead of the pack.
Each truck in our test group was specialized enough to bring to light obvious pros and cons, and the Mega Cab was no different. One upside of this vehicle was that Dodge set out to build the largest super crew on the planet: Mission Accomplished. Just climbing in and out of it requires serious commitment from shorter members of the human race. Luckily, the doors are huge, giving our smaller staffers enough room to mantle their way into the cab. Taller members of our staff could sit in the back seats, slide the seat in front of them as far as it would it go, and still have enough legroom.
If the exertion of sprawling in spaciousness became too tiring, we could recline the rear seats a few inches and relax even more. As for one of the downsides of this vehicle: Did we mention that it's the largest in its class? It certainly rides like it. Maneuvering around town in this truck is not prohibitive, but you certainly pay more attention when changing lanes or making (wide) U-turns. Do not take this truck to the mall unless you like to hike from the back of the parking lot. Perhaps the Mega Cab should come with a little hybrid car that can be lowered from the bed and driven inland after you dock this truck.
On the freeway, the Mega Cab bounces like a model on The Man Show. The 345 hp and 375 lb-ft 5.7L Hemi V-8 provides adequate power, but a diesel will work so much better. Offroad, the Mega Cab drives like a champ, as it simply manhandles obstacles as long as the driver is watching where he is going.
The Mega Cab comes in two trim levels: SLT and Laramie. The SLT_with its cloth seats, tiny DVD flip-down monitor, and plasticy dash_imparts a basic feel. Nevertheless, it was the bones of this truck that impressed us the most. Navigation and steering wheel controls rounded out the mobile electronics package. What was there was still well-executed and conveyed a sensibility of "what you see is what you get, and that ain't so bad." Of course, you still get the utility of the shortbed and a little extra storage behind the backseats, not to mention the family-quantity of groceries that you could cram into the back of the cab if you don't bring the kids with you to the supermarket. And the towing capacity is top notch.
It's not quite fair to directly compare the Mega Cab to its smaller rivals, the Isuzu and Mitsubishi, in this evaluation. Obviously, it does share some of the same competent production values as the Raider. But, honestly, the Dodge's promise of utility and roominess presented by its size did ultimately prevail. And where the Lincoln almost tried too hard to look like a player in the luxury pickup market, this Mega Cab was quite satisfied to be what it is: a powerful and ridiculously roomy pickup for the bogger-is-better segment. The 2006 Dodge Ram 1500 SLT Mega Cab wins Truck of the Year Award.
Base price: $35,080
Standard features as tested: Air conditioning, console with mini-trip computer and compass, speed control, power windows and door locks, keyless entry, four-wheel disc brakes with four-wheel ABS, and part-time four-wheel-drive manual shift transfer case.
Optional features as tested: Inferno Red Crystal Pearl paint, cloth bucket seats, Light Group, Trailer Tow Group, supplemental side airbags, 410 axle ratio, anti-spin differential, rear axle, rear power sliding window, power sunroof, fog lamps, security alarm, engine block heater, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, AM/FM/six-CD changer, navigation, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power adjustable pedals, under-rail box bed liner, rearseat video system.
Final Price: $43,245 (without destination and tax)
Aftermarket Upgrades:Engine upgrades, offroad tires.