Dodge rejuvenated its full-size pickup in 1994 with dramatic new styling that resembles the imposing appearance of the long-haul big rigs. Six years later, the Ram still looks fresh, but now it is the oldest design among full-size pickups. Ford and General Motors have redesigned their trucks in recent years, and Toyota joined the full-size market this year with the Tundra.
The current Ram will continue through the 2001 model year, and Dodge plans to introduce a new version for 2002.
Running changes for 2000 include a new front suspension, steering and brakes for all models that Dodge says will improve performance. A new Off-Road Group option package gives four-wheel-drive models a heavy-duty suspension, tow hooks, skid plates to protect vital chassis components, fog lamps and 17-inch diameter all-terrain tires.
For buyers more interested in comfort and convenience, Quad Cab models get an optional SLT-Plus Group with leather upholstery, heated front seats, an Infinity sound system with a CD player, remote keyless entry and other amenities.
Dodge's lineup includes regular cab, Club Cab (extended cab) and four-door Quad Cab models. The regular cab and Quad Cab are available with 6.5- or 8-foot cargo beds, and the Club Cab comes only with the 6.5-foot bed.
Dodge was the first with a four-door full-size pickup, introducing the Quad Cab in 1998. The rear doors are hinged at the rear and cannot be opened until the front doors are opened first. Ford now offers an F-150 with four conventional, front-hinged doors, and GM will introduce similar models for 2001.
Like its rivals at Ford and GM, the Ram comes in three payload series: half-ton 1500, three-quarter-ton 2500 and one-ton 3500.
The Quad Cab makes rear-seat access far easier than the Club Cab, but there isn't enough room for most adults to sit comfortably on the three-place rear bench, which is hard and upright. The new Dakota Quad Cab with four conventional doors is more accommodating and comfortable, despite being considerably smaller.
Front seat choices are a three-place bench on the base Work Special model or a 40/20/40 split bench on others. The center portion of the split bench includes a folding storage armrest with enough space to store a laptop computer.
Under the Hood
Five engines are available in the Ram, ranging from six to 10 cylinders. A 3.9-liter V-6 with 175 horsepower is the base engine for two-wheel-drive regular cabs in the 1500 series. Club Cabs, Quad Cabs and four-wheel-drive regular cabs get a standard 230-horsepower, 5.2-liter V-8. A 245-horsepower, 5.9-liter V-8 is standard on 2500 and 3500 models, and a 300-horsepower, 8.0-liter V-10 is optional. The heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 also are available with a turbocharged diesel 5.9-liter inline-six-cylinder.
Dodge's 4WD system can be engaged on the move with a floor-mounted transfer-case lever. Electronic 4WD engagement, like that offered in rival full-size pickups, is not available.
Rear-wheel antilock brakes are standard on all models except the 3500 series, which gets a standard four-wheel antilock system. The four-wheel system is optional on the others.
Dodge injected a strong dose of excitement into the full-size pickup market with the introduction of the Ram in 1994. Ford and GM are introducing new features, such as four-door crew cabs faster than Dodge, and Toyota's Tundra sets new standards for refinement in this class. The Ram has much to offer, but its rivals are a couple of steps ahead.