Even the boldest designs turn tame after a while. Back in 1994, Dodge jolted the full-size pickup market with the launch of its bold new Ram, which conveyed something close to the imposing appearance of a long-haul semi. The lightest-duty member of the full-size Dodge pickup family gets a fresh big rig look for 2002 though its evolutionary rather than charting another new course. Dodge unveiled the new Ram 1500 at the Chicago Auto Show in February 2001.
The Ram 1500s huge grille is reminiscent of the one used on the Power Ram concept vehicle, and a subtle hood bulge helps set a muscular tone. SLT, SLT Plus and Sport versions of the basic Ram are on sale, with three different front-end appearances. Regular-cab and Quad Cab body styles are available, each with a larger cab than before 3 inches longer, in fact, to yield greater interior space. Dodge claims that the regular cabs interior is the largest in its class. The Quad Cab Ram pickup has four conventional, front-hinged doors.
Two new engines and one carryover unit are offered. A new 3.7-liter Magnum V-6 that produces 35 horsepower more than the 3.9-liter it replaces is now standard. A new 4.7-liter Magnum V-8 replaces the previous 5.2-liter and develops 5 hp more than its predecessor. The 245-hp, 5.9-liter V-8 carryover engine also remains available.
Roof-mounted curtain-type airbags are optional; they are the first for a full-size pickup, according to Dodge. Power-adjustable brake and accelerator pedals are also optional. Dodge claims to have the biggest brakes and the largest standard wheel/tire combination in the full-size pickup class. Rams have higher payload ratings and towing capacities than before, aerodynamics have improved, and the pickups are said to suffer less wind noise.
Heavy-duty Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups continue unchanged for one more season in their prior form. They will be redesigned for the 2003 model year.
Regular-cab and four-door Quad Cab body styles are available. The regular-cab Ram gets a 6.25-foot cargo bed, rides a 120.5-inch wheelbase and stretches 207.7 inches long overall. With an 8-foot bed, the Ram has a 140.5-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 229.7 inches. Quad Cab pickups can also be equipped with the two bed sizes. They come in two wheelbases, 140.5 and 160.5 inches, but the overall lengths of the Quad Cabs are 227.7 and 249.7 inches, respectively.
Ram SLT models have an all-chrome grille, while the SLT Plus gets a body-colored grille with chrome crosshairs. A body-colored grille with unique chrome billets in the center goes on the Ram Sport pickup. The Quad Cabs rear doors open to 85 degrees to ease access to the interior.
Windshields have a greater slope than those on the previous Ram bodies. The hood has a pronounced crown that falls toward the front fenders, and the front doors are designed to overlap the windshield pillars. New rack-and-pinion steering has been installed. Seventeen-inch tires are standard, and 20-inch tires on polished-aluminum wheels are optional. Ram pickups have 9.5 inches of ground clearance and a suspension travel of 8.5 inches.
The maximum towing capacity for Quad Cab pickups has increased from 7,650 to 8,350 pounds. The maximum for regular cabs is now 8,660 pounds, vs. 7,950 pounds for previous Ram 1500 models. Quad Cab models have a maximum payload rating of 1,750 pounds.
The Rams front seats hold three occupants in a 40/20/40 configuration. A center business console can hold a laptop computer and features fold-down dividers. The center portion offers under-cushion storage.
Quad Cab models can have an optional 60/40-split rear seat with cushions that fold up to create a tall storage area. An optional steel section under the rear seats can fold open to form a flat load floor.
Under the Hood
Two new engines are available, and a third is a carryover from the previous generation. The new 3.7-liter Magnum V-6 produces 215 hp (35 hp more than the prior 3.9-liter). Replacing the long-lived 5.2-liter V-8 is a new 240-hp, 4.7-liter Magnum V-8. The third power plant is a 245-hp, 5.9-liter V-8.
A five-speed-manual transmission is standard, and a new four-speed automatic is optional. When installed in a Ram with the 3.7-liter or 4.7-liter engine, the automatic transmission incorporates an alternate second-gear ratio that kicks in for towing and climbing. Dodges four-wheel-drive system can be engaged on the fly using a floor-mounted transfer-case lever; an electronically controlled system is optional.
All-disc brakes and rear-wheel antilock brakes are standard on the 1500 series, but four-wheel ABS is optional. Child-seat tether anchors are installed in as many as five seating positions. A push-button switch that deactivates the passenger-side airbag is available in regular-cab Rams.
The Ram 1500 may be considered a light-duty truck, but it seems big in every way, including its reaction to bumps and holes. Although the suspension regains control fairly quickly, city driving creates quite a bit of jolting enough to make even a short journey taxing. The ride improves on the highway, but an unloaded Ram still tends to move around a lot.
The Ram 1500 is easy to drive and steer. It responds quite predictably to driver inputs, producing no big or bad surprises. The 4x4 truck maneuvers capably, and it takes curves passably well when traveling at a modest speed.
From both a standstill and while rolling ahead, the Ram 1500s throttle response from the 5.9-liter V-8 is quite vigorous. Automatic-transmission shifts beat the average truck in smoothness. Noise isnt bad, apart from a mild driveline drone.
Space for two occupants in the regular-cab Ram is abundant, and three adults fit adequately when the immense center armrest/storage box is raised. Space behind the seats is ample enough to be handy. Even with the extra height of a 4x4, climbing aboard isnt terribly difficult.