Dodge shook up the full-size pickup market in 1994 with bold styling on a new Ram that resembled the imposing appearance of a long-haul big rig. Seven years later, the Ram still looks fresh but now has 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 last year with the Tundra.
The current Ram will continue through the 2001 model year, and Dodge plans to introduce a new version for 2002.
Dodges 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 for the 1998 model year. The rear doors are hinged at the rear and cannot be opened until the front doors are opened. Ford offers an F-150 with four conventional, front-hinged doors, and GM introduced heavy-duty 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 isnt enough room for most adults to fit comfortably on the three-place rear bench, which is hard and upright. The Dakota Quad Cab, which has 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 the 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 175-horsepower 3.9-liter V-6 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-hp 5.2-liter V-8. A 245-hp 5.9-liter V-8 is standard on 2500 and 3500 series models, and a 310-hp 8.0-liter V-10 is optional. The heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 models also are available with a turbocharged 5.9-liter inline-six-cylinder diesel that generates 245 hp.
Dodges 4WD system can be engaged on the fly 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 the 1500 series, and a four-wheel antilock system is standard on the 2500 and 3500 models. The four-wheel system is optional on the others.
Dodge injected a strong dose of excitement into the full-size pickup market with the evocative Ram. But Ford and GM are introducing new features such as four-door crew cabs faster than Dodge, and Toyotas Tundra sets new standards for refinement in this class.
The Ram has much to offer, but its rivals are a couple of steps ahead in features and innovation.