Light-duty versions of Dodges boldly styled full-size pickup trucks earned a fresh big-rig look for the 2002 model year. Two new option groups are available for 2003: an Off-Road edition with offroad tires, skid plates and tow hooks, and a Work Special that promises affordable functionality. A new Laramie model replaces the previous SLT Plus, and joins the ST and SLT trims.
Dodge has just redesigned the heavy-duty Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups, which get the same restyling that the Ram 1500 received for 2002. Both redesigns were unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show in February 2002, and Dodge calls them the toughest, most powerful heavy-duty pickups ever. The redesigned Ram 2500 has a three-quarter-ton capacity, while the 3500 gets a one-ton rating.
Regular-cab 1500 Rams get a 6.3-foot cargo bed, ride a 120.5-inch wheelbase and stretch to 207.7 inches long overall. With an 8-foot cargo 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 and are 20 inches longer in both wheelbase and overall length.
The ST and SLT models have an all-chrome grille, while the new Laramie gets body-colored bodyside moldings and a chrome grille. A body-colored grille with chrome center billets goes on the Ram with the Sport Appearance package.
The Ram 1500s hoods have a pronounced crown that falls toward the front fenders. Rack-and-pinion steering is installed. Seventeen-inch tires are standard, and 20-inch tires on polished-aluminum wheels are optional.
Regular-cab and four-door Quad Cab body styles are available for the Ram 2500 and 3500. Previous heavy-duty four-door Ram pickups had back doors hinged at the rear, which could not be opened until the front doors were open. But the current Ram 2500 Quad Cab layout has four, conventional, front-hinged doors like crew-style models from other manufacturers.
The heavy-duty Rams dimensions have grown with the redesign. Ram pickups with the regular cab have an 8-foot cargo bed, ride a 140.5-inch wheelbase and measure 229.7 inches long overall. Quad Cab models come with either a 6.3- or 8-foot cargo bed and ride on a 140.5- or 160.5-inch wheelbase. All heavy-duty Ram models have a Sweptline (slab-sided) cargo-bed configuration. A Sport Appearance Group features 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels and a body-colored grille, front fascia and back bumpers.
On the Ram 2500, payload capacities with the regular cab range from 2,340 to 3,390 pounds.
On the Ram 3500, payload capacities with the regular cab and dual rear wheels range from 4,840 to 5,370 pounds. Quad Cab pickups with single rear wheels offer payloads from 2,750 to 3,560 pounds. With dual rear wheels, Quad Cab payloads range from 4,420 to 4,960 pounds. All Ram 3500 models except for the Quad Cab with the short cargo bed have dual rear wheels. Quad Cab models with a long box and diesel engine can have single rear wheels.
In the Ram 1500, the front seats hold three occupants in a 40/20/40 configuration. A center business console can hold a laptop computer, and the center portion offers under-cushion storage.
Quad Cab models have a folding rear seat. A 60/40-split rear seat with cushions that fold to create a tall storage area is available. Leather upholstery and adjustable pedals are offered as optional equipment.
In the Ram 2500 and 3500, a split, vinyl-upholstered front bench seat that holds three occupants is standard in the ST, while the SLT gets cloth upholstery. Leather upholstery goes into the new upscale Laramie edition. A split, three-place, folding rear bench that permits a six-passenger capacity is installed in the Quad Cab models. Adjustable pedals are optional.
Under the Hood
The standard Ram 1500 3.7-liter V-6 engine produces 215 horsepower. The 1500 may also be equipped with a 240-hp (235 hp in California and Massachusetts), 4.7-liter Magnum V-8 or a 245-hp, 5.9-liter V-8. A five-speed-manual transmission is standard, and a four-speed automatic is optional. When powered with the 3.7-liter or 4.7-liter engines, the automatic transmission incorporates an alternate second-gear ratio for towing and climbing. Dodges four-wheel-drive system can be engaged on the fly using a floor-mounted lever; electronic operation is optional. An optional 345-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 will become available at midseason; it will team with a five-speed-automatic transmission.
Four power plants are available in Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks: two gasoline-powered and two diesel engines. The new 5.7-liter Hemi gasoline V-8 produces 345 hp and 375 pounds-feet of torque, in contrast to the 245-hp output of last years 5.9-liter V-8. A 305-hp, 8.0-liter V-10 is available, and buyers may also choose a Cummins 5.9-liter turbo-diesel inline-six-cylinder engine that develops 250 hp (235 hp in California). The diesel is available in a high-output version that cranks out 305 hp and a whopping 555 pounds-feet of torque.
A five-speed-manual transmission is standard in al heavy-duty rams, and a four-speed automatic is optional. Rams with the Hemi engine may be equipped with a five-speed-automatic transmission. A six-speed-manual gearbox is available for use with the high-output turbo-diesel. Dodges four-wheel-drive system can be engaged on the fly by using either a floor-mounted transfer-case lever or optional electronic engagement.
All-disc brakes with a rear-wheel antilock feature are standard on the Ram 1500. Four-wheel ABS is optional on the SL and SLT models and standard on the Laramie. Roof-mounted side curtain-type airbags are optional.
Dual front airbags and four-wheel antilock brakes are standard on all Ram 2500 and 3500 models. Roof-mounted side curtain-type airbags are optional, and LATCH child-safety seat tether anchors are installed.
The Ram 1500 is a light-duty truck, but it seems big in every way including its reactions to bumps and holes. Although the suspension regains control fairly quickly, city driving creates quite a bit of jolting. The ride improves on the highway.
The Ram 1500 is easy to drive and steer, and it responds predictably to driver inputs. The 4x4 truck maneuvers capably and takes curves passably well at modest speeds.
Throttle response from the 5.9-liter V-8 is quite vigorous. Automatic-transmission shifts beat the average truck in smoothness. Apart from a mild driveline drone, the Ram 1500s noise isnt bad. Three adults fit adequately in a regular cab when the immense center armrest/storage box is raised.