After Dodge announced in 2000 that no more Ram Vans or Wagons would be manufactured, the venerable full-size van earned a reprieve, at least into the middle of the 2003 calendar year. When it does expire, a replacement is unlikely.
The basic design of Dodges (cargo) Van and (passenger) Wagon models dates back to 1971. Naturally, both have earned styling and mechanical updates over the years, most recently for the 1998 model year. But for the most part, they look and behave in much the same way as their predecessors did.
The truck-based Rams come in three sizes and three capacity ratings: 1500 (half-ton), 2500 (three-quarter-ton) and 3500 (one-ton). Dodge also uses the Ram name for its masculine-looking full-size pickup trucks, the 1500 and 2500/3500.
Unlike the full-size competition from Chevrolet, Ford and GMC, the Ram Vans and Wagons have unibody construction. DaimlerChrysler has stated that this yields greater cargo space and payload capacity than a separate body-on-frame design, like its rivals employ.
Dodge ranks third in the full-size van sales race behind the Chevrolet Express but ahead of the GMC Savana. Ford leads the league with its E-Series (Econoline). Dodge sold 36,537 Ram Vans and 18,321 Wagons in 2001, according to Automotive News. Sales of Ram Vans dropped by 26 percent, but Wagons declined more modestly. Ram Van sales totaled twice the figure for Wagons in 2001.
The regular-length Ram rides a 109.3-inch wheelbase and measures 192.6 inches long overall. Rams with a 127.2-inch wheelbase are available in a couple lengths: 208.5 inches or 234.5 inches in the MaxiVan or MaxiWagon styles. The bodies of the Maxi models extend an extra 26 inches beyond the back wheels.
Vans in the 1500 series are available with either wheelbase, but 2500/3500 models are available only with the longer 127.2-inch wheelbase. Heights range from 79.7 inches for the 1500 series to 82.9 inches for the 3500 MaxiVan.
Twin doors on the right side of the vehicle and a single rear door are standard. Dual rear doors and a sliding side door are optional.
Eight-passenger seating is standard on 1500 and basic 2500 models. The heavier-duty 2500 and 3500 versions may be equipped to seat a dozen occupants. The 3500 MaxiWagon can have an additional seat in the fifth row to hold as many as 15 passengers. The Cargo Van has only two vinyl front seats, and the passenger seat can be removed.
Cargo volume in the Van is 200 cubic feet for the short-wheelbase model, 238.9 cubic feet for the regular longer-wheelbase version and 294.6 cubic feet for the MaxiVan. Capacities for the Wagons differ slightly, with a maximum of 299.5 cubic feet.
Tilt steering is an option, and dealers can install such convenience features as a video player system and rear air conditioning. Dodge can supply special equipment for commercial applications, such as a Tradesman Group that includes a ladder rack, shelving and partitions.
Under the Hood
A 175-horsepower, 3.9-liter V-6 engine or a 235-hp, 5.2-liter V-8 can be installed in the 1500 series. Extended-wheelbase 1500 Vans can be equipped with a 5.9-liter V-8 that generates 245 hp. The heavier-duty models come with V-8 engines only. Dodge also offers a version of the 5.2-liter V-8 that runs on compressed natural gas (CNG). A three-speed-automatic transmission is used with the V-6 engine, but V-8 models team with a four-speed automatic.
Ram 1500/2500 Vans can tow between 4,150 and 8,600 pounds, while the Wagons towing strength is rated from 4,050 to 7,650 pounds. Limits vary according to the model series and engine. Payloads range up to 4,160 pounds for the 3500 Maxi editions.
Standard antilock brakes act only on the rear wheels, but four-wheel ABS is an option. Front seat belt pretensioners and next-generation front airbags are installed, but side-impact airbags are not available.