Vehicle Overview
Dodge’s Ram is available in 1500, 2500 and 3500 versions, which translates to half-ton, three-quarter-ton and one-ton ratings, respectively. While the 2500 and 3500 models are designed for serious work, an offshoot of the 1500 — the high-performance Ram SRT-10 — is designed for serious play. Continue reading for information on the Ram 1500.
(Skip to details on the: 2500 | 3500 | SRT-10)

Light-duty versions of Dodge’s boldly styled full-size pickup trucks earned a fresh “big-rig” look for the 2002 model year. Two new option groups were added for 2003: an Off Road Group with offroad tires, skid plates and tow hooks, and a Work Special Group. A new Laramie model that replaced the previous SLT Plus joins the ST and SLT trim levels.

Dodge’s Hemi V-8 engine generates 345 horsepower; it became available late in the 2003 model year. The 5.9-liter V-8 has been dropped. For 2004, automatic transmissions add a Tow/Haul mode and a navigation radio is available. A new electrically activated full-time four-wheel-drive system is available for the SLT and Laramie models. Dodge also has launched a hot new Ram SRT-10 that comes equipped with a 500-hp V-10 engine.

Regular-cab Rams get a 6.3-foot cargo bed, ride a 120.5-inch wheelbase and stretch to 207.7 inches long overall. When equipped 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 cases with regard to wheelbase and overall length.

Quad Cab pickups have four, conventional, front-hinged doors. The rear doors open 85 degrees to ease access.

All models have a chrome grille, while the Laramie trim gets body-colored bodyside moldings. A body-colored grille with chrome center billets goes on Rams with the Sport appearance group. Ram hoods have a pronounced crown that falls toward the front fenders.

The Ram’s 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 folds to create a tall storage area. Leather upholstery and adjustable pedals are standard on the Laramie model and optional on the SLT.

Under the Hood
The standard 3.7-liter V-6 engine produces 215 hp. Rams may be equipped with an optional 235-hp, 4.7-liter Magnum V-8. A five-speed-manual transmission is standard, and a four-speed automatic is optional. With the 3.7-liter or 4.7-liter engine, the automatic transmission incorporates an alternate second-gear ratio for towing and climbing. The 345-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 is optional; it teams with a five-speed-automatic transmission.

All-disc brakes with a rear-wheel antilock feature are standard. Four-wheel ABS is optional on the ST and SLT models and standard on the Laramie. Roof-mounted side curtain-type airbags are optional.

Ram 2500
Dodge redesigned its light-duty Ram 1500 series for the 2002 model year, and the heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 models followed in 2003. Dodge called them the toughest, most powerful heavy-duty pickups ever. The Ram 2500 has a three-quarter-ton capacity.

Two engines are available. The 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 produces 345 hp and 375 pounds-feet of torque. An optional Cummins 5.9-liter turbo-diesel inline-six comes in standard and high-output variants. Four transmissions — two manuals and two automatics — are offered.

Ram 2500 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. Payload capacities with the regular cab range from 2,350 to 3,240 pounds. Back to top

Ram 3500
Like the three-quarter-ton Ram 2500, the Ram 3500 — with a one-ton capacity — was redesigned for 2003. Similar powertrains to the 2500 series are available in the 3500 models, which means that buyers have a choice of a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine or a 5.9-liter inline-six-cylinder diesel engine. Four transmissions — two manuals and two automatics — are available.

Regular-cab Ram 3500 models have dual rear wheels and payload capacities that range from 4,790 to 5,110 pounds. Quad Cab pickups with single rear wheels offer payloads from 2,700 to 3,450 pounds. With dual rear wheels, Quad Cab payloads range from 4,440 to 4,975 pounds. Quad Cab models with the diesel engine may be equipped with single rear wheels. Back to top

Ram SRT-10
Performance-truck fans have a really big treat in store for 2004 as Dodge launches its brand-new Ram SRT-10. Rather than a mere Hemi V-8 engine under the hood, the SRT-10 unleashes 500 hp from an 8.3-liter V-10 that’s borrowed from the mighty Dodge Viper sports car. The massive V-10 produces 525 pounds-feet of torque, which promises near-startling acceleration. Only a six-speed-manual gearbox is available. Plenty of mechanical enhancements have accompanied the V-10 engine; they include a true dual exhaust system, 22-inch Pirelli tires, TRW antilock brakes, a Dana 60 rear axle, a rear wing and a hydraulic cooling fan. The body has been lowered by an inch in front and 2.5 inches at the rear. The unique power dome hood contains a functional scoop. Only three options are offered: a bedliner, a navigation radio and side curtain-type airbags.

Dodge representatives audaciously refer to the SRT-10 as the “meanest, baddest, fastest truck on the planet.” Obviously, not everyone is interested in a vehicle with that sort of stigma. But if you’re one of them, driving an SRT-10 is an unforgettable experience. Back to top

Driving Impressions
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, quite a bit of jolting occurs in city driving. The ride improves on the highway.

Easy to drive and steer, the Ram 1500 responds predictably to driver inputs. The 4x4 truck maneuvers capably and takes curves passably well at modest speeds. Three adults fit adequately in a regular cab when the immense center armrest/storage box is raised.

The Ram 2500 equipped with the Hemi engine sounds and feels like a muscle car when pushed, though it settles down quietly for ordinary use. Performance is this Ram’s strongest point, but it’s accompanied by a seriously lumpy ride over uneven pavement. Steering is confident for a full-size pickup, but the back wheels spin easily on wet pavement when there isn’t a load in back.

The Ram 2500’s long seat bottoms offer an easy-chair experience. Interior space is plentiful, especially in the Quad Cab configuration. Overall, the Ram 2500 doesn’t feel much like the usual heavy-duty pickup.

The performance that results from tromping on the gas in the Ram SRT-10 can only be described as awesome, shoving occupants back into the surprisingly comfortable seats regardless of whether the transmission is in the ideal gear or not. Yet the Ram SRT-10 can be driven modestly with ease.

The SRT-10’s handling is much better than that of an ordinary pickup truck. This model maneuvers through curves that would make an ordinary pickup shudder in horror. Navigating the Hurst shifter through its six forward ratios is sheer delight. The ride is hardly gentle, but it isn’t bad considering the overall experience. Simply put, the Ram SRT-10 is about as close as you’re going to come to a true muscle-car experience from any modern vehicle.