Versus the competiton:
Yes, the big Dodge Ram pickup still has a Hemi.
The truck that began DaimlerChrysler’s renaissance of the Hemi engine design, the current-generation Ram Heavy Duty that debuted in fall 2002, still includes the 5.7-liter Magnum Hemi V-8 as its standard engine for model year 2005, and will again this fall in the 2006 models.
Little did the Chrysler folks know when they introduced this revival of the Hemi in the Ram Heavy Duty lineup for 2003 that consumers would gobble these engines up not only in a Ram 2500 model such as our test vehicle this week, but also in an entire range of Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep vehicles — cars, trucks and SUVs — that have come onto the market since.
It was the 2003 Ram Heavy Duty that was featured in the now-famous TV spot in which the good ol’ boys ask the Ram driver: “That thing got a Hemi?”
For 2005 and 2006, the Hemi is the base engine, and was included on the Quad Cab 2500 model we tested.
The majority of Ram Heavy Duty truck buyers, however, choose to upgrade to the Cummins 600 inline six-cylinder turbodiesel engine, rated at 325 horsepower and 600 foot-pounds of torque. The diesel can be connected to a special four-speed automatic gearbox, but a six-speed manual is standard.
I’ll take the Hemi gasoline engine, though. It cranks out 345 horsepower and 375 foot-pounds of torque. That is plenty of power, and those Hemi badges on the front fenders tells those next to you that your truck has the newest version of the legendary powerplant. With the Hemi engine, a six-speed manual gearbox also is standard. But a five-speed automatic, which came on our vehicle, is a $1,725 option.
The automatic is best for most situations, from stop-and-go city traffic to extreme off-road driving. You macho types can have the manual gearboxes; I get tired of pushing in the clutch and shifting gears. I especially don’t want to change gears and lose traction when I’m negotiating steep off-road trails.
Probably the most remarkable feature of these new trucks, beyond their impressive exterior “big rig” styling and powerful, capable engines, is their carlike interiors, with extended “Quad” cabs that feature a full-size back seat for people-hauling. We had no problem getting three adults into the back seat of our test truck, although it would be much more comfortable to limit the back to two passengers, particularly for a long trip. Ride comfort is an unusual attribute in heavy-duty pickups, which once were pretty rough trucks used mostly on work sites. With the upgrade for 2003, Dodge designed the Ram Heavy Duty to have the same carlike interior as the light-duty Ram 1500 models. The ride is still quite trucklike, but much more refined that you would find even in many pickups less than 10 years old.
Refinement of the heavy-duty lineup was in keeping with the increasing popularity of larger pickups, not only here in Texas but nationwide, as more people buy them for everyday use.
In Texas, the large pickups — particularly the dual-rear-wheel, or dually, models such as the Ram 3500 — are commonly used for daily commuting, not just to work sites, but also to offices, driven by people who have no work-related use for these heavy vehicles. Ram is tied with Ford’s F-series Super Duty as the best-selling heavy-duty truck in Texas, company officials said. With a market share of 40 percent each, Dodge and Ford rule this segment. General Motors sells half as many of either of the front-runners, for a 20 percent share in Texas.
With the remake, Dodge intended for its heavy-duty Rams to be leaders of the pack. The new Ram 2500/3500 models debuted with the largest brakes and wheels in their classes, along with full-size rear doors in the Quad Cab models, full-drop rear windows, and even such carlike amenities as a six-disc in-dash CD changer. They come in regular- and Quad-cab versions, with either rear- or four-wheel drive.
Our test model, the 2005 Ram 2500 SLT four-wheel-drive model (base price $32,635 plus $900 freight), came with the shift-on-the-fly part-time four-wheel drive system that is controlled electronically by a switch on the dash. Settings are two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive “high” and four-wheel drive “low.” The system can be switched from two-wheel drive to four-wheel-drive while the truck is moving, but to get into low range, the truck must be stopped and the transmission shifted into neutral.
Roominess is the thing you notice the most about the cab of this truck, at least after you strain to climb up into it. My grandson was convinced this was a monster truck because it sits so high off the ground, making it difficult for short people and women in skirts to get in. One inside, though, the Ram 2500 Quad Cab is quite comfortable.
New for 2005 is an available sunroof for the Quad Cab model, although this feature was not included on our test model. The one we had is known as the Lone Star edition, which adds a Quad Cab Lone Star Value Group of extras to the sticker price for $660 (after a $500 discount). Oddly, though, unlike other automakers’ Texas or Lone Star editions, this truck doesn’t have a badging indicating that it is a special Texas model. Included in the Lone Star package are 17-inch forged-aluminum wheels, tow hooks, fog lights, leather-wrapped steering wheel, sliding rear window, and a trailer-towing package.
Quad Cab models come with rear doors with handles that allow them to be opened from the inside or out, not those rear-swinging small doors that can be opened only after the front doors are opened.
The rear bench has a 60/40 split that allows all or part to be folded up out of the way to increase inside cargo space. With this big storage area, tools and other cargo can be locked inside the truck rather than being left in the open in the bed. The rear doors swing out nearly 90 degrees for easy loading of the compartment, and the rear windows roll completely down — an exclusive feature on the Ram, Dodge says. An optional steel floor section under the back seat folds open to form a flat load floor, Dodge says, although this was not included on our truck.
Standard on our truck were air conditioning, four-wheel antilock brakes, tilt steering column, cruise control, power windows/mirrors/door locks with remote, overhead console with trip computer, and a rear underseat storage compartment.
Extras on our vehicle included a DVD-based navigation system integrated with an Infinity audio system with in-dash CD player and seven speakers ($1,725); Sirius satellite radio ($195; plus activation and subscription required); leather seats ($1,360); supplemental side air bags for the front ($225); the electronic shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive system ($545); anti-spin rear differential ($285); steering-wheel audio controls ($75); hands-free Bluetooth communications ($275); and a bedliner ($245). Total sticker was $40,745, including freight and options.
In this configuration — short bed, four-wheel drive, with the Hemi engine and automatic gearbox — this truck can tow a trailing weighing up to 11,200 pounds, Dodge says. No fuel economy figures are given as the vehicle is exempt from EPA rules as a heavy-duty pickup. But you can expect about 12-13 miles per gallon in the city (less under a heavy load) and perhaps as high as 15 or 16 mpg on the highway. The tank holds 34 gallons of fuel (whew — $70 or more to fill it up!), and unleaded regular is acceptable. One note about the steering: Four-wheel-drive models have the older recirculating-ball setup, while two-wheel-drives get a power rack-and-pinion steering system that was introduced with this latest generation.
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G. Chambers Williams III is staff automotive columnist for the San Antonio Express-News and former transportation writer for the Star-Telegram. His automotive columns have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1995. Contact him at (210) 250-3236; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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At a Glance: The package: Full-size, four-wheel-drive, six-passenger, crew-cab, heavy-duty, V-8 gasoline-powered pickup.
Highlights: All new last year, this is the newest generation of Dodge’s full-size pickup, an evolutionary design that builds upon the stylish shape of the previous generation, which broke new ground in the pickup class with its 1994 debut. Laramie is the top of the line, and includes carlike amenities such as leather interior.
Negatives:Larger than competitors’ heavy-duty pickups, which makes the Ram harder to maneuver in city traffic and tight spaces.
Engine: 5.7-liter Magnum Hemi V-8.
Transmission:Five-speed manual; five-speed automatic (optional).
Power/torque:345 horsepower/375 foot-pounds. Length: 227.7 inches.
Curb weight:6,043 pounds.
Payload: 2,760 pounds (w/automatic).
Trailer-towing capacity: 11,200 pounds (w/automatic).
EPA fuel economy: Not applicable.
Fuel capacity/type:34 gallons/unleaded regular.
Major competitors:GMC Sierra 2500 Crew Cab,/Chevrolet Silverado 2500 Crew Cab, Ford F-250 Super Duty crew cab.
Base price: 32,635 plus $900 freight and $660 for Lone Star package.
Price as tested: 40,745, including freight and options, such as automatic transmission and navigation system.
On the Road rating: ***** (five stars out of five).
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Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary according to manufacturer and/or dealer rebates, discounts and incentives.