Dodge RamchargerEnlarge Photo
Introduced in 1974 and probably kept on life support too long, until 1993--until Dodge cut bait and got serious about its Ram pickups--the Ramcharger was Dodge's answer to the Ford Bronco and the Chevy Blazer. It was a big two-door sport-utility vehicle from a distinctly old school, offered over the years with six- and eight-cylinder engines and rear- and four-wheel drive, and with a Plymouth cousin, the Trailduster. It even lived on beyond 1993 in Mexico, where a third generation was built for local consumption. We're not so naive as to be nostalgic for brutes like this just because they're old, and their flaws have fallen out of mind. Our blind spots aren't that large. It's just that, there's a simplicity to all these two-door utility vehicles that went completely astray just a few years later, as Broncos and Blazers and Ramchargers gave way to Escalades and Navigators. There's nothing so heavy-duty and so inexpensive, save for a base pickup with an aftermarket cap--which probably explains the continued popularity of these SUVs on the used market.
2009 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty
2009 Dodge Ram Heavy DutyEnlarge Photo
Dodge won the relevance war between the second-tier trucks with tractor-trailer styling, something Toyota and Nissan could have learned from with the notoriously unsuccessful Tundra and Titan. But Dodge also realized early on that diesel engines were a key to winning over converts, and steering clear of the diesel disasters that plagued Ford and GM, Chrysler went with Cummins--and scored big with pickup fans. Over both latter-day generations of Ram pickups, the Cummins engines slotted into light-duty and heavy-duty Rams like this 2009 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty, delivering in this instance, 355 hp and a massive 650 pound-feet of torque, without a glow plug, with a trouble-free reputation. The Ram styling reinforced the diesel's toughness: "it's about as far from subtle as you can get," we wrote. "From the front it looks like a (slightly) scaled-down semi, its hoodline almost at average eye level; and in the week we had the Ram, we actually looked down on a Suburban." We concluded that the heavy-duty models were "too ridiculously cumbersome" for everyday use, but longed for the return of the diesel in a light-duty pickup. Which brings us to number five...
2013 Ram 1500Enlarge Photo
No, we haven't driven one yet, but having spent time in the Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel and in our 30 Days Ram 1500, we know next year's Ram 1500 EcoDiesel will be a coveted piece of truck goodness. To be outfitted with a Fiat-sourced 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel will come teamed with the same eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic now found in trucks with Ram's six-cylinder engine. We expect output of about 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, just as it is in the Grand Cherokee, with fuel economy of more than 25 mpg highway--the numbers pitched for the top versions of the gas-powered Ram 1500. Sales for the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel begin later this year._________________________________________