Preview: 2003 Dodge Ram 2500 by Sue Mead (9/9/2002)
2002 Dodge Ram Quad Cab by Jim McCraw (4/22/2002)
2002 Dodge Ram Quad Cab by Marc K. Stengel (11/5/2001)
2001 Chevrolet Silverado HD by Sue Mead (12/18/2000)
The difference between half-ton and 3/4- or one-ton pickups isn’t particularly great. Make the frame a bit beefier, the springs thicker and reinforce the drivetrain for the expected abuse, and suddenly the gentlemanly half-ton is a bruising 3/4-ton.In the way they behave, move and act, what’s most remarkable about the new 2003 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty 3/4- and one-ton trucks is how closely they resemble their half-ton brother. Despite the beefier frame, thicker springs and reinforced drivetrains, the Heavy Duties are civilized, comfortable and composed.
But while that’s just fine and dandy, the real news is the thoroughly revised Cummins turbodiesel six and the spectacular new 5.7-liter, “Hemi” V-8.
Without fender badges announcing the engine type (Hemi, Cummins or V-10) or the dualies’ extra set of rear wheels, it’s tough to tell the new Ram Heavy Duty trucks from the Ram 1500 that was new last year. The bodies are identical to the half-ton Ram and offered in the same two configurations -- regular cab and extended Quad Cab with four conventional opening doors. The beds are even shared with the exception of the extra wide fenders on the dualie.
Not screwing with the basic Ram package is smart thinking on Dodge’s part. The Ram cabs are the most accommodating in the business with a clean design and enough cubbyholes to store a whole gross of cubbies. Some bruiser class buyers may prefer the my-truck-is-bigger-than-your-truck distinctive styling of Ford’s Super Duty line, but on the basis of actual comfort, the Ram has the field covered.
The chassis under the Ram 2500 and 3500 is basically the same as on the 1500 too. In fact the two-wheel drive Heavy Duty Rams are the first trucks of their capacity to get rack-and-pinion steering similar to the rack-and-pinion used by lesser capacity Ram. That steering pays off in excellent road feel and responsiveness (at least for a truck this large). Dodge however keeps traditionalists happy with the 4x4 Ram Heavies which still use a recirculating-ball steering system and retain the solid front axle serious off-roaders consider an indispensable element of any real truck (the Ram 1500 4x4 switched to an independent front suspension last year). In fact the coil sprung 4x4 front suspension is virtually indistinguishable from that of the outgoing Ram Heavy Duty 4x4.