The Dodge Ram pickup is all new for the 2002 model year.

First Drive: 2002 Dodge Ram
'02 Ram Grows in Size, Quality and Sex Appeal

By: Arv Voss Last Edited: 08-05-01 08:00, AutoImpressions © 2001

Dodge's full size Ram pickup series takes on new dimensions for the coming model year and the new Quad-Cab Sport version projects a refined customized look, featuring bold 20-inch American-Racing-style five-spoke alloy wheels, a massive integrated front bumper and a hood to cowl to windshield rake that is 5 degrees faster than before. The overall appearance of the Sport with its four full size doors, comes off as much more robust and expressive than that of its predecessors.

For that matter, the entire 2002 Dodge Ram stable benefits from bold design changes. The big-rig "in-your-face" look was first introduced in 1993, replacing the old and decidedly stagnant "D-Truck" Ram after a 22 year run. This latest iteration still offers the familiar huge grille, big wheels and tires, but with a taller profile and a more refined surface treatment, providing a familiar yet fresh and unique appearance.

The new Ram is an evolutionary refinement over the previous pickup with some notable improvments.

In essence, the former Ram's DNA is pleasingly amplified. Let's begin up front with the massive "horse-collar" / cross-hair grille theme which is bigger and bolder and will be offered in three versions, depending upon trim level -- the SLT grille features an all chrome surround with a dark gray honeycomb inset, the SLT+ wears a body color grille surround with chrome cross hairs and finally, the Ram Sport models are fitted with both the surround and cross hair design executed in body color with the insert completed in horizontal chrome billet bars for the custom-look. All grille treatments are flanked by new jewel-like headlamp assemblies nestling into stylish cutouts in the upper edge of the molded TPO front fascia with integrated fog lamps.

The grille is followed by a broad sloping hood that falls away into the pronounced front fenders which are sculpted into a step shoulder beltline whose character is continued into the bed side, exuding a rear fender effect. The Quad cab with its sharply angled "A" pillar, gently arced roofline, blacked-out "B" pillar and forward-curved "C" pillar complete the new contemporary greenhouse form, eliminating any suggestion of boxiness. The cab sides slope inward with the rear curving forward, and the topline projecting an arch when viewed from the rear. The same holds true for the Regular cab, except of course, there is no "C" pillar.The standard (short) cargo box or bed has been reduced from 6'6" to 6'3" with the space added to the cab's interior. An 8 foot (long) bed is optionally available for all models.

An all new chassis and suspension sports a hydroformed front structure.

The new Dodge Ram truck may be ordered in either a Regular cab or Quad cab format, with either a short or long bed. Two new Magnum engine choices are on the menu for 2002: a 3.7 liter V6 that replaces the old 3.9 liter; and a 4.7 liter V8 that bumps the old 5.2 liter version. The former generates 215 horsepower and 235 pound feet of torque, while the latter pumps out 235 horses and 295 pound feet of torque. The 5.9 liter Magnum V8 remains in the lineup as well with a horsepower rating of 245 and a torque rating of 335 pound feet. It should be noted that the 3.7 liter V6 is available in the two-wheel drive (rear) Regular cab only.

Transmission selections include: a manual five-speed which comes standard on all models powered by either the 3.7 liter V6 or the 4.7 liter V8; an optional multi-speed overdrive automatic for trucks with both of these same engines; and a four-speed overdrive automatic gearbox as standard equipment for all models with the 5.9 liter V8.

Not enough choices? Both Regular and Quad cab pickups with the 4.7 liter and 5.9 liter Magnum V8s may be purchased in either a 2WD or 4WD configuration. The 4WD features a Generation II part-time manual two-speed transfer case. There are two road wheel choices as well -- non-Sport trucks are fitted with 5-flat bar-spoke 17-inch wheels and tires as standard, while the Sport Ram trucks run a most impressive 20-inch wheel and tire setup with the wheels designed to resemble 5-spoke American Racing-type wheels from an earlier era.

Standard Rams receive a chrome grille.

Despite the smaller Short bed size, there is no compromise in the new Ram's capability -- Both the towing and hauling capacities have been increased. The Quad cab's towing capability has jumped from 7,500 pounds to 8,350 while the payload has grown from 1,610 to 1,770 pounds. Payload for the Regular cab is 655 pounds better than its predecessor and the towing capacity is elevated by 270 pounds. The new Ram literally redefines the level of accommodation and proportion for the full-size pickup. The preceding Ram truck lineup provided a cavernous interior and infinite storage features -- or, so it seemed. The Quad cab is the big story here, though the Regular cab takes progressive strides forward as well. The Quad cab features full access rear doors that open out 85 degrees, and windows that go all the way down into the door. The rear bench seat has a 60/40 split, foldable back, providing a flat load surface inside the rear cab area, with ample compartmentalized storage beneath the seat as well. Child seat tethers are another plus. Even the regular cab provides enough space behind the seat for a five-gallon can of paint or whatever, and a removable storage bin for tools or supplies.

Up front, vertically challenged drivers will appreciate the optional electrically adjustable pedals with a full 8 - inches of travel -- this feature is available only on the SLT+ trim level and will set you back an extra $120. Also in the forward compartment, is a center "business console" with custom storage sections that will accommodate a laptop, cell phone, personal digital computer, etc. and other non-traditional job site equipment. Audio system dials are larger and more user-friendly. Cup holders are actually drink holders that store up to "Big-Gulp" size containers.

The interior design continues the truck's overall sloped contour theme, incorporating a sleek new flowing, brow-like instrument panel with gauges that are executed in a sporty and east-to-read bright white. Creature comforts abound with available dual climate controls and optional heated leather seating surfaces. An electronic transfer case button may be ordered with 4x4 units, and buttons and switchgear in general are easier to reach and use. A second power outlet and additional storage is located beneath the main center console in a secondary space.

Redesigned Regular and Quad Cab interiors are larger and more luxurious.

This latest Ram is not just another pretty face though..other enhancements exist beneath the skin. Things that fall into the "all-new" category are: the state-of-the-art, full length (except for the tail pieces) hydroformed box frame; the upgraded rack and pinion steering system with improved ratio; the revised suspension componentry; the largest brakes in the segment; and the largest wheel and tire combination offering. The new frame provides 400 percent greater torsional stiffness along with a lateral stiffness improvement of 150 percent for improved stability. The new engines offer better fuel efficiency and the new four-speed automatic transmission is the only transmission in its class with equal reverse and low gear ratios, as well as an alternate second gear that is engaged for towing and hill-climbing scenarios.

The 4.7 liter V8 is expected to account for nearly 60 percent of total sales with the balance split between the 3.7 liter V6 and the 5.9 V8. Production has been stepped up over this model year's 200,000 units to 265,000 at the three manufacturing facilities: the Dodge City plant in Warren , Michigan; the St. Louis site; and the Saltillo, Mexico plant to meet the Ram's anticipated increased demand.

Now, down to the "nitty-gritty" ...what is it like to drive the new bigger and better Ram? Well, to generalize, it's much better than before. What does that mean? It means that this is one really impressive hauler across the board. It's easy to become enamored with the Sport version 4x4 Quad cab -- even when it comes with cloth seating surfaces. The truck handles superbly despite its huge wheels and tires, and the fact that it was tested unladen. Steering is now more precise and responsive. Acceleration with the 4.7 liter V8 is more than adequate, though when towing a large load, one might realize the need for the 5.9 liter mill. The four-speed automatic overdrive transmission is the way to go -- the five-speed manual with it's long floor shift lever seems archaic by comparison.

Except for the mass, it is not inappropriate to liken the ride to a large sedan in terms of quality and maneuverability. The truck's off-road prowess was never rally challenged by the basic course provided. There is no reason to believe however, that the new Ram is anything but more adept at traversing the wilderness than its predecessor. Personalization is possible through a host of Mopar after market accessories, but the Sport version is a pretty striking set of wheels in its own right. In the final analysis, if there were a "Truckville" U.S.A., the new Ram might well be the Mayor.


Specifications: 2002 Dodge Ram

Base Price:
$17,670 Reg cab 4x2 (including $715 D&H)*

$22,865 Quad cab 4x2 (including D&H)* Add $4,000 plus for Four-wheel drive

Price as Tested:
$29,500 (estimated - Quad cab Sport 4x2, 4.7L V8, Auto)

Engine Type and Size:
3.7 liter SOHC 12-valve Magnum® V6 with sequential multi-port electronic fuel injection.

4.7 liter SOHC 12-valve Magnum® V8 with sequential multi-port electronic fuel injection.

5.9 liter OHV Magnum® V8 with sequential multi-port electronic fuel injection.

Horsepower (bhp):
3.7L V6 - 215 @ 5200 rpm

4.7L V8 - 235 @ 4800 rpm

5.9L V8 - 245 @ 4000 rpm

Torque (ft./ lbs.):
3.7L V6 - 235 @ 4000 rpm

4.7L V8 - 295 @ 3200 rpm

5.9L V8 - 335 @ 3200 rpm

Five-speed manual overdrive

Multi-speed overdrive automatic

Four-speed overdrive automatic

Drivetrain: Longitudinally mounted front engine / Rear-wheel drive or parttime Four-wheel drive with 2-speed manual transfer case.

Front - Upper and lower "A" arms, coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers and stabilizer bar (2WD / Upper and lower "A" arms, torsion bars, gas-charged shocks and stabilizer bar (4WD).

Rear - Live axle, longitudinal leaf springs, gas-charged and shock absorbers.

Power assisted four-wheel discs (vented front) with rear ABS Anti-lock Braking System.

Goodyear Wrangler P265/70R17 mounted on 5-spoke alloy wheels (non-Sport) / P275/60R20 mounted on AR- type 5-spoke alloys (Sport trim).

120.5 inches - Short bed
140.5 inches - Long bed.

Length Overall:
207.7 inches - Short bed
229.7 inches - Long bed

79.9 inches

Curb Weight:
Reg. cab 3.7L V6 2WD
Short bed - 4,449 lbs.
Quad cab 5.9L V8 4WD
Long bed - 5,481 lbs.

Fuel Capacity:
26 gallons - Short bed
35 gallons - Long bed

EPA Mileage Estimates: Not available

Drag Coefficient:
0.528 - Quad cab 4WD Short bed

0 - 60 mph:
Not tested


"In essence, the former Ram's DNA is pleasingly amplified."


Expect to find 2002 Dodge Rams rolling into a showroom near you later this summer.