By: Michael Levine

The history of Dodge trucks opens a new chapter with the introduction of the evolutionary 2002 Ram full-size pickup, debuting at the 2001 Chicago Auto Show.

In 1994, about the same time the Internet started to revolutionize the way people communicated and did business with each other, Dodge introduced the all-new Ram, revolutionizing the way pickup trucks were perceived in the marketplace. No longer would 'corn flake' box looks define the shape of trucks. Dodge's sleek and retro 'big-rig' design came roaring into dealer lots and just as quickly went roaring out. A powerful, and very unique, V10 engine and well outfitted interior completed the Ram's exciting packaging.

It's now seven years later and it's ironic to see how both the Internet and Dodge seemed to have slowed things down greatly. The Internet and its 'New Economy' have not quite lived up to the hype that everyone expected back in 1994. Common sense and a return to traditional business metrics rule over irrational exuberance in .com possibilities.

Dodge has also experienced recent growing pains and lowered expectations after Chrylser's one-sided merger with DaimlerBenz. Its Ram pickup has shown its age of late as fierce competition from Ford, Chevrolet and newcomer Toyota quickly raised the bar to compete for buyers just like old line companies coming in to take back market share from upstart .com's.

There is something to note however with regards to both the Internet and Dodge. If you look beneath the surface and examine what's going on exterior perception can be deceiving. The Internet and the technologies it has spawned continue to mature and become more refined even if not apparent to the lay person. Looking beneath the nearly unchanged surface of the 2002 Dodge Ram there is much going on that people may not notice at first, but look closely. A revolution is still going on.

The 2002 Dodge Ram retains the same basic formula for its exterior as the previous Ram, most notably seen in the broad shouldered hood and headlights, but virtually every detail has been improved aerodynamically.

The overall length is about the same as the current model but the proportions have changed. The bed has been shortened to 6-foot, 3-inches after Dodge market research found that the smaller box would still be long enough for everyday use but the extra room could be applied to the interior of the cab and allow owners to park their trucks in the garage at night.

Inside the truck are much more dramatic changes. The front of the cab gets a slew of high end features designed to improve functionality, comfort, and style. Dual climate controls and power outlets, power adjustable pedals, an electric transfer case and optional heated leather seats are all welcomed additions.

The 3-inches of extra room taken from the bed allows rear passengers to enjoy full-size 60/40 bench seating or front passengers to use the abundant space used to stow cargo when the rear bench is folded up and out of the way. An optional steel load floor, tucked under the seat and away from view, folds open to hold gear securely. Side curtain airbags are available in addition to standard driver and passenger airbags.

An all new hydroformed frame provides 400% greater torsional and 150% greater lateral bending and attachment stiffness - resulting in better handling and less noise, vibration and harshness while driving. An independent front suspension adds to ride comfort. Suspension travel has been increased from 8-inches to 8-1/2.

Under the imposing hoodline two new engine options have been created specifically for the Ram. Both engines provide more power, torque and fuel economy than the engines they replace. A new 3.7-liter, 210hp Magnum V-6 adds 35 more over the 3.9L it replaces and a new 4.7-liter, 240hp Magnum V-8 adds 10 more horsepower over the 5.2-liter it replaces. The venerable 245-hp 5.9-liter V-8 returns for 2002 to round out the lineup. The 45RFE transmission is brand new and improves smoothness and efficiency with electronic controls and optimized gear ratios.

GVWR and GCWR are increased for 2002. GVWR is up to 6650 lbs and GCVW stands at an impressive 13,500 lbs when properly equipped.

Overall, subtlety is the keyword when it comes to the 2002 Dodge Ram. It's hard to imagine seven years ago we would ever associate the Ram with conservative design but it still keeps an aggressive spirit underneath.