2003 Dodge Ram 2500 / 3500 Heavy Duty Trucks
By: Michael LevinePosted: 02-06-02 15:00 Updated 02-12-02 15:00

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Normally, one of the perks of the press is that the auto manufacturers feed the journalists during media previews. But at this year's Chicago Auto Show Dodge went a step further than any manufacturer has gone before - literally taking 90 journalists out to lunch after unveiling its all new 2003 Ram 2500 and 3500 Heavy Duty pickups.

What was once a podium where Rich Schaum, Executive VP of Product Development and Quality, introduced the trucks, collapsed to reveal a hidden tow hitch. The hitch was attached by rope to a fire engine red Ram 3500 dually hidden behind a backdrop. The curtain dropped and the media was driven for some down home Chicago pizza about 25 feet away. It was an impressive display of the new Heavy Duty's power and capabilities.

The 2003 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 Heavy Duty trucks get that towing power from two brand new, class leading engines.

Longtime Dodge powertrain ally Cummins provides its newly redesigned 5.9-liter I6 High Output Turbo Diesel, adding a high-pressure, common rail fuel-injection system to produce 555ft-lbs of torque at 1,400 rpm and 305hp at 2,900rpm. The bump in the engines capabilities gives the Dodge Ram an astounding gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 23,000 pounds when towing a trailer. The highest tow rating of any full size pickup.

PUTC spoke with Bob Lee, Director of Dodge's Rear Wheel Drive Vehicle Engine Engineering, who provided more details about the Cummins I6 and their partnership with the Ram team. He also controlled a lot of rumors in the process.

In a slightly disappointing move, Lee informed us that the new Cummins carries over the NV4500 manual 5-speed and NV5600 HD manual 6-speed transmissions from the 2002 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty pickups. No mechanical or physical changes were made. Instead, the Cummin's 60hp / 50ft-lbs increase in power and torque, "is handled by beefing up the transmission electronically."

When asked about the possibility of using Allison transmissions we we're told that would not happen.

Dodge won't be using a Mercedes diesel engine anytime soon either. Lee told us that "the matter had been studied (and tabled for now.)" The Cummins relationship means a lot to Dodge and during consumer clinics many Ram Heavy Duty owners told Dodge the reason they buy these trucks is because it has the Cummins name on the side.

Nearly 75% of current Ram Heavy Duty pickups are sold with a Cummins diesel engine option.

Gasoline powered engine owners won't be disappointed either with the new Rams. Dodge is bringing back the HEMI engine as a 5.7-liter V8 with 365ft-lbs of torque at 4,400rpm and 345hp at 5,600rpm. It replaces the old 5.9-liter Magnum V8.

The HEMI derives its name from its hemispherical combustion chambers. This design allows for larger valves per cylinder and greater airflow during combustion, creating about 10% more horsepower and torque than a conventional engine of the same size.

Dodge first produced the HEMI engine from 1951 to 1958, brought it back from 1966 to 1971, where it was best known as the 426 cubic inch powerplant in the Barracuda muscle car, and revives it for a third time with modern engineering and design.

"With its compact size, we could also put this in a car," Lee told us. "But for now it's only an option on the Ram Heavy Duty. The HEMI will not be offered as an engine choice on the light duty 1500 Ram pickup."

Other engine choices for the 2003 Ram HDs include the Standard Output 5.9-liter I6 Cummins Turbo Diesel, also equipped with high pressure common rail injection, and famous Viper derived 8.0-liter V10. The Standard Output Cummins jumps from 235 to 250hp and provides 460 ft-lbs of torque.

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