Back to Basics

Road Test: 2000 Dodge Ram 1500 Sport SLT
by PUTC Staff

When we were expecting the latest Road Test truck and were told it was going to be a Dodge Ram, well we naturally assumed it had to be an extended cab 4x4 probably loaded to the top with the latest trim and equipment. Well, we guessed wrong but were in for a great surprise because we tend to get a little spoiled these days when it comes to pickup trucks. A 2000 Dodge Ram 1500 Sport showed up on our doorsteps with a standard cab, manual transmission (yes you heard us, M-A-N-U-A-L) and 5.2 Liter Magnum V8.

Of course you know that there has never been so much choice in the marketplace or a better time to buy when it comes to truck configurations these days. There is a truck out there for every type of purpose, business or lifestyle. You can have a standard cab - which is increasingly rare, extended cab, four door extended cab, crew cab short bed, crew cab long bed, dual rear wheel... you get the picture. We definitely like choice but sometimes it pays to go back to the basics to again learn to appreciate just how lucky we are with all of the choices today.

In a way its kind of ironic that the Dodge Ram we tested made us feel we were going back to the basics because you can point back to just a few years ago when the 1994 Ram was introduced and made the rest of the industry take note

that pickup trucks didn't have to be boring boxes anymore. The 1994 Dodge Ram started a revolution in looks and features across the board that continues to this day and shows no appearance of stopping anytime soon. Our 2000 Dodge Ram just made the revolution that much more apparent to us.

Inside & Out

It looms out from the middle of the console - one tall, long shift lever. When you first see that shifter in this Ram one of two emotions comes to mind - fear and loathing because you have never driven, or rarely drive, a stick or sheer joy at the fact that in front of you is a direct connection to a V8 engine.

These days manual transmissions are pretty rare in full size trucks and diminishing each year as automatics increasingly become standard equipment. With a manual transmission the driver has complete control over gear selection and how much power is transferred to the rear wheels. In the rainy San Francisco winter this was helpful in driving during wet conditions or in making prompt departures from

stoplights in dry ones. Manual transmissions also make driving more fun. Some of us do drive vehicles other than pickup trucks and when we do we like them to have sticks if possible. And there is nothing like the feeling of exhilaration that comes from driving a stick up San Francisco's infamous hills knowing that you have battled gravity to fight another day. Bring it on!

The gear shifter itself was quite easy to use and reach. Shifts were clean and crisp with only very occasional gear hunting. The only gripe about the shifter was that Dodge should have wrapped the boot at the bottom in leather, like the steering wheel, or vinyl rather than the rubbery 'pyramid' that made the SLT package look cheapened. A few dollars extra would have gone a long way towards improving the interior appearance.

The standard cab pickup, like the manual transmission, is also exceedingly rare today. What once used to make up around 70% of all truck sales now makes up less than 30%. Our Ram, with its long gear shift and 40/20/40 bench seating, could accommodate no more than two adults comfortably and any attempt to sandwich an adult in the middle was quickly struck down by the unfortunate candidate for the middle seat.

The 7.5" of reclining travel and cloth material made the seats quite comfortable to use on long and short drives.

Between the seats was the Ram's famous storage bin. Big enough to easily swallow a laptop and peripherals the bin also served as a handy armrest and was easily stowed when not needed. Nice.

Behind the bench seating the Ram offered adequate space to store tools and other assorted items in the bins that hang from the back of the cab. Though no longer class leading, we used the back space to easily fit a folded 'Val-Pack' with suits and clothing for the trip to the airport for the Chicago Auto Show.

The instrument panel and HVAC controls were

logical and nicely arranged but appear a bit dated when compared to full size trucks from the competition. Night driving revealed easy to read instrumentation.

The only serious complaint about the interior was a leak that developed after a night of intense rain. One of the gaskets around the windshield was not properly seated which created some pretty good wetness in the floor on the passenger side and even some water in the glove box. Definitely not expected on a 2000 model truck.

On the outside, even with two wheel drive and a short bed, the Dodge Ram was still quite imposing and continues to lead the pack in looks. Its aggressive front end has worn quite well in the years since its introduction. The Intense Blue Pearl paint job and 16"x7" cast aluminum wheels suited the 1500 Sport Appearance Group package well. The Sport Appearance Group package is an option with the SLT trim and includes additional paint colors, body-color front and rear bumpers, a black grille with body color trim, fog lights, Sport decals and aluminum wheels.

The bed of the truck, though not used for any heavy hauling while we had it, was large enough to potentially handle just about anything we could throw at it.

On the Road

Our Dodge Ram 1500 Sport SLT came with the 5.2L Magnum V8. Generating 230 horsepower and 300 ft-lb. of torque. This engine also featured Dodge's sequential multi-point fuel injection (SMPI) for improved throttle response. Mated to the manual transmission we found that even in first we had a broad range of power

and torque to call upon at any time. This is one fine little V8 for scooting around in a short bed, standard cab, two wheel drive truck.

The 5.2 Liter engine is rated to tow up to a GVWR - the maximum allowable combined weight of loaded truck and trailer - of 6,400 pounds. It includes the weight of passengers, cargo and fuel in the truck and cargo in the trailer.

As expected in a truck of this size with a short bed and cab, the ride - even on relatively smooth roads - could get bumpy and harsh at times. You should not buy this truck thinking that you will get the same style ride as the extended cab 2 wheel drive version but at a bargain price. You get what you pay for. But overall, even on long drives, there was not much driver fatigue from the ride.

With the manual transmission, wide power range in first gear and generous torque standing starts could be a lot of fun. It was no problem quickly hitting highway speeds faster than almost any other truck we have been in.

Gas mileage averaged just over 15 mpg for combined highway and city driving. Considering the mixed conditions we had the mileage was slightly better than we expected.

Summing it Up

This Dodge Ram Sport 1500 is the perfect third vehicle for a family with kids or primary driver for those in a two or single person household.

Almost perfectly suited to those with an active lifestyle on a budget the 1500 makes not only trips to Home Depot easy, but for those side trips to the lake with a few jet skis or a small boat your perfect truck has arrived.

2000 Dodge Ram 1500 Sport

Base Price: $16,675 Price as Tested: $20,120

Price as Tested Includes: Customer Preferred Package 23G - SLT Decor, Air Conditioning, Power Windows and Locks, Speed Control, Light Group, Floor Mats, 16x7.0 Cast Aluminum Wheels ($3000); Sport Appearance Group - Front Bumper Body Color, Rear Bumper Body Color, Headlamps, Fog Lamps, Halogen Headlights ($505); 5.2L SMPI V8 Engine ($590); California Emissions (No Charge); Destination Charge ($650); California Bonus Discount (-$600); Customer Preferred Discount (-$700)