Ram First Drive
By: Buzz © 2001,
Reprinted with Permission
When I mentioned
to one of my Ace Buzz Patrollers that I'd be passing through Detroit he
volunteered to pick me up at the airport, telling me that he had a surprise
for me. He wasn't kidding. My jaw dropped when I saw a shinny new 2002
Dodge Ram Quad Cab parked at the curb.
thing you notice about Dodge's all-new truck is just how big it is. The
thing looks massive, especially the big front grille carrying on the Ram's
big-rig inspired look. I didn't have my tape measure with me, but I'd
say it was a few inches taller than a current 4x4 ram. They've also boosted
the tire and wheel size. This was a key move since the current Ram always
looked "under-tired." P245/70R17 tires on steel 17-inch wheels
are standard and there are several options including big P275/55R20 tires
on 20-inch polished cast aluminum wheels that are identical to those used
on the Power Wagon concept.
height helps make the cab even more spacious then its predecessor. I'm
six feet tall and I could easily wear a Stetson in the cab with room to
spare. All the interior dimensions, leg-room, shoulder room and hip room
feel larger than the current truck. The dash has a sleek/modern look reminiscent
of other vehicles in the Chrysler lineup.
Ram was undoubtedly the most influential truck of the 1990's. Both it's
styling and ergonomic innovations have been widely imitated. Dodge engineers
took that as a challenge when designing their new truck. A perfect example
is the innovative 40/20/40 front seat that was one of the most popular
options with current Ram buyers.
predecessor the new center console folds downs to create a spacious armrest
or work surface. Pop the lid and there's still ample space to store a
laptop computer and a cell phone. But they've kicked it up a notch, the
area now features fold up dividers so that the area can be configured
several different ways. Smartest of all, they've added a power plug inside
the console! Plus, when the console is folded up, the lower cushion of
the "20" section folds up to reveal a secret storage compartment.
My test vehicle
was a Quad Cab. Unlike the previous Quad Cab with its clam-shell suicide
doors the new Quad has conventional forward swinging doors. They've also
added 3 inches to the rear to create a passenger area on-par with a true
crew cab. The back seat is comfortable with good leg, head and shoulder
room. The bottom of the seat folds up to create inside cargo room. A neat
feature is the corrugated metal load floor that can be folded out to protect
the rear carpet when carrying gear.
checking out the truck it was time to take a drive. Like in the current
Ram you have an excellent view from the cab. As huge as the hood seems
from the outside, it's barely visible from the drivers seat. My test truck
had big side mirrors with a convex mirror integrated into one corner,
which further enhanced the view from the cab.
thing I noticed as I pulled away from the curb is how quiet the new truck's
cab is, even on the highway there was almost no noise infiltration. The
truck was equipped with the venerable 5.9 liter Magum V8 which is a carryover
from the current model. Based on the original "LA" small-blocks
this engine has been in service since the mid-sixties. The tried and true
engine delivers good, predictable performance.
It will be
the top engine option for 2002 with the other two being the new 3.7 liter
V6 and the 4.7 liter V8. The 5.9 will be phased out in 2003 when it will
be replaced by Dodge's all-new 5.7 liter HEMI V8. The 5.9 delivered plenty
of power both in-town and on the highway and felt smooth the whole time.
That said, my source said that he prefers the feel (and economy) of the
4.7 liter V8. The truck was equipped with a four-speed automatic that
worked smoothly and quietly under all conditions.
new independent front suspension (which will be used exclusively on the
half-ton Dodge 1500) delivers outstanding performance. The truck tracked
perfectly straight with no wandering. Steering feel was firm but with
no harshness. Same goes for the suspension. It had a firm but very comfortable
ride. You were aware of bumps, but it just went over them smoothly with
no effect on steering. The test truck (which was a pre production unit)
was completely free of any rattles and felt very tight. Stopping power
was especially impressive. The big four-wheel disc brakes brought the
big truck to a perfect straight stop in almost no time with absolutely
thing they've done with the new Ram is to give each of the models their
own visual identity. The base model is the ST, with Sport, SLT and SLT+
packages available. There are several visual clues on the outside of the
vehicle that tell you which one your looking at.
in addition to having a body-colored grille like previous models, the
grille on the new Sport features horizontal bars instead of the egg-crate
style found on the other Rams. Perhaps the most distinctive looking is
the grille on the SLT+ which features body color around the outside of
the grille with a chrome center section. I liked the look of all the different
models though the sleek look of the Sport is probably my favorite. Each
truck also has a unique lower fascia to further set them apart.
a phenomenal truck. Dodge engineers had a tough challenge creating this
vehicle. The current Ram has been a huge success. It was their task to
create an all new truck that retained the essential character of its predecessor
while taking the Ram to new heights. They've done an admirable job. Like
its predecessor, folks will either love or hate the new truck's look.
that a lot more folks will love the new truck's brawny good looks than
hate it. Once they climb into its huge cabin and experience driving a
truck that sounds and drives like a world-class car they'll be convinced
that Dodge is still building the best pickup trucks on earth.
As far as
the competition is concerned . . . Dodge has raised the bar once again.
The new Ram will be the gold standard of pickups . . . the truck that
all future pickups will be judged against.