It’s a ½-ton pickup, but the Dodge Ram looks way more imposing than that. It can fill a car’s rearview mirror from several yards away. The generation spanning ’02-’08 (the last one before the Ram name became a brand itself) is the third and, from a design standpoint, it’s an evolution of the revolutionary generation two, which was the first to feature “big rig” styling.
However, from a construction standpoint, it’s a comprehensive departure from its predecessor. An all-new frame comes with fully boxed side rails. Engines, chassis, and interiors all show major differences. The previous generation’s front live axle is replaced by an independent suspension, although the rear retains a live axle suspended by leaf springs. The result is a comfortable ride with composed handling.
The base engine is a 3.7L V-6, available only on rear-drive regular cab trucks and making 210 hp and 235 lb-ft. A five-speed manual is standard, with a new six-speed available starting with the ’05. The initial auto option is a four-speed unit, going to a five-speed from ’03 onward.
From ’02 to ’07, the V-8 option is a 4.7L, making 235 hp and 295 lb-ft. This was upgraded for ’08 to 310 hp and 330 lb-ft. If that’s still too small, a 5.9L V-8 carried over from the second generation makes 245 hp and 335 lb-ft. This was replaced in ’04 models by a lighter and more efficient 5.7L Hemi that developed 345 hp and 375 lb-ft. Efficiency improved even further when cylinder deactivation came in for ’06. The 4.7L V-8 comes standard with a five-speed manual, upgraded to a six-speed in ’05. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional on the 4.7L and standard on the 5.9L.
For those whose mission in life is to burn as much gasoline as possible, an SRT-10 version was produced from ’04 to ’06. It had the same 8.3L V-10 found in that glorious piece of sports car insanity, the Dodge Viper, and makes a hefty 500 hp with 525 lb-ft of twist. This version was linked to either a six-speed manual in the regular cab or a four-speed automatic transmission in the Quad Cab.
Accommodation-wise, there’s the two-door regular cab and the four-door Quad Cab whose rear doors open the conventional way, which is convenient. Owners and reviewers have commented on the comfortable seats, along with interiors that are a marked improvement over its predecessors. A massive Mega Cab option came for ’06 models, adding 20 inches to the rear seating area.
Bed lengths run 6.3 feet and 8 feet. Maximum towing capacity is 8,860 pounds for the regular cab and 8,350 pounds for Quad Cab. Maximum payload is 2,530 and 1,770 pounds, respectively.
Off-Road and Work packages were options from ’03. The Off-Road setup was, naturally, for four-wheel-drive models only, bringing skid plates, upgraded cooling, all-terrain tires, 3.92 rear axle ratio, tow hooks, and a transfer case. The Work package kept things basic: grey bumpers, a grey grille, and steel wheels. That same year, the SLT Plus trim was replaced by the Laramie version.
Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, and full-time all-wheel drive became available in ’04. A facelift arrived in ’06, which featured an even stiffer frame, a new front suspension, a front axle-disconnect system with a new electronic transfer case, plus an optional rear-seat DVD system and satellite radio.
The inaugural ’02 model didn’t come without its teething problems, earning a lot of complaints for cracks in the dashboard (the same applies for ’03), plus a few for engine failure caused by oil sludge. The ’02 model year saw 12 recalls covering a wide variety of issues. The 5.7L V-8 appears to have been the most troublesome over this generation, usually with stalling glitches.
The book price for an all-wheel-drive ’05 SLT regular-cab short-bed in good condition, with the 4.7L V-8, is $8,858. A similar Chevy Silverado is valued at $8,812, and a comparable Ford F-150 is a little more expensive at $9,530.
|2002-2008 Dodge Ram 1500|
|Body Type||2-door/4-door pickup|
|Drivetrain||Front engine, RWD/4WD|
|Engines||3.7L/210hp SOHC V-6; 4.7L/235hp (310hp 2008-on) SOHC V-8; 5.9L/245hp OHV V-8 (’02-’04); 5.7L/345hp OHV V-8 (’04-’08); 8.4L/500hp OHV V-10 (’04-’06)|
|Brakes, F/R:||Disc/disc, ABS|
|Price Range, Whlsl/Retail (Kbb)||$1,362/$1,850 (’02, RWD ST, 3.7L V-6, Regular Cab, 6.3ft bed, manual trans), $19,217/$22,406 (’08, 4WD Laramie Quad Cab, 6.3ft bed, 5.7L V-8)|
|Recalls||Too many to list—see motortrend.com|
|Nhtsa Frontal Impact Rating, Driver/Fr Pass||Four stars/five stars|