As heavily contested as NASCAR, the full-size pickup market pits fierce competitors against one another in a battle of power, payload, styling, and machismo. Dodge rewrote the rules in 1994 with the oversized, Semi-inspired Ram. It's a new century now, and the Dodge Boys feel they have the product to again trump Chevrolet and Ford.
Dodge was determined not to rest on its success, reciting the objective, "Continue to be bold, and make the market follow." That directive is apparent with the debut of the new 2002 Dodge Ram at the Chicago Auto Show.
We had a sneak peak at the new Ram. It looks bigger and more aggressive than ever before, and has received a ground-up redesign, with modifications to its bodywork, powertrain, chassis, and interior: all designed to refine and improve its comfort and capability.
While the Ram maintains its intimidating appearance and enormous horsecollar grille, designers paid careful attention to its sheetmetal to create more sensitive lines. The back of the cab is slightly curved to eliminate the gap between the bed and cabin for a more seamless appearance. The wheelwells are rounded for a more visually pleasing space between the tire and truck. Expressive horizontal headlights are actually more efficient. And the slope of the windshield provides a more aerodynamic body shape for reduced wind noise and improved visibility.
The 2002 Dodge Ram will be offered in familiar regular cab and Quad Cab form with both two- and four-wheel drive and with four trim levels: ST, SLT, Sport, and SLT+. However, the Quad Cab model now has four full-size forward-opening doors providing access to a cabin three inches larger than before. Dodge snuck those inches from the bed, resulting in a 6-foot 3-inch cargo bed, but keeping the overall vehicle length the same. Designers feel they've found the "sweetspot in the segment," offering a cab/box/overall vehicle size that "gives the perfect balance to people and cargo accommodations."
The current 3.9-liter/175-hp V-6 engine will be replaced by a new 3.7-liter/212-hp Magnum V-6, and a new 4.7-liter/235-hp Magnum V-8 will take the place of the 5.2-liter/230-hp engine; both of these engines borrowed from the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The 5.9-liter/245-hp Magnum V-8 remains the top offering in the lineup. And even with all of this additional horsepower, Dodge promises improved fuel economy, though final ratings will not be released until April. (Turbodiesel and V-10 offerings are expected to follow in about a year in the 2003 heavy-duty models.) A new 45RFE tranny improves smoothness and efficiency with electronic controls and optimized gear ratios. The rear axle is available in 3.55:1 or 3.92:1 ratios, with a limited-slip differential.