One look at Dodge's new-from-the-frame-up '02 Ram 1500 tells you it's changed. Yes, it retains the "I wanna be a Kenworth" look that bowed so successfully in '94, but does so with very different proportions. We've driven it and come away initially impressed with its roomier cab, smoother ride, and quieter powertrain. Structurally, the frame is an amazing 400 percent stiffer than before, and there's an all-new four-door body configuration offered as well.

The Ram can be equipped with one of three powerplants, two of which are new: a 3.7L/210-hp SOHC V-6 or a 4.7L/235-hp SOHC V-8. The third, and largest, is the holdover 5.9L/245-hp OHV V-8. Unfortunately, the all-new Hemi V-8 is at least two years away. The 3.7L and 4.7L engines can be had with either a four-speed automatic transmission or five-speed manual, while the 5.9 is available only with an automatic.

Our drive revealed improved handling with excellent rack-and-pinion steering, more powerful and progressive stopping courtesy of new four-wheel discs, and a well-controlled body-on-frame ride via new short- and long-arm front suspension. There's a live axle in the rear with longitudinal leaf springs. Another update truck buyers will love is the increased towing and payload capacities, plus still-roomy cab. At first blush, we think the new truck is better than the old one; full road test to follow.