During Motor Trend's 2003 Truck of the Year competition, there was only one pickup that had the towing/hauling capacity and powertrain packages to back it up as the truck of the year: Dodge's Heavy Duty Ram. The 2500 and 3500 led the pack of competitors, whether blazing trails, snaking through rush-hour traffic, or pulling 30-foot boats--on- or off-road.
But if there's one thing we love about trucks, it's lots of power and torque. With no fewer than two gas and three diesel-engine offerings (and manual or automatic transmissions), it's the return of the Hemi that we like. Reaching its torque peak of 365 lb-ft at 4400 rpm, the 5.7-liter/345-horse Hemi pulls with the best of them--especially in 0-60 acceleration (posting an 8.1-second time) during our testing.
Of the three variations of the 5.9-liter I-6 Cummins turbodiesels that motivate the HD, the high-output common-rail injected, 305-horse 555 lb-ft of torque mammoth (with a 350K mile to overhaul interval) is our favorite. Dodge includes the NV5600 six-speed manual (with a 5.71:1 granny first gear). A heavy-duty version of the four-speed automatic is an option.
Whenever a manufacturer takes home the Golden Calipers, we get to take the winner home for a year. While we would've loved to put a 3500 4x4 Quad Cab dualie in our garage, most buyers will saddle up with the 2500 variant, and that's what we chose for our long-term test.
Grabbing an order form, we checked off the 4x4 Quad Cab SLT model, with Graphite Metallic paint and Slate Gray interior. Oh, yeah, gotta get the 5.7-liter Hemi. Then we added the Laramie 26H-Preferred Package (which includes power leather seats, power pedals, electric shift-on-the-fly transfer case, Infiniti AM/FM/CD sound system, skidplates, and a whole lot more) for $4735; the Sport Appearance Group (a lot of body-color accents at $195). Side airbags were added ($490), as well as front seat heaters ($140), the Trailer Tow Group ($405) and the five-speed 5-45RFE automatic tranny ($1170).