We've been waiting for the Chevy SS ever since the concept first rolled onto the SEMA Show floor last year. With a high-output LQ9 version of the venerable Vortec 6000, the 345-horsepower OHV V-8 delivers 380 lb-ft of torque through its standard all-wheel-drive viscous-coupled transfer case, and, with its 4L65-E four-speed automatic fitted with a 3.06:1 first cog, it's mighty impressive out of the hole. At the test track, it launched to 30 mph in 2.10 seconds, 60 mph came in 6.6 seconds, and it sliced the quarter-mile beams in 15.0 at 89.1.

In the braking department, the SS nearly pulled up the asphalt on its 60-0- mph emergency braking test, posting a 119-foot stop. We expected the Chevy to throw down the gauntlet in the 600-foot slalom, especially carrying its AWD system derived from the GMC Sierra C3 (now Sierra Denali). The Silverado snaked through the cones at 61.3-mph for second best in the test.

Crosstown rivals, the Dodge boys, have us chomping at the bit, waiting for the Viper-powered SRT-10, due out next year. Until we can get our hands on that tire shredder, they've developed a true Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde truck: a 1500 Ram with the potent 5.7-liter Hemi Magnum. Motor Trend named the Heavy Duty Ram its '03 Truck of the Year, and the Hemi fully impressed the staff of both magazines. But if the Ram fared well in a 5466-pound Quad Cab HD, then we expected it to do better in a 4970-pound 1500 regular-cab version. We were right.

Twisting the key brings to life 345 horsepower and an exhaust note that's music to our ears. Routing the power through a 5-45RFE slush box and 3.92:1 anti-spin differential, the Ram posted impressive numbers: 0-30 mph came in 2.3 seconds, and we saw 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, with the quarter mile at 15.1 at 89.1.

Through the cones, the Ram was crisp, confident, and the one to beat, posting a 62.3 pass through the timers. The Dodge's binders were the most resistant to fade in repeated emergency-braking tests, but the best it could muster was a 132-foot stop from 60 mph.