Two of a Kind
Chevy and Dodge probably have intelligence-gathering Predator drones flying over each other's engineering labs--that's how similar in specification the Ram Hemi and Silverado SS are. Each features a 345-horsepower pushrod V-8 engine, a live-axle rear suspension, four disc brakes with ABS, 20-inch wheels wearing the same 275/55R20 Goodyear Eagle LS tires, and a monochromatic paint job. Each also made its debut in the '03 model year.

There are differences, of course. At a glance, the Chevy seems the brawnier of the two. This is a square-jawed machine--upright stance, chiseled prow, plastic egg-crate grille, deep front air dam with high-swagger air intakes, and subtle muscle swelling from each wheel arch. The SS' V-8 is bigger than the Ram's: It's a 6.0-liter unit delivering its 345-horsepower peak at 5200 rpm and turning out 380 lb-ft of torque at 4000. There's some added hardware in the drivetrain, too: The four-speed automatic transmission feeds the V-8's power full-time to all four wheels through a central viscous coupling.

True to its Marlboro Man demeanor, the SS is broad-shouldered and rugged. It rides on a generous 143.5-inch wheelbase and wears an extended cab with small rear-hinged back doors. Curb weight is a hefty 5300 pounds. The window sticker is hefty, too: Base price is $39,995.

The Ram 1500 is the stealthy player in this duo--though you may wonder how a sport pickup dipped in Flame Red paint and wearing chrome wheels could ever be called "stealthy." There's no ostentatious "I'm Fast!" ornamentation on the Ram. No rear wing, no bulges in the wheelwells, no "Ram air" scoop on the hood, no hyperactive cartoon characters screaming on the tailgate. Just a clean, modern design with--on our test vehicle--a neatly integrated sport-appearance option containing foglamps and a body-color front end.

A closer look reveals clues to the Ram's prowess. On the front fenders are small badges containing the magic word "Hemi." Spot those, and suddenly this pickup's soul is laid bare. Under the hood lies Dodge's all-new 5.7-liter overhead-valve Hemi Magnum V-8. Its 345 horsepower comes at 5400 rpm; peak torque (375 lb-ft) is available at 4200. The Dodge bests the Chevy with an available five-speed automatic transmission (a required selection with the Hemi). Four-wheel drive is available, but our SLT test truck was rear-drive.

Riding on a short 120.5-inch wheelbase (a 140.5-inch wheelbase is available) and sporting a two-door Regular cab, the Ram 1500 tips the scales at just under 4800 pounds. Base price on our Ram 1500 was a low $22,040. Even pumped up with the Hemi option (at just $795, an easy decision) and a load of conveniences, our test truck still checked in at a very approachable $27,820.