Third Place
Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 Quad Cab SLT

Dodge's entry in the turbodiesel sweepstakes has two big cards to play: its great looks and that intriguing Cummins engine.

At a premium of $5460 (plus $1095 for the automatic transmission), the high-output version of the Cummins engine offers a goodly list of big numbers to ponder besides its steep option price. For instance, 600 pound-feet of torque at 1600 rpm. And how about a 350,000-mile lifetime-to-major-overhaul interval--100,000 more than its competitors? The torque figure is a volatile subject in this category, 600 being a benchmark envied and targeted by the industry (see GMC's Duramax plans later in our story).

Numbers aside, the Cummins straight-six is far and away the diesel-truck guy's diesel-truck engine on a sensory level. At idle, when the GMC and Ford V-8s sound like loose quarters in a dryer, the Cummins straight-six thunders with ricocheting silver dollars. And when you comment to a Cummins owner that, gee, maybe it feels cruder than the GMC Duramax or Ford Power Stroke alternatives, they smile in appreciation of the compliment (if you said it was rougher than 60-grit sandpaper, they might even high-five you). No accusation of primitiveness will offend these people.

Pop the hood, and the sight of the Cummins High Output turbodiesel is defiantly individual as well. It's nostalgically straightforward, a huge iron block entombing a half-dozen big 4.02-inch cylinders standing shoulder-to-shoulder like a row of cannon barrels. A hefty turbocharger spins in plain sight on its right side. No frilly faux-plastic covers here: The Cummins is a grand chunk of throw-back cast-iron honesty that proudly displays its metal components--bolts, tubing, and couplings--like tattoos on a bicep. While it seems the noisiest, that's more of a perception of the engine's particularly clattery texture. In reality, our dB meter perceived it as quieter than the GMC Duramax whether we were standing in front of the truck, seated behind the wheel at idle, or accelerating hard out of the hole.