If this keeps up, some may accuse Dodge of being bipolar, schizophrenic, or at least guilty of playing on both sides of the fence. First it presented the Rampage at the Chicago auto show (see the full story in this issue), which bore more than a small similarity to the Odyssey-minivan-based Honda Ridgeline, then it released a revised commercial-duty Ram 3500 Chassis Cab with a new 6.7-liter (408-cubic-inch) I-6 Cummins intercooled turbo-diesel, making 305 horsepower at 3000 rpm and 610 pound-feet of torque at 1600 rpm. Nice try, Dodge, but you didn't sneak that one by us. This new Cummins is clearly a response in size and power to the ongoing diesel wars Ford, Chevy, and Dodge are having in the highly profitable 3/4- and one-ton full-size truck marketplace. It's no coincidence that this new turbo- diesel is now the largest of the three, albeit just 0.1-liter over the Duramax 6.6-liter V-8. Also playing into Dodge's favor, with the addition of a larger B-motor-based Cummins, is that this new engine was designed to run on the coming ultra-low-sulfur fuel, so emissions will be just a fraction of what they were. Add an all-new heavy-duty six-speed automatic transmission option, a standard 52-gallon fuel tank (with an optional 22-gallon reserve tank), and a choice between regular and Quad Cab configurations, and it makes sense why Dodge should be promoting this "new" pickup platform with vigor. It's worth noting that, although this new Cummins motor puts out less horsepower and the same amount of torque as the current 5.9-liter I-6 turbodiesel, we're guessing there's plenty of room for squeaking more power out when the engine makes it into the next-generation Ram HD. No doubt Cummins knows it'll need some growing room when Isuzu (Duramax) and International (Power Stroke) respond to this upgrade.
The truck itself was specifically designed for the commercial user who has to outfit his rig for specific jobs with the city, state, or private businesses. The new chassis cab is offered in two- or four-wheel drive, with single or dual rear wheels. In fact, Dodge is boasting its SRW (single rear-wheel) configuration offers the highest GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) at 10,200 pounds, which should allow for payloads ranging between 4000 and 6500 pounds. Dual rear-wheel models will have a maximum GVWR of 12,500, with all Cummins-equipped Rams offering a GCWR of 23,000. We like those numbers. By making these modifications to an existing one-ton chassis, Dodge is hoping to attract more buyers with its bigger Quad Cab models, which include more comfortable interiors than many commercial-use drivers are used to.
GM has its TopKick and Kodiak, Ford has its F-450 and F-550, and now Dodge will enter the medium-duty market with a heavier-duty version of its Ram 3500. (Can a Ram 4500 and 5500 be far behind?) It wouldn't surprise us if many "personal-use" one-ton Ram buyers (those who like to tow their fifth-wheel around the country or to horse shows) would want to head down to their local Dodge dealer to ask about this special setup. Thus far, no word on whether the Mega Cab will make it into production on the commercial side (might need a longer-wheelbase version), and we'd expect some of these modifications to make it into the next-generation 2500 and 3500 Rams. If this new Cummins is as good as Dodge is saying, we hope those powertrain upgrades happen quickly. We'll have more to write about when we get some seat time.
|Price range||$40,000-$50,000 (est)|
|Layout||Front engine, 4WD, 4-door, 6-pass|
| Engine||6.7L/305-hp I-6 TD, OHV, 4 valves/cyl|
|Transmission||6-speed auto or manual|
|0-60 mph, sec||N/A|
|On sale||Fall 2006|