Long-term Update: 2003 Dodge Ram 2500 HD

We take a winner for a drive

Scott Mead –
Mar 15, 2004
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.
Photo 2/3   |   2003 Dodge Ram 2500 Hd top Engine View
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).
Photo 3/3   |   2003 Dodge Ram 2500 Hd open Tailgate Top View
Since we plan on some heavy hauling, the 4.10:1 axle ratio (a whopping $50 upgrade) was a must, as were the limited-slip differential ($285) and protective bedliner ($245). With $795 in destination charges, our out-the-door price came to $38,815.

Since our 2500 just entered the fleet, the odometer only has a mere 642 miles on it, and we've just scratched the surface breaking in the Hemi. We're already in love with its deep, throaty exhaust note, macho image, and commanding view over the sub-compacts below. Since summer is right around the corner, a few editors are talking about pulling a large trailer on a camping safari, and others are looking forward to getting the family boat to the lake a few times this season. We also don't doubt our HD will become a favorite hauler, especially since one of our editors has a large landscaping project ahead of him. TT
{{{2003 Dodge Ram 2500}}} HD
Engine5.7L OHV 16-valve V-8
Miles 642
EPA, city/hwy N/A
Observed average, mpg9.8
Observed worst, mpg8.7
Observed best, mpg10.7
Average distance per fill-up214.3
Average cost per gallon$2.16
Average cost per fill-up$45.96
Number of services0
Overall service cost$0
- OF



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