2002 Dodge Ram Wagon 2500 Review
Truckville gets a new mayor.
A pleasant ride quality and a responsive engine characterize the driving experience. The 2002 Dodge Ram rides much more smoothly than last year's model.
A rigid new chassis has reduced vibration dramatically. Dodge used an increasingly popular manufacturing process called hydroforming to fashion the frame. Instead of having to weld a bunch of straight pieces together, Dodge uses ultra-high water pressure to form the frame in any shape needed. This highly rigid frame is arguably the most important aspect of this new pickup. It allowed Dodge engineers to redesign the Ram suspension and to tune it precisely, without having to work around a lot of chassis flex.
A new rack-and-pinion steering setup sharpens handling, and 17-inch wheels are standard. The result is better handling, a better ride, and a truck that feels much tighter. Handling and maneuverability were key goals of the Ram design team, according to Dodge, in an effort to help drivers avoid crashes. All Rams come standard with big four-wheel disc brakes that are smooth and easy to modulate. Dodge claims they are the largest brakes in the segment.
Pickup trucks don't seem to be getting any smaller. One of the first sensations of driving the Ram is awareness of its immense proportions. This truck feels big and tall, and its fenders seem to fill small country roads. The ride height of the Ram adds to this sensation. It's sometimes difficult to be sure exactly where your fenders are, so it's not the best truck for the timid. In this regard, the Ram is the opposite of the Toyota Tundra, which feels smaller and nimbler by comparison. The big Ram reminds us a bit of driving an off-road race truck. It handles reasonably well and powers through or over just about anything, but the tires aren't always precisely where you wanted them.
Most Ram buyers will get the new 4.7-liter V8, and it's the best choice unless you have good, specific reasons to order the 3.7-liter or 5.9-liter engine. The first thing I noticed about driving a Ram pickup with the 4.7-liter was its responsiveness. This truck feels very eager around town and on winding roads. It accelerates quickly onto freeways and has no trouble powering up grades. It's a smooth, sophisticated engine that always feels ready to go.
The 4.7-liter V8 and 3.7-liter V6 are overhead-cam designs, smaller and more efficient than the overhead-valve engines they replace. The 4.7-liter V8, for example, offers a 1 mpg improvement (13/17 mpg City/Highway for a 4WD automatic) over the 5.2-liter V8 engine it replaces; it revs higher and produces 240 horsepower, 10 more than the 5.2-liter, but torque has dropped by 5 foot-pounds to 295. In practical terms, this is splitting hairs. What you will notice is that the 4.7-liter engine feels smoother and more refined, emitting a pleasant American burble while underway. I really liked it. Likewise the transmission feels smooth and does a good job of keeping the engine in the power band.
The new 3.7-liter V6 is smooth and works just fine with the manual five-speed gearbox. It might be a good choice for someone who lives in the flatlands at relatively low altitudes and neither pulls trailers nor hauls heavy loads.
The 5.9-liter engine uses the older overhead-valve design; the 5.9-liter engine and transmission feel crude in comparison to the new 4.7-liter. The 5.9 will do a good job of towing, but on the road it doesn't feel noticeably more powerful than the 4.7.
Trailer towing capacities range from just 3150 pounds for a 3.7-liter V6 with 2WD manual transmission to 8650 for a 5.9-liter V8 with 2WD automatic and 3.92 rear axle ratio. A 4WD Ram with the 4.7-liter is rated to pull a 7,550-pound trailer with the 3.92 rear axle ratio. Those who need to pull trailers up to 8500 pounds will want to opt for the 5.9-liter engine. It delivers 245 horsepower and 335 pounds-feet of torque. The available 20-inch wheels reduce towing capacity by 1000 pounds.
Payloads range from a mere 1320 pounds for a 4WD Quad Cab long bed with the 5.9-liter V8 to 1850 pounds for a 2WD regular cab with the 3.7-liter V6.
Four-wheel-drive models come with an all-new torsion-bar independent front suspension. Four-wheel-drive models use a part-time system that can be shifted from two-wheel drive on the fly. Shifting into four-wheel-drive high locks the center differential. A low-range set of gears provides superior traction in extreme conditions. A limited-slip anti-spin" rear differential is available and recommended for serious off-road use. A Protection Group ($415) includes skid plates for the front suspension and transfer case. Rear axles are available in a standard 3.55 ratio or a higher numerical 3.92 ratio, which is better for towing and off-road driving."
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