The Short Version: Great steering precision. Lots of storage. Are there really springs bac
Dodge Ram Heavy Duty 2500
Dodge enters the '03 heavy-duty wars with an all-new truck. Probably the most obvious change is a new exterior that gives it a more aerodynamic look, a look that's almost identical to that of the 1500 that got this sheetmetal last year. Inside that fresh skin is an all-new interior. All that is good, but at the heart of the new Ram Heavy Duty, resting on an all-new chassis that includes a revamped recirculating ball steering system, are two new engines--the 5.7L V-8 Hemi Magnum and the high output Cummins turbodiesel.
Thankfully, a solid axle remains up front with a refined version of the five-link, coil-spring suspension that has been used on previous Dodge Ram HDs. The rear consists of the standard leaf-spring, live-axle setup but uses springs that are 3 inches longer, compared to previous generations.
What we liked
Every one of our judges raved about the new interior of the Dodge. The new design is big and roomy. Adults can actually fit in its rear seat and ride in comfort. This interior is a very comfortable place in which to tick off miles, as the leather seats offer lots of adjustability and support. Versatility is also a strong feature of the interior, as its clever design offers plenty of storage areas.
More praise was lavished on the steering, which was exceptionally tight and responsive. Surprising most judges was the Ram's handling on twisty pavement, which was judged as above average for such a large vehicle.
What we didn't like
The Ram 2500 Heavy Duty that we tested was powered by the new 5.7L V-8 Hemi engine, which produces 345 hp at 5,400 rpm and 375 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm. To say that we didn't like this engine would not be fair; but most judges noted that the power output was good, but not great.
On the highway, the big Dodge rode quite firmly, but this wasn't a huge shock. Unfortunately, that stiff ride was translated to the trail. On high-speed sections of our testing venue, the Dodge's ride was unbearable. The firm suspension also gave it a massive case of wheelhop. Step on the gas in the dirt and the big Dodge would shudder worse than an L.A. earthquake. While the Ram did better at slower speeds, its touchy throttle in low range made it difficult to drive with finesse.
The Dodge was hampered by its stiff suspension, which hurt its highway ride and trail performance and cost it points. While this should be no surprise--this is a 3/4-ton truck, after all--this is a comparison test, weighted toward trail performance, in which all trucks are evaluated on the same criteria. And the Dodge did not compare well. If you are looking for a trail truck with lots of suspension compliance and a smooth ride, this is not the rig for you. But if you are in the market for a rig with the capabilities of a 3/4-ton and a big, comfy interior, you'll do well to check it out.
Check It Out If:
You're looking for a state-of-the-art truck interior in a vehicle with the capacity to haul huge loads.
Avoid It If:
If you feel that a vehicle ought not to jar your fillings loose.