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2004 Dodge Ram 2500 Review - Long-Term Update

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on May 1, 2005
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Four months and 9,000 miles after its much-anticipated arrival in the Four Wheeler long-term test fleet, our Cummins-powered Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Laramie 4x4 Quad Cab (whew, that's a mouthful) was reassigned from sun-drenched Southern California to a much more sinister environment at our Midwest Bureau in northern Illinois. This meant a whirlwind 1,592-mile road trip through eight states. With deadlines looming, there was no time to sightsee during this jaunt, so 18-hour driving days were standard operating procedure. We must give kudos to the excellent Laramie leather seating and the phenomenal interior ergonomics for making these long hours behind the wheel enjoyable. Never once did we want to flee screaming from the Ram at the end of the day. We think this is a remarkable achievement for a 3/4-ton truck that's designed to work hard, tips the scales at 6,780 pounds, and can haul a maximum payload of 2,230 pounds or pull a maximum trailer weight of 15,950 pounds.

There's a lot to be said for good ergonomics, thus there's a lot to be said for the interior of the Ram. In addition, the dash layout is simple and straightforward, though some may argue that it's a bit bland. The gauges are lit very well for nighttime driving and there's plenty of overhead and map lighting for even the most night-blind person.

Shortly after the Ram's arrival in the Midwest, the warm weather went south. Literally. It was replaced with bitterly cold below-zero temperatures that gave us the much-welcome opportunity to see how the Cummins diesel engine performs in frigid environments. The lowest cold start-up to date has been 14 below zero F. With no engine-block heater and just one cycle of the manifold heater (approximately 30 seconds), the engine started right up. In true diesel form, it ran so rough at first that it triggered the motion-sensing car alarm on the minivan behind us, but after a few seconds it smoothed out to a smooth idle.

The next big test was a blizzard that dumped almost a foot of snow punctuated by 4-foot snowdrifts. Once again, the Ram performed admirably. With the NV273 transfer case locked in 4-Hi, we were able to confidently scoot along the snow-covered roads at a good clip, partly due to the very good handling created by the refined coil-spring front suspension.

Previous report: Feb. '05
Base price: $31,375
Price as tested: $44,105
Four-wheel-drive system: Rotary knob-controlled electric-shift two-speed transfer case

Miles to date: 15,683
Miles since last report: 6,633
Average mpg: 15.6
Best tank mpg: 17.1
Worst tank mpg: 13.4 (unladen), 8.5 (towing)

12,000-mile service: Oil and filter change; chassis lube; tire rotation; 27-point inspection; new fuel filter
Cost: $183.74
Problem areas: Front door seal

Hot: We're thrilled with the powerful and refined 5.9L Cummins 600 Turbo Diesel engine. As this Common-Rail Direct Injection System engine continues through its break-in cycle, the fuel mileage continues to creep upward. We also appreciate the fact that this is the quietest diesel engine ever in a Ram. We must also mention the 48RE four-speed automatic transmission, which provides firm and precise shifts and never seems to get confused and hunt for a gear.
Not: The front door design allows contact between the door and the A-pillar door seal when the door is opening and closing, resulting in a squeak and eventual damage to the seal, and our tester doesn't have the optional rear limited-slip differential, which forces us to use four-wheel drive to accelerate quickly on wet pavement.

* "Superb ergonomics, nice, responsive steering feel, surprisingly nimble."
* "From the driver seat, visibility is excellent in all directions."
* "Bumpy pavement ride, but this is a minor quibble compared to this truck's many virtues."

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