November 29, 2002
by Jim Kerr
Photos by Grant Yoxon
The trend in truck buying is to go bigger. More drivers are purchasing
heavy duty pickups than ever before, and with the ride and comfort these
traditional working trucks now offer, it is no surprise. The latest
heavy-duty truck to hit the market is Dodge’s Ram Heavy Duty.
Available in three trim levels, the 2003 Ram HD comes in a 2500 (3/4 ton) and 3500 (one ton) series with regular cabs and quad cab options. 2500 series models are available in short and long wheelbase bodystyles. Add in the optional engines, transfer cases, and equipment packages, and there are hundreds of variations of the basic truck. Our test vehicle was a 2500 series Quad Cab short wheelbase with SLT trim and a sports appearance package. The SL trim offers all the powertrain features at a lower price, while the Laramie trim adds luxury features such as leather seats.
Click image to enlarge
The bold styling of the Ram HD first appeared in the 2002 Ram half ton
pickups. The HD models carry over the body design with the same tough
truck image on the inside as well as the outside. A 40/20/40 split front
seat has a centre section with a compartment large enough to hold a
laptop or a year’s worth of invoices! The rear seat is also split and
folds to reveal storage compartments below the seat. A rugged grain
texture on the dash with large cup holders and bright gauges imply this
truck means business. Drive it and you will find it does.
While the majority of the Ram HD trucks will be ordered with a Cummins
diesel engine, there are two gasoline engines offered. The V10 was used
in previous HD trucks, but the 5.7 litre HEMI V8 engine is all new. The
name Hemi can cause a hot rodder’s blood pressure to jump. A short form
of the word hemispherical, Hemi describes the shape of the combustion
chamber in the cylinder head. Why is this important? Because hemi head
designs flow a lot of air, and to an engine, more air equals more power,
lots more power..
Usually associated with the very fast high performance Dodge and
Plymouth cars of the 60′s and 70′s, the Hemi, introduced in 1951,
actually saw life as a heavy duty truck motor starting in 1954. The 2003
HEMI engine puts out 345 horses, but its strong point is the 375 ft lbs
of torque at 4200 rpm. Torque is pulling power, and that is what this
truck is designed to do.
On the road, the engine pulls strongly and passing is deceptively quick
for a large truck. The five speed automatic uses two different second
gear ratios depending whether it is upshifting or downshifting. Shifts are smooth and quick. The manual transfer case can be shifted into low
range and I found this 4×4 unit was at home off-road as it was on the highway,
with lots of low rpm torque to pull the truck up steep hills.
Fuel economy isn't rated on heavy duty vehicles, and if you watch the
fuel gauge on the large 128 litre fuel tank, the Ram HEMI appears
economical. I found the engine was a little thirsty, but that is the
price paid for power.
Solid axles front and rear give the RAM HD strong off-road capability
with low service requirements. Multi stage rear leaf springs and front
multi-link control arms with coil springs give a comfortable ride with
excellent load capacity. The ride is noticeably stiffer than a half ton
model but still quite comfortable.
Click image to enlarge
Four wheel disc brakes are standard on all models, and they are the
largest in the industry. Electronic brake proportioning is used to make
stopping solid and secure under different load conditions and ABS works
both on and off road. Optional electrically adjustable pedal position
puts the driver in the optimum driving position, while keeping them back
from the driver side air bag. Side curtain air bags are an option on all
With a stiff, hydroformed frame, short and long box options, and towing
capacity of up to 13,150 pounds, this RAM truck is designed for work. A
comfortable, quiet cab with room for six and features like air
conditioning, power windows, and Infinity sound system help take the
effort out of work.
Technical Data: 2003 Dodge Ram 2500 HD 4X4 Quad Cab SLT
|Base price (Quad Cab 4X4)||$38,505|
|Price as tested||$43,395|
|Type||4-door, 6 passenger full size pickup|
|Layout||longitudinal front engine/4X4|
|Engine||5.7 litre OHV V8, HEMI|
|Horsepower||345 @ 5400 rpm|
|Torque||375 ft-lb @ 4200 rpm|
|Transmission||5-speed automatic, manual transfer case|
|Towing capacity||5965 kg (13,150 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||3568 mm (140.5 in.)|
|Length||5783 mm (227.7 in.)|
|Width||2029 mm (79.9 in.)|
|Height||1994 mm (78.5 in.)|
|Fuel consumption||Not rated|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|
|Powertrain warranty||7 yrs/115,000 km|
Special Features/Options: alloy wheels, fog lamps, body colour grille
and bumpers, AM/FM/CD 6 speaker sound system, air conditioning, security
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