by Greg Wilson
The massive grille and imposing front-end of the newly-redesigned 2002 Dodge Ram half-ton pickup may be intimidating, but the new Ram pickup is a refined driving machine. Numerous mechanical improvements for 2002 include two new, more powerful engines, a new automatic transmission, new four-wheel disc brakes, a new independent front suspension on 4X4 models, and a new stronger frame. There’s more interior room and the four-door Quad Cab model now has four front-hinged doors. Prices range from $23,255 to approximately $40,000 with options.
Tough looks, great handling, and good value
If grille size were a measure of merit, the new 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup would be an instant winner. The Ram’s new front-end styling incorporates a massive chromed grille (body-coloured on Sport models), new larger, brighter halogen headlamps under clear plastic covers, and an imposing bumper – all of which, incredibly, makes the last Ram pickup look downright wimpy.
But tough new looks are just one of the many changes to the redesigned full-size half-ton Ram pickup. The 2002 Ram is a new truck underneath, with a much stiffer hydroformed frame and new front and rear crush zones for improved crash safety, two new engines, a new automatic transmission, more interior room, improved ride, handling, steering and braking; increased refinement, and more safety features.
Specifically, the 2002 Ram 1500 offers new rack and pinion steering (which replaces the recirculating ball type); a new independent torsion bar front suspension on 4X4 models; new standard four wheel disc brakes with standard rear ABS and optional four wheel ABS (replacing front disc/rear drum); new standard 17 inch tires and new optional 20 inch tires; and new optional side curtain airbags, a first for a pickup truck.
For 2002, the Ram 1500 comes in two bodystyles instead of three: two-door regular cab and four-door Quad Cab – the two-door extended cab model has been dropped. The new Quad Cab now has four front hinged doors instead of two front-hinged doors and two rear-hinged door panels – in other words, it’s now a crew cab.
Base 4X2 regular cab models have a new 215 horsepower 3.7 litre SOHC 12 valve V6 engine that replaces the aging 175 horsepower 3.9 litre OHV V6. The new 3.7 litre V6 has slightly more torque than the old engine and slightly better fuel consumption. Ram Quad Cab trucks have a new standard 240 horsepower 4.7 litre SOHC 16 valve V8 engine (the same as in the Grand Cherokee) which replaces the 230 horsepower 5.2 litre OHV V8 engine. The 4.7 litre engine has 300 lb-ft of torque at 3200 rpm, comparable to the 5.2 litre V8. The big 245 horsepower 5.9 litre OHV V8 engine with 335 lb-ft of torque at 3200 rpm is carried over from last year.
A new multi-speed four-speed automatic transmission which automatically selects different gear ratios depending on load is now offered with the 3.7 litre V6 and 4.7 litre V8 engines. This transmission is better suited for hauling heavy loads and towing trailers, but unfortunately, it’s not offered with the torquier 5.9 litre V8 which retains a standard four-speed automatic transmission. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on base models.
Roomier, quieter interior
My test truck was a Quad Cab SLT 4X4 with the optional 20 inch tires and wheels. With these tires, the step-up height into the cab is over two feet. The first time I tried to get in to the Ram, I grabbed the handle on the windshield pillar with my left hand and yanked myself into the seat, pulling a muscle in the process. The proper way to get in, I discovered, is to grab the handle or steering wheel with your right hand, put your right foot on the sill, and launch yourself sideways across the front seat. It takes a bit of practice.
The Ram’s driving position is high, so visibility is excellent. As well, the Quad Cab has large, square side windows and a big rectangular rear window, so there’s no problem with visibility when changing lanes or backing up.
The Ram Quad Cab now has four front-hinged doors. The rear doors are longer than the previous rear-hinged door panels, and they have new outside door handles so they can be opened independently of the front doors.
Though the rear doors are shorter than the front doors, access to the back seat is unimpeded because the rear doors swing out 85 degrees, almost perpendicular to the body. For 2002, the Quad Cab’s cabin has been lengthened by 3.7 inches to create a roomier cab, particularly in the rear seat area. By my reckoning, there’s more rear seat legroom in the Ram than in the Ford SuperCrew pickup, but less than in the GM Sierra/Silverado crew cab.
The Ram’s cabin is wide and spacious with plenty of headroom, legroom and elbow room, however the rear seat is not as comfortable as the front seat because the rear seat cushions are shorter than the front seats’ and the backrest is more upright.
In front, the standard 40/20/40 front seat will seat three people, but the centre passenger has to straddle the 4WD gear lever, so it’s not very comfortable. When there’s no centre passenger, the centre seatback folds down to create a wide, comfortable armrest with a built-in storage area. This storage bin is big enough to hold a laptop computer, camera, workpad, daytimer, or what-have-you, and has a built-in 12 volt power outlet and coinholder. In addition, there are flip-up dividers in the storage bin which are useful for storing smaller objects so they don’t get thrown around when cornering. There’s also a hidden storage area underneath the centre seat cushion. Curiously, the passenger-side glovebox is really small.
2002 Dodge Ram SLT
Click image to enlarge
The Ram’s instruments are easy-to-read white-faced gauges with black lettering – two large round dials for the speedometer and tachometer, and four smaller gauges for battery, fuel, oil temperature and oil pressure. The four-speed automatic transmission is operated by a column shifter with on/off overdrive button. With its optional height adjustable driver’s seat, tilt steering wheel, and power adjustable brake and accelerator pedals, short or tall drivers will find a position that’s comfortable for them.
In the centre instrument panel, a radio/CD/cassette stereo is on top and a heater/air conditioner is in the middle, a reversal of the Ram’s previous layout. All the major controls are big enough to be operated with gloves on. I noted that there are redundant radio volume, seek and band buttons on the back of the steering wheel spokes – I liked these because they can be operated with your forefingers while gripping the steering wheel.
At the base of the centre console is a panel that folds down to reveal two cupholders that have adjustable cup grips. There’s also a 12 volt powerpoint and ashtray. Something I hadn’t seen before is a large hook on the right side of the dash for hanging bags, gloves, binoculars, or anything with a strap.
On the floor, is a lever for the part-time 4WD system which includes 4L0, Neutral, 2HI, 4HI positions. A new electronic push-button 4WD control is optional for 2002.
The Ram Quad Cab has unique 70/30 split rear seat cushions that fold up against the seatbacks to provide extra interior cargo space. Underneath the seat cushions are two open storage areas, and optional on the SLT model, is a steel loading floor that can support heavy, dirty items like toolkits, power tools, work boots and construction items weighing up to 500 lb. The flat, ribbed steel load floor has a flip-over panel that extends the load floor from the front seats to the rear seatbacks. I highly recommend this option because it’s so useful.
Other rear seat niceties include two rear cupholders, a seatback pocket on the passenger side, and grocery bag hooks on the vertical face of the flip-up seat cushions. The rear seat has three three-point rear seatbelts, but rear head restraints are not offered. A rear window with a sliding centre window is available.
One of the first things I noticed about the new Ram was how quiet the cabin was. There’s less engine and drivetrain noise, and vibration-related noises have been reduced due to a new stronger, hydroformed frame, tighter body, and improved suspension. My truck had the carryover 5.9 litre V8 engine, so I knew it wasn’t because of improvements to the engine.
I also noticed that the big Goodyear Wrangler HT 275/60R-20 inch tires (with five-spoke chrome alloy wheels) were surprisingly quiet – remember when knobby off-road truck tires made a deafening hum at highway speeds? Truck tire technology has come a long way in the last decade.
But perhaps the biggest improvement to the Ram is the way it steers, corners, and rides. Initially, I drove this truck on the tight, narrow, twisty mountain roads of Tennessee which are bordered by steep cliffs where, if you went off, you would never be found again. It’s a great place to test a Porsche, but I wasn’t looking forward to driving a huge, honking pickup truck down slick, narrow mountain roads. So, I was very surprised at how easy the new Ram was to drive there. The Ram’s new power rack and pinion steering is very precise, the big truck goes where you point it, and it tracks well in a straight line. The Ram feels smaller and more manoeuvrable than it is, and believe me, this is a big truck. Strange to say for a truck, but it was almost ‘fun-to-drive’.
In particular, I was impressed at how well the rear tires stuck to the ground. As pickup truck owners know, trucks without a load in the bed have a way of spinning their rear tires without the least provocation, even on a dry road. The Ram has more composure than other trucks – with more grip and less wheel hop, I felt much safer in the new Ram. Some credit must be given to the Goodyear Wrangler 20 inch tires. Anti-lock brakes on the rear wheels are standard, but I would highly recommend getting the optional four wheel ABS system.
The Ram’s powerful 5.9 litre V8 helps the heavy Ram accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in about 10 seconds, quick for a full-size pickup. Braking distances, according to test conducted by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, were 158 feet from 100 to 0 km/h, about fourteen feet longer than the Avalanche. I suspect this Ram didn’t have four-wheel ABS.
In my test-drive, I found the Ram to be a very pleasant highway cruiser – quiet, powerful, comfortable and with good visibility. On the freeway, the 5.9 litre engine does just 1,750 rpm at 100 km/h and 2,100 rpm at 120 km/h.
Cargo carrying capability
The short box in the 2002 Ram is about three inches shorter than in the 2001 Ram because the cab was lengthened to create more interior room. The short box is now 6’3″ while the long box is 8’0″. With the tailgate down, the short box is 2540 mm (100.0 in.) in length, while the long box is 3099 mm (122.0 in.). The width between the wheel housings on both boxes is 1295 mm (51.0 in.) and overall width is 1686 mm (66.4 in.). Box depth is 510 mm (20.1 in.) and tailgate load height is 889 mm (35.0 in.), depending on the tires. Boxes include four tie-down cleats, stake holes, and two-level loading supports.
On 4X4 models, payload capacity ranges from 630 kg (1390 lb.) to 689 kg (1520 lb.) On 4X2 models, payload ranges from 689 kg (1520 lb.) to 803 kg (1770 lb.) depending on the vehicle configuration.
Rams have some important new safety features for 2002: next generation front airbags, optional curtain airbags, a third rear 3-point seatbelt, front pyrotechnic seatbelt pre-tensioners, and a new frame designed to absorb front and rear impacts better. Previous Ram pickups have performed poorly in frontal crash tests but Dodge claims the new Ram will do much better in government crash tests.
With the standard 4.7 litre V8, the Dodge Ram Quad offers slightly more horsepower and torque than the Ford SuperCrew’s 4.6 litre V8, but less than the Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra’s 300 horsepower 6.0 litre V8. The Ram’s standard towing capacity of 4000 kg is lower than the Ford and Chevy, but an upgrade to the Ram’s optional 5.9 litre V8 puts the Ram fairly close to the Chevy’s torque figures, so the 5.9 litre engine is the best choice for towing.
In terms of value, the Ram is priced significantly lower than its competitors. While the Ram Quad Cab SLT 4X4 starts at $30,365, a GMC Sierra HD Crew Cab SLT 4X4 is priced at $44,335, and a Ford SuperCrew XLT 4X4 has a starting price of $37,135. Even my fully loaded Ram SLT model came to under $40,000 before Freight charges.
Price and features
2002 Dodge Ram models range in price from $23,255 for the regular cab 4X2 short wheelbase to $30,970 for the Quad Cab 4X4 long wheelbase. Prices for most models have decreased significantly over 2001 � for example, my Ram Quad Cab 4X4 test vehicle had a base price of $30,365, $1,000 less than last year’s Quad Cab 4X4.
Standard equipment on my test truck included the 4.7 litre V8 engine and 4-speed automatic transmission, shift-on-the-fly part-time 4WD, four wheel disc brakes with rear ABS, air conditioning, 40/20/40 front seat, folding rear seat, variable intermittent wipers and tachometer.
My truck was equipped with a number of popular option packages. Package 26G ($2,455) includes power windows with driver’s one-touch feature, power door locks, power heated folding outside mirrors, cruise control, leather wrapped tilt steering wheel, trip computer, auto dim rearview mirror, and floor mats.
The Image Group ($3,250) includes 20 inch tires and aluminium wheels including a full-size spare, six speaker Infinity AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo system, premium cloth seats, 60/40 folding rear seats and folding flat steel load floor, remote keyless entry, 8-way power driver’s seat, front fog lamps, anti-spin rear differential, and rear sliding window.
The Protection Group ($120) includes a skid plate under the transfer case and front suspension.
The Trailer Tow Group ($530) includes engine and transmission oil coolers, Class 1V hitch, 7 pin wiring harness, and a 750 amp battery.
Stand-alone options on my test truck included the 5.9 litre V8 engine ($625), heavy-duty four speed automatic transmission ($1,215), four-wheel ABS ($230), side curtain airbags ($460), power adjustable pedals ($150), and steering wheel audio controls ($45).
With federal A/C excise tax of $100 and a Destination Charge of $995, the total came to $40,540.
Probably the best-handling, most responsive full-size pickup on the market, the new Ram provides a good balance of performance, practicality, hauling capacity, and comfort at a very reasonable price in its class.
|2002 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab SLT|
|Price as tested||$40,540|
|Type||4-door, 5 passenger crew cab|
|Layout||longitudinal front engine, part-time 4WD|
|Engine||5.9 litre V8, OHV, 16 valves|
|Horsepower||245 @ 4000 rpm|
|Torque||335 lb-ft. @ 3200 rpm|
|Curb weight||2282 kg (5030 lb.)|
|GVWR||3015 kg (6650 lb.)|
|Payload||689 kg (1520 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||3561 mm (140.5 in.)|
|Length||5784 mm (227.7 in.)|
|Height||1946 mm (76.6 in.)|
|Ground clearance||203 mm (8.0 in.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 20.9 l/100 km (14 mpg)|
|Hwy: 14.0 l/100 km (20 mpg)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|
|Powertrain warranty||5 yrs/100,000 km|