2003 Ram 3500 New Car Test Drive
Dodge Ram boasts high levels of refinement and comfort. Completely redesigned and re-engineered last year, this latest-generation Ram has re-established Dodge as a leading product among full-size pickups. While the previous-generation Ram had fallen behind the GM and Ford in terms of refinement, the current Ram competes head to head with the other full-size trucks.
The latest Ram offers a much smoother ride and a bigger, more comfortable, and more convenient cab. But all this refinement doesn't mean the Dodge Ram has gone soft. The new-generation Ram also delivers improved towing and hauling capability, plus more powerful and efficient engines.
For 2003, Dodge has introduced a sophisticated new five-speed automatic transmission. A more capable Off-Road package has been added, along with a rugged Work Special. Also new for 2003 is a line of heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 models, not covered here.
In January 2003, the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 replaced the aging 5.9-liter V8, increasing power by 100 horsepower and 40 pounds-feet of torque while improving fuel economy by 10 percent.
Dodge Ram is available with two cab configurations, Regular Cab and Quad Cab. Prices start at $18,525 for a 2WD Regular Cab short wheelbase. Ordering the four-door, six-passenger Quad Cab adds $4200-$5200 to the bottom line. Quad Cab models ride on a wheelbase that's 20 inches longer than comparable Regular Cab models.
Two bed lengths are available, a 6-foot, 3-inch standard bed and an 8-foot long bed. Ordering the long bed adds $300-$350 to the price, and another 20 inches to the wheelbase. Long-bed models also get a bigger fuel tank, 35 gallons in place of the standard 26-gallon tank.
Three engines are offered: The most popular choice is an overhead-cam 4.7-liter V8, which is standard with four-wheel-drive. For maximum economy, two-wheel-drive Rams can be ordered with a 3.7-liter V6 that's similar in design to the 4.7-liter V8. The most powerful engine in the line is the new 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with hemispherical combustion chambers for improved airflow and burn. The new Hemi produces 345 horsepower and 375 foot-pounds of torque. When properly equipped, that increases the towing capacity to 9200 pounds and payload by an additional 500 pounds. The Hemi adds about $800 to the price.
A five-speed manual transmission is standard with the 3.7-liter V6 and 4.7-liter V8. Optional is a new five-speed automatic ($975) that includes an alternate second gear for hill-climbing and towing (so it's technically a six-speed). This new transmission is more responsive than the unit it replaces.
Three trim levels are available, ST, SLT, and Laramie.
ST is the base level and comes standard with air conditioning, but is equipped with vinyl upholstery, wind-up windows, and manual door locks.
SLT adds $1700-$3200, depending on cab style and driveline, and includes the 4.7-liter V8, plus cloth upholstery, nicer interior trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a host of convenience items, and wider tires.
Laramie is the luxury package, which costs in the neighborhood of $7800-$8900 and brings leather seating surfaces, dual-zone air conditioning, a premium stereo, 17-inch cast aluminum wheels, and a long, long list of luxury features.
Sport body-color trim for grille and bumpers is available for $470 with any trim level; that price includes fog lights and 17-inch aluminum wheels. Add another $1600 or so if you want aggressive, street-rodder-style 20-inch wheels and tires.
New for 2003 is optional Work Special trim, with gray bumpers and grille and gray-painted 17x7 steel wheels. Also new this year is an Off-Road Package ($870-$1405) for 4WD models consisting of a 3.92:1 limited-slip differential, heavy-duty engine cooling, LT275/70R17 all-terrain tires, skid plates, tow hooks, and fog lamps.