2004 Ram 3500 New Car Test Drive
The Dodge Ram represents an excellent choice among full-size light-duty pickups. That's saying something considering the renaissance of all-new pickups from Ford and Nissan for 2004, along with strong entries from Chevrolet and GMC, and a new Toyota Double Cab. It would not be an overstatement to call 2004 the best model year for full-size pickups in the history of the automobile. The competition is better than ever, but so is the Ram, which stands tall among its competitors.
Completely redesigned and re-engineered for the 2002 model year, this latest-generation Dodge Ram boasts high levels of refinement and comfort. It's smoother and more comfortable than the previous-generation models. Its interior is more convenient than before and the bold exterior styling looks terrific. Changes for 2004 only improve the Ram's impressive towing and hauling capabilities.
A new Hemi V8 engine brings more power and efficiency to the Dodge Ram line of pickups. Added late during the 2003 model year, the 5.7-liter Hemi replaces the old 5.9-liter V8, increasing power by 100 horsepower and 40 pounds-feet of torque while improving fuel economy by 10 percent. Dodge claims the Hemi makes the Ram 1500 lineup the most powerful mass-production light-duty pickup on the market. More important than claims, it is an exceptionally good engine, smooth and very responsive. Adding to the responsiveness of this engine is a new five-speed automatic transmission. A Tow/Haul transmission mode has been added for 2004.
A new full-time four-wheel-drive (all-wheel-drive) system is available for 2004 that improves traction in slippery conditions. The Laramie trim package has been upgraded for 2004, and new options have been added, including a Bluetooth-enabled cellular telephone.
Dodge Ram is available with two cab configurations, Regular Cab and Quad Cab (no extended cab). Quad Cab models ride on a wheelbase that's 20 inches longer than comparable Regular Cab models. Quad Cab adds $4,200 to $5,200 to the retail price.
Two bed lengths are available, a 6-foot, 3-inch standard bed and an 8-foot long-bed. Ordering the long bed adds 20 inches to the wheelbase. Therefore, a long-bed Quad Cab is a long truck, long on roominess and utility, but not the easiest to turn around. Long-bed Rams also get a bigger fuel tank, 35 gallons in place of the standard 26-gallon tank. Long beds add $300-$350 to the price.
Three engines are offered: Most popular is the 4.7-liter V8, a modern overhead-cam engine. The most powerful engine in the line is the new 5.7-liter Hemi V8, which uses 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 5.7-liter Hemi adds $795 to the price. For those who want maximum economy, there's a 3.7-liter V6 available, but only with two-wheel drive.
A five-speed manual transmission is standard with the 3.7-liter V6 and 4.7-liter V8. Optional is a five-speed automatic ($1,170) that includes an alternate second gear for hill-climbing and towing. The five-speed automatic is more responsive than four-speed automatics.
Three trim levels are available: ST, SLT, and Laramie. ST is the base level, starting at $19,420. It comes standard with air conditioning, but is equipped with wind-up windows, manual door locks, and vinyl upholstery. This is the trim grade you buy for other people.
SLT adds $1,700-$3,200, depending on cab style and driveline. It comes standard with the 4.7-liter V8, and adds cloth upholstery, nicer interior trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a host of convenience items, and wider tires. This is the grade you buy for yourself.
Laramie, the luxury package, brings leather seating surfaces, dual-zone air conditioning, a premium stereo, 17-inch cast aluminum wheels, and a long, long list of luxury features. For 2004, the Laramie package adds an all-chrome grille surround and chrome billet grill center. Laramie retails for $7,800-$8,900 more than the base level.
Sport trim features body-colored grille, bumpers and side moldings, and includes fog lights and 17-inch aluminum wheels, and is available for most models. Aggressive street-rodder 20-inch wheels and tires are also available.
Option packages include an Off-Road package ($870-$1,405) with unique 17-inch aluminum wheels on LT275/70R17 off-road tires, 3.92 rear axle, limited-slip differential, skid plates for the transfer case and front suspension, special shocks, tow hooks, fog lamps, and a heavy-duty cooling system. A Work Special package is designed to deliver affordability with gray bumpers, grille, and 17x7 steel wheels. A new hands-free cellular telephone system is available for 2004 that uses Bluetooth technology. There's also a new integrated radio/navigation system available.
New for 2004 is the Dodge Ram SRT-10, an outrageous pickup with 500 horsepower and 525 lbs.-ft. of torque. Its V10 engine, a new bored and stroked aluminum engine block taken from the Dodge Viper, displaces 505 cubic inches. The Ram SRT-10 boasts a custom-tuned suspension that drops the ride height 1 inch in front and 2.5 inches in the rear. New front and rear strut assemblies and a rear sway bar were added to handle the increased cornering loads. Bilstein mono-tube shock absorbers, performance-tuned springs, and unique aerodynamic aids are designed to keep the Ram SRT-10 planted at high speeds, along with 22-inch wheels fitted with 305/40 R22 Pirelli Scorpion tires for extra adhesion. The brakes are modified with new 15-inch rotors in front and Ram Heavy Duty 14-inch rotors in the rear; front and rear brakes fea.