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The all-new 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck performs as aggressively as it looks.
2002 Dodge Ram 1500
By Bill Roebuck
If you like a tough truck look and want smooth handling, with huge cargo-hauling torque, then you'll definitely want to check out the all-new 2002 Dodge Ram half-ton pickup. However, it's not just the outside appearance that's changed in the Ram -- there's plenty of redesigned components underneath the body and inside the passenger compartment that make it a much more refined vehicle than its predecessors.
The most noticeable change for this full-size pickup for 2002 is the tough, almost menacing appearance of its huge front end. A massive grille dominates the head-on view and truly causes other drivers to get out of the way when you close up behind them on the highway.
The ride is surprisingly smooth for a truck this size, and the handling is superb. It's aided by a rack and pinion steering system, which is new to this model. The Ram feels very manoeuvrable even around the city.
Our test model was equipped with 20-in. polished aluminum wheels, which give the truck a sharp appearance (17-in. wheels are standard). The new suspension allows for off-road tires up to 34-in. in diameter, the largest in the full-size pickup segment.
Inside, the passenger space is expansive. There's even room for three rear seat passengers in the Quad Cab version we tested -- and although headroom is adequate front and rear, it's still a bit cramped in the rear, like in most crew cab pickups. All three rear-seating positions come with tether anchors for child safety seats, and they also are fitted for both the centre and passenger front seats on the Regular Cab model (where a passenger air bag cutoff switch is standard).
Dodge reports the interior of the regular cab model is the largest of any similar full-size pickup. A huge console, which doubles as a seat back for a centre front passenger, is even larger than ever, and features folding storage compartments and a power plug. It's simply cavernous.
Controls for the radio and ventilation system are large and easy to use, and instruments are clear and easy to read.
One big advantage of the Quad Cab is its four full-size doors, with the rear doors hinged at the front so they open normally, making it easier to get in and out. Good thing, too, as it's a big step up into the cab. You need to use the grab handles or grab the steering to haul yourself into the front seat. The rear doors open 85 degrees and their windows go down all the way, something that's becoming less common to see.
Although the rear seat backs force you into an upright position, they split and fold for extra storage space, and an optional steel section under the seat folds out to form a flat, sturdy load floor.
Despite the large hood and grille, the hood slopes enough to provide a clear view of the road ahead. Aerodynamics have been improved over the previous design to reduce wind noise, improve engine cooling and help channel water over the roof rather than around the side windows. It works, as noise inside the cabin is minimal when driving.
An option that is novel for a pickup is power adjustable accelerator and brake pedals, which allow shorter drivers to maintain a safe driving position, not too close to the steering wheel airbag. It's ideal for a truck driven by several drivers. For the long-legged, the Ram claims to offer the longest front seat track travel in the industry.
The Ram is the first full-size pickup to offer optional side air bag curtains for front passengers in the Regular Cab model and front and rear passengers in the Quad Cab.
Extra space designed inside the passenger compartment in both regular and quad cab models results in a 3 in. shorter bed than before, at 6 ft 3 in. A long box at 8 ft is available on regular cab models. Payload capacity, depending on the configuration, can be up to 1,750 lb, while the GVWR is 6650 lb. Towing capacity is up to 7,400 lb. The cargo box features boat-cleat style tie-downs that are easy to use.
The base engine in the Ram is a 3.7-litre V6 producing 215 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. A 4.7-litre V8 is available, providing 235 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque at just 3200 rpm. There's also a huge 5.9-litre V8 generating 245 hp and 335 lb-ft of torque at 3200 rpm in the order books.
The four-speed automatic transmission has an alternate second gear that kicks in for towing and climbing situations. A five-speed manual is offered as well.
The Ram 1500 comes in three equipment levels, from the base ST to the SLT and SLT Plus. A sport appearance group is available on the SLT models. Both two- and four-wheel drive versions are available in both regular and Quad Cab bodies.
For those who need even more carrying capacity than the 1500 offers, Ram 2500 three-quarter ton and Ram 3500 one-ton models will adopt the configuration of the 1500 when the newly designed heavy duty models are introduced for the 2003 model year this fall. Go to our review of the 2003 Ram Heavy Duty.
The base price for a Ram ST Regular Cab is $23,255, The Quad Cab in 4X4 trim with various option packages can rise to over $40,000. Still, when you compare prices with the competition, the Ram seems to be great value, is highly practical as a workhorse pickup, and is very nice to drive.
© Copyright Bill Roebuck, CarTest.ca 2002.