Dodge Ram: Introduction
So commanding is the image of the Ram pickup truck, Chrysler recently declared Ram a brand unto itself. As of 2010, the trucks are no longer marketed as “Dodge Ram” pickup trucks, but rather simply Ram Trucks. This allows the Ram buyer to feel more rugged and gives the company the ability to cater to that feeling more in ads. It also leaves the Dodge brand to serve the needs of the company’s passenger car division.
That said, for the purposes of this article, we will refer to the trucks as Dodge ram pickup trucks, because they were known as such when they were new. There have been four generations of Dodge RAM pickup trucks since the model name Ram was first coined for them back in 1981. However, the term “Ram” actually goes back to the 1930’s for Dodge in general, as back then, the hood ornament adorning Dodge’s cars was a ram.
We’ll begin with the first of the “big-rig” styled Ram pickup models introduced in 1994.
Dodge Ram: 1994 – 2001
The big-rig styling theme introduced with the second generation of Dodge’s Ram pickup really caused truck buyers to take a serious look at the trucks. Prior to the appearance of these models, Dodge was basically relegated to “also-ran” status in the truck department. While vaguely retro — in terms of the separated fender design — it was nonetheless simultaneously macho, contemporary and unique. Back then, nobody else was doing this huge grille, broad shouldered ‘Peterbilt” look.
However, while the look was all-new, the engines were carried over from the GEN1 Ram. These included a 175-horsepower, 3.9-liter V6 and a 220-hp, 5.2-liter V8. The 5.9-liter V8 started out making 230 hp and was upgraded to 250 hp in 1998. Transmissions included a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic, and of course the truck was offered in both two- and four-wheel-drive configurations.
Cab choices were two-door regular, two-door extended and four-door extended.
Dodge Ram: 2002 – 2008
While 1500 series GEN3 Ram pickups debuted in 2002, the 2500 and 3500 models made their appearance in 2003. An all-new frame graced this iteration of the truck — along with new engines, interior treatments, suspensions and styling.
Simultaneously cleaning up and building upon the “big-rig” styling language ushered in with the 1994 Ram, the GEN3 Ram was offered initially only in two-door Regular Cab, and four-door Quad Cab configurations. The four-door Mega Cab made its first appearance in 2006.
An independent front suspension system replaced the live axles for the 1500 series trucks to improve ride and handling on the road. The heavier-duty 2500 and 3500 models kept the live axle.
The base engine at introduction was a then-new 215-horsepower 3.7-liter V6, producing 235 ft-lbs of torque. From 2002 to 2007, the Ram ran a 235-horsepower, 4.7-liter V8 with 295-ft-lbs. That engine was upgraded to produce 310-horsepower and 330 ft-lbs for 2008. Form ’02 to ’03, Ram’s 5.9-liter V8 made 245hp and 335 ft-lbs. In ’04, it was replaced by a 5.7-liter HEMI tuned to make 345 and 375. In ’06, that engine was swapped for one of the same output running Chrysler’s cylinder deactivating Multi-Displacement System to improve fuel economy. Also, from 2004 to 2006, Dodge offered the Ram in a special SRT-10 configuration — running the 8.3-liter V10 from the Viper. This 510-horsepower engine made 535 ft-lbs of torque.
Four-speed automatics and five-speed manuals were the transmission choices at introduction, though by the end of the model run transmissions were five-speed automatics and six-speed manuals.
A broad variety of comfort and convenience options reflected the fact most people were using trucks as surrogate cars back then. That said, you’ll find features like mega-watt sound systems, keyless remote start, navigation, Bluetooth, and rear seat DVD entertainment.
Dodge Ram: 2009 – present
Introduced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit (aka the Detroit Auto Show) in 2008 as 2009 models, the current Dodge Ram pickup truck was first shown in 1500 versions only. The 2500, 3500, 4500 and 5500 models were gradually phased in over the ensuing years.
A number of innovations graced the GEN4 Ram, among them storage boxes in the sidewalls of the truck bed and a coil spring rear suspension system. Available cab styles include two-door Regular Cab, four-door Quad Cab, and four-door Crew Cab. Additionally, three bed lengths are offered.
Engine choices include a 390-horsepower, 5.7-liter HEMI V8 producing 407 ft-lbs of torque; a 310-horsepower, 4.7-liter PowerTech V8 producing 330 ft-lbs; and a 215-horsepower PowerTech V6 making 235 ft-lbs. Both rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are available. Transmission choices include four-, five-, and six-speed automatics, as well as a six-speed manual.
The coil spring rear suspension (1500 models only) greatly improved the ride and handling of the GEN4 Ram over its predecessor. In fact, many initial reviews of the Ram declared it to be the best-handling pickup available. Additionally, options like rear seat video and a 10-speaker surround audio system contribute greatly to the sophistication and civil-ization of the muscular looking truck. Other available comfort and convenience features include navigation and a rear backup camera, which is invaluable to Ram owners who use the trucks to tow.
BTW, though Dodge was dropped as part of the truck line’s formal name in MY2010, the word “Dodge” still appears in various places on the truck.
Dodge Ram: Summary
With their bold styling, powerful engines and generous creature comforts, the “big-rig” Ram trucks carved out a nice niche for Dodge in a highly competitive marketplace. By and large, as used trucks they have proven both robust and reliable. Yes, there have been some recalls over the years and to find the ones that pertain to the model year of your interest, run an Internet search for “Dodge RAM recall” incorporating the model year(s) of your interest.
While many people these days use pickups as surrogate cars, particularly in cities, these vehicles are also used to tow and haul heavy loads. Therefore the used shopper should pay particular attention to the suspension systems, brakes and transmissions. Of course, a good mechanic, one well versed on these vehicles will know that. This is why you should take any truck you’re seriously considering buying to one for a thorough pre-purchase inspection.