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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Dodge Ram 1500 Pickup Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Dodge Ram 1500 Pickup Overview

You'll Want One for the Wheels Alone

How do you measure the success of a vehicle? Some might answer sales, others reputation. But maybe the true test of a successful design is when it can capture the eye of individuals who otherwise would not look twice. That's exactly what the Dodge Ram 1500 does. During our time with the big truck we witnessed more than our fair share of craned necks and thumbs-up signs; we got them not from other truckers, but from SUV drivers and luxury car drivers and even economy car drivers. It seems that everyone just loves this truck.

The first things you'll notice about the Ram are its standard 17-inch wheels. The stamped steel rims fill in the large wheel well openings and look terrific with the Ram's muscular sheet metal. There are three other 17-inch wheels from which to choose, including a chromed steel wheel and two aluminum alloy wheels. But size matters these days, and in the world of high-profile pickup trucks, bigger is better, so Dodge offers an optional 20-inch polished aluminum 5-spoke wheel that surely is the envy of every other truck on the road and we're sure was the primary reason for all the attention we received. When you figure in the enormous polished grilled and shiny front and rear bumpers, there probably hasn't been this much chrome on Chrysler product since the debut of the 1957 Imperial Le Baron!

For 2003, the Ram line includes regular and Quad Cab models available in both 2WD and 4WD. There are two trim levels, ST and SLT, and later this model year a third premium trim, the Laramie will join the lineup. Also new this year are two special- edition trims, the "Off-road" and "Work Special." The Off-road package adds unique 17-inch alloy wheels, a limited-slip rear differential, extensive skid plate protection, a beefed up cooling system and heavy-duty shocks. The Work Special is designed to cater to working people who need to use their truck for more than recreation but also need to keep the price within reason.

Dodge's version of the extended cab pickup is called the Quad Cab, though to us, it is what most people would call a full-sized crew cab. The rear doors are hinged at the B-pillar and feature roll-down windows and the doors themselves are just slightly smaller than a full-sized pick up door. The benefit to you is that, unlike traditional extended cab rear doors, the driver's door does not have to be open to reach the internal handle for the second door. The down side is you lose that wide-open access due to the placement of the center pillar.

Once inside the Quad Cab, you will notice how roomy it feels. In order to increase interior volume, the Dodge engineers had to use some of the cargo bed's space, effectively shortening it by a few inches. Again, for many people, this will be an acceptable trade off, so long as they can still fit all of their gear and goods into the back of the Ram. You and your passengers will appreciate the extra rear-seat legroom the Quad Cab affords and you'll love the way all the little details inside the Ram have been so well thought out. Take for example the wide center armrest that, when up, serves as a backrest for the center passenger and when flipped down, serves as a mini computer workstation/desk. Open the lid and you'll find an array of storage bins to hold everything from pencils to a laptop computer; there is even a 12-volt power outlet. Lift up the center bottom cushion and discover even more useable storage space beneath. The rear seat mirrors the front, with a wide center folding armrest but adds the option of a foldout metal tray that can create a perfectly flat load floor.

Under the hood, the regular cab base trucks get a tepid 3.7-liter V6 engine; the Quad cabs start off with a standard 4.7-liter Magnum V8. Though rated at 240 horsepower and 295 lb. ft. of torque at 3200 rpm, the 4.7-liter engine has to work hard to move the nearly 5200-pound vehicle to and fro. If you are into hauling heavy loads, you will probably find the optional 5.9-liter V8 to be a better choice. A new 5-speed automatic transmission is optional this year; it promises to deliver better off-the-line acceleration and somewhat improved fuel economy. The V6 earns an EPA fuel rating of 15-mpg in city driving; the two V8's barely break 13 mpg. You may also want to look closely at the trailer towing ratings for the Ram. Though they are respectable by most standards, they are not the best in class.

Again, a little sacrifice in the towing is more than made up for by the Rams amazingly lithe handling and cornering ability. This machine hauls around corners and charges through S-curves like no pickup before it. Credit the suspension and massive tires for the Ram's ability to grip the road and negotiate turns. One last note: though the big 20-inch wheels may look terrific they make for a harsh ride over even the slightest bit bumpy and broken pavement.

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