2001 Dodge Ram 2500 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
A heavy-duty full-size with everyday comfort.
Though it's now the oldest design among current full-size pickups, the Dodge Ram may still be the best-looking truck on the market. Clearly, it's the most stylish.
It drives and rides well with quick steering and excellent brakes. Like the other domestic pickups, it offers a wide range of engine choices and an even wider range of cab and bed configurations.
Last year, the Ram received a host of significant changes aimed at improving performance, ride and steering response, including more powerful engines, a new front suspension and steering system and new brakes. For 2001, there's a new high-output diesel engine available. (An all-new Ram is coming out for 2002.).
Like all other American full-size pickup trucks, the Dodge Ram offers an enormous breadth of choice.
Ram is available in three load ratings: 1500, 2500, and 3500. Five engines are offered: 3.9-liter V6, 5.2-liter V8, 5.9-liter V8, 8.0-liter V10 and two Cummins 5.9-liter diesel inline-6 choices. Every engine comes with a choice of 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. Rams come with either two- or four-wheel drive. Short and long beds are available.
The 5.2-liter V8 produces 230 horsepower, while the 5.9-liter V8 generates 245 horsepower and an impressive 335 pounds-feet of torque. Buyers can get either a V10 gasoline engine or a Cummins turbo diesel in a 2500 or a 3500 series truck. The basic Cummins diesel produces 235 horsepower and 460 pounds-feet of torque, while the new-for-2001 high-output version cranks out 245 horsepower and a stump-pulling 505 pounds-feet of torque.
Standard, Club Cab and Quad Cab bodies are available in LT, Laramie SLT, and SST trim levels. Regular-length beds are 6 1/2 feet long, optional long beds are 8 feet long; short and long wheelbase versions are available.
A Sport Plus package comes with 17-inch wheels and tires, suspension upgrades and a 5.9-liter V8 with sport exhausts.
The Ram Off-Road 4x4 packages a recalibrated suspension and LT275/70R17 all-terrain tires mounted to 17-by-8-inch cast aluminum wheels, a unique steering gear for low-speed agility, and a limited-slip differential; the package includes an upsized battery and alternator, auxiliary transmission oil cooler, a larger radiator, front tow hooks, skid plates, fog lamps, heavy-duty service equipment and unique Off-Road decals. This package is available in regular cab and Quad Cab 1500 short-bed four-wheel-drive models.
The upscale SLT Plus package comes with a leather interior, front driver and passenger power-adjustable heated seats, a rear under-seat storage compartment, CD player with Infinity speakers and remote audio controls in the steering wheel, illuminated vanity mirrors, keyless entry, security alarm, fog lamps and anti-lock brakes. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes are now standard on all 3500 models.
Though it's getting a bit long in the tooth, the 2001 Dodge Ram still looks great. The bold design with broad-shouldered front fenders is reminiscent of big Freightliners steaming down the road with a full load of logs. It remains the best-looking pickup on the market. though caps, grille guards and other adornments don't improve the styling.
The Quad Cab four-door pickup truck design is said to be as strong as a conventional pickup body shell even though it does not have a pillar between the doors. To improve structural rigidity, Dodge designed a beam that runs laterally under the truck, and reinforced both the A and C pillars. Side door guard beams were also added to improve protection from side impacts.
The optional Sport package comes with a body-colored grille and front and rear bumpers, decals, fog lamps, outline white letter tires, and cast aluminum wheels. The front end on the Sport uses a different grille design and clear-lens headlamps.
The Ram Quad Cab offers cavernous space, and as a result has become the best-selling model in the Ram lineup. It offers buyers a roomy interior with conventional front doors and rear-hinged rear doors. The absence of a B-pillar makes it much easier to get in or out of the rear seat; it also makes it much easier to stick something behind the front seats. The door handles for the rear doors are integrated into the front interior face of the door, providing a more secure dual locking system for all four doors when the rear door is locked.
The Dodge Ram's big, wide instrument panel has a more modern layout than the original design. This includes a new steering wheel design, a big storage compartment, an extra power point, and new cupholders designed to handle any commercially available drink container. Ram also offers reduced-force air bags with a lockout for the passenger side. Other recent improvements include a keyless remote entry system, an upgraded base sound system, a cassette and CD sound system option and a new center console. The instrument pod features vacuum-fluorescent odometer and trip odometer that are tamperproof, and there are driver-programmable keyless entry key fobs. Other interior features include heated power mirrors, illuminated power door locks and window switches, and an optional security alarm system.
The front seat in all Rams is divided 40/20/40, with a huge fold-down center section that doubles as armrest and writing table. The cloth-covered seats in our test truck were nicely upholstered, plush, supportive and comfortable. When no one is sitting in it, the center position provides a large storage box, with divided spaces for coins, cassettes, maps or a laptop computer. The front seat belts are integrated into the seats themselves, which gets rid of messy hanging belts -- a particularly nice improvement for the wide-open Quad Cab doorway.
The Quad Cab rear seat is the same one used in other extended cab versions. It's handy for children, pets and petite adults, but it is not very comfortable for adults on long trips. The bench portion of the seat flips up out of the way effortlessly from either side for hauling tools or cargo. The power window option comes with an express-down switch on the driver's side. Steering wheel mounted radio controls are optional. There are two new overhead console designs; one with and one without trip computer. A rotary headlamp switch replaces the former pull switch design on the left side of the dash.
Our Ram 1500 was fitted with the 5.9-liter V8 and 4-speed automatic transmission. This engine has a ton of torque and a broad power band, which makes it a great deal of fun to drive. This is a great engine for heavy-duty use, the best choice if you need to pull a trailer, but don't want the diesel or the higher fuel bills generated by the V10.
A V8 pickup truck is great fun for cruising. Passing is effortless. The manual transmission can add flexibility in off-road situations, but we recommend the automatic for street use. The low-end torque of the engine and the low gearing in first and second gears make it easy to get around in all driving situations.
Front suspension on a Ram is a coil spring setup with four leading arms, a track bar and a stabilizer bar to keep the front axle assembly located fore and aft and side to side. Rear suspension is a conventional live axle with leaf springs designed to carry heavy loads. The suspension in our 1500 model was smooth and quiet on the street, aided by big, soft Goodyear tires. The Dodge V8 pickup truck has for years had a special kind of presence on the street, and the Ram backs up that presence with excellent street manners and ride.
Steering revisions that were new last year make steering much more precise than earlier models. Steering in the earlier Rams was light and quick, but had a lot of dead space on-center and seemed to require constant left-right adjustments.
Braking, with discs in front, drums in rear, is exemplary. The Ram stops quickly with superb straight-line stability. The brakes feature dual-piston front disc brake calipers and a more responsive brake booster for improved braking performance.
Though highly competent, the 2001 Dodge Ram does not offer the ride sophistication of the latest full-size pickups from General Motors.
This four-door Ram is so terrifically easy to use for a group of four or five people that we no longer think of trucks solely as work vehicles. Four-door pickups make so much sense for so many families that they'll be as common as minivans in a few years. Dodge was the first to offer four doors, but its success has forced Ford, Chevy and GMC to follow.
Ram offers an excellent package. Recent improvements to the instrumentation, powertrain and body combinations have made it an all-around better truck. For cruising around town or going to the beach, the Ram offers loads of room, loads of power and loads of style.
With an all-new Ram coming out for 2002, be on the lookout for special pricing and other incentives on 2001 models.
1500 SWB Regular Cab Work Special ($15,285); 1500 LWB 4WD ($21,425); 2500 HD ($20,425); 2500 HD LWB Quad Cab ($23,150); 3500 LWB 4WD Quad Cab ($28,765).
Fenton, Missouri; Warren, Michigan; Alberto, Mexico.
Options As Tested
Package 23G ($2300) includes SLT decor, air conditioning, power windows, power locks, cruise control, power mirrors, tilt steering wheel, forged alloy wheels, light group; travel convenience group ($345); trailer tow group ($275); anti-spin differential ($285); 4-wheel ABS ($495); radio upgrade ($690); bed liner ($245); sliding rear window ($140).
Ram 1500 SLT Quad Cab ($20,895).
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