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Dodge, Jeep, and Ram trucks at allpar

2002-2008 Dodge Ram pickup trucks

dodge power wagon - size

The main changes for the 2002 Ram 1500 were:

  • Bigger, four way disc brakes for much better stopping power and longer-lasting brake pads and rotors
  • A frame with hydroformed parts for less vibration and greater capacity
  • A more friendly interior, with more storage space and facilities for child seats and extra passengers
  • Four new grilles, one for each body style, the most muscular going with the Sport model
  • Rack and pinion steering and an independent front suspension, even on 4x4 models, for better handling
  • Another 40 horsepower in the base V6 as a result of the swap from the 318-based 3.9 liter to the much more modern 3.7 liter engine (the 3.9 had been engineered on an accelerated schedule to power the Dakota)
  • As of December 2002, much more power in the optional V8 as a result of the swap from the 5.9 liter (360) to the 5.7 liter Hemi.
  • A side airbag option

The Quad Cab lost three inches in the cargo box (now 6 feet, 3 inches), while the cab grew by 3.7 inches for the benefit of rear seating, in the transition from the 1994-2001 series.

pickup trucks Hemi engine

New features included fully-lowering rear windows, under-rear-seat storage, large grocery bag hooks in the regular cab, and an augmented console that can store a laptop and charge a cell phone.

2002 - 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 drivetrain

Front-side picture of 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 - dodge trucksThe 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 started out with the 45RFE automatic from the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It was a very pleasant transmission, which, including a helpful passing gear, actually has five speeds. Based on our experience, it was both more responsive and smoother than the older transmissions. (This transmission was not available with the 360 engine).

The 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 featured two new engines at first. The base engine was a 3.7 liter V6, smaller but more powerful than the old 3.9, with 210 horsepower instead of 175. The 3.7 was based on the new 4.7 V8, just as the old 3.9 was based on the 5.2 V8, whose basic design dated back to the 1950s. Both engines had the same torque, 230 lb-ft. The new engine was more fuel efficient by about 1 mpg, as well as more powerful.

Click here for more information on the new Hemi for Dodge trucks!

The 3.7 liter V6, by the way, was 225.6 cid - yes, the press materials refer to it that way, though all other displacements were rounded off.

The 4.7 V8 from the Grand Cherokee replaced the 318, increasing power slightly (to 235 hp) while raising gas mileage, again by 1 mpg. This was a smooth, quiet engine on the Grand Cherokee, more pleasant to drive than the 318 - though we really hate to admit it.

Rumble Bee pickup

The 360 V8 was replaced in 2004 when the new Hemi line of engines came out with more power and better economy - and cheaper assembly costs. (Review!) The 5.7-liter HEMI Magnum engine increased the Ram 1500's Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) by 500 lbs. to 14,000 lbs., versus the 5.9-liter Magnum-equipped Ram 1500. The Gross Trailer Weight Rating (GTWR) increased by 550 lbs. to 9200 lbs. Fuel efficiency was also improved by 10 percent over the 5.9-liter, while the new HEMI Magnum engine was approximately 60 lbs. lighter in weight.

The Ram 1500's towing capacity was 350 lb above the Silverado and F-150, but its payload was about 160 lb less than the Chevy and 125 lb less than the Ford. Its base V8 had 235 horsepower, 35 hp less than the Chevy and 15 hp more than the Ford.

. Regular Cab Quad Cab
Model Year 1994-2001 2002-2006 1994-2001 2002-2006
Towing 7950 8660 7650 8350
Payload n/a n/a 1567 1750

Dodge Ram pickup transmissions (2002-2008)

Picture of 2002 Dodge Ram pickup truck interiorThe new 545RE transmission (which debuted in 1999 on the Grand Cherokee) was available, but only with the Hemi. This highly responsive, fully electronically controlled five-speed automatic (plus kickdown gear) provided fast downshifts and seemed to have fewer parasitic losses than the other automatics. If you didn't get the Hemi, you had to settle for the standard 47RE and 48RE automatics, which were heavier duty than the 545RE and traced their design back to the bulletproof 727 Torqueflites (the main differences were electronic control and an overdrive unit). Both of these were optional with the V10 and standard-output diesel.

Also available were the NV4500 manual five-speed (5.7 and 8.0 engines; NV4500HD with standard output diesel), and the NV5600 six-speed manual (only with high-output diesel). (transmissions page.) The NV4500 and NV4500HD carried over from 1994 (and, in the case of the NV4500, earlier); the NV5600 was newer.

The new-for-2007 68RFE, 6-speed automatic transmission, priced at $1,575, cost about the same as Ford’s 5- speed transmission, and less than GM’s Allison transmission. The 68RFE had increased torque capacity, with a new torque rating 40 lb. ft. higher than the previous four-speed (now 650 lb. ft.) It was available in the 2500 and 3500 (but not the chassis cab.)

4x4 independent front suspension

Rack and pinion steering on both the two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive Ram models provided a precise and firm steering feel. The system was not only lighter in weight but was more durable than a conventional recirculating ball steering system. Steering ratios were recalibrated on all models, helping maneuverability and turning ease.

A new torsion bar independent front suspension [back to the future!] on four-wheel drive models improved ride quality and quietness. For extreme conditions, ground clearance was a comfortable 9.5 inches, while suspension travel improved to 8.5 inches from 8 inches on the 2001 Ram. The rear suspension continued to use leaf springs, but the springs were lengthened by three inches to reduce wheel hop and improve durability. [We welcome this change, since wheel hop was a shortcoming].

The 2002 Ram had an independent front suspension even with the four wheel drive setup, joining a very small number of 4x4s with independent suspensions - such as the Hummer and Tatra 615. Bob Sheaves noted that an independent front suspension-equipped 4x4 need not sacrifice ground clearance, thanks to the floating carrier housing patented by Chrysler (listing Evan Boberg as an inventor) in 1995.

Seventeen inch wheels were standard, with optional 20-inch wheels. The frame was stiffer, and as one would expect from Chrysler, noise, vibration, and harshness were all cut quite a bit.

Other new Dodge Ram 1500 features

Dodge Ram 1500 side airbag curtainProbably the most welcomed change among those who don't actually own a Dodge Ram will be the heavier-duty, completely redesigned brakes, designed to stop the Ram faster than an F-150 or Silverado 1500. Payload and towing were both increased since the previous generation of Rams.

Chrysler also worked on the Ram's safety features, adding adjustable pedals, redesigning the frame and crumple zones, making the interior child-friendly, improving the brakes, and adding side curtain airbags.

While the two-door Club Cab was not made, an extended-cab four-door model, with four real doors, was available. The bed on the standard 1500 model was three inches shorter, but the cab was 3.5 inches longer.

Aerodynamics appeared to be better than the 1994-2001 models, including an integrated air dam which helped to cool the engine and air conditioner condensor; and extended, tapered edges on the door frames to reduce wind noise and channel water over the roof instead of the side windows. Headlights were substantially improved. The interior had been upgraded, especially on the Quad Cab, which featured full, front-hinged doors and seat cushions that folded up to create a tall storage area. An optional steel section under the rear seats could fold open to form a flat load floor, with more storage in the footwells. The seat folded 60/40 to allow for carrying passengers and gear in the back at the same time, while tools can be securely locked. The powered center console had fold-down dividers, and the center portion of the seat had under-cushion storage.

Options included four-wheel antilock brakes, dual-zone climate control, an electronic shift dial for four wheel drive, and heated leather seats.

For 2003, the 1500 SLT Plus was rebadged as Laramie on Regular and Quad Cab models and includes cosmetic touches, seventeen inch aluminum wheels, leather seats with eight-way power driver and passenger seats (the latter only on Quad Cab), four-wheel antilock disc brakes, overhead console with storage bin, map lights, HomeLink universal garage door opener, compass, outside temperature display and trip computer, sliding rear window, remote keyless entry, theft deterrent system, woodgrain instrument panel bezel, dual zone temperature control, six-CD in-dash changer, wheel-mounted audio controls, and power adjustable pedals.

"Work Special" Group, included grey bumpers with rear step pad, grey grille and wheels. Off Road Group (4WD 1500 series only), included 3.92 axle ratio, anti-spin differential, fog lamps, heavy-duty engine cooling, all-terrain tires, 17" x 8" aluminum wheels, tow hooks, transfer case and front suspension skid plates. Light group (late availability) was optional on SLT and Laramie and included cupholder, ashtray, underhood lamp and auto electrochromatic day/night mirror, switchable dome lamp, and illuminated vanity mirrors.

Tow hooks were standard on Laramie 4WD, optional in Protection Group for 4WD ST and SLT, 2WD ST, SLT and Laramie. Adjustable pedals with manual transmission and AM/FM stereo with six-disc in-dash CD were optional. The steering wheel-mounted audio controls were packaged with AM/FM stereo radio with cassette and CD player or an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette and six-disc in-dash CD changer -- SLT; both equipped with 11-speaker Infinity system. There was an electronic throttle control on the 5.7-liter Hemi Magnum V8 engine. Automatic locking retractor was added to passenger seat belts.

The 2004 Dodge Laramie package added a new, all-chrome grille surround and chrome billet grille center to the boldest grille in town. Chrome bodyside moldings and a revised interior, with silver trim adorning the door panels and the instrument panel bezels, further distinguished the Laramie from the Slt. The Laramie edition also featured a unique and more distinctive leather seat design, with higher contrast color seat inserts.

Also for 2004, UConnect(TM) hands-free cellular with Bluetooth(TM) technology and a new integrated radio/navigation system were available in the Fall of 2003.

For 2004, Dodge Ram gained more versatility with a full-time four-wheel drive system and electric shift transfer case. The full-time system delivered 48 percent of the torque to the front wheels and 52 percent to the rear wheels under normal driving conditions. The system included a locking transfer case that featured four-wheel drive "high" and "low" modes.

The 2004 Dodge Ram also had a new "Tow/Haul" feature that provides crisper shifts and reduces gear searching when towing. The system also selected a lower gear in downhill conditions to utilize the engine's braking capability.

A new 34-gallon gas tank was optional on Ram Quad Cab standard bed trucks. The Dodge Ram "Off-Road" package added unique 17-inch aluminum wheels and unique LT275/70R17 off-road tires, the 3.92 rear axle, a limited-slip differential, transfer case skid plates, skid plates for the front axles and unique shocks to an already class-leading off-roader. The package also included tow hooks, fog lamps, a heavy-duty cooling system and "Off-Road" badging. The "Work Special" package consisted of a unique steel rear bumper, dark gray, color-coded front fascia, gray grille surround and bars and steel wheels.

For 2004, Dodge added adjustable rear seat head restraints to all Quad Cab models. It also included a standard LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) child seat anchorage system. The LATCH system worked in conjunction with the standard child seat tether anchors to create safer child seat attachments.

Deep molten red was added a new exterior color for 2004.

Special pickups

In 2006, Dodge launched the Dodge Ram Mega Cab, a Ram 2500 with the industry's largest cab. The rear seats reclined by 37°, and with the diesel engine, one could get 19-20 mpg on the highway (good for a 3/4 ton full sized pickup), but it had a shortened 6.5 foot bed; the standard engine was the Hemi. We reviewed the Dodge Ram Mega Cab when it came out.

The Mega Cab was dropped after the 2008 model year, in favor of a more conventional crew cab in the 2009 Dodge Ram pickups.

dodge ram megacab
Created by Performance West Group, the Dodge Ram 3500 Interstate Rated was based on the Dodge Ram 3500 Mega Cab 1-ton Dually 4x4, with the Cummins 610 Turbo Diesel. At just a whisper above idle, the Ram 3500 Interstate Rated could clean-break over 11 tons of rolling weight.  It was available from Dodge dealers nationwide. Performance West Ram

The Dodge Power Wagon, similarly, was launched from this Ram series, with heavier duty 4x4 capabilities; and we reviewed the Power Wagon, too.

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