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by David Zatz
With 500 horsepower and 525 lb-ft of torque, the Dodge Ram SRT-10 was the fastest truck sold at its launch, doing 0-60 in 5.2 seconds, and the quarter mile in 13.8 seconds. What you can’t see in sprint numbers is the sheer responsiveness of a hot V10 under the hood; hit the gas and it goes. (Now, in 2017, those numbers may not seem quite as impressive, but they certainly were at the time.)
The Dodge Ram SRT-10 was more than just a Ram with a Viper V-10 shoved under the hood; the suspension was updated to handle the power, without losing ride quality, and extra instrumentation was installed. The quad cab came after the original SRT10 pickup, which had a standard cab and a modified Viper six-speed manual transmission which roundly beat the Ford Lightning, but could still tow a massive trailer. We tested a newer version — a Quad Cab with an optional automatic transmission, something the Viper itself never had.
With the automatic, the Viper engine is smooth and calm, easily controlled, giving the feel of an ordinary truck V8 while the throttle is treated normally; the automatic reacts just like the standard Dodge truck transmissions. When the throttle is pushed down, though, engine power skyrockets, and the transmission shifts suddenly and jarringly to take full advantage of the power (and to preserve its own life). It behaves exactly as it should under both conditions — gentle and calm in normal driving, and performance-oriented in hard driving.
The 48RE transmission handles as much torque as any Chrysler automatic; it’s normally hooked up to the big Cummins diesel. A heavy-duty torque converter and two-piece driveshaft increased reliability and performance. The axle gear ratio is 4.56:1; towing capacity was rated at 7,500 pounds.
The Viper engine sounds, well, like a Viper engine. Under normal driving, it gives a nice, deep growl, but isn’t as loud as a Honda with a tin can muffler (or a 2005 Corvette Z06). When the gas pedal is pushed down, the growl escalates; under full throttle, it’s a racing-car roar, with every one of those 505 horses making themselves known. There’s no mistaking the SRT-10 under full throttle; it clearly means business.
You can’t stay at full throttle for long and not run out of road. Revving at idle brings an instant response; a quick blip takes the engine right to high rpms. On the freeway, you get a scant few seconds at full throttle before the legal speed limit comes and goes in a blur, and trooper-attracting speeds are always close at hand.
At highway speeds, the engine is instantly responsive, and the transmission kicks down instantly. The eight-liter V10 provides enormous torque even at low rpm.
Cornering is good for a pickup, but by no means car-like, The Ram SRT-10 handles spurts of acceleration well, even on wet roads, but the heavy pickup body and adverse front-rear weight ratio makes itself known around turns, especially under throttle. Generally, we were surprised by how well the Ram cornered and shocked at how well it dealt with power application; but it’s also probably easy to become overconfident and end up facing traffic instead of passing it (not that we did that!).
Part of getting power to the ground is the standard anti-spin differential, which helps keep the tail from swinging out except under serious provocation (and, by the way, the tail came right back into line as soon as power stopped). The standard 22 inch tall by 10 inch wide aluminum wheels with low-profile 305/40R all-season tires also helped. Our test truck had the optional polished aluminum wheels, the same size as the standard rollers.
Standard performance features include antilock four-wheel disc brakes, a heavier front stabilizer bar, performance tuned shocks, suede inserts in the form-fitting leather seats to keep everyone in place, and tighter steering. Luxury features include dual zone a/c, power six-way driver’s seat, cruise, tilt steering, heated front seats, six-disc, eight-speaker, 508-watt stereo with subwoofer, wheel-mounted audio controls, power heated foldaway mirrors, fog lights, cargo light, rear spoiler, and a hard, removable tonneau cover.
So you know it’s an SRT, a bunch of plastic stuff has been added to the nose; it also has a hood similar to that of the Ram Daytona, with a scoop that directs cool air onto the top of the engine. “Viper powered” plates decorate the sides of the hood scoop, and SRT-10 badging surrounds the truck. The hard rear tonneau cover helps aerodynamics and keeps the rear of the Ram cool looking; it lifts up on hinges and stays in place with hydraulic tubes, but taking it off requires two moderately burly and adept people. A plastic bed cover, with SRT-10 emblazoned in huge letters, is standard.
We achieved the EPA gas-mileage estimates of 9 city, 12 highway, not much worse than other big pickups with big engines, albeit running on premium. Still, you go to the track you can take on Mustangs and BMWs. (Just remember to unhook the 12 foot trailer and get all that steel pipe out of the bed first).
The Dodge Ram SRT10, with all that performance and capacity, could be expected to have a punishing ride, but it did not. The ride was firm, but the shock absorbers were clearly doing their job. There was no heavy-duty-pickup jouncing and bouncing, nor any over-tight-shocks, big-wheel-with-tiny-tires Japanese-sport-compact jittering and stiffness. The Ram SRT10 was easy to drive on rough city streets and broken cement pavement. If anything, it was more pleasant than a standard pickup.
Visibility is good within the limits of a pickup. The blind spot in the rear quarter was minimized with a small roof post, but being high off the ground makes parking (and backing up) an adventure. Both should be done with more caution, and a parking alert system will probably start working its way through pickup trucks the way it has been working through luxury cars. Headlights are strong, mirrors large, wipers and defrosters effective.
The white-faced gauges had sharp backlighting at night, making them easy to see day or night. Gauges were all sensibly placed, save for the AutoMeter oil temp gauge, inserted amusingly into the roof support for lack of any other reasonable place. In a rather ostentatious move, the SRT team added an “engine start” button to the dashboard, so that you have to put the key into the conventional steering-column lock, turn the key to RUN, then press the button.
The seats in our test vehicle were comfortable, grippy, and very adjustable, down to electrically adjustable pedal height. A switch on the dashboard makes it possible to bring the pedals up to your feet, or down to a comfortable depth. Rear seats are typical straight-backed pickup style, with decent enough legroom and good headroom. The middle seat is for occasional use only. The rear seats are high enough from the floor to be useful for adults.
While the cargo and interior lights go on when you unlock the doors, there is no power memory - when you take out the key, the radio and power windows suddenly stop working. However, the standard trip computer mounted in the roof provides the outside temperature, compass bearing, and the average gas mileage.
Our test car had the optional navigation system, at $1,600. In addition to providing superb sound, the nav system was easy to use, because audio controls were still physical buttons, making it easy to change channels or adjust audio without taking one’s eyes off the road. The navigation system itself had all the usual features, and we’ve reviewed it in depth before. While not as flashy as the current Toyota system (which allows faster data entry), it deals with small roads that Toyota ignores.
The center console is large and well-designed, with an internal power outlet and organization features. There is storage room under the rear seats, and cup holders which adjust to container size. There are other little places to put coins, highway passes, and such in the dashboard and front of the center console, along with large map pockets and smaller odd-thing pockets in the front doors. We also liked little touches such as overhead lights that go on when you press them, and the built-in, universal garage door opener.
While the heater is powerful and works quickly, the vent fan can be noisy, despite huge, square vent openings. The air conditioning did not seem to have any drag on the engine.
The rear gate is far easier to lift than the Silverado’s, and the cargo light seems to be more effective. However, there is no step built into the bumper, and it can be hard to launch one’s self into the bed.
We were constantly stopped, and even pulled over, by people itching to have a look at this truck — all men. We raised the hood for pickup owners and the town public works crew; the engine sound and interior gained universal praise, though the massive expanses of gray plastic and faux carbon fiber were probably not as remarkable as they seemed to think. What really surprised people, aside from seeing (and hearing) a Viper engine inside a Ram, was the price tag. The base price is $52,710, high but within the bounds of reason; there’s no four-passenger Mercedes in this price range with this kind of performance, much less another truck.
With the options, some silly and some sensible, on our truck, the sticker price came to $57,460. That includes inferno red paint ($225), satellite radio ($520), side airbags ($490), rear power sliding window ($120), nav system ($1,600), polished wheels ($600!), and, yes, a rear seat DVD player integrated into the roof, at a whopping $1,200.
The Dodge Ram SRT-10 is clearly an unusual truck; it nears the performance of a prior-generation Corvette, with room for four, and the ability to do serious towing or hauling. In normal traffic, the Dodge SRT10 is docile, patient, and quiet; but it’s always, and we do mean always, ready to spring forward with a deep roar and little fear of doing an unexpected U-turn. The cost is within reason for performance cars and big pickups, and we think people who buy it will continue to enjoy it... as long as they’re not in a hurry, because there are an awful lot of people out there who want you to stop and show it off.
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