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Dodge Ram SRT-10: The Big Viper Powered Pickup Truck

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A full size pickup truck with:

  • 0-60 in 5.2 seconds; 13.8 second quarter mile
  • .92 g skid-pad
  • World's speed record set February 2, 2004

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When the Dodge V-10 was first introduced, there was the race engine in the Viper, and a torquer in the Ram. A V-10 powered Ram 2500 truck felt like a 360-powered 1500 - it was meant for towing, not unloaded acceleration.

Not on the SRT-10!

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The Viper V-10 was used, intact, on the 2004-2006 Dodge Ram SRT-10. With 500 horsepower and 525 lb-ft of torque, it was the fastest pickup truck you could buy. Created by the Performance Vehicle Operations team, the truck was created by Viper, Prowler and racing engineers - including people who worked on NASCAR cars and Le Mans Vipers.

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The production truck was first shown in February 2003, after a similar concept. According to design chief Trevor Creed, the deep front fascia, front splitter, and rear wing were all based on time in the wind tunnel; the rear wing both cut drag and provided downforce. The "power bulge" hood, with "Viper Powered" badges, made room for the huge engine.

Colors were black, red, and silver only; the wheels were unique 22-inchers, the largest sold on a stock pickup. The billet grille, lower ride height, and ground-effect moldings made it look "hunkered down."

From the side, effects included an aluminum fuel filler, SRT-10 badging, and visible red brake calipers; from the rear, they included a spoiler and custom fascia with cutout for dual exhausts and a large, center-mounted chrome Ram's head badge.

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The interior had bolstered leather seats with black suede perforated inserts and a carbon-fiber leather trim steering wheel. A silver trim strip and SRT-10 badge were on the passenger side air bag.

A red Viper start button on the dash went with the engine, and a custom Hurst shift lever sprouted from a silver metal shift bezel and was topped by a Viper style shift knob, a good match for the aluminum pedals. The satin silver-faced gauges used Viper graphics.

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The new Viper V-10 engine delivered 90% of its 525 lb.-ft. of torque from 1500 to 5600 rpm (see other engine updates). The Ram's heavy duty cooling system was updated, and a custom dual exhaust system was mounted to new exhaust manifolds. The Ram SRT-10 also needed a unique oil pan, throttle linkage, transmission mounts, exhaust manifolds, and radiator. The engine was still made at the Conner Avenue plant in Michigan, and shipped to Saltillo, Mexico where the truck was made.

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Power went through a new Hurst shift linkage and a modified version of the Viper's Tremec T56 six-speed manual transmission, fully synchronized with electronic reverse lockout. A new 4.5-inch aluminum driveshaft ran to the transmission, and a modified differential with a Dana 80 4.11 rear axle delivered the torque to the road. The axle ratio was changed to 4.56 in 2005 models.

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Outside, the most visible differences were a unique front fascia and billet grille, the special hood with its air intake, and the "hunkered down" look from the lower suspension. It had an aluminum fuel door, fairly moderate SRT-10 badging, the red calipers, rear spoiler, rear fascia with exhaust cutouts, and a large chrome Ram-head badge.

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The truck used the Ram 2500 rack-and-pinion steering and front suspension, thoroughly retuned and dropping the pickup by one inch at the front and two inches at the rear. Changes included front and rear strut assemblies, the rear sway bar, springs, and shock absorbers (from Bilstein). 22x10 wheels held 305/40 Pirelli Scorpion tires. Standard ABS-equipped brakes were fitted with new 15-inch rotors up front; the rears ran modified Ram Heavy Duty 14-inch rotors. The front fascia included brake ducts for cooling.

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PVO director Dan Knott said, "This is a truck that you can run to the store in, and then start tackling apexes on your favorite set of twisties." (SRT stands for, depending on which release you read, "Street and Racing Technology" or "Strip, Road, and Track.")

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In February 2004, Brendan Gaughan, a six-time winner in a Dodge Ram in the 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, drove an unmodified Dodge Ram SRT-10 to an average speed of 154.587 mph at the Chelsea Proving Grounds. The record (a two-lap, both-directions "flying kilometer" run) was certified by Guinness World Records and the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), and beat the prior run by over seven mph. It has since been broken by the Holden LS2 6.0 litre Maloo R8 Ute.

Adding two doors: the 2005 Dodge Ram SRT-10 Quad Cab

Following on the success of the Dodge Ram SRT-10 regular cab pickup, Dodge launched the Ram SRT-10 Quad Cab, with two rows of seats and an automatic transmission - the 48RE four-speed, normally used with the diesel. A heavy-duty torque converter, new transmission calibration, and two-piece drive shaft were needed to keep up with the V10. Towing capability rose to 7,500 pounds.

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The automatic was only sold on the Quad Cab - the manual, only on the Regular Cab.

New for both trucks in 2005 were four-pot opposed-piston calipers and a three channel anti-lock braking system and a standard body-color aluminum tonneau cover. Suspension and interior changes from the 2004 Dodge Ram SRT10 were carried over to the Quad Cab.

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Driving it

The Dodge Ram SRT-10 is more than just a Ram with a Viper V-10 shoved into it; as with other SRTs, the suspension was updated to handle the power, without losing ride quality. We tested the Quad Cab, whose automatic gives the SRT-10 has a dual personality.

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The Viper engine is smooth and calm, easily controlled and giving the feel of an ordinary truck V8, as long as the throttle is kept in the usual operating range; the automatic reacts just like the standard Dodge truck transmissions. When the throttle is pushed down, though, the Viper heritage comes through, the engine power skyrockets, and the transmission shifts suddenly and jarringly to take full advantage of the power, and also to shift quickly enough to keep up with the rapid acceleration. In short, it behaves exactly as it should under both conditions - gentle and calm in normal driving, and performance-oriented in hard driving.

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The Viper engine sounds like a Viper engine, though it's in a big truck. Under normal driving, it gives a nice, deep growl. When the gas pedal is pushed down, depending on the demand, 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, sadly, unless you're at the track. 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.

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The engine is always instantly responsive, which is what it's most known for - gobs of torque from idle to redline. Still, the transmission was tuned for instant kickdown.

Cornering is good for such a big pickup, but by no means car-like; the Ram SRT-10 handles spurts of acceleration remarkably well, even on wet roads, but the heavy body and front-rear weight ratio make themselves known around turns, especially under throttle. We were surprised by how well the Ram cornered and shocked at how well it dealt with power application; but it's also easy to become overconfident and end up facing traffic instead of passing it (not that we've done that since the 1980s).

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Part of the secret of getting so much power to the ground is the standard anti-spin differential, which keeps the tail from swinging out except under serious provocation (the tail came right back into line as soon as power stopped).

The seats help keep the driver in control: suede inserts in the form-fitting leather seats keep everyone. Steering is tighter than in the usual trucks. There was a lot of high-end trim - dual zone a/c, power six-way driver's seat, 508 watt eight-speaker stereo, wheel-mounted audio controls, and power heated foldaway mirrors.

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The hood scoop directs cool air onto the top of the engine, but not into the intake. "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.

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We achieved the EPA estimates of 9 city, 12 highway, about the same as the real-world mileage of other big pickups with big engines, albeit on premium. It's one of the fastest SRTs, so you go to the track you can take on not just Mustangs and BMWs, but also SRT-4s. (Just remember to unhook the 12 foot trailer and get all that steel pipe out of the bed first).

The ride was firm enough, but the shock absorbers were clearly doing their job. There was none of the heavy-duty-pickup jouncing and bouncing, and at the same time, there was none of the boy-racer, over-tight-shocks, big-wheel-with-tiny-tires Japanese-sport-compact jittering and stiffness. The Ram SRT10 was surprisingly easy to drive on rough city streets and broken cement pavement. If anything, it was more pleasant than a standard pickup.

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Visibility is surprisingly good within the limits of its form. The car blind spot in the rear quarter was minimized with a small roof post, but being high off the ground makes parking or backing up an adventure. Headlights are strong, mirrors large, wipers and defrosters effective.

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The white-faced gauges had sharp backlighting at night; gauges were all sensibly placed, save for the AutoMeter oil temp gauge, inserted into the roof support. SRT 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 until the engine catches.

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Our test car had the optional navigation system, at $1,600. The stereo had fine sound and physical buttons and knobs that made it easy to use; the nav system worked well (we've had full reviews of the navigation system before).

We liked the little touches - overhead lights that go on when you press them, the universal garage door opener.

Driving the Ram SRT-10, we were often stopped, and even asked to pull over, by people itching to have a look at this truck (always men). We raised the hood for other Ram owners and for the public works people, blipped the throttle a bit, and showed off the interior.

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, really not as bad as it could be for a high-performance V-10 that can tow a trailer and carry four people; you can pay more for a truck that gives you less. With the options, the sticker price came to $57,460 (additions were red paint [$225], satellite radio [$520], side airbags [$490], power sliding rear window [$120], navigation [$1,600], polished wheels [$600!], and, the rear seat DVD player [$1,200].

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The Dodge Ram SRT-10 is clearly an unusual truck, boasting nearly the performance of the prior-generation Corvette automatic, with room for four, and the ability to tow and haul. In normal traffic, the Dodge SRT10 is docile, patient, and quiet; but it's always ready to spring forward with a deep roar. 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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Horsepower: 500 bhp (372 kW) @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 525 lb.-ft. (678 Nm)@ 4,200 rpm

Regular CabQuad Cab
Estimated weight, 20055,100 lb5,450 lb
Track, front68.568.0
Track, rear67.967.4
Ground clearanceUnlisted16.5
Drag coefficient0.430.45
Frontal area34.6 sq ft34.6 sq ft
Lowest gear1.78:12.45:1
Highest gear0.50:10.69:1

Box Length: 6'3"
Fuel Tank Capacity: 26 gallons
0-60 mph 5.2 sec.; 0-80 mph 8.4 sec.
Standing quarter mile 13.8 sec. @106 mph
Top Speed 150 mph

The 2002 Dodge Ram SRT-10 concept car

Before the production truck came the concept, claimed to do the 0-100mph-0 dash in 18 seconds. The concept had 24-inch wheels and 305/35 R24 high-performance tires, while the production truck ran to 22s. It hit 0.92 g on the skid pad. Like the production truck, it had an inch-lower ride height and four-wheel disc Viper brakes with fascia mounted brake ducts.

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