2002 Dodge Ram 1500 Pickup-1/2 Ton-V8
Quad Cab SLT Plus 4WD
Refinement doesn't mean the Dodge Ram has gone soft, however. This year's Ram offers improved towing and hauling capability, and more powerful, more efficient engines. This complete overhaul puts the Dodge back on solid ground with the half-ton pickups from Ford and GM.
Two bed lengths are available, a 6-foot, 3-inch standard bed and an 8-foot long bed. Ordering the long bed only adds about $300 to the price. Long-bed models ride on a wheelbase that's 20 inches longer than comparable short-bed models. Eight-foot long beds also get a bigger fuel tank, 35 gallons in place of the standard 26-gallon tank.
Three engines are offered: Most popular will be the 4.7-liter V8, a new overhead cam design. A new 3.7-liter V6 is available that's similar in design to the 4.7-liter V8 is available. And, for towing, there's a big 5.9-liter engine using the older overhead-valve design.
A five-speed manual transmission is standard with the 3.7- and 4.7-liter engines; a four-speed automatic ($975) is optional. The 5.7-liter V8 comes standard with a heavy-duty automatic.
Four-wheel drive and two-wheel drive are available. Four-wheel drive adds approximately $3250-$4250.
Trim levels and trim packages include basic ST, SLT, SLT Plus, and Sport. ST comes standard with air conditioning, but is equipped with vinyl upholstery, wind-up windows, and manual door locks. SLT adds roughly $1700-$1800 and includes cloth upholstery, nicer interior trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a host of luxury and convenience, and wider tires. SLT Plus is the luxury package, which costs in the neighborhood of $6255-$6535 and brings leather seating surfaces, dual-zone air conditioning, a premium stereo, cast aluminum wheels, and a long, long list of luxury and convenience features. Sport trim is available for about $470; add another $1100 or so if you want the aggressive street-rodder 20-inch wheels and tires.
Dodge says prices have actually dropped slightly over last year. Base price for a Ram 4x2 Regular Cab ST 1500 is $17,670 ($715 destination charge included). Ram Quad Cab 4x4 models start at $26,065.
Heavy-duty versions of the Ram will not be introduced until next year, as 2003 models. Until then, shoppers for heavy-duty Ram models will be looking at the previous-generation of trucks.
Though evolutionary in design, the sheet metal is indeed all new. Park a 2002 Ram next to a 2001 Ram and the differences are striking. The design has been extensively re-sculpted for reduced wind noise and better rainwater management. The new Ram looks sleek and refined compared with the previous model. The old one looks mashed down compared with the new one.
Few grilles are as instantly recognizable as the massive horse collar grille of the Ram. Even more massive this year, the grille distinguishes among trim levels: The horse collar is all chrome on the SLT model, with a gray honeycomb center. SLT+ features a body-color grille surround and chrome cross hairs. Sport trim includes a body-color surround and cross hairs with unique chrome billets in the center.
Moving rearward, the new Ram presents a more robust appearance than before with a broad, sloping hood and a pronounced crown that falls to the bold front fenders. A faster, raked-back windshield improves aerodynamics and water management, and gives the new Ram a more modern appearance. The leading edge of the front door overlaps the A-pillar, creating a smoother transition from the front of the cab to the side. Everything is smoother and more integrated. The big side mirrors, great for visibility, are now mounted on platforms to reduce wind noise, and a channel has been specially designed to keeps water off of the mirrors. An integrated air dam improves engine cooling and air conditioner performance.
Standard bed length is 6 feet, 3 inches, but an 8-foot bed is now available for both cab styles. That makes the Ram Quad Cab the only half-ton crew-cab pickup with an 8-foot bed. (By comparison, the Ford F-150 SuperCrew only comes with a 5.5-foot bed while the new Chevy Silverado 1500HD only comes with a 6.5-foot bed.) The 160.5-inch wheelbase for a Dodge Ram Quad Cab with an eight-foot bed is 20 inches longer than short-bed Quad Cab or long-bed regular cab models, which increases the turning diameter by 6 feet; but it's just 3 inches longer than Ford and Chevy long-bed extended-cab models. Regardless, Ram beds are fitted with boat cleats designed to handle 1,000 pounds each.
Rams sit pretty high off the ground, particularly the four-wheel-drive models. Tailgate load height is 35 inches on four-wheel-drive models, 33.6 inches on two-wheel-drive Rams. That's a bit much when trying to heave heavy gear aboard.
That comfort starts with roominess. To increase roominess, Dodge stole 3 inches out of the bed and added more than 3 inches to the cab. So you sacrifice a little bed space for a lot more wiggle room.
Two cab styles are available: a regular cab and the four-door, six-passenger Quad Cab. (Club Cab extended-cab models are history; people stopped buying them when Dodge introduced its first Quad Cab in 1998.) Regular cab and Quad Cab offer identical roominess in the front seats. Dodge claims its regular cab offers the largest interior of any full-size regular cab pickup.
The cloth 40/20/40 split bench front seat in the Sport model is quite supportive, better than some of the seats we've seen recently in other brands. The optional leather seats are also comfortable and supportive during long drives. Three-point shoulder belts are used at all locations, including the rear center seat. Optional power adjustable pedals ($120) let shorter drivers adjust their seating position better so they aren't sitting so close to the airbag; it's a great, affordable option for two-driver families that offers significant comfort and safety benefits.
Pedals are adjustable so shorter drivers in the family can get comfortable without worrying about being too close to the airbag. (Side-curtain airbags are a $395 option.) Nice big mirrors make it easier to see what's behind. A big fold-down center armrest/console comes with adjustable dividers and a power outlet. White-faced instruments with turquoise numbers look sporty and trendy, but don't offer the legibility of traditional white-on-black designs, particularly at dusk. At night, the instruments are nicely illuminated in green.
The design of the audio system could be improved for ease of use. Sometimes you have to search for the right button to press. Setting a button for a station, for example, requires pressing a separate Set button, rather than just holding the button down. Sliding bass and treble controls are harder to adjust than knobs when bouncing around in a pickup truck. Optional steering wheel audio controls ($75) solve this with brilliantly designed buttons behind the steering wheel that are much easier to use than the awkward steering wheel controls found on GM's full-size trucks. Likewise, cruise controls on the steering wheel are easy to operate.
Otherwise, the center dash is a paradigm of convenience. Large heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) buttons can be operated while wearing gloves. A textured fabric is used for trim around the audio and HVAC controls, somewhat similar to what's found in Volkswagens, gives the center dash a nice look and feel. Just below the HVAC controls is a slot lined with a rubber mat that's perfect for a wallet or other small items. A big panel below that folds down with adjustable cup holders. Overhead is a console with an effective pair of map lights, a trip computer, a compartment for sunglasses, and a compass, which every self-respecting truck should have.
Regular cab models come fitted with a tray behind the seats big enough to hold a large bucket. Dodge even supplies the bucket, a tray designed to carry tools and such. Big hooks behind the seats are handy for hanging dry cleaning or plastic shopping bags so your groceries don't roll all over the place. There's even a hook just to the right of the center dash that's useful for hanging onto a couple of grocery bags; the Brits call these curry hooks.
The new Quad Cab is quite nice. About 80 percent of all Ram buyers will opt for the Quad Cab. It's easy to see why. The rear seat is roomy, with enough rake to the seatback to make it comfortable for two adults. Its size also makes the rear bench seat suitable for child safety seats. All three rear seating positions can accommodate child safety seats and are fitted with tether anchors.
With one hand you can flip the Quad Cab's rear seat down. An optional metal frame then folds into place to create a rigid platform designed to support 500 pounds; it should be great for carrying dogs or cargo not suitable for the bed. The rear doors open 85 degrees, making it easy to get in or load gear, and the rear windows roll all the way down. Overall, the Quad Cab is a friendly, practical design for hauling people and gear.
A rigid new chassis has reduced vibration dramatically. Dodge used an increasingly popular manufacturing process called hydroforming to fashion the frame. Instead of having to weld a bunch of straight pieces together, Dodge uses ultra-high water pressure to form the frame in any shape needed. This highly rigid frame is arguably the most important aspect of this new pickup. It allowed Dodge engineers to redesign the Ram suspension and to tune it precisely, without having to work around a lot of chassis flex.
A new rack-and-pinion steering setup sharpens handling, and 17-inch wheels are standard. The result is better handling, a better ride, and a truck that feels much tighter. Handling and maneuverability were key goals of the Ram design team, according to Dodge, in an effort to help drivers avoid crashes. All Rams come standard with big four-wheel disc brakes that are smooth and easy to modulate. Dodge claims they are the largest brakes in the segment.
Pickup trucks don't seem to be getting any smaller. One of the first sensations of driving the Ram is awareness of its immense proportions. This truck feels big and tall, and its fenders seem to fill small country roads. The ride height of the Ram adds to this sensation. It's sometimes difficult to be sure exactly where your fenders are, so it's not the best truck for the timid. In this regard, the Ram is the opposite of the Toyota Tundra, which feels smaller and nimbler by comparison. The big Ram reminds us a bit of driving an off-road race truck. It handles reasonably well and powers through or over just about anything, but the tires aren't always precisely where you wanted them.
Most Ram buyers will get the new 4.7-liter V8, and it's the best choice unless you have good, specific reasons to order the 3.7-liter or 5.9-liter engine. The first thing I noticed about driving a Ram pickup with the 4.7-liter was its responsiveness. This truck feels very eager around town and on winding roads. It accelerates quickly onto freeways and has no trouble powering up grades. It's a smooth, sophisticated engine that always feels ready to go.
The 4.7-liter V8 and 3.7-liter V6 are overhead-cam designs, smaller and more efficient than the overhead-valve engines they replace. The 4.7-liter V8, for example, offers a 1 mpg improvement (13/17 mpg City/Highway for a 4WD automatic) over the 5.2-liter V8 engine it replaces; it revs higher and produces 240 horsepower, 10 more than the 5.2-liter, but torque has dropped by 5 foot-pounds to 295. In practical terms, this is splitting hairs. What you will notice is that the 4.7-liter engine feels smoother and more refined, emitting a pleasant American burble while underway. I really liked it. Likewise the transmission feels smooth and does a good job of keeping the engine in the power band.
The new 3.7-liter V6 is smooth and works just fine with the manual five-speed gearbox. It might be a good choice for someone who lives in the flatlands at relatively low altitudes and neither pulls trailers nor hauls heavy loads.
The 5.9-liter engine uses the older overhead-valve design; the 5.9-liter engine and transmission feel crude in comparison to the new 4.7-liter. The 5.9 will do a good job of towing, but on the road it doesn't feel noticeably more powerful than the 4.7.
Trailer towing capacities range from just 3150 pounds for a 3.7-liter V6 with 2WD manual transmission to 8650 for a 5.9-liter V8 with 2WD automatic and 3.92 rear axle ratio. A 4WD Ram with the 4.7-liter is rated to pull a 7,550-pound trailer with the 3.92 rear axle ratio. Those who need to pull trailers up to 8500 pounds will want to opt for the 5.9-liter engine. It delivers 245 horsepower and 335 pounds-feet of torque. The available 20-inch wheels reduce towing capacity by 1000 pounds.
Payloads range from a mere 1320 pounds for a 4WD Quad Cab long bed with the 5.9-liter V8 to 1850 pounds for a 2WD regular cab with the 3.7-liter V6.
Four-wheel-drive models come with an all-new torsion-bar independent front suspension. Four-wheel-drive models use a part-time system that can be shifted from two-wheel drive on the fly. Shifting into four-wheel-drive high locks the center differential. A low-range set of gears provides superior traction in extreme conditions. A limited-slip "anti-spin" rear differential is available and recommended for serious off-road use. A Protection Group ($415) includes skid plates for the front suspension and transfer case. Rear axles are available in a standard 3.55 ratio or a higher numerical 3.92 ratio, which is better for towing and off-road driving.
Quad Cab models offer a brilliant combination of comfort and utility. And regular cab versions are far roomier than they used to be and are thoughtfully set up to accommodate gear behind the seat.
Model as tested
Ram 1500 4x4 SLT short-bed regular cab 12-inch wheelbase ($21,215)
3 years/50,000 miles
St. Louis, Missouri; Warren, Michigan; Mexico
Gas guzzler tax:
Price as tested
Options as tested
SLT Package 24G ($2340) includes cloth 40/20/40 split bench, power windows w/driver's one-touch down, power door locks, power heated foldaway mirrors, overhead console with compass and trip computer, cruise control, tilt steering column, cab back storage w/bin, leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear view auto dim mirror, floor mats, body-color upper fascia, gray bodyside molding, SLT badge, bright grille; premium cloth bench seat, power 8-way adjustable driver's seat, center seat storage cushion ($405); Sport Appearance Group w/20-inch wheels ($1610) includes anti-spin rear differential, 3.92 axle ratio, P275/60R20 tires on 20x9-inch cast aluminum wheels, fog lamps, body-color grille, front fascia, and rear bumper; Trailer Tow Group ($465) includes 750-amp battery, auxiliary transmission oil cooler, heavy-duty engine cooling, Class IV receiver hitch, 7-pin wiring harness, 7- to 4-pin adapter; Security Group ($415) includes remote keyless entry, Sentry key theft deterrent system, security alarm; four-wheel ABS ($495); automatic transmission ($975); sliding rear window ($140); AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo w/6 Infinity speakers ($875); steering wheel audio controls ($75); power-adjustable pedals ($120); under-rail bed liner ($245)
Model Line Overview
2WD ST Regular Cab short-bed 120-inch wheelbase ($16,955); 2WD ST Regular Cab long-bed 140-inch wheelbase ($17,240); 4WD ST Regular Cab short-bed 120-inch wheelbase ($21,215); 4WD ST Regular Cab long-bed 140-inch wheelbase ($21,555); 2WD ST Quad Cab short-bed 140-inch wheelbase ($22,150); 2WD ST Quad Cab long-bed 160-inch wheelbase ($22,430); 4WD ST Quad Cab short-bed 140-inch wheelbase ($25,350); 4WD ST Quad Cab long-bed 160-inch wheelbase ($25,680)
Safety equipment (standard)
rear-wheel ABS, dual front airbags
Safety equipment (optional)
4.7-liter sohc 16-valve V8
Specifications as Tested
Engine & Transmission
4.7-liter sohc 16-valve V8
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
235 @ 4800
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear