You know, building a hot selling pickup truck used to be pretty easy. As long as it was reliable, and could haul and tow a lot of stuff, it was sure to sell. But as pickups have evolved into family haulers, building a truck that will appeal to everyone from construction workers to soccer moms, has become a major challenge. A challenge faced up to by Dodge, as it launches its all new Ram pickup. So does the 2002 Dodge Ram have both the power and the polish to please them all?

Well, it certainly looks powerful! In fact, the 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup makes all other full-size pickups look absolutely demure. The bigger-than-ever big-rig grille on the new Ram really grabs your attention. And will have drivers in front of you thinking that they’re being followed by a whole lot more truck than they really are.

Other changes include a high crowned hood and smoother fenders leading to a very sharply raked windshield, which blends with doors that now wrap around the A-pillars to form an almost aerodynamic roofline. Dodge engineers also reshaped the bed, eliminating the wide gap between cab and bed that spoils the lines of most pickups. And on Quad Cab short-box models like our tester, cut the bed by three inches to 6 foot-3, thus adding cab space and allowing a switch from clam-shell to all traditional doors. A 8-foot box is also available as is a Regular Cab.

Quad Cab payload tops out at 1520 pounds for our 4X4, 1770 for the 4X2. Also on the outside, are an extended fender line and new taillights. Standard 17-inch wheels round off the exterior package. If that’s not big enough, huge 20-inch cast wheels are part of the optional Sport package.

The interior has received a complete makeover as well. It’s well-equipped and offers everything from full power accessories, to available heated seats and power adjustable pedals. The all-new dash is cleaner and more car-like, with significantly better fit and finish, signaling a shift in Ram personality from work-first to more personal use. The front seat is a wide, well padded 40/20/40 split bench, with good back support, but a need for larger side bolsters. And a large folding center console that’s big enough for a laptop computer. The driver faces a larger, comprehensive analog gauge cluster. And you’re in easy reach of both the straightforward stereo controls as well as the idiot-proof climate controls, which are a dual-zone automatic system in the top-line SLT Plus model.

The rear seat is also a folding bench but with a 60/40 split. It features a shoulder belt for the center passenger, and baby seat anchors. And when folded, reveals a steel load floor with tie-down hooks.

To motivate this much truck, Dodge has equipped the 2002 Ram with a trio of capable engines. Base is a 3.7-liter single-overhead-cam V6. Also used in the Jeep Liberty, it delivers 215 horsepower and 235 pound- feet of torque. We tested the new-to-Ram 4.7-liter single-overhead-cam V8. Also borrowed from Jeep, it smoothly pumps out 235 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The biggest Magnum V8, the carryover 5.9-liter pushrod engine, provides 245 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. Enough to trailer tow the Quad Cab’s max of 8,350 pounds. Transmission choices are a 5-speed manual, or the new 45-RFE 4-speed automatic with multi-speed overdrive.

With the 4.7-liter V8 and automatic tranny, our test truck hit 60 in 10.3 seconds. And ran the 1/4 mile in 17.8 seconds at 77 miles-per-hour. Not bad. Both engine and transmission felt very refined, and well matched, with a wide, flat spread of power.

We were equally impressed with the handling. The new Ram feels much more balanced than its predecessor, with little body roll, reasonable levels of steering feel, and far less chassis flex over rough pavement. The improved handling and ride quality speaks volumes about the new suspension. Front dual A-arms with coil springs and gas charged shocks and stabilizer bar, and rear leaf springs carrying a live axle. As well as to the new, stiffer frame with stout hydroformed rails.

Braking is by 4-wheel discs, with standard rear ABS, or the available 4- wheel ABS of our test truck. From 60, stops averaged a longish 142 feet with good stability and moderate nose dive.

If you want to get off the track, the new Ram’s part-time 4-wheel-drive system features a beefed-up manual transfer case, and optional electric- shift unit. With V8 power and 9.5-inches of ground clearance, this Ram proved more than up to all our off-road tasks.

Now, if you have a task for the Ram, the price of ownership starts at $17,670 for a Regular Cab 2-wheel-drive model. Quad Cab models start at $22,865.

Like all of today’s pickups, the 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 must be many things to many people. From hard-charging work truck, to soccer mom school bus. Tough, yet refined. That’s quite a challenge, but one that the new Dodge Ram does not retreat from. It’s unquestionably the best full-size pickup that Dodge has ever built, with the power and polish to please all of today’s diverse and demanding pickup buyers. It is, in a word, Ram-tastic.


  • Engine: 4.7-Liter Sohc V8
  • Horsepower: 235
  • Torque: 295 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 10.3 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 17.8 Seconds @ 77 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 142 Feet