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Dodge Ram backs up its bold looks with powerful engines. It boasts excellent street manners with a smooth ride, quick steering and excellent brakes.
And it comes with a host of significant changes for the new model year: more powerful engines; new front suspensions and steering systems for improved ride, directional stability and steering precision; new brake systems. Two new options have been added to the lineup for 2000, a special off-road package and a luxurious leather SLT Plus package.
Ram is available in three load ratings: 1500, 2500, and 3500. Five engines are offered: 3.9-liter V6, 5.2-liter V8, 5.9-liter V8, 8.0-liter V10 and a Cummins 5.9-liter diesel inline-6. Every engine comes with a choice of 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. Rams come with either two- or four-wheel drive. Short and long beds are available.
Both of the popular V8 engines were upgraded last year. The 5.2-liter V8 produces 230 horsepower; the 5.9-liter V8 generates 245 horsepower and an impressive 335 pounds-feet of torque. For 2000, buyers will be able to get either a V10 gasoline engine or a Cummins turbo diesel in a 2500 or a 3500 series truck.
Standard, Club Cab and Quad Cab bodies are available in LT, Laramie SLT, and SST trim levels. Regular-length beds are 6 1/2 feet long, optional long beds are 8 feet long; short and long wheelbase versions are available.
A Sport Plus package comes with 17-inch wheels and tires, suspension upgrades and a 5.9-liter V8 with sport exhausts.
The Ram Off-Road 4x4 packages a recalibrated suspension and LT275/70R17 all-terrain tires mounted to 17-by-8-inch cast aluminum wheels, a unique steering gear for low-speed agility, and a limited-slip differential; the package includes an upsized battery and alternator, auxiliary transmission oil cooler, a larger radiator, front tow hooks, skid plates, fog lamps, heavy-duty service equipment and unique Off-Road decals. This package is available in regular cab and Quad Cab 1500 short-bed four-wheel-drive models.
The upscale SLT Plus package comes with a leather interior, new front driver and passenger power-adjustable heated seats, a rear under-seat storage compartment, CD player with Infinity speakers and remote audio controls in the steering wheel, illuminated vanity mirrors, keyless entry, security alarm, fog lamps and anti-lock brakes.
Four-wheel anti-lock brakes are now standard on all 3500 models. For 2000, Dodge Rams are available in three new colors, including Dark Garnet Red, Sierra Bronze and Patriot Blue.
Our Ram 1500 was fitted with the 5.9-liter V8 and 4-speed automatic transmission. This engine has a ton of torque and a broad power band, which makes it a great deal of fun to drive. This is a great engine for heavy-duty use, the best choice if you need to pull a trailer, but don't want the diesel or the higher fuel bills generated by the V10.
A V8 pickup truck is great fun for cruising. Passing is effortless. The manual transmission can add flexibility in off-road situations, but we recommend the automatic for street use. The low-end torque of the engine and the low gearing in first and second gears make it easy to get around in all driving situations.
Front suspension on a Ram is a coil spring setup with four leading arms, a track bar and a stabilizer bar to keep the front axle assembly located fore and aft and side to side. Rear suspension is a conventional live axle with leaf springs designed to carry heavy loads. The suspension in our 1500 model was smooth and quiet on the street, aided by big, soft Goodyear tires. The Dodge V8 pickup truck has for years had a special kind of presence on the street, and the Ram backs up that presence with excellent street manners and ride.
A new steering gear design along with new steering geometry make steering much more precise than earlier models. Steering in the earlier Rams was light and quick, but had a lot of dead space on-center and seemed to require constant left-right adjustments.
Braking, with discs in front, drums in rear, is exemplary. The Ram stops quickly with superb straight-line stability. The brakes have been redesigned with dual-piston front disc brake calipers and a more responsive brake booster for improved braking performance.
The other thing that may have improved is the build quality. Our truck was free of squeaks, rattles and shudders, and everything about it seemed a bit tighter, a bit smoother, a bit more high-quality than previous models we've driven.
This four-door Ram is so terrifically easy to use for a group of four or five people that we no longer think of trucks solely as work vehicles. Four-door pickups make so much sense for so many families that they'll be as common as minivans in a few years. Dodge was the first to offer four doors, but its success has forced Ford, Chevy and GMC to follow.
Dodge offers an excellent package. Improvements to the instrumentation, new powertrain and body combinations have made it better. For cruising around town or going to the beach, the Ram offers loads of room, loads of power and loads of style.