What's New for 2002
These staples of plumbers and electricians are unchanged for 2002.
Dodge's full-size vans and wagons still ride on a basic platform that dates all the way back to 1971. Although first Ford and then General Motors had both redesigned their big, body-on-frame vans some time ago, Dodge soldiers on with the unibody Ram, available as a passenger wagon and a conversion van (built by factory-approved conversion specialists). You can choose from three load ranges (1500, 2500 and 3500) and three overall lengths (192.6 inch, 208.5 inch and 234.5 inch Maxi), with a host of door configurations. Payload capacity is impressive at 4,160 pounds and 299.5 cubic feet on the 3500 MaxiVan.
Base engine in the 1500 and 2500 series is a 3.9-liter V6 with 175 horsepower, but most buyers may wish to opt for a V8, either a 235-horse 5.2-liter, or a 245-horse 5.9. With 295 pound-feet of torque, the 5.2-liter can easily handle most chores, saving the 5.9-liter's 335 pound-feet for the big jobs, such as towing trailers weighing as much as 8,600 pounds. The V6 is hooked to an automatic three-speed transmission, and both V8s get a four-speed automatic. The V8s have been around a long time and are not exactly frugal with fuel. To help compensate, 109-inch wheelbase models come with a 32-gallon gas tank, and all others get a 35-gallon tank.
A body freshening, new instrument panel with next-generation front airbags, standard rear-wheel antilock brakes (four-wheel ABS is an option), and revamped suspension tuning came along with the last major upgrade in 1998.
For commercial use, Dodge offers a variety of door combinations, window styles and work-related packages to meet on-the-job needs. Optional Tradesman features include a ladder rack, shelving units, a full-width metal partition behind the seats and rubber flooring. Fleet users can even order a CNG (compressed natural gas) powertrain.
Sticking with a good basic design has kept prices down while refinements over the years have kept these vans competitive in an ever-shrinking market. When DaimlerChrysler decides on a higher-volume product for its assembly plant in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, it'll drop Ram Van and Wagon production and relinquish the niche to Ford and GM. In the meantime, there'll be little change to this long-standing value story. As they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.