What's New for 1999
The Sport model gets a new front bumper, fascia, grille, headlamps, graphics and Solar Yellow exterior color just to make sure it won't go unnoticed in traffic. All Ram Pickups get an express-down feature for the power windows, a new headlamp switch, and four-wheel ABS is standard on vehicles over 10,000 pounds.
The Dodge boys had to know they had a winner when their bold Ram Pickup debuted in 1994. Few trucks have turned as many heads, or prompted so much comment. Whether decked out in Sport trim or wearing conventional chrome on its chest-thumping grille, this is macho mentality sculpted in steel.
Under the hood, the goods range from modest to mammoth. For the practical-minded, there's a mild-mannered 3.9-liter V6 that makes 175 horsepower. Then there's a Cummins diesel with 460 pound-feet of torque whose throbbing note and power make a guy want to grab his Stetson and haul on out.
Those who'd like a little more muscle have a pair of V8s to choose from. Whoa! You're still not satisfied? Like TV's "Tim the Tool Man," you want "more power?" Say no more. Just check the option list and you can barrel homeward with an 8.0-liter V10, blasting out 300 horses, and a locomotivelike 450 pound-feet of torque. The Magnum V10 is available only in heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 series pickups.
One first-season criticism centered on space. Only the regular cab was available, seating three on a bench. Dodge claimed its cab was the most spacious in the industry, but that was little consolation to potential buyers who needed to carry extra people. So Dodge introduced a Club Cab that seated six adults, even if access to the rear wasn't so easy. Last year, the rules changed again. Dodge now offers a Ram Quad Cab, which means rear-access doors on either side of the cab. The four-door Ram Pickup offers convenience previously found in sedans (though competitors were quick to offer four-door pickups of their own). And for 1999, all extended-cab models get some storage space under the rear seats.
Inside, the Ram Pickup is fully modernized, with ergonomics that match the utility of the rest of the truck. The passenger-side airbag comes with a cutoff switch, so it's perfectly safe to strap in a child seat up front. With any engine, tromping the gas produces a reassuring roar -- a reverberation of vitality. Otherwise, it's fairly quiet. Ride and handling are so competent that you almost forget you're in a full-size pickup, though occupants will notice plenty of bumps. Visibility is excellent, and controls are first-rate. Automatic-transmission shifts are firm, but not harsh, and the column-mounted gearshift operates easily. For such a bulky vehicle, the Ram Pickup is surprisingly agile and reasonably surefooted, but think twice before making any quick maneuvers.
Demand for the Ram Pickup is still strong, but heavy competition in the form of freshly redesigned Ford and Chevrolet full-size pickups might make you think twice before buying a Ram.