Used 1997 Dodge Ram Wagon Van Review

Edmunds expert review




What's new for 1997

New this year are wider cargo doors, upgraded stereo systems, and an improved ignition switch with anti-theft protection. Front quarter vent windows disappear for 1997, and underhood service points feature colored identification.

Vehicle overview

Dodge's full-size vans and wagons haven't changed all that much through nearly three decades of existence. Squint your eyes and focus away from the front end (which was redesigned in 1994), and the latest big Rams could almost be mistaken for 1971 models. Does that matter to their fans? Not in the least. Dodge's brawny haulers have earned an enviable reputation over the years, proving their worth against rivals from Ford and General Motors. Like those makes, Dodge offers a bewildering selection of models, in three capacities with payloads as great as 4,264 pounds--not to mention the dazzlingly long list of options to be considered. Wagons can be equipped to carry as many as 15 passengers.

A driver's airbag is standard, and all Rams have rear-wheel anti-lock braking (four-wheel on the Wagons). Base engine in the 1500 and 2500 series is a 3.9-liter V-6, but most buyers would be better off with a V-8 (standard in the 3500 series). With 295 pound-feet of torque on tap, the 5.2-liter V-8 yields a rewarding combination of strength and economy, but no Ram vehicle ranks miserly at the gas pump.

For demanding applications, whether in cargo-carrying or passenger-seating, the 5.9-liter V-8, packing 330 pound-feet of twisting force, might be a better bet. To compensate for thirsty engine choices, Dodge includes a 35-gallon gas tank on all Ram Vans and Wagons.

New this year are wider cargo doors, upgraded stereo systems, and an improved ignition switch with anti-theft protection (Like theft is a problem here. Ooooh! Can't wait to get my thieving hands on that antique Dodge Van in mint condition...hey! Wait a minute! That's an airbag. This van is new!). Front quarter vent windows disappear for 1997, and underhood service points feature colored identification.

Plenty of RV converters turn out fancied-up variants of the Dodge Ram, but even the stock models can be fitted with a few comforts and conveniences to make driving pleasant, if not exactly posh. Wagons can have a power driver's seat, for instance, and you can even get a CD player with a graphic equalizer and Infinity speakers. An upscale SLT Wagon Package includes cupholders, seat map pockets, and cloth trim panels. Standard gear includes dual side doors, tinted windows, power steering, and a front stabilizer bar.

We find the Ram Van and Wagon to be packed full of value and think that they are a reasonable alternative to the full-size offerings from Ford and Chevy for those on a strict budget. When searching in this market segment, price is often the only thing separating somewhat unequal competitors.






Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.