CHICAGO - Dodge focused on comfort with its overhauled 1500 Ram pickup.
The goal was a less noisy, less 'nervous,' and better handling pickup than the successful model it replaces. The 2002 model marks the first major overhaul since the 1994 model year, when a bold redesign made the Ram a contender in the U.S. pickup field.
'We think the market is moving more from commercial to consumer,' said Frank Klegon, vice president of truck platform engineering for the Chrysler group. 'Consumers are more intelligent with respect to ride.' They've been driving cars and sport-utilities and have higher expectations.
Among the major changes:
A hydroformed frame. Like General Motors' full-sized trucks, the frame was created through a process that uses high-pressure water to form tubes into frame rails. DaimlerChrysler says the process gives the frame a 400 percent increase in torsional stiffness and 150 percent more lateral bending than the 2001 pickup.
Major reductions in noise, vibration and harshness.
Two new engines, a 210-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 and a 235-hp, 4.7-liter V-8.
A new four-speed automatic transmission; Chrysler says it is more responsive and shifts more smoothly than the previous automatic.
Rack-and-pinion steering, which Dodge says is tuned to give the driver a better feel of the road.
'One of the areas that we wanted to improve was `down-the-road shake,' where we thought our vehicles were more nervous compared to our competitors,' Klegon said. 'We targeted that by the doing a hydroform frame.'
The all-new exterior design amplifies the brawny Ram look, while refining it for reduced wind noise and improved cooling and aerodynamics. The line will be limited to two models: Regular Cab and Quad Cab. An extended cab will not be offered.
The Ram line accounted for 380,874 U.S. sales last year.
The 2002 Ram 1500 pickup goes on sale this fall. Its companion 2500 and 3500 pickups will bow a year later as 2003 models.