We'll be the first to admit that it's not everyday that most off-road enthusiasts would require the use of a stump-pulling tow vehicle. But the one time that you do, it's often difficult to beat the combinations offered by the factory. You can install headers, superchargers, shorter gears, and beef up the suspension, but it still doesn't match up to the diesel packages that are offered on specific fullsize pickups. In the case of the 2001 model Dodge Ram, the use of the Cummins turbo diesel engine is not new, but with the addition of standard four-wheel disc antilock brakes and more horsepower than last year's model, the diesel option on the Ram is for serious towing only.
Our test vehicle was a 2500 Ram Sport, equipped with four doors and four-wheel drive. But what impressed us the most was the added power of the Cummins turbo diesel that was increased from 235 hp to 245 hp for '01. More impressively, the torque ratings went up from 460 lb-ft to 505 lb-ft on six-speed, manual-equipped models only. The Cummins diesel is a turbocharged, 5.9L 24-valve, inline six-cylinder engine that matches its impressive horsepower and torque ratings with excellent fuel economy. For towing purposes, we feel the Cummins diesel package has more to offer than the 8.0L V-10 that has a torque rating of 450 lb-ft but produces 310 hp. Our test model averaged that fuel economy is also better with the diesel.
The six-speed manual transmission's gearing is intended for serious pulling, especially when equipped with the standard 4.10:1 axle gear ratio on this model. Although most diesel-equipped trucks with manual transmissions are not intended for quick acceleration, the Dodge is able to easily pull away from many unsuspecting sedans when the turbo kicks in around 1,800 rpm. Another advantage to the low-geared diesel-equipped Ram is its climbing abilities when equipped with four-wheel drive. For normal street driving, we skipped First and started off in Second gear, but when climbing a steep, sandy hill, we were thankful for the Low First gear ratio. Creeping along in four-wheel-drive High and First gear definitely delivers a confident feeling, especially when some of the other four-wheel-drive vehicles during our test couldn't make it up the hill.
Although the Cummins-equipped Ram was loaded for bear, normal day-to-day street and highway driving is not its forte. The engine is loud, the suspension is stiff, and the ride is jerky when having to quickly shift through the gears when the rpm comes up quickly and the turbo spools up. Most of this, however, can be attributed to the stiffer suspension from our test truck's Camper Special Group, which adds a set of helper springs to the factory leaves.
Drivetrain aside, the interior of the Ram was also impressive.Our test model was equipped with a full leather interior with black carpet and matching upholstery on 40/20/40-style power seats with optional seat warmers for those cold mornings. The Quad Cab allows easy access to the rear of the cab and, although the rear seats are plush, only a couple of small children could fit comfortably in back. The dash is fully optioned with simulated wood trim and full instrumentation that's easy to read. Our model also had the optional SLT package that included steering wheel radio controls, a great feature when you're busy pushing in a stiff, heavy-duty clutch and shifting gears. The SLT package also includes remote keyless entry and an AM/FM stereo system with a cassette, CD, and equalizer. The system reproduces great sound from a set of six Infinity speakers that is amplified and located throughout the cab.
Our test truck was also equipped with the Sport Appearance Group that includes a choice of bright colors such as Flame Red, Solar Yellow, Black, Bright White, and Intense Blue pearl. The package also includes decals, quad halogen headlamps, and body color matching front and rear bumpers. A set of 16x7-inch aluminum wheels is also part of the package, even for 3/4-ton and 4WD models. Of course, if you really want to equip your Ram for towing, you can always opt for the towing group and a number of different heavy-duty service packages or camper special equipment. We hitched up a 3,500-pound trailer with a 3,200-pound Dakota loaded on it, and the turbo diesel Ram acted like it was nothing. Acceleration was incredibly smooth and pulling up a six percent grade covering more than 4 miles, we managed to average 50 mph in effortless towing. Considering the base price for a Quad Cab Ram is $25,605, the fully equipped diesel version, as tested, priced at $39,310. Like we said before, this truck is for serious towing only.