It's interesting to observe the current heavyweight four-wheel-drive offerings from DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors, noting both the similarities and the unique aspects of each company's product. The concepts shared between the Ford Super Duty, the Chevrolet/GMC Heavy Duty, and the all-new Dodge Ram Heavy Duty include the use of the following: a rear solid drive axle suspended with leaf spring packs, a fullsize bed, a gas or diesel engine, a strong, heavily crossbraced ladder-style frame, and the spaciousness of a four-door crew cab configuration.
Although the three big trucks share these major traits, there are nuances evident in both design and construction in keeping with each truck maker's heritage and corporate goals. As to the major differences between the Dodge, GM, and Ford trucks, there are many, but the three major differences that set the trucks apart are styling, the front suspension, and the drivetrain.
We're not going to get too far into the front sheetmetal styling cues of the Chevy, Ford, and Dodge trucks, but let's call the General's front end conservative and clean and the Ford's nose distinctive and aggressive. The Dodge Ram HD's face is unique - bold with a capital B and unmistakably Dodge Ram.
Just as there are distinct faces on the three trucks, the front suspension on each of the trucks is equally unique. The Ford Super Duty uses the tried-and-true solid drive axle with leaf spring design. The GM HD trucks are equipped with modern, unequal-length upper and lower control arms with half-shafts (drive axles) and torsion bars to provide suspension. As with its styling, the big Dodge 2500 Heavy Duty takes a unique approach to a front drive axle and suspension, using a solid drive axle positioned by a modern five-link design and suspended by coil springs.
As if the styling of the '03 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty and its multi-linked solid front axle weren't enough to warrant a review and on-dirt test of the 2500-Series 4x4, add in the fact that this big Mopar is powered by an engine Dodge is counting on to bring Ford and Chevy owners into the Dodge fold, as well as to keep the Mopar faithful satisfied, the all-new, way-powerful 5.7L Hemi V-8.
We lived with our Dodge test truck for two weeks and added 3,225 miles to the Heavy Duty's odometer, including approximately 2,800 pavement miles (commuting on the highway, city driving, and long, open-road trips) and 400-plus miles on fire roads, desert trails, muddy logging roads, and sand dunes. Here's our report.