Pros: Reliability, ergonomics, excellent fuel mileage (with the Cummins diesel), beautiful design, low maintenance
Cons: Some say that the auto tranny goes bad (I have not had that experience yet).
Love at first sight... Seems a little unusual for a woman, but no other words could better describe the feeling I had for this truck since the minute I saw it. I have to admit, I HEARD it long before I saw it. And I must say, it does sound lovely indeed.
You may have already guessed that the truck I am writing about is a diesel. A 1999 Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins 24 valve Turbo Diesel, long bed Quad cab 4X4, to be exact. Slightly lifted, too. And oh, so pretty! Driftwood gray, my favorite color.
Okay, I am and always have been a sucker for diesels. I started out with a 1981 VW Rabbit 4 cylinder diesel, then moved up to a 1984 Volvo 240 6 cylinder diesel, and now I have the forementioned Ram (naturally, with a Cummins 6 cylinder diesel).
Many people have a belief that diesels are slow, loud and smoke a lot. With the VW all of the above were true, with the Volvo they were even more true, but the new(er) Ram does not fit the old stereotype so well. It has tons of torque (as I expected) but it also has plenty of "pickup" (no pun intended), or should I say acceleration... I will not get into figures on torque and horsepower, I do not know and I really do not care about the exact figures. All that matters to me in that department is the fact that this truck can tow our 24 foot cabin cruiser AND accelerate onto an uphill freeway on-ramp at safe speeds (unlike the old Rabbit which could barely get out of its own way). The Ram also has a top speed higher than any of the local speed limits which are not likely to drastically increase during the truck's expected shelf life.
Since I mentioned its life expectancy, I will add that we bought the pickup with 106,000 miles and have already added 7k miles onto it with absolutely no problems. In fact, other than having the dealer (BBC Dodge in Seattle area) recharge the A/C at the time of purchase, we have had no repair costs on this vehicle. It runs strong, starts right up in any weather (and we have had all kinds of weather during the last year) and boy, does it stop well! Not well enough to miss the Audi A4 which it was tailgating, but that really was not the truck's fault... Boy, was the A4 messed up. The dodge, however, hardly had a dislocated jaw... I meant, the front bumper which took very little effort to straighten out. The rear bumper, which got kissed by a honda during the same event, hardly even had a scratch. Poor totalled honda.
Perhaps now would be a good time to write about the overall comfort of this vehicle. I am not the person anyone should ask about seat comfort. My back is messed up and no seat I have ever sat in comes even close to being comfortable for more than five minutes. Other people, my husband included, seem to have no complaints about the seats.
With plenty of leg room (in the front) and head room, power driver's seat, power windows, a folding center console which flips up to become a 6th seat, A/C, an amazing stereo with a 6 disc CD changer, fuzzy velour interior and exceptionally well designed controls, this truck could even be considered a luxury truck. The only thing we are missing is the leather interior, but this IS a truck after all.
As far as the controls go, this is the most user friendly vehicle I have ever driven, and I have driven just about every type of car when I worked at a service station years ago. Everything is so easy to reach, the heater control is a large, simple knob that can be turned from off to A/C to different vent openings without taking your eyes off the road. If only they made BMWs like that! Same goes for the stereo, which has large, easy to reach knobs and buttons for volume, tape, cd and radio control so the driver does not have to stare and squint to find another radio station. We have a factory stereo, by the way, and the sound quality is more than I could ever ask for. The treble, the bass, the mid range... everything sounds so clear and balanced and not distorted at higher volume. Wow.
One notable thing about the Ram's ergonomics is the fact that the left side of the quad cab makes a head check completely useless during left lane changes without sticking your head out the window, so the driver's side mirror is curved to avoid blind spots. The right side is a little more conventional, but care must be taken to avoid "smooshing" an unsuspecting vehicle in the blind spot. A head check on the right side can actually prove to be useful.
One of the awesome things about "my beloved dodge" (and I suspect, most modern trucks) is the 4 wheel drive system. It can be switched from 2 wheel drive to 4 wheel drive without getting out of the truck to lock/unlock hubs, or reversing, or any other elaborate moves of the past. And it works quite well indeed.
Another favorite of mine is the ground clearance. I already mentioned that our truck is slightly lifted (just a couple of inches), but I imagine the standard trucks are still pretty OK. Not only does the high ground clearance help off road, but it makes oil changes a breeze. All you need is a bucket and a 3/8" ratchet (it sticks straight into the oil plug, without a socket or any other attachment) and the oil drains straight down, not sideways or backwards like most cars (I never did figure out why oil drain plugs should point in any direction other than DOWN). The oil filter is easy to reach from the top if you are tall, or if you can climb up onto something (I just stand on the front wheel).
With today's increasing fuel costs it would be important to mention that when driven sanely (as opposed to lead footedly) this truck gets 18 to 24 mpg (city and freeway respectively). If driven on a smooth flat road with no load and with cruise control set at 45, it can get close to 40 mpg. Good luck finding such a road. The fact that Cummins is an inline-6 rather than a V-8 definitely helps the excellent fuel mileage as well as lower maintenance costs; it also looks fabulous and sounds sooo sweet! I still can not help but smile to the burly growl of the diesel and the "cute" whistle of the turbo. Who needs another kind of music? I don't know, you tell me.