Used Car Reviews

Used Vehicle Reviews: 2002-2008 Dodge Ram 1500 Review

Vehicle Type: Full-size Pickup Truck

At a Glance

When power, styling and manly-truck muscle are priorities, few machines can match the punch Dodge built into the last-generation Ram 1500. Largely considered the ‘sporty’ pickup in the segment, the 2002 to 2008 generation model hit the road in 2001 with numerous body styles, engines, features and powertrains.

Ram’s interior can be exceedingly inviting for a pickup truck—with some models offering a premium audio system as well as navigation, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and Bluetooth cellular phone compatibility. Don’t miss the Mega Cab configuration either, which provides more space than some living rooms.

Pick One

2002 Ram 1500 models hit the road with a sole V6 engine option and a pair of available V8s. Standard was Chryslers 3.7-litre V6, with 215 horsepower. Shoppers after V8 power could opt for either a 4.7-litre unit with 240 or 305 horsepower depending on the year, or a 5.9-litre, 245-horsepower torque-monster.

The go-to 5.7-litre HEMI V8 kicked in for 2003, offering 345 horsepower. The cylinder-deactivating Multi Displacement System (MDS) was added to the HEMI engine for 2006 to help mitigate fuel consumption by shutting down half of the engine in certain situations when full power wasn’t required.

Depending on the year and engine chosen, look for a manual transmission with five or six speeds, or an automatic with four or five. Rear- or four-wheel drive models were available, too—utilizing either electric or manual transfer cases, depending on the model.

Thumbs Up

Owners typically give their Ram models a great big thumbs-up for power output with the larger engine options, great sounding exhaust, great styling and competitive pricing and feature content at initial purchase.  Many owners say they enjoy a tough, capable and ‘safe’ feel to the ride on any road and in any weather.

Thumbs Down

Owners typically grumble about fuel consumption with the HEMI V8 on board, as well as poor outward visibility for parking and lane-change shoulder checks. A rough ride on some roads is another fairly common gripe.

Check 1: Tires and Brakes

Numerous owners have complained of premature wear of factory brakes and tires. Though wear of these components is largely a factor of driving style, locale and how the Ram is used, a quick check can determine if the model you’re considering is about to need new rubber, pads, or rotors.

Check 2: The Underside

Test drivers are advised to spend some time looking around underneath the Ram 1500 they’re considering, possibly with the help of a mechanic and a hoist. Any signs of excessive rust, punctures, leaks, or other issues should be scrutinized and called into pricing negotiations. If the Ram you’re considering has a leaking rear-main seal, or has had a rock smash its oil-pan in, now’s the time to find out.

Check 3: Anything Electronic

Numerous Ram owners from this generation have complained of frustrating and often difficult-to-diagnose electronic issues ranging from improper functionality of interior gadgets to random engine stalling. Shoppers should plan to spend a few minutes trying any and every electronic item in the Ram they’re considering, confirming proper functionality. Don’t forget the windows, stereo, auto climate control (if equipped) and steering wheel–mounted audio controls.

Check 4: The Transmission

Be sure to check for smooth shifting from the transmission, a steady and even idle, and even, hesitation-free acceleration at both moderate and full throttle. If you’re unsure, having the Ram’s engine computer scanned may reveal potential sensor-related issues that can compromise refined operation of the transmission. Rough shifting from the automatic transmission, as well as engine stalling, though rare, warrant further investigation or shifting of attention to another unit.

Check 5: The Four-Wheel Drive

If equipped with four-wheel drive (4WD/4x4), triple-check that the unit you’re considering shifts into and out of all 4WD modes as outlined in the owner’s manual. Try shifting into and out of each mode several times, ensuring the seller isn’t trying to pass off a pricey repair bill for a blown 4x4 shift solenoid. review quotes & links:

The massive grille and imposing front-end of the redesigned 2002 Dodge Ram half-ton pickup may be intimidating, but the new Ram pickup is a refined driving machine. Probably the best-handling, most responsive full-size pickup on the market, the new Ram provides a good balance of performance, practicality, hauling capacity, and comfort at a very reasonable price in its class.

Greg Wilson,