- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2002

A message of power thundered from the Dodge display at this year's Chicago Auto Show. Rumblings of a more potent High Output Cummins Turbo Diesel and a modern version of the legendary Hemi V-8 pumped excitement into the Ram Heavy Duty pickup debut.

"When it comes to heavy-duty trucks, we at Dodge aren't going to get outmuscled, outclimbed, outaccelerated, outpulled or outanythinged by Ford, Chevy or anyone," said Rich Schaum, DaimlerChrysler executive vice president of product development and quality.

Mr. Schaum said the 5.7-liter Hemi Magnum V-8 and 5.9-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel inline-six-cylinder plus the torquey (450 foot-pounds) 8-liter V-10 to make Dodge's all-new 2500 and 3500 Heavy Duty Rams the most powerful, most capable pickups on the market.

Starring in Dodge's presentation was the Hemi V-8, which conjures memories of the late-1960/early 1970 muscle-car years when the 426 "Street Hemi" engine powered revered Dodge performance cars such as the Charger R/T and Super Bee, Challenger R/T and Coronet R/T.

Dodge emphasizes this Hemi isn't a throwback engine, but one using modern materials and technology with hemispherical combustion chambers to produce a specialized engine for heavy-duty applications. The hemispherical head design, featuring cross-flow aluminum heads, permits the use of larger valves and delivers superior airflow to combustion chambers. This standard engine for 2500- and 3500-series regular-cab and Quad Cab pickups generates 345 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 365 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 rpm. The Hemi's standard transmission mate is a five-speed manual transmission. A five-speed automatic is optional.

Hemi-equipped Rams post a gross combined weight rating (weight of loaded truck and trailer) of 19,000 pounds. DaimlerChrysler hasn't announced fuel economy ratings.

For serious towing, the radically overhauled Cummins Turbo Diesel high-output six-cylinder is the choice. It cranks out a mind-boggling 555 foot-pounds of torque at 1,400 rpm and 305 horsepower at 2,900 rpm. "It's simply the most powerful heavy-duty pickup diesel available anywhere," Mr. Schaum said. "With its abundance of torque, this engine can tow more than any other in its class, with a maximum combination weight rating of 23,000 pounds."

Dodge boasts that along with more muscle, the diesel is quieter and more durable. Much of the Cummins Turbo Diesel's improvement is credited to a new, high-pressure, common-rail fuel-injection system. It uses pilot injection the injection of a small amount of fuel that initiates combustion before the main, power-producing fuel charge is injected.

The payoff is smoother combustion pressure in the cylinders and less of the common low- and midrange speed noise associated with diesel engines.

Mr. Schaum said that because it's a six-cylinder, the Cummins Turbo Diesel is more economical to operate than most competitive models. Estimates are a 4 percent fuel economy improvement over its predecessor, with a combined city/highway figure in the low-20-mpg range.

Durability and reliability are enhanced by the fact that its inline-six configuration has 30 to 40 percent fewer parts than typical V-8 diesels. Estimated overhaul intervals are 350,000 miles.

A standard-output version of the 5.9-liter Cummins diesel also is available. It maintains the Cummins power reputation with an output of 250 horsepower at 2,900 rpm and 460 foot-pounds of torque at 1,400 rpm. The standard-output Cummins is partnered with a five-speed manual transmission and the high-output version with a six-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional with the standard-output Cummins. No information is available on a high-output automatic option, but DaimlerChrysler said "stay tuned."

Along with unveiling its new Heavy Duty Ram pickups and engines at the auto show, Dodge provided a surprise, graphic demonstration of brute workhorse strength. "In this market you come on strong or you don't come on at all," Mr. Schaum said.

On that cue, his podium fell apart to expose a giant, shiplike bitt. This was followed with the curtain backdrop splitting apart. Waiting was the hitch end of a Cummins-powered Ram loaded with a thick tow rope. The rope was slipped over the massive post. Then the truck towed the audience-ladened platform for a short distance along the show floor. Mr. Schaum estimated the platform and 90 journalists on board weighed 30,000 pounds.

This is to prove Dodge Ram can pull its weight in the heavy-duty truck market, Mr. Schaum said.

Dodge Ram Heavy Duty pickups are scheduled to arrive in dealerships this fall.

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