Dodge Trucks and Cars For 1998
By Carey Russ
Dodge Truck has an attitude. And for good reason. First it brought style to full-sized pickups with the big-rig-inspired Ram in 1994. Then there was the second-generation Dakota mid-sized truck in 1997, with its Ram Jr. styling. There's a double whammy to the competition for 1998. The Dakota has sired a new mid-sized sport- utility, the Durango, and Dodge has one-upped competitors who have 3-door trucks by introducing a 4-door cab for the Ram. That's not all. A high-performance version of the Dakota will be offered, and the full- sized Ram Van and Wagon have had major revisions.
Most sport-utilities are built on pickup chassis, so when the newest Dakota debuted last year there was plenty of speculation about a sport-utility variation. Stop speculating and start driving. Like the Dakota, the Durango is bigger than the compacts and smaller than the full-sized. Where compact SUVs typically hold 5 or 6 people, the Durango can carry 6 easily, and up to 8 with the optional third-row seat.
The Durango shares front-end styling with the Dakota, but is different from the windshield back. Although its hard to tell from the outside, the roof is raised over the second and third rows of seats for improved headroom.
The Durango is bigger than the competition inside of the engine compartment, as well. Available engines include a 175- horsepower 3.9-liter V6, a 230-horsepower 5.2-liter V8, and a 250- horsepower 5.9-liter V8 with 335 lb. ft. of stump-pulling torque. All come with a 4-speed automatic transmission, and all are currently offered in 4-wheel drive form only. Towing capacities range from 3200 to 7000 lbs., depending on engine and axle ratio.
Dodge has been criticized in the past for not offering a third door on the Ram. After all, all of its competitors have one, either as standard equipment or an option, on their extended-cab full-sized pickups. Welcome the Ram "QuadCab". As might be guessed from the name, it has 4 doors, for easier cab access from either side.
The rear doors on the Quad Cab, like the third doors its merely- 3 door competitors, are rear-hinged and require the front door to be opened first. This is not a crew cab design. However, it makes rear seat access very easy, whether for passengers or cargo. And that easy access is not limited to one side only.
All 1998 Ram trucks have a new instrument panel with dual depowered air bags and a passenger-side airbag cutoff switch. There are other interior enhancements as well, and minor exterior revisions.
As before, a wide variety of powertrains are available, ranging from a 3.9-liter V6 to an 8-liter V10 and a 5.9-liter Cummins turbodiesel.
New last year, the midsized Dakota will get a sport option package during the 1998 calendar year. The "R/T" package is aimed at the street performance enthusiast and will feature a 250-horsepower 5.9-liter V8, 4-speed automatic transmission, special sports suspension, and limited-slip differential. It will be available on 2- wheel drive regular and extended cab models.
Ram Van and Wagon
Full-sized vans may not have the high profile of sport-utilities or pickups these days, but they do fill the needs of a very diverse group of customers. To better fill those needs, the cargo-carrying Ram Van and passenger Ram Wagon have had a major makeover for 1998.
The external restyling is on the conservative side, but the real improvements are inside. Fit and finish of body panels has been improved. A new door system lowers wind noise. A new instrument panel features dual air bags. The engine has been relocated forward to improve interior access, and the unibody structure has been stiffened. The suspension has been retuned for better handling and increased load capacity.