SEE ALSO: Dodge Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 16,830 Price As Tested $ 18,665 Engine Type OHV 16-valve 3.9 Liter V6 w/SMFI* Engine Size 239 cid/3906 cc Horsepower 175 @ 4800 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 225 @ 3200 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 109.6"/78.9"/187.2" Transmission Three-speed automatic Curb Weight 4493 pounds Fuel Capacity 31.0 gallons Tires (F/R) P235/R7515 all-season Brakes (F/R) Disc/Drum (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive Vehicle Type two-passenger/six-door Domestic Content 76 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) 0.48 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 14/16/14 0-60 MPH NA Maximum payload capacity 1590 pounds Maximum towing capacity 4450 pounds * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
(The Hagin family has had many Dodge Vans over the past 40 years, and the matriarch of the family would like to forget them all.)
BOB - Before Chrysler popularized the practical minivan in early '82, full-sized vans were a very hot item. All the manufacturers made them ready for luxury conversions and propelled them with some very powerful V8 engines. They had psychedelic paint jobs and lush interiors that would have done justice to the ladies' room at a Las Vegas casino. I still see a couple of them driving around town, but like their exterior graphics, their glory has faded.
MATT - No one will accuse the new 1500 Dodge Ram Van that we're checking out as being plush or ostentatious. Our basic van is so simple that its only concessions to comfort are its cloth-covered reclining seats and an AM/FM/cassette sound system, both of which are standard on the entire Dodge Van line. They all have a "cigar" lighter on the dash and I guess that it's politically-incorrect to mention cigarettes any more. Dodge promotes its vans as the perfect choice in doing any kind of work or moving people. Unlike its competition, Dodge Vans utilize unibody construction, which means that they don't have a separate body mounted on a full-length ladder frame. This configuration probably gives them slightly more cargo space than the opposition. Our short-wheelbase model has 200 cubic feet of cargo space and can carry around 1550 pounds.
BOB - The Dodge Van line has three different engines available. Our tester had the bottom-of-the-line 3.9-liter V6 that puts out a paltry 175 horses, but with 235 pound-feet of torque, it's obviously tuned for pulling. Being the entry-level version, our 1500 cargo carrier used a simple three-speed transmission but there's a four-speed version available too. I can't think of any commercial vans like our Ram that carry a stick-shift anymore. There's almost a dozen versions of the Dodge Ram Van and up the line, they can be powered by a couple of other engines. The first is a version of the ubiquitous 235-horse 318 cubic-inch V8 that been around for a couple of decades. The other, a 360 V8, is also an old timer. All three of the engines use vintage technology with two valves per cylinder that are operated by pushrods and a camshaft that works from deep within the engine block. It's old stuff, but it's reliable and that's what you want in a commercial vehicle.
MATT - The rear suspension is similarly vintage with a live axle and leaf springs but over the years, Dodge has migrated away from torsion bars and now there's a pair of coil springs up front. It has drum brakes in back, of course, but an anti-skid system is standard on the back brakes. Our test rig couldn't be much more plain with its standard silver-painted 15-inch steel wheels sans hubcaps that mount P235/75R XL tires. I can picture this absolutely stripped van as being a good contender for around-town delivery service duty or for use by service businesses where carrying capacity and performance has to be weighed against price. You won't see them getting customized as fancy family vans.
BOB - That's true, Matt, but van conversions are still a significant part of the van market. Dodge is cozy with several van conversion companies around the country but they're usually done on the long-body vans that can be fitted with almost all the comforts of home. As a commercial people-carrier, the long-body Dodge Ram Van comes fitted with seating for 15 people. The seat by the rear door is a four-across layout, but as it has always been, the Dodge Van has two bucket seats up front. The engineers have never figured out how to get rid of that big cumbersome engine cover behind the dash board.
MATT - They've made a little progress in it's design, Dad. Where the engine cover used to have a flat top to lay road maps on, now it comes equipped with a couple of cup holders, a place to store CDs and cassettes, and an ash tray.
BOB - I guess the Dodge Ram van has entered the 20th Century.