Track Test: 2003 Dodge Ram 1500 SLT Hemi vs. Chevrolet Silverado SS

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Feb 10, 2004.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Staff Member

    Jul 6, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Horse Play: Two fleet-footed sport pickups duke it out to answer the question, "Which delivers the most bang for the truck?"


    By Arthur St. Antoine
    Photography by James Brown & Kevin Wing

    The Players
    Potent V-8s and athletic suspensions transform two pickups, the Chevrolet Silverado SS ($39,995) and the Dodge Ram 1500 SLT Hemi ($27,820), into sport-sedan intimidators.

    The Game
    To determine our favorite of these two sport pickups, we mash down hard on their throttle pedals. A lot. Yes, we get paid to do this.

    It's never been difficult to find horses around pickup trucks. The two seem made for each other, like Michael Moore and heckling. Lately, though, finding horses around pickups has become downright effortless: All you have to do is lift the hood.

    Take a whiff: There's a new scent wafting through the air. That's because, for a fast-growing breed of sport pickups, the payload isn't horse manure--it's horsepower. No doubt inspired by all the whoopin' and hollerin' they're attracting in NASCAR's bed-bashing Craftsman Truck Race Series, all three major American pickup makers--Ford, Chevy, and Dodge--are now producing adrenalized street versions of their most popular models. Are these trucks true to the rubber-smoking spirit of their Craftsman-decaled counterparts? To find out, we gathered two of them, the Dodge Ram 1500 SLT Hemi and the Chevrolet Silverado SS, for a head-to-head comparo. (Okay, hold your letters. Rather than invite a lame duck to the party, we intentionally left Ford's entry, the supercharged Harley-Davidson F-150, out of this competition; it's about to be retired in its current form, as is the '03 Lightning. Look for the Harley to reappear in '04 as a new Super Duty model)

    If you think gym-pumped pickups are a passing fad, think again. A relative newcomer to the full-size-pickup fray, Toyota, will soon enter a race truck of its own in the Craftsman Series (see photo box). More pickup muscle is headed to our streets, too. Within a few months, Dodge will release its 500-horsepower, Viper-engined Ram SRT-10, a pickup quite possibly fast enough to transform a bale of hay into a diamond. Sometime in the '05 model year, Ford is expected to launch a counterstrike with its similarly outrageous Lightning SVT.

    The volume players, however, will remain entries like the Ram Hemi and the Silverado SS. So join us as we take to road and racetrack for a thorough shakedown of these two pickup-shaped hot rods.

    Two of a Kind

    A rear-drive, V-8-powered drag race between a Chevy and a Dodge usually meant a Camaro and a Challenger lining up at the lights, but now the concept is reserved for trucks.

    Chevy and Dodge probably have intelligence-gathering Predator drones flying over each other's engineering labs--that's how similar in specification the Ram Hemi and Silverado SS are. Each features a 345-horsepower pushrod V-8 engine, a live-axle rear suspension, four disc brakes with ABS, 20-inch wheels wearing the same 275/55R20 Goodyear Eagle LS tires, and a monochromatic paint job. Each also made its debut in the '03 model year.

    There are differences, of course. At a glance, the Chevy seems the brawnier of the two. This is a square-jawed machine--upright stance, chiseled prow, plastic egg-crate grille, deep front air dam with high-swagger air intakes, and subtle muscle swelling from each wheel arch. The SS' V-8 is bigger than the Ram's: It's a 6.0-liter unit delivering its 345-horsepower peak at 5200 rpm and turning out 380 lb-ft of torque at 4000. There's some added hardware in the drivetrain, too: The four-speed automatic transmission feeds the V-8's power full-time to all four wheels through a central viscous coupling.

    True to its Marlboro Man demeanor, the SS is broad-shouldered and rugged. It rides on a generous 143.5-inch wheelbase and wears an extended cab with small rear-hinged back doors. Curb weight is a hefty 5300 pounds. The window sticker is hefty, too: Base price is $39,995.

    The Ram 1500 is the stealthy player in this duo--though you may wonder how a sport pickup dipped in Flame Red paint and wearing chrome wheels could ever be called "stealthy." There's no ostentatious "I'm Fast!" ornamentation on the Ram. No rear wing, no bulges in the wheelwells, no "Ram air" scoop on the hood, no hyperactive cartoon characters screaming on the tailgate. Just a clean, modern design with--on our test vehicle--a neatly integrated sport-appearance option containing foglamps and a body-color front end.

    A closer look reveals clues to the Ram's prowess. On the front fenders are small badges containing the magic word "Hemi." Spot those, and suddenly this pickup's soul is laid bare. Under the hood lies Dodge's all-new 5.7-liter overhead-valve Hemi Magnum V-8. Its 345 horsepower comes at 5400 rpm; peak torque (375 lb-ft) is available at 4200. The Dodge bests the Chevy with an available five-speed automatic transmission (a required selection with the Hemi). Four-wheel drive is available, but our SLT test truck was rear-drive.

    Both manufacturers take a decidedly American approach to power. Dodge's new-age Hemi recalls the name and architecture of the original from the '50s, '60s, and '70s. And it certainly sounds the part. The 6.0-liter Chevy is also a jewel, proving just a few tenths quicker through the traps.

    Riding on a short 120.5-inch wheelbase (a 140.5-inch wheelbase is available) and sporting a two-door Regular cab, the Ram 1500 tips the scales at just under 4800 pounds. Base price on our Ram 1500 was a low $22,040. Even pumped up with the Hemi option (at just $795, an easy decision) and a load of conveniences, our test truck still checked in at a very approachable $27,820.

    Test Behavior

    If you're used to driving big, torque-tuned pickups, you'd probably never guess just how quick a full-sizer can be. From zero to 60 mph, these two 2.5-ton beasts run like Pat Buchanan at an Eminem concert. The Chevy, its added weight apparently offset by its superior four-wheel-drive traction, has a slight edge, clicking off the run to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, versus 6.8 for the Ram. Farther down the track, the small gap narrows. Our SS tripped the quarter-mile lights in 14.99 seconds at 89.05 mph; the Ram posted a nearly identical run of 15.11 seconds at 89.06. Such swiftness in a pickup truck is not only invigorating, it can be beneficial. The next time a buddy asks you to transport his couch, you can opt out simply by saying, "You ever seen what g forces do to Naugahyde?"

    Forward isn't the only direction in which these trucks impress. The Ram's huge disc brakes (13.2 inches up front) hauled it to a stop from 60 mph in a respectable 132 feet. The Silverado, however, was simply awesome, clawing to a standstill in just 119 feet--only a foot longer than the last Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG we tested. Unless you'd like to know how it feels to be batted in the head by Barry Bonds, better clamp down any cargo in back with railroad spikes.

    While the SS excelled in a straight line, when curves were added to the mix the Ram edged ahead. Hustled around the Streets of Willow circuit at Willow Springs International Raceway, the Ram revealed a trait you might not expect in a pickup: finesse. The Ram is a true driver's truck, rewarding its pilot with fluid, responsive steering, brakes that never seem to fade, and a composed, confidence-inspiring chassis that willingly follows your lead. The Hemi engine kicks out inspiring tailpipe tones, too. So encouraged, our test driver posted a best lap time of 1:09.5.

    The Silverado SS, in comparison, feels considerably less refined as speed builds. The brakes are powerful and the engine is always ready with bags of go, but the steering lacks precision and the chassis has none of the Ram's grace; it feels much less comfortable in this sport-truck role. Try to corner hard, and the SS argues by offering up copious understeer. It much prefers the "point and squirt" method of taming twisties: Slow way down, get the wheels lined up straight, then let the brawny engine and the four-wheel-drive system launch you toward the next corner. Our driver posted a best SS lap of 1:10.4.


    Inside Story

    The Silverado SS cabin has all the essentials for an agreeable driving experience: stylish black-on-white gauges (an apparent prerequisite for entry into the sport-truck class; the Ram and the departing Ford Harley have them, too), comfortable leather-trimmed seats, and such conveniences as standard dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, an AM/FM stereo with cassette and CD player, and power windows and locks. With the extended cab, there's also a second row of seats, accessible through small rear-opening doors. Back-seat legroom is exceedingly tight, though, so the only passengers you put back there had better be named "luggage."

    For all its abundant equipment, the SS' cockpit seems clunky and dated. The instrument cluster, the central control stack, the glovebox--all the pieces look like rectangular slabs fitted together without much regard for eye-pleasing transitions. Apart from the contrasting white-face gauges, there's a dark, monochromatic somberness that prevails throughout the cabin, too.

    It's standard Chevy truck stuff inside, plus white-face gauges and SS badging. This year's new flat-faced steering wheel is much nicer than the old dished four-spoker.

    The Dodge's dash is more plasticky than the SS', but everything is easy to reach and read. We'd spend a few more bucks for sportier leather seats, but the cloth sure grips well.

    The Ram's cockpit is far airier and sleeker. There's an elegant sweep to the dash, the central control stack is deftly integrated into the instrument binnacle, and the panel's edges are smoothly rounded and rolled together. Light-colored materials, offset by contrasting inserts, add interest to the design. In general, it's a look that says "tidy" and "modern."

    The Ram doesn't start out as well-equipped as the SS, but the standard-equipment list isn't skimpy. On board are air-conditioning, power windows and locks, cruise control, and an AM/FM stereo with CD player. Our test vehicle also included such extras as a power eight-way cloth bench seat, keyless entry, a seven-speaker Infinity audio system, power-adjustable pedals, and a handsome leather-wrapped steering wheel.

    Finish Lines

    There's something undeniably appealing about climbing into the tall saddle of one of these pickups and feeling all those eager ponies waiting for a kick from your spur. The sport-pickup genre is still new enough that there's a high "What the--?" factor whenever you blow past an unsuspecting sport-sedan driver.

    If the thought of doing so brings a wry smile to your lips, we unhesitatingly recommend the Dodge Ram 1500 Hemi. The Chevy Silverado SS has a slender edge in outright go-and-stop performance, and its all-wheel-drive system certainly adds points if you live in the Snowbelt, but its archaic cabin and rough-edged reflexes leave us cold--especially in view of its lofty $40-large sticker. For cash like that, there are many far more appealing vehicular alternatives.

    The Ram Hemi is a savvy execution of the sport-truck concept. Take a stylish, sophisticated pickup, add a throbbing V-8 and athletic rubber, and keep the price where sport-pickup supporters (read: young guys) can actually join in. Our nicely optioned Ram Hemi (at under $28K) should wear a "V" for "value." Keep your pencil away from the options boxes, and you can even enjoy Ram Hemi power for considerably less than that.

    Hey, you gotta smile when you can play the horses without losing your shirt.


    Chevrolet Silverado SS

    · Big-bore acceleration
    · Spectacular brakes
    · Square-jawed profile

    · Parts-bin cabin
    · Unpolished suspension
    · Exorbitant sticker

    · Binders that can outbrake a BMW 540i

    · Plenty of go, but too much dough


    Dodge Ram 1500 SLT Hemi

    · Prodigious Hemi power
    · Impeccable tailoring
    · Graceful moves

    · Lengthy stops
    · No back seat (Regular cab)
    · Wheels too damn shiny?

    · Effortless, adolescent smoky burnouts

    · The very definition of "bang for the truck"


    2003 Chevrolet Silverado SS
    2003 Dodge Ram 1500 SLT Hemi

    Drivetrain layout
    Front engine, awd
    Front engine, rwd

    Engine type
    V-8, iron block/alum heads
    V-8, iron block/alum heads

    Valve gear
    OHV, 2 valves/cyl
    OHV, 2 valves/cyl

    Bore x stroke,
    4.00x3.62 / 101.6x92.0
    3.92x3.58 / 99.5x90.9

    364.1 / 5967
    345.0 / 5654

    Compression ratio

    Max horsepower @ rpm
    345 @ 5200
    345 @ 5400

    Max torque @ rpm
    380 @ 4000
    375 @ 4200

    4-speed automatic
    5-speed automatic

    Axle/final drive ratio
    4.10:1 / 2.87:1
    3.92:1 / 2.62:1

    front; rear
    Upper/lower control arms, torsion bars, anti-roll bar; live axle, leaf springs Upper/lower control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; live axle, leaf springs, anti-roll bar

    Brakes, f;r
    12.0-in disc; 12.8-in disc, ABS
    13.2-in disc; 13.8-in disc, ABS

    20 x 8.5-in cast alum
    20 x 9.0-in cast alum

    275/55R-20 Goodyear Eagle LS
    275/55R-20 Goodyear Eagle LS


    Seating cap

    Wheelbase, in

    Track, f/r, in
    65.0 / 66.0
    68.0 / 67.4

    Length, in

    Width, in

    Height, in

    Turning circle, ft

    Headroom, f/r, in
    41.0 / 38.4
    40.9 / na

    Legroom, f/r, in
    41.3 / 33.7
    41.0 / na

    Shoulder room, f/r, in
    65.2 / 66.3
    67.0 / na

    Curb weight, lb

    Payload capacity, lb

    Towing capacity, lb

    GVWR, lb

    GCWR, lb

    Fuel capacity, gal


    Acceleration, sec
    0-30 mph

    0-40 mph

    0-50 mph

    0-60 mph

    0-70 mph

    0-80 mph

    0-90 mph

    0-100 mph

    1/4 mile, sec @ mph
    14.99 @ 89.05
    15.11 @ 89.06

    Braking, 60-0 mph, ft

    600-ft slalom, mph

    200-ft skidpad, lateral g

    Top-gear rpm @ 60 mph


    Base price

    Price as tested

    Basic warranty
    3 yrs/36,000 miles
    3 yrs/36,000 miles

    Powertrain warranty
    3 yrs/36,000 miles
    7 yrs/70,000 miles

    EPA mpg, city/hwy

    Range, miles, city/hwy

    Recommended fuel
    Unleaded premium
    Unleaded premium

  2. threecar

    threecar Guest

    kinda bogus comparison.extended cab awd chevy and a regular cab 2wd dodge.

    and the chevy was still faster even with the extra weight(yeah i know it has better traction off the line).
  3. coronet

    coronet Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep?

    Aug 25, 2003
    Likes Received:
    West Hills, Los Angeles, California
    Go ahead and tell them how OLD this article is.
  4. Umpa Lumpa

    Umpa Lumpa The Asian Invasion!!

    Sep 4, 2003
    Likes Received:
    The fucking USA
    That's a hell of a price difference! I'll take the dodge please. Looks meaner too!
  5. El Santo

    El Santo Guest

    that was pretty cool...i agree about the interior, though..they all seem somehow the same
  6. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Staff Member

    Jul 6, 2001
    Likes Received:
    It's surprising how much bigger the Dodge looks next to the Chevrolet. :eek:
  7. threecar

    threecar Guest

    do you think the fact that the chevy is all wheel drive,and an extended cab could help explain the price difference?
  8. muya

    muya Patiently waiting.

    Jul 10, 2001
    Likes Received:
    San Antonio, Texas
    dodge> *
  9. bokhan

    bokhan i love you

    Jul 31, 2001
    Likes Received:
    frumunda cheese~!
  10. threecar

    threecar Guest

    yeah they dad traded a 99 chevy in on a 03 dodge,and the difference was amazing,especially the rear seat area of the extended cab trucks,which in the dodge is almost a full crew cab.
  11. XtremelyCanadian

    XtremelyCanadian I play hockey.....EH

    Jan 4, 2002
    Likes Received:
    I'd still take the SS, it just looks better....especially in black.
  12. Bloke

    Bloke Banned

    Jun 1, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Pekin, IL
    not that mutch!
  13. El Santo

    El Santo Guest

    i hate my new chevy's headlights
  14. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Staff Member

    Jul 6, 2001
    Likes Received:
    It's mad.

    Mad that it has to go until 2007 without a complete redesign.
  15. El Santo

    El Santo Guest


  16. threecar

    threecar Guest

    i hated the avalanche when it came out,and the current trucks arent much better.GMC's still have a decent front clip on them,though.

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