Ram’s looks, viper’s bite
9 December 2003

There just ain’t no replacement for displacement. So when you shoe horn an 8.3-litre, 500bhp V10 motor into Chrysler’s bold-faced Dodge Ram pickup, you know the result will be explosive.

How explosive? Think 0-60mph in 5.5sec. Think a genuine 150mph-plus top speed. Think dialling up five grand on the tach, stepping off the clutch and having the rear tyres light up like a Santa Pod dragster’s.The new Ram SRT-10 is the latest witches’ brew from Chrysler’s Detroit-based Performance Vehicle Operations team – PVO for short. Its mission? To create the meanest, baddest, fastest and most potent truck ever.

Developed from the 2002 Detroit show concept, the production Ram SRT-10 goes on sale in the US this week, costing the equivalent of £28,000. Five hundred horsepower for the price of a Grand Cherokee diesel? That’s one big bang for your buck.

It’s essentially a Viper-powered pickup: the same all-aluminium V10 that motivates the latest Chrysler Viper supercar is slotted straight into the Ram’s cavernous engine bay, along with its Tremec T56 six-speed manual transmission.

Everything about the Ram is XXL-sized. It rides on 22-inch custom ‘Viper style’ wheels fitted with 305/40-section rubber. It has 15-inch discs up front, and 14-inch rears to provide the immense stopping power it needs. It even has a 500-watt stereo in the dash.

And there are enough suspension changes to make sure the Ram doesn’t disgrace itself in the corners. Bilstein monotube shocks are mounted at each corner along with shorter and stiffer springs; wrist-thick anti-roll bars are fitted front and rear; and a Bilstein shock slots between the chassis and rear axle to quell axle hop during full-on acceleration.

The Ram looks dressed to thrill. The bonnet features a giant power bulge and air-gulping scoop; beneath that massive grille there’s a spoiler deep enough to plough snow. At the rear there’s a functioning giant wing that reduces drag and keeps the four wheels planted on terra firma at 150mph.

Climb aboard and you’ll discover an interior in keeping with the Viper image. Driver and passenger sit in heavily bolstered leather seats with black suede perforated inserts. There’s a new gauge cluster with satin silver-faced dials. And, best of all, sprouting from the transmission tunnel is a genuine Hurst shift lever cranked over towards the driver.

Pressing the red dash-mounted ‘start’ button causes a minor explosion. Twin, straight-through, 63mm-diameter exhausts deliver a deep, muscle-car rugga-rugga-rugga soundtrack.

And the way the Ram launches itself off the line is nothing short of outrageous. Not too many revs so as to keep the wheelspin in check, and the SRT-10 lunges forward in a manic display of massive V10 power. Chrysler claims a 0-62mph sprint in 5.7sec, and a quarter-mile acceleration in 13. We wouldn’t argue.

But it’s the Ram’s mid-range grunt that is perhaps most impressive. With 525lb ft of twist on tap – 90 per cent of it available from just 1500rpm – the big Dodge will pull like a train in fourth from walking pace.

While those giant 22-inch gumballs provide impressive grip and plenty of bite on turn in, and the stiff springs keep body roll in check, the SRT-10 still feels like you’re driving a block of flats – from the top floor.As for that claimed 150mph max: we ask Herb Helbig, PVO’s Vehicle Synthesis boss, if there’s a limiter to restrict the action. ‘We don’t believe in limiters. When it runs out of spit, that’s its top speed.’

Howard Walker

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