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Sports Truck? With the Ram SRT-10, Dodge aims to build a Viper with a truck body
By JOE KOVACH
Numbers play a big role in the new Dodge Ram SRT-10. We’ll start with 500, which the truck’s engineers reached or exceeded four times: in hp (500 at 5600 rpm), torque (525 lb-ft at 4200 rpm), engine displacement (505 cid) and in its stereo (505-watt Infinity sound system).
With help from Chrysler Group’s Performance Vehicle Operations, the changes from the ’03 Ram made to the new SRT-10 number 165. Some of those changes resulted in an even meaner-looking exterior, while others transformed the SRT-10’s interior and handling from trucky to sporty—bordering even on sports car. More than one engineer said the project was “like building a Viper with a truck body.” With 500 horses under the hood of the SRT-10, we understand what they’re talking about.
2004 DODGE RAM SRT-10
# ON SALE: Late December
# BASE PRICE: $45,795
# POWERTRAIN: 8.3-liter, 500-hp, 525-lb-ft V10; rwd, six-speed manual
# CURB WEIGHT: 5150 pounds
# 0-60 MPH: 5.3 seconds (est.)
Dodge senior manager of design Dennis Myles said designing trucks is the best assignment you can get, and not just because trucks have taken over as the big moneymakers for automakers.
“I love the challenge that while everything we do here design-wise needs to look good, there’s a rationale behind it,” Myles said. “It’s all about functionality throughout the vehicle.”
Designing trucks differs from doing a typical coupe or sedan, in which most buyers seek attractive looks, a comfortable interior and a decent price. Today’s truck guy demands more talents from his vehicle, for daily driving as well as for play and work duty.
# 2004 DODGE RAM SRT-10 PHOTO GALLERY
Myles declares the new Ram SRT-10, with its ’04 Durango sibling, to be the most rewarding project of his career, more so even than his work with Lamborghini, back when Chrysler owned the Italian company.
To fit the truck, Dodge changed the oil pan and the engine and transmission mounts of the Viper 8.3-liter V10 Hemi. It installed the strongest cooling system from the Dodge parts bin, the turbodiesel Ram’s, the largest that can fit.
The SRT-10’s high-flow exhaust manifold system connects to 2.5-inch dual exhaust pipes running into a large muffler resonator and dumping out the back through 3.5-inch tail pieces. Also helping cooling is a big power dome and hood scoop (with “Viper Powered” badges on the sides) and the large horse-collar grille. “It has a ‘Get out of my way’ front end,” Myles noted.
The SRT-10 spent a lot of time in Chrysler Group’s new wind tunnel. If the front splitter reminds you of a NASCAR truck, that’s because the same engineer who worked on it came from the Craftsman Series, Myles says. “The splitter works in unison with the rear wing,” he adds. “The wing reduces lift, but it’s rare in that the wing also reduces drag.”
That wing can be removed to improve access to the six-foot, three-inch box. Dodge doesn’t recommend towing, but as a company executive noted, some owners will still probably tow small loads such as jet skis. The payload of the SRT-10 is about 1000 pounds.
As for the aurally pleasing exhaust note, one engineer said, “Start this baby up in the morning and people will know what you’re driving.” A couple of journalists wished the note were louder. We wouldn’t argue with that.
The Ram SRT-10’s six-speed manual transmission is the T56 Tremec unit found in the Viper and in Corvettes, with Hurst linkage and a tall shifter topped by a Viper shift knob. It’s easy to reach, like a car’s would be, and the throws aren’t typical truck-long. (No automatic is offered.)
Adding to the SRT-10’s rugged looks are 22-inch 305/40 Pirelli PZero Scorpion Asimmetricos riding on aluminum, Viper-style Speedline wheels from Italy. Pirelli engineers redesigned the tire tread pattern to better suit the truck.
The attractive, user-friendly black interior offers inclusive, silver-rimmed gauges with an A-pillar-mounted oil temp gauge about eye-high to the driver. The Ram retains the Viper’s red start button, the center console still can hold a laptop, and it folds up for a third seat.
Behind the driver’s arm is a 10-inch Crutchfield sub-woofer for the eight-speaker, six-CD-player/ AM/FM stereo.
The heavily bolstered seats with textured suede inserts are designed to keep you from sliding, as Dodge engineer James Fink points out the SRT-10 can corner at nearly 1 g and decelerate at 1 g plus.
With 90 percent of the V10’s torque available from 1500 rpm to 5600 rpm, engineers gave the truck a Dana 60 rear end. To prevent wheel hop, it is underslung from the longitudinal leaf springs (wearing rubber snubbers to soak up bounce), and further aided by a Bilstein gas-pressure shock absorber used as a power-hop damper, attached to the axle and the frame. The axle has a 4:10 gear ratio and a limited-slip
differential. The back is lowered 2.5 inches from the stock Ram, and PVO adds a 0.9-inch antiroll bar.
The front suspension, lowered by one inch, is a short/long-arm configuration with stiffer coil springs and Bilstein monotube shocks. It uses a larger solid antiroll bar than is found in the standard Ram, 1.3 inches. Brakes are all discs, 15-inch rotors in front, 14-inch in back, from the Ram Heavy Duty model, with red calipers. Four-wheel ABS is standard, but traction control is the driver’s job.
The SRT-10 stayed well planted in our test drives, except when we wanted to kick out the rear with power, which was easy to do and controllable. We got to drive the Ram on curvy, hilly, fast country roads, and on a parking-lot autocross course. For a truck that looks beastly, it’s a surprisingly sweet handler.
The engine and transmission are obliging no matter what gear, it seems, and passing is a cinch. Through the leather-wrapped steering wheel, the modified rack-and-pinion gear from the Ram Heavy Duty felt fine.
Looking further at the Ram SRT-10’s numbers, the steering ratio is 18.4:1 with a 45.75-foot turning circle. Dodge projects a fuel economy rating of 9.5/14.5 mpg city/highway. Drag coefficient is estimated at 0.43. The only options are side airbag curtains ($495), and a bedliner and nav/radio setup that aren’t priced yet. Red, black and silver are the exterior colors. About 2500 of the trucks will be built annually, Dodge says.
We compared some of SRT-10’s numbers with its high-performance pickup rival, the Ford F-150 Lightning. The Ram’s pow-er-to-weight ratio of 1 hp to 10.3 pounds is impressive, beating the Lightning, which moves 12.28 pounds with each unit of horsepower. The Lightning is 480 pounds lighter, and its 5.4-liter supercharged V8 makes 380 hp (along with 450 lb-ft of torque). But the Lightning can haul 1400 pounds or tow 5000 pounds.
We don’t think less payload capacity will keep Dodge guys from buying the Hemi Ram. For one thing, its top speed is rated at 150 mph, and we expect it to beat the Lightning’s production-pickup world speed record of 147 mph set in August.
Besides its more provocative looks, the fun factor of the Ram SRT-10 makes it feel like a larger version of a sport compact. We would have never dreamed that the Ram would provide the most fun we’ve experienced while fooling around on an autocross, storming and drifting around the cones. But it did. No lie.