Driveline Upgrades
Behind the new 5.7L, reworked 5.9L, or big 8.0L engines, HD Ram buyers will find two new transfer cases for four-wheel-drive models. For ST and SLT trim pickups, the manual shift two-speed NV271 comes standard, while more up-level SLT Plus models get the electric-shift two-speed NV273 transfer case.

Chassis Enhancements
In keeping with the "strength" theme, Dodge engineers beefed up the Heavy Duty Ram's chassis to better accommodate harsh work requirements and towing/hauling capacities. The hydroformed boxed section frames are significantly stiffer than previous versions, and this strong construction sets the stage for the HD's hefty 12,000 Gross Vehicle Weight Rating.

Additional chassis refinements include a new steering system for two-wheel-drive models. The 2WD trucks have a new rack-and-pinion steering system that's supposed to be more responsive and better-tuned than the old system. Four-wheel-drive models come with a recirculating ball steering system redesigned for 2003. Aside from manufacturing the system to reduce internal friction, the new gearbox offers a quicker turning ratio.

The 2WD/4WD disparities continue in the suspension department. All 4x4s have a new version of the five-link, coil spring setup, while the 2WDs have new geometry dialed-in to provide consistent camber, caster, and toe configurations throughout a wider range of wheel travel. Both 2WD and 4WD trucks get the same multi-leaf rear suspension. These two-stage spring packs are three inches longer than the old version, and 3500 series trucks get an auxiliary leaf spring to accommodate heavier payloads.

On the braking front, huge 13.9-inch ABS discs grace the front and rear axles, providing swept area increases of 42 percent and 45 percent for the front and rear brakes, respectively. Furthermore, the dual-rate vacuum booster introduced on the '02 1500 series Ram finds its way onto the 2500 and 3500 series trucks for added stopping power.

Four-wheel drive models also get new, stronger beam axles front and rear, and this year the one-ton trucks can be optioned with a single rear-wheel configuration instead of the dually.

Safety and Convenience
Finally, Dodge has given the nod to safety and convenience. Side curtain air bags are now found on the Heavy Duty trucks, pre-tensioners are incorporated into the seat belt retractors, and the LATCH child seat anchoring system has also been added.

On the convenience side, the HD Rams offer power-adjustable pedals on trucks featuring both manual and automatic transmissions.

In sum, the 2500 and 3500 series Heavy Duty Ram pickups won't get any bigger for the '03 model year. But better...?

You betchya!