My test truck this month is a 2003 Dodge 2500 4x4 Quad Cab SLT High Output diesel 6-speed manual. Yes it's the 2001 Dodge 1500 body. It just looks bigger. When this new look came out in the Dodge 1500 last year, I was less than thrilled. Now that it's a year older I like it.
Dodge was wise to experiment on the 1/2 ton's and wait on the bread and butter diesel trucks until this year. Dodge kept the bulging fenders, so the original 1994 extreme design that put Dodge trucks back into the race is still evident.
The 2003 Dodge Heavy Duty 2500/3500 truck is totally new from the 2002 model with standard 17 inch wheels. The frame is an all new 4-piece hydroformed boxed tube. The new frame is stiffer than the c-channel rails we are use to. Chevy's Corvette was the first hydroformed frame that I've heard of, and now it's in several GM SUV lines as will as the front section of their trucks. Hydroform is a term for bending and forming the metal with water pressure to make it lighter, stiffer and stronger. The axles have changed from the famous Dana's to American axles used by GM and in 4x4 the new transfer cases are stronger with a new electronic shift option.
The standard box is now 6'3" instead of 6'6" in the short bed with a 8' long bed option. The Cummins diesel is now quieter partly due to pilot injection and high pressure common rail electronic injection all similar to the GM Duramax diesel. An electric solenoid activates the fuel injector. From my first test drive last fall to the one I've just finished pulling a 3 horse Featherlite trailer up Poudre Canyon west of Ft. Collins, I'm impressed with the power, improved ride and dramatically quieter diesel. I squawked the tires in third gear with the 6-speed manual.
The only way you could get the new High Output 5.9L when it first came out was with the 6-speed manual transmission. Now for the first time you can get a High Output diesel with the improved 48RE 4-speed automatic The Cummins diesel is a $5225 option, tow package $275 and the folding power towing mirrors are just $80. Also new this year, the diesel comes with synthetic oil from the factory, doubling the oil change interval. The radiator, fan, and intercooler are larger this year helping cool the extra horsepower, but the air cleaner is smaller. The truck is actually longer than last year, 2500/3500 but turns about the same. For the first time in about a decade, Dodge is offering the 1-ton (3500) in a single rear wheel version also. The new single rear wheel 3500 has upgraded rear springs over the 2500 but not the same as the 3500 dually.