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2005 Dodge Ram 2500 SLT

Old School

Dodge’s Ram 2500 SLT is a classic pickup, with the utility
for which you buy a truck, but not much more.

Remember when there were no such things as extended or crew cabs? Truth is, unless you worked for any of the various state highway departments, you couldn’t buy an extended cab or four-door crew cab truck. That was when men were men, martinis were made strictly with gin or vodka—and when trucks were trucks.

Those days have never gone away. Despite market trends toward more family friendly trucks—read larger cabins—you can still buy a longbed, single-cab pickup with a bench seat and a column shifter. Dodge’s 2500 SLT is a perfect example of how the old-school “work trucks” still get the job done.

True, with only two doors and limited cab space, the 2500 SLT is less usable than an extended-cab truck. For example, we had to pick up a roll of Formica to use as a background for some photography, and we couldn’t fit it into the cab, which was a bummer because the Formica almost blew out of the bed a couple of times. Extra cab space would have come in handy, but the 2500 SLT is every bit as capable of towing the big loads, especially when fitted with the optional 5.9-liter Cummins turbodiesel engine, a $5,555 up-charge.

One place where the single cab came in handy was in keeping the wheelbase shorter, which helped make the truck more maneuverable in tight parking lots. It also was noticeably easier to make U-turns in the 2500 SLT than it is with Dodge’s Quad Cab pickups.

We expected it to tow with substantial authority, which it did, but we didn’t expect the kind of fuel mileage the Cummins engine delivered. During our week with the truck we netted a combined 17.2 miles per gallon. That ranks it among, if not the most, miserly of any diesel-powered truck we’ve tested in the last four years. Amortize the cost of the diesel engine using mileage and engine lifespan data and you’re looking at money well spent.

Under load, diesel engines typically run better and the Cummins was no exception. A boat lashed to the bumper seemed to quell vibration on acceleration. Likewise, the ride improved with a boat in tow, which is also common among stiffly sprung three-quarter and one-ton trucks. While towing on the highway, we could maintain 55 mph at a lowly 1,500 rpm. Tip-in acceleration was buttery smooth, and allowed for gentle takeoff from stoplights and especially from boat ramps.

A couple of features made the truck more suited for towing, most notably a four-speed transmission and the rear axle with its 11.5-inch ring gear. The transmission worked well and shifted smoothly and crisply. The 11.5-inch ring gear virtually ensured long life and a rear axle that was over-engineered for the job.

When it came time to stop the beast, we appreciated the brakes, a hydraulically boosted system with discs at each corner and a four-wheel antilock mode. They responded immediately with tons of power and decent feel. Antilock mode felt a little chattery and seemed to take a little while to bring the truck to a halt, but the system provided adequate stopping power.

 Once we detached the boat and trailer, we had a chance to check out some of the truck’s nifty features, such as its voice-activated navigation system. The system comes as part of an AM/FM CD system with seven Infinity speakers. The voice prompts on the $1,725 option make using the system easier, but the in-dash display screen is a little small, especially when compared with systems on competitors’ models. Odds are the screen was sized to fit into the existing radio architecture.

Exterior rearview mirrors aren’t something you’d likely pay much attention to, but those on the 2500 SLT, a $100 option, were pretty slick. For instance, the mirrors lifted up and out to facilitate trailer towing. That’s no great engineering feat, but the cool part was that the mirror switch worked properly once the mirrors were shifted to trailer-towing position. Here’s how it works.

The button marked “down” on the switch on the conventional setting would move the driver-side mirror to the right when the mirror was in trailering position. Likewise, up would move the mirror to the left. But because of some clever engineering, the switch still functions as you would expect. Down is down and up is up no matter the mirror’s position. The option is worth the extra $100 just to play with it.

Inside, the test model came with some nice features, namely the stereo controls on the back side of the steering wheel. They’re nice because they’re simple and easy to use, but what makes them so welcomed is that the reach to the dashboard is a stretch. Wheel-mounted cruise-control switches also are a plus, and after a long wait, they’re now lighted for easy nighttime use.

The illumination matches the instrument cluster, which is a cool blue. It makes a great combination when paired with the white-face gauges and red needles. We also have to praise DaimlerChrysler for keeping the HVAC controls nice and simple. Three dials: one for fan speed, one for mode and one for temperature were all we needed to keep things comfortable inside.

We also have to praise the engineers and designers for thinking up one of the best “bench” seats in the business. It’s split 40/20/40 and is large enough to accommodate three adults, which is handy in a single cab. However, when there are only one or two people inside, as is often the case with work trucks, Dodge installed an armrest that is the best in the industry.

It’s large enough to hold a laptop computer and still allow you to close the lid. What’s more, it has a power outlet inside the compartment so you can run the laptop on the truck’s battery rather than on its own. The armrest also has two fold-down dividers so you can customize it to create the kind of storage you need rather than what you were given. And lastly, Dodge’s adjustable dash-mounted cupholders will accommodate everything from a can of Red Bull to a 7-Eleven Super Big Gulp.

If you have a family of four who regularly go boating with you, perhaps the Dodge 2500 SLT single cab isn’t for you. But if you don’t need the extra cab space or can’t spare the expense it takes to get it, there is nothing the diesel-powered 2500 SLT won’t do. It’s an old-school pickup truck with room for the heavy loads and the grunt to pull it.


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