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2001 Six Speed Ram

Driving Impressions

2001 White 2500HD QC 4X4 6.5' bed

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First Impressions

So, how does it ride?
   With an empty truck on good roads, the ride is excellent; on twisted, narrow, rough mountain roads, it is like riding one of the bull machines so popular in the cowboy bars many moons ago (not unexpected). 300 pounds in the bed tames the ride somewhat.

How does it run?
24 Valves, Bad in Black!   The 2000 6-speed ETC trucks we test drove at the dealers did not seem overly impressive, we even thought the 5 speed ran slightly better. The HO engines are a different animal. Sue's truck runs like a scalded cat from 2000 rpm up. My TST equipped 94 will out-power Sue's truck below 1900 rpm, they are even to about 2100, then the HO ISB just leaves me!   At the TDR rally last year, Dodge had a small fleet of '00 Rams with 6-speeds for people to test drive, and the truck we drove ran about the same as our new truck. I now suspect that some of the engines at the rally had been upgraded

So how does Sue like HER new truck?
    I can't get her out of it!  I have tried to convince her that the ride is too rough for her tender bottom, the 6-speed requires too much shifting, the engine is too noisy, etc, etc. I have even generously offered to take the beast off her hands and get her something more appropriate for a women (what a sexist pig!). Nothing has worked and Sue can't quit grinning long enough to even reply. She put 90 miles on it the first day, and I got to drive once around the block!

February 20 - Four Days Later

   Sue is really getting into this truck thing! She likes being able to see over traffic and sitting high above tractor trailer wheels. I think her days of driving a small car are over.
    Last weekend Sue and I took her 2001 Ram to Kingsport, TN. This new ETH ISB engine really scoots when you get into the throttle. After behaving myself for the first 500 miles, I have buzzed her engine to 3200 rpm, and it winds up easily. Yes, it is noisy when it is making power, but my 94 is just as noisy when the TST kit is invoked.
   We tested the top end on I-81 while driving home from TN. I floored the pedal to clear a serious traffic problem - too many people in one place, not enough lanes, one clueless driver in a mini van, and a tractor trailer with nowhere to go was sliding into my lane. I was watching the traffic and mirrors instead of the speedometer. Don't know where the top end was - I lifted when the truck began dancing, then looked down to see the speedo falling through 100. Needless to say, we were well clear of the problem, and I think everyone behind us found room with the hole we left. Talk about warp drive, I wonder what the TST magic box will do with the ETH!
   One quirk I have noticed is a feeling of turbo lag. When I push the throttle hard, the engine speed climbs slowly for about 1/2 second, then it gets a head of steam going, the engine sound changes, and the rpm builds rapidly to the governor limit. I get the feeling that the engine computer wants to make sure the driver is serious when the throttle is pressed, and the software will not apply the fuel until after a time delay.
    The cruise control is much less precise than my 94 cruise, which is rock stable. The '01 speed constantly hunts over a 3 mph range, and on a back road the throttle alternates between run hard, and no throttle. In town, the speed hunts over an 8mph range for several minutes before the cruise settles down to a 3 mph fluctuation. On the plus side, the electronic engine control softens cruise control disengagement without thumping the drivetrain. My 1994 engine drops from cruise with a big clunk that rattles the drivetrain.
    The overhead console has been very handy. We used the compass to determine we had made a wrong turn in Kingsport, monitored the outside temperature when we hit a patch of snow on the way home from TN, watch the fuel mileage just for fun, and are using the ET to keep engine hours until I get an hour meter installed.
   While the back seat is not as large as the seat in a four door sedan, it is equal to many small cars and adequate for most people. Entry and exit is tricky on the tall 4X4, but a pair of side bars is planned to ease the climb.

First Problem:
    3rd gear has a horrible grind when the transmission is cold (it sounds and feels like someone shifted without the clutch). Sue and I both have experienced this. After a few miles of operation, the shift becomes painless. Hopefully, this problem will disappear as the transmission limbers up. If not, we will be making a warranty call...
    We have now discovered that idling the cold transmission for 30 seconds with the transfer case in Neutral and the transmission in 3rd gets the gears turning and the oil flowing. So far with the brief warm-up - there is no grind and the 3rd shift is smooth, so it appears that Sue's transmission is a little stiff. We expect it to loosen with age, but will go directly to the service department if we get even one grind after the warm-up procedure. [ Later Note: This did not always prevent the grind so we had the dealer check it - of course it shifted just fine for them! ]

Long Term Impressions

   The transmission grind still continues intermittently. At temperatures above 30 degrees, there is no problem. Below 30 degrees, the probability of a grind on the 2 to 3 shift increases as the temperature decreases. Thompson Chrysler kept the truck overnight several times and took it for numerous test drives, but the warmer weather has ended most symptoms and they could not duplicate the problem.
    I have been experimenting with different shift methods. If the transmission is shifted into 3rd while the engine is turning at 1800 rpm, even when cold the transmission shifts fine. After a couple of miles, the problem is gone and there is no grind at any engine speed. If shifting is necessary at higher engine speeds in the first few miles, double clutching the first couple of shifts eliminates the grind.

Tow mirror impressions:
   The flip style tow mirrors work fairly well, but the parabolic element is a little small. When flipped up, the mirrors extend to a width of 8'10", about 2.5" less than the fixed tow mirrors on my 1994 model. For full time towing, the fixed mirrors with a 5" parabolic attached to the side are superior, but the convenience of the flip mirrors is wonderful for occasional towing. The flip mirrors easily fold back without damage when they hit trees at low speed. A speed limit sign at 25 mph folded the mirror with no damage. Impacts at higher speeds have not been tested yet. The mirrors do not exhibit any vibration at high speed.

Things we prefer on the 1994 over the 2001 model:
   We miss the high mounted cup holder, the cup holder on the 2001 is a long reach over the shift lever for the driver. The instrument panel on the 1994 model faces the driver more directly than the new panel, requiring less focus shift. The pull and turn type headlamp switch on the 1994 is easier to use than the twist knob and thumbwheel arrangement on the new Ram. The HVAC control on the 1994 has considerably more user control than the new version which should be replaced. The new version has no way to turn off the fan without completely cutting off fresh air, and assumes you want AC in all vent positions except two. The 1994 engine is noticeably quieter than the new 24 valve engine. We miss the passenger side dashboard shelf that was displaced by the airbag - but you can't have everything.

Biggest complaints:
   The readily accessible horn button position on the 1994 model was dropped in favor of more convenient cruise control buttons on the new model. IMO, this is a major mistake. IMHO:  When you need a horn, you need it NOW without having to remove hands from the wheel and go on a quest to find the hidden horn button. The cruise control however is engaged only occasionally when road conditions are predictable and immediate access is not a priority.

   Shifting into 3rd gear is still tricky in cold weather. The first few miles require a double-clutch to avoid gear grinding during the 2-3 shift. This problem only appears when the temperature is below freezing.

Things we like about the 2001 model:
   The new trucks are much more refined than my 1994. Ride quality is better, steering is MUCH better, the brakes and clutch engage more positively, and the creature comforts are well designed. My 1994 truck seems crude after a week in the new truck. We expected to spend more time shifting the 6 speed transmission in local traffic, but the 5 speed in my 1994 actually requires more shifting because it often runs right at the edge of a shift point and requires up and down shifting as the traffic flow changes. With the 6-speed, there is usually a gear that can keep the engine in operating range despite traffic speed changes.

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