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Dodge’s racing arm extends its reach into the street pickup market

By Bruce W. Smith - Special to GCN

It’s difficult to put into words the feeling of brute power and the accompanying adrenaline rush you get behind the wheel of the Dodge Ram SRT-10 pickup. But I’ll attempt to make the effort after spending a few hours behind the wheel. Just let me get my heart rate down a bit more…

Imagine sitting at a stop light in your new Ram SRT-10, one of only 2,500 being produced in 2004. A hot-looking Mustang GT pulls along side and the driver gives you that “I’m soooo bad” smirk. The light turns green and he lays rubber to prove his point.

Such a challenge is too much to ignore.  Before you realize what’s happening, you’ve melted a pair of black streaks yourself and used the Hurst shifter to plant a perfect power shift into second gear at 5,500 rpm.

In the time it took you to read the paragraph above, the SRT-10 is well on its way to 100mph and through a light haze of tire smoke you see the Mustang fading behind in the rearview mirror.

Now the smirk is on your lips.

It’s amazing how fast a 505-cubic-inch big-block making 500 horsepower brings back one’s youth after a half-century lying dormant from the muscle-car era. Viagra has nothing over the Dodge Ram  SRT-10 pickup.

Dodge’s new muscle truck is truly a wolf in wolf’s clothing. It sports a dropped suspension, fat 22-inch Pirelli Scorpions on 10-inch Viper wheels, an air dam under the front bumper, a spoiler above the tailgate, and a distinctive Viper logo on the back of a gaping hood scoop. You can’t miss this pickup.

Under the open-front cowl-induction hood lays the very same 8.3-liter aluminum-block V10 and six-speed T56 manual transmission as found in the renowned Viper. The only difference is the Ram SRT-10 engine uses a different oil pan.

A lot of the other underpinnings selected by the Performance Vehicle Operations (PVO), the racing arm of Dodge have a direct lineage with the Dodge NASCAR pickups. The huge four-wheel-disc brakes, front and rear anti-sway bars, front spoiler, front struts and anti-hop rear suspension are just a few of those race-inspired elements.

It also has close ties with the heavy duty Ram. The ½-ton’s chassis runs the HD Ram Dana 60 rear axle (4.11 gears with limited-slip) , radiator and cooling system, which are directly out of the one-ton Ram Heavy Duty pickups powered by the Cummins Turbo Diesel.  

Combined, such parts form the base of a sport pickup like no other. It’s the closest street-legal factory ride you can buy that’s equivalent to a full-blown race truck.

Need more proof? The most recent figures, which are sure to be bettered, show the following: 0 to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds;  ¼-mile times in the mid-13s; a 60-to-0mph braking distance less than 120 feet; and, get this, a top speed 150mph.

Those figures place the SRT-10 in the same performance stratosphere as such notables as the Acura NSX,  BMW M Roadster, Camaro Z28 SS, C-5 Corvette, Ferrari 456M, Jaguar XJR, Porsche 911, and the Lamborghini Countach.

In the truck world there’s only one that even comes close—the F150 Lightning. But close is all it’d be as the Ram SRT-10 is now the hand’s-down dominator on street, strip and track.

In fact when you place the two pickups side-by-side, the F150 Lightning looks downright anemic. Put them on a slalom course and the Ford handles like a Lincoln LTD compared to the SRT-10’s Viper-esque grip.

“With the Ram SRT-10, the PVO team set out to create the fastest, most powerful production pickup ever—the ultimate Dodge Ram,” said Wolfgang Bernhard, Chief Operating Office—Chrylser Group.

“The goal at PVO is to out muscle everything in our class through superior engineering and by drawing on our engineer’s vast motorsports experience. That is why this truck can accelerate like a dragster, yet it is not as course as a hot rod.”

“The Ram SRT-10 represents a cohesive design that blends brute power with the engineering refinement usually reserved for the world’s best sports cars.”

As for more practical applications, such as hauling hay and towing boats, the 5,150-pound pickup has neither a payload capacity nor a tow rating noted in the specs. (They probably figured lawsuits would be inevitable when bystanders fell into the hole left in the water when a boat trailer was instantly snatched out of the lake.)

However, the engineers say the frame is the same as the Ram 1500 pickups, so a hitch could easily be installed. The bed is also Dodge Ram, fitted with a functional spoiler designed to be quickly removed (via set screws) so the bed can be used to carry cargo.

One thing is for certain: The SRT-10 can haul ass with ease.

When it comes to fuel-economy, the 505-cid Viper engine gulps fuel at the rate of 3.1mpg around a slalom course, skyrockets to about 13 around town, and flattens out around 17 on the open road with the engine idling along at 1500rpm and the speedometer sitting just above 70mph. 

That means the 26-gallon fuel tank can take you as little as 80 miles or as far as 400 depending on how you modulate the metal-faced, race-style throttle pedal.

Despite its propensity for butt-planting acceleration with a heavy right foot, around town and during normal highway driving, the standard cab Ram SRT-10 is very docile. The steering is very quick and nicely weighted; the clutch isn’t overly heavy; and the shift lever throw short and precise. The cab is very roomy, the race-style seats comfortable.

In fact, those fortunate enough to drive one will quickly find it has the pleasant demeanor, soft ride and quietness of a nicely appointed standard cab Ram 1500. 

That alone speaks gigabytes about the engineering that has gone into this remarkable $45,000 pickup.

Want to “race” the kids on the audio side? The Ram SRT-10 comes stock with a 505-watt ear-pounding sound system. That was Dodge’s way of putting the truck into a very exclusive “500 Club”: 500 horsepower, 525 lb/ft of torque, 505 cubic inches, and 505 watts.

Dan Knott, the director of PVO, says, “We didn’t just make a by racer truck with lots of horsepower. We sweat the details—tuned the suspension, re-designed the interior for performance driving, re-worked the aerodynamics and created a new truck, one that delivers a life-altring driving experience.

“We made this a PVO vehicle with one intention—to be the fastest production pickup ever. It must be driven to be believed.”

I couldn’t say it better. 

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