1994 Dodge Ram
Its squarish design and traditional mechanical underpinnings tell us that Dodge, for the most part, stopped well short of a redesign when configuring the 1994 Ram Wagon 250. We liked the changes that were made-most notably, a contemporary front-end modification, the addition of optional four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS) and the incorporation of slightly stiffer shocks to improve the already impressive touring and towing capabilities of this big, traditional van.
Our ’94 Dodge Ram Wagon 250 test vehicle bore an MSRP of $25,102, which included a lengthy and highly recommended list of optional equipment. Among options we liked were a muscular 5.9-liter V8, ABS, a premium AM/FM stereo with a cassette player, a towing package and eight-passenger seating capacity. Our test vehicle also featured optional air conditioning, power assists, a tilt steering wheel, cruise control and some attractive exterior styling touches.
The eight-passenger touring van configuration is but one possibility of the Ram Wagon 250. With an optional 12-passenger seating arrangement, this van would be ideal transportation for an entire Little League team. Moreover, custom-van outfitters like to use the Ram Wagon 250’s long wheelbase and wide stance as a pedestal for crafting their snazzy conversions.
As far as any dramatic styling updates on our test Ram Wagon 250, the news was all up front. Front fenders were complemented by wraparound light assemblies and a rounded grille. From the front, anyway, this gave the Ram Wagon 250 a more contemporary, aerodynamic look.
In profile, our Ram Wagon 250 returned to the square-like appearance of its predecessors. All the characteristics of a traditional van were present, including plenty of glass and a high road clearance. The styled steel wheels and chrome/vinyl protective side moldings on our test vehicle nicely punctuated its otherwise slab-sided look.
The Navy Blue Metallic finish on our test vehicle was easy on the eyes and without flaw. As for overall fit and workmanship, we were disappointed to discover that the grille could be moved a full half-inch by reaching behind and pulling on it. Also, the sliding cargo door on the side required a good deal of muscle to open and close, but we attributed that more to the van’s conventional design than to flawed fit or poor workmanship.
From the rear, there was little to distinguish the Ram Wagon 250 from a traditional work or travel van, with the possible exception of curved wraparound taillight assemblies. Traditional double doors and a hefty, vinyl-covered step bumper, though functional, weren’t nearly as exciting as the hydraulic liftgates and curved color-matched rear bumpers found on popular minivans.
It was a big step up for both driver land passengers when entering the Ram Wagon 250, but we were stepping into a truly roomy, high-riding van. A minimum five inches of head room, not to mention proportionate shoulder- and legroom, for everyone was one benefit of its high-roofed design.
Visibility was marred only by an undersized rearview mirror and the center pillars of the rear doors, but the big side-view mirrors helped to remedy that problem.
Seating and overall interior design didn’t bear the slightest resemblance to advanced minivans. Rather, the driver and front-seat passenger enjoyed real comfort in moderately contoured bucket seats. Middle seats could face each other to flank a walnut-grained table, or they could be folded down to sleep three kids or two modest-sized adults.
Gauges were easy to read through the steering wheel, and power window and door lock controls were simple to locate and adjust, as were the stereo and temperature controls. Overhead dome lights for both front-and third-seat occupants completed a conventional but thoughtful interior arrangement.
The Ram Wagon 250 offered plenty of power for touring or towing, a firm but reasonably comfortable ride and a low level of road and wind noise.
The optional 5.9-liter, fuel-injected V8, teamed with a four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive, delivered ample response from a standing start and reassuring performance in highway passing simulations from 50 to 70 mph and beyond. There was a little lag when we first put the pedal to the floor, but anyone shopping for a van of this breed isn’t likely to insist on drag-strip starts.
We gave three cheers to the Chrysler engineers who equipped the Ram Wagon 250 with optional four-wheel ABS (2-wheel ABS is standard) and slightly beefier shocks. Braking, cornering and a trip down a rut-filled alley were, for the most part, pleasant test experiences. Braking was straight and sure, with the exception of a seemingly endless glide over a stretch of icy pavement. We noticed comparatively little lean when cornering, and the shocks and the sheer size of the vehicle came close to isolating us from road bumps.
Steering and parking were surprisingly easy for a van of this size. We negotiated a 180-degree turn with an easy turn-and-a-half of the wheel.
With EPA ratings of 12 city and 16 highway, this van would not be a good choice for fuel conservationists or the budget-minded. An optional 35-galIon tank could provide peace of mind with this vehicle that packs all the punch necessary to transport lots of people and cargo.
While not a study in aerodynamic styling or advanced interior ergonomics, the Dodge Ram Wagon 250 delivered all of the desired attributes for a vehicle of its size and price. Equipped as our test vehicle was, the new Ram Wagon 250 would carry comfortably a group of eight on a trip of any length. And if you must tow a big boat or trailer behind, this van is more than up to the challenge.
We think you’ll find the Ram Wagon 250’s front-end treatment more pleasing and contemporary than some, if not all, of its competitors. As a big, roomy van, or as an ideal model for custom-van design, it’s worth a look and worth its asking price.