I owned a 2000 ram 2500 with the 5.9 (4x4, ext cab, long bed, with camper special package, 4.10 gears).
I really liked that truck overall as my daily driver, but it wasn't the best on gas, and it was a small block, so you have small block power for towing.
I do mainly city driving (my Ford fusion gets 17-18 mpg, for comparison), I got 10mpg city/12-13 hwy, 8-10 towing with the blue truck.
today, I have a 96 ram, also ext cab, long bed 4x4. This one is a V10 with 3.55 gears, gets the same mileage as the V8 did for me. 10-12 empty (I never drive it on the freeway empty), ~9-10mpg towing.
Comparing the two:
My 2000 drove much tighter, probably mainly due to that I got new, and the 96 has 135k miles. But the camper special pacakge has sway bars and I believe 1 ton springs, so with 80psi in the michelins, that truck handled very well, and actually not THAT bad of a ride. my 96 doesn't have the rear sway bar and loads down noticibly faster with weight on it. (I once had 3500lbs in the bed of the 2000, and the back end was just fianlly level with the front, with 2000lbs plus my cap in the 1996, the rear sits below the front
Empty, I think the 2000 was just as fast, or even faster than V10 truck, the V10 is much heavier and just isn't a rocket-ship motor.
Monkeyevil has a 2500/5.9 but its a 5 speed and he seems to like it.
Poopypaws should be able to give you the skinny on the 1500s..