Focusing on what it does best, the FCA Group’s Ram division is lavishing enrichment bucks throughout its lineup. Regular duty Ram 1500s, just now arriving at dealers, were thoroughly refurbished for the 2019 model year, earning wide acclaim. Now it’s time for new Ram Heavy Duty (HD) 2500/3500 pickups. The 2019 editions revealed at this month’s North American International (Detroit) Auto Show are fresh from the tire treads to their roof-mounted clearance lamps.
To keep every plumbing contractor and Bring a Trailer shopper smiling, there are six distinct trim levels ranging from the frugal Tradesman to the extravagant Limited. With three cabs, three different engines to energize the two- and four-wheel drivelines, four wheelbases, and two box lengths, there’s a Ram for work and wholehearted play. One feature that didn’t make the cut is a clutch pedal. Starting with this model year, every last Ram pickup is equipped with an automatic transmission. If you’ve gotta have a stick in your pickup truck, the midsize Chevy Colorado, GMC Canyon, and Toyota Tacoma are your only hopes.
New Ram HD frames are 98.5-percent high-strength steel to increase toughness and torsional rigidity while trimming weight. Thanks in part to a standard aluminum hood, the base HD pickup is 143 pounds lighter. Payload ratings soar in the opposite direction to maximums of 35,100 pounds towing (up 3890 lbs) and 7680 pounds (a 330-lb increase) hauling in the 3500. Major engineering effort was also invested in improving ride quality, reducing vibration, and curbing cockpit din.
Rear coil springs remain a Ram 2500 exclusive versus the Ford and Chevrolet/GMC competition. The 3500 has semi-elliptic leaf springs in back. Optional rear air bags provide driver-controlled height adjustability for bed loading and heavy load carrying. New brake components provide shorter stopping distances and improved pedal feel. The tire pressure monitoring system scrutinizes up to six pickup and 12 trailer tires. The array of advanced illumination systems includes an adaptive LED system that steers the headlamps up to 15 degrees during cornering.
Two diesels, one gas V-8
Standard power is carried over by the trusty 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 rated at 410 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque. The 5.7-liter Hemi has been dropped. Advanced features include variable valve timing, the ability to disable half of the cylinders during cruising, and total fuel cut-off during deceleration. An electronically controlled eight-speed automatic transmission shifted via a rotary knob forwards output to the wheels.
A redesigned Cummins 6.7-liter inline-six turbo diesel engine, optional across the board, delivers 370 horsepower and a healthy 850 lb-ft of torque, same as in the 2018 model. New compacted graphite iron block material trims weight while improving strength and vibration damping. A variable-vane turbo delivers up to 33 psi of boost.
A more potent Cummins turbo diesel optional in 3500 models hammers 400 horsepower and an awesome 1000 lb-ft of torque out its crankshaft. This is up 15 hp and 70 lb-ft compared to the outgoing high-output inline-six. Both diesels are teamed with six-speed automatic transmissions. Three different Borg Warner transfer cases provide four-wheel drive capability with a choice of electronic or manual mode selection.
Wind-cheating exterior design
FCA designers claim that the new Ram HD’s cab has a “segment-leading 0.409 drag coefficient,” an 8-percent improvement over the 2018 model. Grille shutters and the front air dam automatically adjust to cut drag. The new cab design also has less frontal area.
None of the Heavy Duty’s front end bodywork is shared with the half-tons. The hood, grille, and fender components are intertwined to provide a macho appearance with significantly increased air flow through the radiator and intercooler. There are six distinct grilles, a dozen colors to choose from, and three two-tone combos. No less than 20 sensors give the Ram HD an accurate sense of its progress and surroundings. A new bed step eases access to the cargo bay.
Chrome is optional in the bare bones Tradesman but halogen headlamps are standard. LED lighting is available in the step up Big Horn and Lone Star models. The Power Wagon’s design motif is matte black for the bumpers, hood, grille, and fender flares; a 12,000-pound winch is standard, now with synthetic line. Laramie grille, mirrors, and door handles are chrome crusted; power side steps are optional. The Laramie Longhorn is adorned with belt-buckle badging, 20-inch wheels, and chrome grille, bumpers, tow hooks, and side steps. RAM badging is bright and mega sized on the Limited; the corrugated-mesh grille has dark-chrome accents and chrome also decorates the wheels, bumpers, tow hooks, mirrors, door handles, and bodyside moldings. If Trump contrives new tariffs for chromium consumption, these Mexican-made Rams will be in trouble.
Inside, FCA designers broke the bank with their lavish use of real wood, leather, and metal trim. Center dash controls are now located closer to the driver. A reconfigurable 3.5-inch touchscreen serves as the driver’s instrument cluster. Center dash displays start at five inches and grow to 8.4- or 12.0-inch touchscreens in some models.
Push-button start is standard. A rotary knob controls gear selection with the Hemi V-8 while the diesels have a column mounted shift lever. The aptly named Mega cab provides 9 cubic feet of storage space (more than double the nearest competitor) including two bins behind the rear seat and reclining rear seatbacks. The center console swallows 0.8-cubic feet of personal paraphernalia (even a 15-inch laptop) and provides wireless smartphone charging. USB ports and 115-volt AC sockets are sprinkled throughout.
Seats are cloth or vinyl in the Tradesman and the floor is rubber covered for expeditious cleaning. Big Horn and Lone Star offer an optional 8.4-inch touchscreen and premium cloth trim with two, three, five, or six seating locations. Cloth is standard and leather is optional in the Power Wagon and a 12-inch touchscreen is available here. Heated and vented leather front seats are standard in Laramie; other upgrade touches are mood lighting at night, suede inserts, accent stitching, and a reconfigurable 12-inch touch screen. The entire dash and door panels are leather wrapped in the Laramie Longhorn and actual barn wood is used for accents. Limited adds more aluminum and wood surface treatments.
FCA is clearly taking customer interest in functional luxury seriously. While prices have not yet been announced, brand chief Jim Morrison promises that no Ram HD will contest Ford’s $100,000 F-450 Limited achievement. Deliveries commence in April. HD chassis cab Rams will be unveiled at the Chicago auto show.
In 2018, Ram climbed within 8-percent (48,601 units) of the number two Chevy Silverado’s sales volume. As both brands stock dealer showrooms with fresh, vastly improved regular and HD models, a dog fight will ensue. If your tow machine is on its last legs, let your shopping begin.