People typically use three adjectives to describe modern full-size pickups: Burly, big, and bold. Ram wants to add one more to the list: sophisticated.
The trend that started with the 1500-series pickups continues with the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty 2500 and 3500. The two trucks bring a new level of interior refinement and helpful technology to the lineup, which coupled with more power and almost absurd towing capacity give the trucks brains and brawn.
At first glance, you might not notice much difference from last year’s models. You can still get these big trucks with a regular, crew, or “mega” cab and a bed that measures 6 feet 4 inches or 8 feet long. The wheelbase remains the same, and the body is only an inch or so longer. The grille is 30 percent bigger, and a sleeker front end improves aerodynamics. You can still get the optional (and handy) RamBox lockable bedside compartments and a power tailgate, but Ram didn’t see fit to give the 2500 or 3500 the 1500’s slick multipurpose tailgate that can open like a pair of barn doors. Bummer.
The changes are a little more noticeable under the hood. With the diesel engines in heavy-duty trucks regularly cresting 900 lb-ft of torque, it seemed all but inevitable that someone would hit 1000. Ram’s done it with the 6.7-liter Cummins High-Output inline-six, which also makes 400 horsepower, up from the 385 available last year. That beast of an engine is available only in the 3500, but the standard-output 6.7-liter Cummins available in any Ram Heavy-Duty truck is good for 370 horses and 850 lb-ft, up from 800. Not at all shabby. Both diesels use a six-speed auto box.
Want a gasoline engine instead? No problem. The 410-horsepower 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 returns as the standard engine, mated to an eight-speed automatic. The engine offers 429 lb-feet of grunt.
Ram got more than a little attention, if not skepticism, when it announced that a 3500 with the High-Output diesel could tow 35,100 pounds, topping Ford’s Super Duty by 100 pounds. A few weeks later, Chevrolet unveiled the 2020 Silverado HD and claimed it could haul 35,500. It seems the horsepower wars have given way to the towing wars, but it’s all more than a little academic, given that most states require a commercial driver’s license to haul that kind of load.
Be that as it may, the new Rams make towing a snap. An optional camera system with a 360-degree view provides a clear view around the truck and trailer. You can also get a bed-view camera that makes it a whole lot easier to hook up a gooseneck trailer and keep tabs on your cargo. Still another optional camera can be mounted on the trailer, providing a clear view of everything behind you. (You can also mount it inside the trailer to keep an eye on whatever you’re hauling.) The side mirrors provide an ample view, and offer power adjustment of the convex section in addition to the flat glass. Optional LEDs integrated in the mirror arms illuminate the sides of your rig to make nighttime backing a little easier.
Ram improved the truck’s tire-pressure monitors to include the trailer tires (for which you’ll need sensors in the wheels), and a new optional emergency braking system—which works in conjunction with forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control—activates trailer brakes as well. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert round out an impressive package of active-safety gear available on all models, for which the price ranges from $795 to $2195 depending on your trim selection.
Given Ram’s almost obsessive emphasis on towing capacity, we eagerly accepted an invitation to drive a 3500 dually hitched to a 35,100 gooseneck trailer. We weren’t the slightest bit nervous descending a 5-percent grade; the six-speed automatic quickly and smoothly selected the appropriate gear, and the brakes (with slightly larger rotors and upgraded hardware) showed no sign of fade. Heading back up that grade, all that heft behind us certainly made itself felt, but the big diesel trundled up the long climb undaunted.
The Ram’s Herculean towing capacity got all the headlines, but the truck’s sophisticated interior is the real story. As with the redesigned 1500, the Heavy Duty trucks offer interior design and materials that make the competition look downright Spartan. The enormous portrait-oriented 12-inch touchscreen is an option we imagine will blow people away in showrooms. It couldn’t be easier to use, with a split-screen feature that lets you monitor two things at once like, say, directions through Waze and your music playlist. Of course it plays nicely with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Google Maps, and others, and you can customize the dock along the bottom with your favorite apps. And bless the interior designers who made sure to include actual buttons and knobs for things like adjusting the volume and tuning the radio. Other thoughtful touches include a cavernous cubby, five USB ports, wireless charging, and electric heating elements in the ducts to bring the interior up to temperature a little faster.
Fire up the diesel and you’re amazed by the lack of ruckus. A new composite graphite iron block, scissor-gear accessory drive, and hydraulic lash adjusters quiet the clatter significantly. All Rams use active noise cancellation and benefit from acoustic laminated glass. Cruising at 90 mph in a 2500 diesel was downright serene, with only the mildest wind rustle. The Hemi V-8 provides a bit more presence, with a pleasant rumble under acceleration, and its transitions to fuel-saving four-cylinder mode are virtually imperceptible.
The ride is every bit as smooth as the engine. The rear coils on the 2500 are back—and once again you’ll find them only on the Ram—but Ram gave them a progressive rate, and you can get rear air springs if you want them. The 2500 we drove had them, and we greatly enjoyed the glass-smooth ride. The 3500 still rides on leaf springs and air springs, a setup that does a fine job but the truck felt a bit less steady on rough roads. The air springs allow you to lower the bed 1 or 2 inches to help level and hook up a trailer, or deal with cargo.
The same laundry list of trim levels—Tradesman, Bighorn, Laramie, Longhorn, and Limited—returns, as does the off-road-oriented Power Wagon. That big beast gets a 2-inch lift, sway bars you can disconnect for greater wheel articulation, front and rear locking differentials, and a 12,000-pound winch. Choose the optional 360-degree camera and you get a handy forward view which will surely come in handy when your really working the truck off road.
Want one? Including destination, you’ll pay $35,090 for an entry-level 2500 Tradesman. Prices climb steadily from there, to $68,745 for a loaded 3500 Limited Mega Cab 4x4. The standard-output Cummins adds $9100 to the bill, while the High Output Cummins costs $11,795. All that sophistication doesn’t come cheap.