What the internet, phone apps and “the cloud” do, is edit out complexity. The complexity of hailing a taxi, doing intricate mathematics, researching legal precedents. What Ram has done with the new 2500 and 3500 Heavy Duty models, is edit out the complexity of owning and towing with a pickup truck.
It has 360 degrees worth of cameras for parking and another one that focuses on the gooseneck hitch for attaching a 35,100-pound trailer. It lowers the bed 2 inches and then raises it back up so you can attach that trailer by yourself. Its automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control work even when trailering, so keeping that payload in check is simple even for a novice. It also edits out the complexity of wondering if you have enough muscle to pull that house off its stilts, being the first factory pickup on the planet to lay down FOUR figures of torque.
Yeah, if you haven’t heard, the new Ram HD with the high-output 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel delivers 1,000 lb-ft of torque, along with 400 hp. That compacted graphite iron powerplant is mated to a six-speed automatic, as is the standard output (370 hp, 850 lb-ft) diesel. The 6.4-liter Hemi is still offered as well, making more Earthlike power numbers (410 hp, 429 lb-ft). That engine comes with the company’s now proven TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic.
The new Heavy Duty Rams get the interior upgrade of the redesigned 1500s, meaning it’s probably the best interior in the truck business. The Longhorn trim that I drove was swathed in baseball-mitt leather with embroidered (and branded) logos, real, unfinished wood trim on the center console and dash and polished wood on the steering wheel. And bronze accents all around, which I love.
A new instrument panel features, in the top trims, a 12-inch fully configurable Uconnect touchscreen that can be divided in half to use two applications at once. Hemi-equipped vehicles get a new-style rotary transmission switch while diesels come with an old-school column shifter. There are tons of storage spaces, including the center console where a 15-inch laptop can be stored. There are three cab choices: regular, crew and mega. Mega is the one with 9.1 cubic feet of interior storage space. Five USB ports, including type-Cs, will charge all of your stuff. That's if you don’t have wireless charging capability, which the Ram has as well.
The suspension setup features new “Frequency Response Damping” shocks at each corner, which have valves that automatically adjust for the type of vertical wheel input, “allowing the Ram to have sportscar-like handling and a supple suspension on rough terrain.” Okay, that’s a little hyperbolic, it does not handle like a sports car, but the gist is correct. The coil springs and bushings were upgraded as well.
Of course, Ram also offers a rear air suspension if you’re so inclined. That’s what you’ll need to get the bed lowering system. Load capacity is not sacrificed, says Ram, and it’s offered on both the 2500 and 3500. The big one comes with leaf springs in the rear as standard.
The new Ram HDs have best-in-class drag coefficient of 0.49 with active grille shutters, a front air dam redesign and new tailgate and hood aero. They have active noise cancellation, so it’s quieter and overall Ram says there’s a 50 percent reduction in drive harshness. And indeed, it was quieter than expected on the road.
I jump into a Ram 2500 Longhorn diesel for my first stint and with new valve lash adjusters Cummins has nearly eliminated the classic tick-tick-tick of the motor. There is a little bit of vibration, though, at idle.
The interior feels massive. As we found out last year, the Ram has more rear legroom than a Bentley Mulsanne. The center console is easily more than a foot wide, probably closer to 18 inches, plenty of space for two bony elbows.
Besides the cowboy leather and seatback buckles and embossed logos, the Longhorn feels a little steampunk. It’s partly the bronze metallic trim but the gauges, too, look like small steam dials. The seats are big enough for two of me and the Uconnect system, which had a rocky start, is now nearly perfected. Also, two big knobs for volume and tuning. That will never go out of style.
There are a lot of materials coming together in intricate ways. Like by the main central heat vents there’s brushed metal, wood, leather and plastic all coming together. It looks cool, but I do wonder how it will react to heat and cold cycles over the next ten years. The four-wheel drive buttons are to the right of the multifunction steering wheels and your normal headlight controls on the left.
The massive pickup is hard to place (between the lines) at first, but the steering is super easy. The Ram's turning radius ranges between about 45 and 53 feet(!), depending on trim, and I spent a lot of time looking at the side mirrors, especially when towing, to make sure I was inside the lines. But those convex trailer mirrors are powered, so I was able to get a good angle without reaching my hand out into the freezing Las Vegas wind.
Yes, it was snowing, in Las Vegas. Residents were freaking out, in a good way.
Power is expectedly prodigious from the Cummins turbodiesel, and for dramatic flair I swing the tail out as I exit the hotel. There’s plenty of woosh from the turbo and plenty of pull everywhere in the rev range. The high-output Cummins is mated to an Aisin electronically controlled six-speed automatic built to handle 1,000 lb-ft and it never seemed to get tripped up or be in the wrong gear. Granted, shifts weren’t super quick, but it didn’t matter. Regular output diesels get a Chrysler-sourced 68RFE six-speed, but I didn’t get to test that one.
The truck is unloaded in my first stint and like I said before it was unexpectedly quiet on the road. The smoothness of the ride was not unexpected considering Ram has the coil spring suspension figured out. Where most trucks bounce around over bumps, especially when on the throttle and unloaded, this one was quite comfortable. It only gets uncomfortable over the rhythmic, wobbly stuff. Would I take it on a road trip? Absolutely not, even though there’s more space than a family of four could ever need.
Later, I jump in the Power Wagon for some off-road action, and like the last one I drove, it was able to crawl, climb and roll over anything less than a few feet high. It has disconnecting sway bars for more wheel articulation and it can do more than 50 mph in four-wheel drive low. Just don’t do that on the road.
This is my first chance at the 6.4 Hemi with the eight-speed and everything just works properly. It sounds great, it’s plenty torquey to get up the hills and rocks and again, the only thing holding it back is its size. As for looks, it’s probably the coolest of the HD group. It also now comes with a front-view camera, with lines for the front tires so you know exactly where you’re going, even up a hill. On the way down, hill-descent control keeps everything at a manageable speed.
Finally, I get to max towing with a dual-rear wheel Ram 3500. They hook up a huge trailer with a front loader and pallet of cinder blocks that weigh just about 35,100 pounds. I set off toward the Colorado River down a 6-degree grade with some decent sweeping turns. The brake feel is surprisingly good and here is when I test out the fancy new adaptive cruise control that brakes you and the trailer automatically when coming up on traffic. It also has forward collision warning, and that also works with a trailer attached. Remember, Ram is editing out the complexity here. But since there’s no traffic in front of me, my 35-mph cruise limit goes up to 40, 45, 47 before I start getting nervous. I hit the brakes hard a few times, just to see where I’m at. No problems.
On the way back up I get it up to about 40 mph, with the pedal too the floor, and at this grade that seems to be max speed. There was no trailer sway to speak of, but I also don’t do anything stupid with the steering or brakes. After a few minutes, I’m back at the top of the hill, feeling like I accomplished something, even though I just moved stuff from here, to there and back to here.
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