The role of heavy-duty pickups on the jobsite hasn’t changed much over the decades. They’re workhorses that get the task at hand done, but leave a lot to be desired in terms of refinement and comfort. But in the last few years, there has been a shift toward bringing in more high-end features, and this trend is clearly visible in the latest generation of Ram Heavy Duty pickups.
The 2019 Ram 2500 and 3500 models ENR recently spent the day driving around Las Vegas may well be the most advanced work trucks ever offered to commercial customers. From a remarkably smooth ride and confident handling to the long list of available amenities and cutting-edge safety features, calling this revamped heavy-duty pickup line state-of-the-art doesn’t seem like a stretch.
But what matters first and foremost to commercial pickup buyers is capability. What can the truck do? It’s safe to say the new models more than exceed these expectations as well.
There are three engines available, starting with a gasoline-fueled, 6.4-liter Hemi V8 that puts out 410 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission, shifted by a convenient rotary knob is a standard feature, while buyers have a choice of rear or four-wheel drive.
If you’re in need of something stouter, there’s also a pair of freshly reworked Cummins turbodiesels available. The standard-output engine is a 6.7-liter, inline six cylinder that produces a more satisfying 370 hp and 850 lb-ft. If it’s maximum motive power you’re after, the high-output version of that turbodiesel puts out a healthy 400 hp and a jaw-dropping 1,000 lb-ft of torque.
Both engines come mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with a familiar column shifter. The 3500 model can also be had with a choice of single or dual rear wheels.
While recounting the complete range of payload and towing capacities could take the rest of this space, here are the high points. The Ram 2500 can tote an impressive 4,520 lb of payload and tow trailers up to 19,780 lb when properly equipped. The 3500 model ups those numbers substantially, maxing out at 7,680 lb of payload or the ability to pull trailers up to 35,100 lb, making these trucks the most powerful Ram models ever introduced.
Underpinning all this is a rugged lightweight, high-strength steel frame riding on Ram’s four-wheel coil spring suspension. Its use of progressive coils, rather than traditional leaf springs, plus variable shocks with the ability to adapt to both soft and hard impacts, gives the Ram 2500 model that ENR drove a sedate ride even without a load, with none of the harshness so common in big pickups.
Steering and handling also excel, making the Ram HD feel noticeably more nimble on the road than its competitors. But make no mistake, it’s still a big vehicle. It just doesn’t feel like it in everyday driving.
The available rear air suspension is one of those options you might initially dismiss as unnecessary, but it does let the Ram HD pull off a few neat tricks. Besides its self-leveling ability that compensates for the weight of a full payload or heavy trailer, the air suspension also lets you lower the rear of the truck a whole 2 in. to make hooking up a trailer significantly easier—just drop the rear end, back up until you’re under the hitch and raise the rear suspension. By adding hitch-view cameras that make it easier to line things up, trailer hookups become a straightforward one-person job.
The Ram Heavy Duty is offered in three body styles—a two-door regular cab, a four-door Crew Cab and a super-sized Mega Cab with an expansive rear seat that has reclining seatbacks and limousine-like legroom. If you’re regularly hauling a full crew of grown adults, the Mega Cab is highly recommended. Back seats on both the Crew Cab and Mega Cab models fold down to provide plenty of protected inside storage for valuable tools and equipment you’d rather not leave in the bed to tempt sticky fingers.
Mated to those cabs are two different beds. The regular cab and Crew Cab models are offered with the familiar 8-ft bed. The Crew Cab can also be had with the Mega Cab’s 6-ft, 4-in. bed.
When it comes to speccing your new Ram Heavy Duty, there are essentially six trim levels available, ranging from the familiar workaday Tradesman model up to the top-of-the-line Limited, a truck with materials and amenities that would put many luxury sedans to shame.
The Big Horn model (known as Lone Star in some markets) that we spent most of our test-drive time in seemed like a good compromise. Though just one step above the Tradesman, it came with enough creature comforts—standard keyless entry and start, an electric shift-on-the-fly transfer case, plus options like heated seats and steering wheel—to take the rough edges off a long day on the job, without the breaking the bank.
The Ram HD’s passenger cabin picks up where its recently introduced half-ton 1500 sibling lets off. Which is to say it distances itself from the competition by placing an emphasis on handsome design and higher-quality materials.
Even the entry-level Tradesman doesn’t feel cheap, sporting standard features like a Bluetooth infotainment system with a 5-in. display and rear backup camera. Upper trim levels are truly over the top, with touches of genuine leather everywhere you lay your hands and open-pore wood trim that gives the cabin a rugged yet sophisticated look you wouldn’t expect in a commercial pickup.
On the road, the other thing you’ll notice right away with these models is what isn’t there: noise. Through the application of additional sound-deadening materials, acoustic windshield glass and, on upper trims, active noise cancellation, like you get from headphones you might wear on a plane. It creates a hushed interior you’ve likely never experienced in a pickup. Even the machinations of the Cummins turbo-diesel engine out front seemed subdued.
Not all the new features are just for show. The available 12-in. vertically-oriented center touchscreen can be customized to show two different functions like audio and climate control, or used full-length to show map directions. Other nice-to-have gadgets include the 360° surround view cameras that make maneuvering in tight quarters of a congested jobsite a little less nerve-wracking.
Advanced safety features include tire-pressure monitoring for the truck and up to 12 trailer tires, and available autonomous emergency braking that will bring the truck and trailer to a safe stop if sensors detect an impending collision.
Worth the Cost?
As has become the norm in recent years, the bottom-line numbers on Ram HD window stickers make it clear that all this capability and comfort comes at a price. Entry-level Tradesman models start at $35,090 (including a $1,695 destination fee) for a 2500 regular cab rear-wheel drive version powered by the standard 6.4-liter Hemi V8. A top of the line four-wheel drive, Limited Mega Cab 3500 Dually with the high-output Cummins turbo-diesel under the hood can easily set you back a cool $80,000, before you even start adding options.
Numbers aside, it’s not an overstatement to say the 2019 Ram HD models go a long way toward redefining what a work truck can be. Spend some time behind the wheel and you can see for yourself what an updated pickup is capable of.
By Alan Rider in Las Vegas