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2019 Ram Heavy Duty Review: Pros and Cons From 2500 to 3500, and From Diesel to Gas

What happens when a truck-maker stops playing games

What happens when a truck-maker stops playing games

Pros:

  • Ram HD offers a truck for every need
  • Responsive gas and 1,000-lb-ft diesel
  • Looks great

Cons:

  • Diesel engines could use eight- or 10-speed transmissions
  • Diesel trucks are slower than the competition
  • If “class-leading” towing and payload numbers matter, this is the wrong truck for you

I really feel for pickup truck engineers. Much like American and Soviet scientists during the Cold War, these engineers are trapped in a never-ending cycle of increasing power, payload, and towing figures. And to what benefit? The most you can legally tow across these United States without a commercial license is 26,000 pounds (11,793 kg). So what would happen if one automaker just decided not to play those games anymore? You’d get the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty lineup.

Free from chasing segment-leading max payload and towing numbers (the lighter, aluminum Ford Super Duty ought to own that honor), Ram engineers instead adopted a three-pronged approach to improving their three-quarter-ton Ram 2500 and one-ton Ram 3500: Upgraded powertrains, updated styling, and the latest technology.

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On the former front, the engines are likely to be familiar to most Ram buyers. A 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 with 410 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque, a powerplant that’s been updated with Ram’s latest cylinder-deactivation technology so it can run in V-4 mode for far longer than before, is standard on the Ram 2500 and 3500, perhaps more important, so is a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic. For those who prefer diesels in their trucks, Ram also offers a new version of its Cummins-sourced 6.7-liter turbodiesel I-6. Standard output for the Cummins is a healthy 370 hp and 850 lb-ft of torque, and it comes paired with a six-speed automatic. If that doesn’t get your juices flowing, a high-output version available on the Ram 3500HD will. Pumping out 400 hp and 1,000 lb-ft of torque paired with an Aisin-sourced six-speed auto, this turbodiesel is the first in a pickup to crest the four-digit torque mark.

No matter whether you prefer gas or diesel, you can’t go wrong with either. “Who needs coffee in the morning when you’ve got 1,000 lb-ft of torque?” Detroit editor Alisa Priddle asked. Senior features editor Jonny Lieberman agreed, adding that it had “deep reserves of torque, giving off an indomitable Bentley-like feeling.” The high-output Cummins’ pulling power impressed us, but on steep grades while pulling heavy loads, the I-6 could be slow to accelerate—a more modern eight- or 10-speed transmission might help.

Ram’s V-8, as tested in a 2500HD Power Wagon, has so such issues. The Hemi was never a slouch, but the eight-speed breathes new life into the engine. It not only makes the truck faster and more responsive, but it’s also more capable. The Power Wagon’s V-8 felt so capable, in fact, that we overloaded its 10,350-pound (4,695-kg) max tow rating at the proving ground, hooking the truck up to the rival gas-powered Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD’s 10,500-pound (4,763-kg) trailer. The end result? The Ram smoked the Chevy and its 15,000-pound (6,804-kg) towing capacity.

On the styling and technology fronts, Ram’s new Heavy Duty trucks are remarkably impressive. It’s not easy making a big one-ton dually pretty, but somehow Ram managed to make the big, blocky form look almost elegant, with wide-flared fenders and new design language cribbed from the hot-selling Ram 1500. The Ram’s interiors are even better than the exterior designs. Trim-for-trim, Ram beats its rivals not only on design but also on materials, quality, and comfort—especially when you step up to Ram’s Denali-rivaling Limited trim. “Now this is how luxury should feel! Nice wood, metal, and leather details all around the cabin,” MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina said.

Ram remains a leader in technology, too. On the infotainment front it offers three different versions of its Uconnect infotainment system, including a massive 12.0-inch tablet-sized display (though we’ve had a couple issues with this system in our long-term Ram 1500). It’s also the only truck in the segment to currently offer safety features including adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, and a trailer-compatible automatic emergency braking system on each and every trim level.

2019 Ram HD 2500HD Power Wagon 6.4L Hemi (CrewCab) 3500HD Limited (CrewCab 4×4 DRW)
Base Price/As Tested $54,595/$67,655 $78,990 /$88,130
Power (SAE net) 410 hp @ 5,600 rpm 400 hp @ 2,800 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 429 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm 1,000 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm
Accel, 0-60 mph 7.3 | 14.7* | 16.2** 8.8 | 23.8 #
Quarter Mile 15.6 sec @ 88.0 mph | 20.1 sec @ 69.9 mph* | 20.8 sec @ 68.0 mph** 16.7 sec @ 83.8 mph | 23.6 sec @ 59.8 mph#
Accel, 0-60 mph (towing) 3,528 lb (59/41%) 3,756 lb (59/41%)
Quarter Mile 15.6 sec @ 88.0 mph | 20.1 sec @ 69.9 mph* | 20.8 sec @ 68.0 mph** 16.7 sec @ 83.8 mph | 23.6 sec @ 59.8 mph#
Braking, 60-0 mph 140 ft 145 ft
Cruise Control Overrun 1.9 mph 5.3 mph
EPA City/Hwy/Comb Exempt from testing Exempt from testing
With a * 7,500-lb trailer | **10,500-lb trailer | #20,000-lb trailer
35-55-mph uphill acceleration with ***7,750-lb ##17,330-lb trailer