Test Drive:2019 Ram Heavy Duty
Following in the footsteps of the all-new 2019 Ram 1500 light-duty full-size pickup, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has recently introduced a completely redone iteration of its Ram Heavy Duty (HD) pickup. Available in 2500 and 3500 series, the 2019 Ram HD gets a new frame, taller domed aluminum hood, massive grille that’s almost a third larger than the 2018 model’s, and a new, optional, high-output 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel pumping a segment-leading (for now) 1,000 lb.-ft. of torque. Even though the cabin sheet metal is carried over from the previous model, Ram designers were able to adapt the luxurious interior layout and features from the Ram 1500.
The new High Output Cummins turbodiesel with 33 lbs. of boost, 400 horsepower, and first-ever 1,000 lb.-ft. of torque joins a Ram Heavy Duty engine lineup that also includes a 6.7-liter inline-6 Cummins oil-burner with 370 horsepower and 850 lb.-ft. of torque and the base, gas-powered 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 with 410 horsepower and 429 lb.-ft. The High Output Cummins paired with a heavy-duty Aisin 8-speed automatic transmission can tow as much as 35,100 lbs. and carry payloads up to 7,680 lbs, according to Ram.
Styling and Design
The Ram pickup has stood out from the full-size truck competition since it adopted its big rig-inspired design in 1994. The big grille, drop fenders, and brawny shoulders connote a toughness to take on any job, large or small. For 2019, the Ram HD’s larger grille loses its previous cross-hair design but gains several other new designs with huge “RAM” letters centered in the grille that can be read a block away. The big grille not only looks beefy but enables the adoption of a larger radiator to aid cooling when towing heavy loads.
The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty pickup is available in basic Tradesman, value-oriented Big Horn/Lone Star, off-road-oriented Power Wagon, well-equipped Laramie, luxurious Laramie Longhorn, and top-of-the-line Limited trims.
The bare-bones Tradesman work truck rolls with a black mesh grille, black bumpers, halogen headlamps, and 17-in. steel wheels, while the Big Horn and Lone Star upgrade to a chrome grille surround, chrome bumpers, and 18-in. steel wheels. Laramie brings a chrome billet grille, chrome mirrors and door handles, 18-in. aluminum wheels, LED lighting, fog lamps, and body-color wheel flares. Laramie Longhorn gains a chrome slat grille, fixed side steps (power optional), adaptive headlamps, and chrome bumpers, while the range-topping Limited gets a corrugated mesh chrome grille, 20-in. chrome alloy wheels, and power-operated side steps along with optional body-color bumpers. The off-road-ready, 4-wheel-drive (4WD) Power Wagon gets its own twin-nostril black grille, bold body graphics, black fender flares, powder-coated black bumpers, and large tow hooks.
As before, cab configurations for the Ram HD include a 2-door Regular Cab, 4-door Crew Cab, and extended-wheelbase 4-door Mega Cab, the longest and roomiest cab among full-size pickups, according to Ram.
There are two all-steel pickup beds available: a full-length 8-footer for the Regular and Crew Cabs and a shorter 6-ft., 4-in. box for the Crew and Mega Cab models. A new bed step eases access to the pickup box.
Features and Controls
It’s no secret that the biggest growth in pickup sales has been with personal-use buyers. So even though the Ram Heavy Duty has the bones to do serious work, FCA took the overall look and many of the interior features of the stylish light-duty 1500 pickup and adapted them to the 2019 version of its bigger and more-capable sibling.
Aside from the up-level look, the cabin is rich in storage compartments and cubbies; the Ram HD now boasts a huge 22.6-liter console that’s configurable with 12 different storage combinations. There’s a 3-position sliding cupholder tray that when slid beneath the large, padded center armrest can swallow a 15-in. laptop.
More storage is available in a pair of RamBins under the rear-seat floor and a pair of optional, weathertight RamBoxes in the rear fenders outside the bed.
The 8-speed automatic transmission shifter is up out of the way. With the base 6.4-liter Hemi gas engine, it’s a rotary dial on the dash like in the Ram 1500. Diesel models get a steering column-mounted shifter.
Standard on all 2019 Ram HD trucks is pushbutton start, Bluetooth connectivity, and a reversing camera. There are two gloveboxes, a lockable lower tilt-down box, and a smaller open bin above it (with a flip-open door in higher trims) for stuff like toll booth and parking-lot tickets as well as other handy detritus.
The Big Horn, Lone Star, and higher trims receive a standard integrated trailer brake controller. Options include a power driver’s seat, heated steering wheel and front seats, sunroof, and a ParkSense front and rear park-assist system.
The Laramie brings standard leather seat trim, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and ambient lighting. Laramie options include 20-in. aluminum wheels, power side steps, and leather and suede seat coverings.
The Laramie Longhorn and Limited upgrade to a cowboy-style leather-wrapped dashboard, door panels, and armrests; plus alligator-look dash, seats, console, and door trim; satin chrome and brushed-nickel details; barnwood accents; and wood tandem center console doors.
About the only major convenience feature missing from the HD Ram is a telescopic steering wheel. The wheel tilts but doesn’t telescope.
The Mega Cab offers tons of spread-out room with its limousine-like back-seat legroom; reclining, sliding, and folding rear seat; and storage under and behind the seat.
The 4WD Power Wagon brings serious off-road cred with its standard disconnecting front stabilizer bar and Articulink suspension; Bilstein shocks; locking front and rear differentials; Warn Zeon-12 winch; manual transfer case; 33-in. Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac high-traction tires on 17-in. alloy wheels; fog lamps; skid plates for the fuel tank and transfer case; hill-descent control; and 4.10:1 final drive ratio. Tread-embossed cloth and vinyl seats drive the Power Wagon’s purpose-built mission home.
The Max Tow package is for Ram 3500 HD models only and brings fifth-wheel gooseneck prep; a 30K fifth-wheel hitch; heavy-duty Aisin transmission; dual rear wheels with 4.10:1 rear axle; auto-leveling rear suspension; cargo-view camera; trailer brake controller; and a DOT safety kit.
Safety and Technology
Ram didn’t just scale up the hauling and towing capability of the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty, it also upped the ante on infotainment technology among heavy-duty pickups. As with the Ram 1500, the HD Ram is now available with a Tesla-like, 12-in., portrait-oriented Uconnect touch screen. It’s standard in the Ram HD Limited and optional in the Power Wagon, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity plus satellite radio with 360L that can make suggestions based on your listening preferences.
The 12-in. Uconnect system effectively has the same screen space as two Uconnect 8.4 landscape-oriented touch screens stacked on top of each other. So the split screen is easy to personalize, say, keeping the upper part of the screen in navigation mode while you swipe through climate control, audio or phone connectivity modes in the lower section, or just combine the two for one really big screen. No other pickup currently on the market, except the smaller Ram 1500, has anything as impressive.
The Ram HD is a workhorse. But it’s not all work and no play with the brand’s top audio system available in Power Wagon, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, and Limited trims. The 17-speaker, 750-watt Harman Kardon premium sound system’s fidelity is aided by ambient-noise-quelling acoustic glass and an active noise-cancellation system that works though the truck’s speakers to tamp down annoying low-frequency rumble sounds.
The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty has plug-in ability with five Type C USBs and up to three 400-watt, 110-volt outlets to easily and safely charge power tools. There’s an optional wireless phone charger too that’s big enough to also handle a small tablet.
On the safety front, all 2019 Ram HDs feature a standard reversing camera with trajectory lines and zoom capability. A Safety package adds adaptive cruise control with full stop, forward-collision mitigation with auto emergency braking, automatic high-beams, rain-sensing wipers, LED exterior lighting, and on Laramie Longhorn and lower trims, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring.
A towing technology package includes cargo-view and surround-view cameras, trailer tow mirrors, trailer reverse guidance, as well as blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring. The federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have not yet tested the crashworthiness of the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty pickup.
Yeah, it’s big, but the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty drives smoother and with more finesse than you’d expect from any vehicle with solid front and rear axles and this kind of hauling capability. Credit the HD Ram’s new, very stiff frame, C-pillar hydromounts, and tuned mass dampers for helping to help quell the traditional pickup truck quivers. Unwanted body movement is minimized by standard-frequency-response damping shocks without feeling jouncy or overly stiff.
The optional rear air suspension (it replaces the rear coil springs on 2500 HD models) allows more unladen suspension compliance with the leaf-spring rear suspension in the 3500 HD. Another cool aspect of the air suspension is being able to use it and the rear camera to hook up a trailer.
Not everyone needs 1,000 lb.-ft. of torque, but it sure comes in handy if you want to tow 35,100 lbs. We had an opportunity to hook up a new Ram HD with the high-output Cummins diesel to a trailered load weighing exactly that. As expected, the medium-duty big-rig engine chugged mightily on flat ground and then it kept on chugging without protest while climbing fairly steep uphill grades. Downhill, the Ram HD’s very capable hydro-boost brakes and diesel exhaust brake snubbed speed sans drama.
With its handsome big-rig looks, ample power and torque with the Hemi and Cummins diesel engines, improved ride, updated features and interior fitments scaled up from the Ram 1500, and a sensational, Tesla-like available 12-in. Uconnect touch screen, the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty pickup has a lot going for it.
Including the $1,695 destination charge, 2019 Ram 2500 prices run from $35,090 for a bare-bones 2-wheel-drive Tradesman Regular Cab work truck up to $67,395 for a well-contented and luxurious 4WD Limited Mega Cab. Add roughly $1,500 more for the equivalent-trim and cab configuration in a Ram 3500. Then tack on the $11,795 tariff for the high-output Cummins diesel and, say, $1,295 for dually rear wheels and it’s easy to get a Ram 3500 near the $90,000 mark.
From basic work truck to luxurious personal-use pickup, the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty pickup puts a handsome face on hauling. Expect Ford, Chevrolet, and GMC to counter with well-contented heavy-duty rigs of their own in the coming year.
The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.
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