Test Drive:2017 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty
Ram debuted as a stand-alone truck brand in 2009. As part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US (FCA US), Ram pickups–both the 1500 light duty and 2500/3500 Heavy Duty–remain major players in the large truck segment; the brand now holds a 21.7% share of the market through July 2016, up from 21% for the same period last year, according to sales data collected by J.D. Power and auto forecasting partner LMC Automotive. The Ram 2500 and 3500 together account for 30% of all Ram pickup sales.
To enhance its off-road cred, Ram is adding a 4x4 Off-road package option for the 2500 Crew and Mega Cab 4x4 large pickup configurations when the truck maker begins rolling out the 2017 Ram 2500 HD truck this fall. The Ram 2500 is also available in Regular Cab configuration in 2-wheel drive (2WD) or 4-wheel drive (4WD). The various configurations are offered with either a 6-ft., 4-in. or 8-ft. pickup bed.
Sitting up high in a Red Pearl 2500 HD steel cab connected to a double-wall steel pickup box is more like riding in a comfortable streamlined SUV with ample leather seats and full-around road view. The truck, which engages 4x4 mode easily, can plow across a field of grass and handle even rougher terrain with the Off-road package, which includes tow hooks in front and hill-descent control. A transfer case skid plate is featured along with a limited-slip differential and the truck rides on Bilstein shocks. The Off-road package is available on all trim levels of the 2017 Ram 2500 HD.
The fully loaded work truck that I got a chance to drive is built at the company's Saltillo, Mexico, truck plant. This 2500 was outfitted with the Chrome Appearance Group that included full chrome grille, surround, bumpers, chrome sidestep, mirror housings, and door handles plus chrome-finished wheels. The interior featured charcoal leather seating, leather-covered console, with the dash and doors trimmed and accented in smooth gunmetal finish–a handsome combination.
The cabin's instrument cluster is available with a 3.5-in. or 7-in. driver information display. Sound can be optimal with a Uconnect infotainment system that features an easy-to-use 8.4-in. display screen. Dust and dirt remain outside with a standard cabin air filter on all 2017 trim levels. Seating can be customized with power adjustments and both heating and cooling features.
The truck was powered by a less rumbly 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel engine mated with an automatic transmission that generates 370 horsepower and 800 lb.-ft. of torque. It's quieter than what you would expect for a work truck, although it's still a large pickup. Other engine choices for the 2500 include a standard 5.7-liter V-8 that delivers 383 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque or a 6.4-liter V-8 available with an automatic transmission that produces 410 horsepower and 429 lb.-ft. of torque. Engines are matched with a 6-speed manual with overdrive or one of three 6-speed automatics.
The 18-in. tires provided a comfortable, although truck-tough ride. If the Off-road package is ordered, there's a choice of 20-in. off-road tires. No bouncing or stiff ride in this truck, which is available with one of two rear suspensions–5-link coil system or air suspension.
Hauling is a primary job for the Ram 2500, and this truck has the potential to pull up to nearly 9 tons (17,980 lbs.), according to the truck maker. It's considered one of the top haulers among all work trucks, including HD trucks from Ford and Chevrolet. A unique work feature on this truck is the RamBox cargo system available on all trims and standard on the Limited. It includes illuminated drainage bins on each side that can be locked, a stowable bed divider/extender, bed LED lighting system, and cargo rail system.
Of course the 2500 is available in a dozen exterior paint colors, including pearl finishes and metallic hues and two-tone selections. The 2500 can be customized with optional mirrors, running boards, side steps, chrome or black bumpers, special grille, tonneau cover (except on the Ram 2500 CNG variant), wheel flares, and intermittent wipers. Feature content changes with the various cab configurations and eight trim levels (Tradesman, SLT, Big Horn, Lone Star, Power Wagon, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, and the ultimate Limited).
All 2017 Ram 2500s come with 6 air bags, standard 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, electronic stability control; park-assist sensors for front and rear are standard on higher-level trims, as is a park/rear backup camera and remote keyless entry. A security alarm and theft deterrent that immobilizes the pickup's engine are also helpful optional features.
LikesThe brawn behind Ram Heavy Duty trucks is evident in the diesel-powered 2017 Ram 2500, with lots of torque when it is mated with the automatic transmission. A refined interior with the latest connectivity and audio sound available doesn't detract from the large work truck's capabilities to haul nearly 2 tons of cargo and tow up to nearly 9 tons when powered by the diesel with automatic transmission.
The Ram 2500 also is offered in three cab styles and with several power and two bed-length options. An upscale, well-designed interior is one of the nicest in the large work pickup truck domain. Coil spring rear suspension is another plus. Other option highlights on this work truck include load-leveling rear air suspension, cargo-view camera, fifth-wheel trailer preparation, off-road tires, CD player, and sunroof. The large 8.4-in. UConnect touch-screen system is easy to use and intuitive.
DislikesThere were very few things about the new Ram 2500 Heavy Duty to nitpick. One knock against the Ram is that pickup owners tend to select their favorites–more often Ford and Chevrolet–which typically have better resale values and also better dependability scores.
A good all-around work truck with style and hauling prowess, the 2017 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty holds its own among respected rivals with a towing capability of 17,980 lbs. Refreshed in 2013 with mild changes, a major redesign for the Ram large pickup is on the table for 2018. It can also haul passengers and as many as three or four dirt bikes for family camping fun.