“The heavy-duty truck that got used to do its heavy lifting during the weekend and then parked because the ride quality and technology weren’t there, that’s being replaced with vehicles that are being used as commuters,” says Jim Morrison, Ram’s North American boss.
Those who grew up around old work trucks and those exposed to them through past or present occupations sometimes find it hard to square, but modern truck customers want more than a bed, a seat, four wheels, and a trailer hitch. Much more.
“When I started selling heavy-duty pickup trucks, luxury was a seat belt so you didn’t get bounced out the door,” Morrison says. “Now we’re seeing a convergence in the need for capability and the desire for more luxury and technology, and the top end of the heavy-duty marketplace is probably the best illustration. These guys have lots of money to spend. They’re towing hundred-thousand-dollar RVs. They’re towing horse trailers that are $50,000 to $60,000 with six horses at $100,000 each, so these customers want the luxury and technology that’s surrounding them to keep up with what’s in their trailers or what their toys are.”
These customers are telling truck makers they want three things, and they want them in perpetuity: more power, more technology, and more comfort. READ: 2020 Ram 3500 Concept Performance
In a day when every heavy-duty truck on the market thumps out over 900 lb-ft of turbocharged diesel torque, it’s hard to believe customers really want more, but they do. Part of it, the Ram team says, is about wanting the best, but it’s also a practical consideration: More power means easier towing and hauling when gross combined vehicle weights and payloads go up.
“Whether they’re towing 35,000 pounds or 25,000, they want to know that their truck can do it without breaking a sweat,” Morrison says. “We talk to a lot of customers, like a farmer hauling the hay wagons or tractors or combines. They need that level of power. They spend a lot of time with their foot on the floorboard because they are hauling that much stuff.”
To that end, Ram and longtime partner Cummins went back to the drawing board and cooked up an all-new diesel that shares only its displacement, cylinder count, and layout with the engine you know. The all-new 6.7-liter turbodiesel I-6 has it all: new block, new head, new camshaft, new pistons, the works. Not only is the new engine lighter, smoother, and more efficient, but it can also churn out a simply ridiculous 400 horsepower and 1,000 lb-ft of torque. (Standard output is 370 hp and 850 lb-ft.)
The alternate-reality numbers don’t stop there, of course. With great power comes great capability, or something like that. Bolted to a Ram 3500 dually, the monster motor can tow a class-leading 35,100 pounds. Even in the narrower Ram 2500, it’s no slouch, pulling 19,780 pounds on a standard Class 5 hitch. Helping it do so are a pair of six-speed automatics, both thoroughly gone through to improve shift quality and refinement, one beefed up to handle that 1,000 lb-ft of torque with 35,000 pounds on the gooseneck. As you might expect, there are also two transfer cases, one of which has been likewise strengthened for max towing. The lone manual transmission in the land of heavy-duties has finally been retired. Pour out a 40-weight for your homie.
For those who don’t need to relocate whole buildings with their pickups, the standard 6.4-liter gasoline V-8 has had work done, as well. Output remains at 410 hp and 429 lb-ft, but it’s picked up the Ram 1500’s latest cylinder-deactivation technology for reduced fuel consumption. Smarter computers and frame shakers that cancel out engine vibrations allow the big V-8 to spend more time in four-cylinder mode. A chunkier version of the Ram 1500’s eight-speed automatic further improves efficiency. Yes, that means gas-engine Ram HDs are getting the rotary shifter, Power Wagon included.
Because towing and hauling are about more than just raw power, the gas engine sees its max towing climb to 17,580 pounds on the 2500 and 18,210 pounds on the 3500. The gas-only Power Wagon tops out at 10,350 pounds due to its off-road suspension. Payload also grows to a best-in-class 7,680 pounds for a 3500 (with gas; 6,910 with diesel) and 4,040 pounds for a 2500 (also gas; 3,250 diesel).
To get to all these numbers, Ram had to upgrade a number of components. Cooling being the biggest factor in towing, the grille is now 30 percent larger to get as much air as possible through the largest radiator and intercooler Ram has ever offered. Likewise, the brake system had to be supersized with new calipers, brake booster, and master cylinder. The suspension is hardened to handle the new loads, as well, and now features uprated versions of the Ram 1500’s passive two-mode frequency response dampers (except the off-road package and the Power Wagon, which get Bilsteins). The optional rear air suspension gets a new bed-lowering mode for easier loading.
Added muscle mass aside, Ram also claims it’s trimmed the fat. Curb weight has been reduced by roughly 140 pounds on average with an aluminum hood and lighter, higher-strength steel in the frame. Combined with a claimed class-leading 0.40 coefficient of drag, Ram predicts 6 percent better city and 8 to 10 percent better highway fuel economy for 2500 models regardless of engine and slightly better all-around fuel economy for 3500s.
Although a great deal of engineering went under the hood of the new Ram HD, customers also wanted technology they can see. Technology is one front the Ram team is willing to admit it fell behind on, but no more. What our 2019 Truck of the Year, the Ram 1500, started, the new Ram Heavy Duty brings to the buyer who uses their truck for work first and play second. The upgrade list is long, but the centerpiece is the optional 12.0-inch touchscreen (5.0-inch is standard, with an 8.4-inch screen optional), which can be connected to a 17-speaker, 750-watt Harman Kardon stereo.
Even the standard stereo, though, employs noise cancellation to quiet down the interior. A 360-degree camera system is available through the infotainment system. It includes a bed camera, and it can be linked to a wireless camera you can mount on the back of a trailer. It can also display camera angles on both sides of a trailer simultaneously when backing. Rear-facing spotlights on the door mirrors complement LED headlights at night.
Speaking of trailers, the system can remember four trailer profiles, and the tire pressure monitoring system can watch six truck tires and up to 12 trailer tires per trailer profile. What’s more, the upgraded trailer brake controller is now tied to the automatic emergency braking system so the computer can activate both the truck’s brakes and the trailer’s in an emergency.
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Before you get to that point, forward collision warning will try to get your attention, but you might not need to rely on it if you use the adaptive cruise control. All three systems are available on any trim level, which is good because there are six of them. Also available: blind-spot monitoring, parking sensors programmed to account for the extra width of a dually on 3500 models, and three LED headlight options, including an adaptive model. Unfortunately, the blind-spot monitoring system was not upgraded to the Ram 1500’s new spec, which automatically extends coverage when a trailer is attached. Hopefully, that will be rectified shortly.
Like the Ram 1500, every Ram HD gets an all-new interior, and every trim gets two to four color scheme options. The overall design is shared with the Ram 1500, and everything from the trim to the onscreen graphics changes with the various trim levels. The new center console has 12 possible configurations and features a bank of auxiliary switches for your aftermarket goodies, a wireless phone charger, and up to five USB chargers in both standard and USB-C configurations. Passengers will play with their phones in more comfort than ever thanks to the aforementioned noise cancelling and shock absorbers plus new engine mounts, a quieter exhaust, and new hydraulic rear cab mounts to further isolate the cabin.
The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty will go on sale in the second quarter of 2019. Pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date, but we don’t expect more than a modest hike to account for the new comfort and features.