By Derek Price
Although clearly intended for shock-and-awe marketplace warfare, it’s not brute strength that’s surprising in Ram’s freshly designed line of heavy-duty pickups.
It’s how refined it feels while delivering mind-blowing performance.
This is the automotive equivalent of Gustav Mahler’s eighth symphony, known for its monumental scale as much as its sensitivity. And for people who need to pull heavy loads for work or play, it’s a masterpiece.
The fact that the new Ram Heavy Duty raises the industry’s bar for capability — rated to tow 35,100 pounds, haul 7,680 pounds of payload and generate 1,000 pound-feet of torque from its strongest diesel engine — is still not exactly flabbergasting in this segment. Even with jaw-dropping numbers, watching new trucks roll out in a parade of one-upmanship becomes routine after a while.
It’s a numbers game, and Ram plays it well this year, relishing its Chuck Yeager role of being the first to break the four-digit-torque barrier.
The Ram 2500 and 3500 have been redesigned not just to win the numbers game but to do so without sacrificing ride or comfort.
That was my biggest takeaway from driving this truck in the southern Nevada desert, a place where brutal weather and an unforgiving landscape push trucks to their physical limits.
While these trucks feel every bit the commercial-grade machines they are, with a heft and swagger that underlies each motion, they’re also impressively silent over the road. Active noise cancellation through the sound system, devices that eliminate vibration, acoustic glass and a slipperier aero shape all combine for a ghostly silence at highway speeds, at least compared to the racket-filled cabins of its ancestors.
The mixture of comfort and capability starts with the frame, constructed almost entirely of high-strength steel now, which makes it both stronger and lighter than before. Combined with an aluminum hood and weight reductions in the powertrain, the new truck is up to 143 pounds lighter than the old one, something Ram claims helps improve its fuel economy.
New shock absorbers at all four corners are not just designed to carry heavy loads for sustained periods of time — the bane of ride comfort in most heavy-duty trucks — but also have valves that automatically adjust for differing levels of vertical wheel movement. This means it feels more responsive on pavement and more supple when off-roading, all while remaining rugged enough to carry insanely heavy loads when needed.
The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty benefits greatly from carrying over much of the new Ram 1500’s brilliant cabin design.
Ram’s light-duty truck is sweeping up awards everywhere it goes, including Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year, Truck Trend’s Pickup Truck of the Year and the Texas Auto Writers Association’s Truck of Texas. The 1500’s flexible center console design, quality fabrics and leathers, soft-touch materials and functional layout all help the HD line now, making it the best heavy-duty truck cabin I’ve ever experienced.
It’s also available with the most eye-popping technological candy available in any truck today, Ram’s 12-inch reconfigurable touchscreen. It can be easily personalized with a drag-and-drop layout, and its satellite radio system with on-demand content keeps it a step ahead of most other in-car entertainment options — even those on luxury cars.
Pricing starts at $33,395. Its high-output diesel engine with the monumental 1,000 pound-feet of torque costs as much as a decent used car at $11,795.
My favorite version, the Power Wagon off-roader, starts at $52,900. It adds a 360-degree camera with guide lines that help you navigate over obstacles and a synthetic cable for its Warn winch this year.
At the luxury end of the spectrum, the Ram 3500 Limited Mega Cab 4×4 with the 12-inch Uconnect touchscreen is priced at $67,050.
At A Glance
What was tested? Ram 3500 Limited Mega Cab 4×4 with 12-inch Uconnect 4C touchscreen ($67,050). Options: None. Price as tested (including $1,695 destination charge): $68,745
Wheelbase: 160.4 in.
Length: 249.9 in.
Width: 83.5 in.
Height: 80.1 in.
Engine: 6.4-liter HEMI V8 (410 hp, 429 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: Not rated
Why buy it?
It can do monumental work while still feeling refined and comfortable. Its towing and payload numbers are the best on the market, and its cabin is largely based around the award-winning Ram 1500’s fantastic interior design.