Ram is on a roll when it comes to innovating in the pickup truck segment lately. Adding technologies like an air suspension and offering a diesel half-ton are just a couple of ways Ram is setting itself apart.
|Engine: 6.4L HEMI V8 with 410 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Max as tested towing: 12,230 lbs.
Price as tested: $62,745.
For 2015, Ram added a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 to the options list for its heavy-duty pickup, offering more horsepower and torque than any other gasoline-powered HD on the market. It cranks out 410 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque that sounds pretty appealing on paper. That’s a full 371 fewer lb-ft of torque than what you get with the 6.7L Cummins diesel, but it will also save you $6,665 compared to the oil burner, which is an $8,100 option. Opt for the 6.4L and you’ll have to drop $1,495 over the base engine, a 5.7L HEMI V8 that makes 29 lb-ft of torque less than 6.4.
So, going for the new engine will save you money out of the gate. But once you pick up your new gas-powered heavy duty, will it deliver the goods? I never really wanted more power while driving without a load. Paired with a 3.73 rear end, the big gas engine does a respectable job of moving all this steel down the road. Compared to the diesel, the gas engine revs much more quickly and sits higher in the RPM range.
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Where’s the Jam?
Things change when you need to tow. Pulling a 6,000-lb load – roughly 50 percent of what our truck is rated to pull – the HEMI power feels underwhelming. Hills leave it wheezing hard and that is where the tradeoff between cash and power becomes clear. Even if it doesn’t feel the best in its segment, the Cummins doesn’t feel underpowered like the gasoline V8 does.
Thankfully the weakness of the engine doesn’t translate into other areas of this pickup as the suspension setup and dynamics of this 2500 are quite good. Clearly the frame and hardware taking the load are designed to handle the weight and they do so with ease. Roll in the corners is basically non-existent and nicely weighted steering gives the driver a confident feeling.
The other half of the 6.4-liter’s value story is fuel economy. After a week with the truck, we were averaging just 13 mpg. While towing, that number would regularly drop down to rest around 10 mpg. That is the other major difference between the diesel, which in our experience can average anywhere between 15 and 17 MPG.
So poor fuel numbers and a lack of power are two weaknesses of the powertrain, though the package that wraps around it is impressive. A gorgeous and functional interior greets you, especially in the “Laramie Longhorn” trim. This truck does cowboy luxury better than anything else on the market. The leather is rich and even has a great smell. Details in the cabin are everywhere, like the small decorative decals around the gauges, or the fake barbed wire imprinted onto the floor mats. And real wooden accents in the center stack tie it all together for a luxury aura that doesn’t come off feeling fake.
Those wood accents wraps around Ram’s UConnect infotainment system that works flawlessly. It is exceedingly simple and easy to figure out. The real selling point of this system over others though, is its speed. There is never any lag or hesitation here.
The price is one of the make or break factors of this engine option. Choose the HEMI and you will save pretty big right out of the gate. This isn’t a case where the choice will let you down eventually either. If you drive an average of 15,000 miles a year and gasoline costs $3.20 a gallon, you will be dropping roughly $3,700 a year on gasoline if you’re running at 13 mpg. Comparatively, if you’re paying $3.69 a gallon for diesel running at 15 mpg, you’ll be dropping about $3,446 a year, which means you’re only saving just over $200.
But here is one of the issues. Dressing this truck up in Laramie Long Horn trim and all the options we had, the price rises to $62,745. If you’re dropping that kind of money, odds are you can afford to go a bit further and get the diesel.
A weak powertrain wrapped in an excellent package, this new 6.4L HEMI powered Ram has its strengths and weaknesses. If you’re not looking for the ultimate tow vehicle, than this truck can save you some cash. But let’s be honest for a second. Who is going to buy a Ram HD and not pull big trailers? Who wants a heavy-duty pickup that feels like it can barely get the job done? If you’re bank account is looking scarce, this is a viable option. But from one truck guy to another: spring for the diesel. You won’t regret it.