The biggest news – both physically and perhaps metaphorically – of this year’s Detroit Auto Show is the debut of Ram’s all-new Heavy Duty pickup family.
This range of hard-working rigs brings segment-leading capability and toughness to the table along with unexpected refinement and luxury. Here’s everything you need to know about these all-new trucks.
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Headline News: Capability
The most important news here is capability. Every time one of the Detroit Big Three automakers redesigns a pickup truck, they crow about how they’ve leapfrogged the competition in towing and hauling. Well, that’s no different with the debut of Ram’s 2019 Heavy Duty rigs.
When properly equipped, a new diesel-powered 3500 model can drag up to 35,100 pounds (15,921 kilograms) and haul 7,680 pounds (3,484 kilograms). A similarly equipped 2500 variant can tow just shy of 20,000 pounds (19,780 pounds, 8,972 kilograms).
Under the Hood
Enabling those impressive figures is a range of new engines. Leading the charge is a completely redesigned Cummins 6.7-liter inline-six diesel. Available in standard and high-output variants, this powerplant delivers up to 400 horsepower at 2,800 rpm and a groundbreaking 1,000 pound-feet of torque at just 1,800 revs per minute. If you opt for the less muscular version, you’re not giving up much as they still deliver a bone-crushing 370 ponies and 850 units of twist.
Thoroughly overhauled for 2019, this venerable Cummins inline-six has gained a few refinements for the new model year. For starters, its block is cast of compacted graphite iron, a tougher-than-nails — literally — metal that’s both lighter and better at attenuating vibration than traditional gray cast iron. This material also allowed engineers to reduce this powerplant’s overall weight by a whopping 60 pounds compared to its predecessor.
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Other changes to the diesel include a newly designed cast-iron cylinder head. The exhaust valves have been reworked, as have the rocker arms, valve springs and fuel-delivery system, which now operates at 29,000 PSI (2,000 bar). New oil and water pumps have also been fitted, as have lighter, stronger, lower-friction pistons riding on upgraded forged connecting rods fitted with new bearings.
And then there’s the exhaust side of this Cummins masterpiece. A redesigned manifold supports a new variable-geometry turbocharger, which supplies up to 33 pounds of boost.
For customers that don’t want the expense or complexity of diesel, an upgraded 6.4-liter gasoline-burning Hemi V8 is standard. Augmented by cylinder deactivation and variable camshaft timing it’s good for 410 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 429 pound-feet at 4,000 rpm.
Three transmissions are offered in the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty. Hemi V8 engines are paired with a TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic. The standard-output Cummins bolts to a newly upgraded 68RFE six-speed self-shifter while the alpha-dog diesel gets a heavy-duty Aisin automatic.
As for fuel economy, these new trucks should dramatically outperform their predecessors. With enhanced aerodynamics, reduced weight and plenty of other tweaks, they could be up to 20 percent more economical, a huge improvement.
Something aftermarket upfitters are sure to love, either engine can be had with a dual-alternator electrical system. So equipped, trucks powered by the Hemi V8 get one delivering 220 amps and another that’s good 160, totaling 380 amps of best-in-class output. If there’s a Cummins under the hood you get to 220-amp alternators, good for a whopping 440 amps of juice.
A Strong Foundation
Supporting all that capability are brand-new underpinnings. This Ram’s frame has been completely redesigned and is now made of 98.5 percent high-strength steel. It features six separate crossmembers, fully boxed rear rails and even hydroformed main sections. It should provide the highest torsional rigidity in the segment. Like its smaller brother, the Ram 1500, these new heavy-duty models can be fitted with frame-mounted tuned-mass modules that cancel out unwanted vibrations for a smoother more comfortable ride.
SEE ALSO: Complete 2019 Detroit Auto Show Coverage
Smart engineering, including the use of higher grades of steel in the frame and an aluminum hood have helped the high-volume version of this truck family shed up to 143 pounds, an admirable figure considering how capable the range is.
Even though this new Ram can tow a Kilimanjaro’s worth of weight, it offers loads of extra refinement and is likely even more polished and comfortable than heavy-duty trucks from GM and Ford.
The Ram 1500 has offered this feature for years, but now 2500 models will come with smooth-riding rear coil springs, supported by five links. This arrangement should help reduce unsprung mass, provide improved suspension articulation and prevent unwanted axle rotation.
Ultra-capable 3500 models soldier on with a more traditional Hotchkiss rear suspension with parallel leaf springs.
For even greater capability and refinement, both 2500 and 3500 models can be equipped with rear airbags, an exclusive feature in this pickup segment.
As one might expect, that available air suspension has a number of tricks up its sleeve. For starters, it automatically levels the truck based on the load it’s carrying. You can also put it in a trailering mode that lowers the pickup’s rear by about an inch to keep things on an even keel between the truck and trailer. There’s even a low setting that drops the backend for easier access to the bed or to simplify trailer hookups.
Further improving refinement are advanced Frequency Response Damping shock absorbers, hydraulic cab mounts at the C-pillars, new suspension bushings and even active noise cancellation. The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty’s steering is hydraulically powered and of the old-school recirculating-ball variety.
Bringing some welcome amenities to the heavy-duty segment, these new Ram pickups offer advanced driver-assistance technology not found in rival models. Adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking are all on the menu. There’s a new 360-degree surround-view camera with trailer reverse guidance, mirror-mounted spotlights, tire-pressure monitoring for trailers and even a handy payload camera.
Turning night into day, three different headlamp assemblies are available on these trucks. The top offering is a full-LED adaptive setup.
Providing plenty of stretch-out room, the new Ram Heavy Duty should offer the most cabin space in its class. The addition of acoustic glass, active noise cancellation and those tuned-mass dampers have reduced cabin noise by up to 10 decibels, something customers should notice immediately. As in the Ram 1500, which easily has the nicest interior of the half-ton segment, the new heavies should also outpace rivals in luxury.
This point is underscored by the available Uconnect 4C NAV system, which features a massive 12-inch portrait display screen. For drivers that don’t need such fancy electronics, three other infotainment systems are offered, including a standard Uconnect 3 arrangement with a five-inch display. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported.
These new Ram trucks are available with three different body styles. There’s a short and sweet regular-cab model, one with an unexpected amount of storage space behind the seats. Stepping up from there, you can get a spacious crew-cab version with stretch-out legroom. But if you want SERIOUS interior capacity a Mega-cab is once again on the menu, offering a ridiculous amount of space for passengers and goods.
Odds ‘n’ Ends
At this point, the usual information has not been revealed including pricing information, but here are a couple other points of note. The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty is set to go on sale in the second-quarter of the year. It’s built at FCA’s Saltillo Truck Assembly Plant in Coahuila, Mexico. Cummins-powered models also feature a fully transferable, five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Backing this guarantee up, these trucks endured some 3-million miles of real-world durability testing.
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