Although it looks more like a scaled-down Peterbilt than the outgoing Heavy Duty and adopts many styling cues from the latest incarnation of its smaller brother (Ram 1500), including a more aerodynamic grille and new headlight assemblies, the 2010 Ram HD’s hood, front fascia, bumper and grille assembly are actually unique to the larger truck.Offered in a choice of ST, SLT, TRX, off-road specialized Powerwagon and luxury Laramie trim levels, the current Ram HD is designed to cater to a wide variety of buyers. As a result, prices run the gamut, from a fairly inexpensive $28,165 for a base, regular cab ST 4×2, up to a substantial $51,595 for a 3500 Mega Cab Laramie.
1. A 5.7L Hemi V8 makes 383-hp and 400 ft-lbs of torque while the 6.7L Cummins Turbo Diesel makes 350-hp and 650 ft-lbs.
2. Unlike the Ford and Chevy, Dodge’s Cummins 6.7-liter Turbo Diesel doesn’t require Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) for its emissions system, so you don’t have to worry about filling up an extra tank.
3. On diesel equipped Rams, a 3.42:1 rear axle ratio is standard; 3.73 and 4.10 ratios are available.
4. Single rear wheels are only offered on 2500 capacity trucks, dual rear tires are a 3500 exclusive.
BOLD NEW LOOK
On the outside, there’s a clear indication that the new Ram HD has its sights set on more up-market buyers than before; Laramie models are offered with two-tone paint and plenty of chrome. In addition, a crew cab with larger rear doors replaces the former quad cab and slots between the regular and Mega cab configurations. Pickup boxes are available in 6 feet 4 inch or 8 feet lengths – the short box with all cab configurations, the latter available with regular and crew cabs only.
Exterior fit and finish are decent, perhaps not quite up to the same level as Ford’s new 2011 Super Duty, but panel gaps are more precise than the old Ram and paint quality appears to be noticeably better. A clever feature (optional on 2500 trucks, standard on 3500s), are the 7×11-inch dual-purpose exterior mirrors that can be rotated upwards for better visibility when towing trailers.
VASTLY IMPROVED CABIN WITH SERIOUSLY LUXURIOUS OPTIONS
Inside is perhaps where the biggest changes on the 2010 version are evident. In the past, Chrysler and Dodge vehicles were frequently criticized for their cheap looking interiors and it appears the company has taken that to heart. The 2010 Ram Heavy Duty takes a major step forward and depending on options and trim, can rival some high-end luxury cars for comfort and convenience, with options on Laramie models such as a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled sets, satellite navigation with Uconnect multimedia and power adjustable pedals.
The cab on our 2500 Laramie was exceedingly well equipped with all the above features and nicely trimmed too. Leather stitching on the dash, classy looking instruments, nicely sculptured door panels with ‘soft feel’ bolsters and solid looking controls made it a very pleasant place to be. Unlike the smaller 1500 however, only a column shift is available on Heavy Duty trucks, a logical move in view of maximizing interior space. The optional center storage bin between the front seats is cavernous, with an upper portion able to swallow a laptop computer while the lower is deep enough to serve as a hanging file cabinet.
The seats have also been re-designed and noticeably improved, with better lateral support and lumbar adjustment than those in the old truck, plus with both heating and ventilation features offered (even heated rear seats are available), they’re among the most comfortable chairs in a pickup we’ve yet encountered, especially on longer journeys.
The new crew cab has a total of 125.3 cubic feet of interior space and a welcomed 42.9-inches of legroom for rear riders, making the back seat a far more comfortable place to be than the old Quad, whose rear doors and seating appeared to be little more than an afterthought. According to Chrysler, approximately 50 percent of truck buyers in the HD segment opt for a crew cab configuration, so having one as part of the Ram Heavy Duty line seems too us a no-brainer. The Mega Cab continues to live up to its name, boasting the largest interior cargo volume (72.7 cubic feet) and largest second row legroom (44.2-inches) of any HD pickup on the market, plus a first in the segment – reclining rear seats.
STURDIER SUSPENSION ALSO MORE COMPLIANT
Mechanically, the 2010 Ram Heavy Duty retains a version of the hydro-formed steel frame with fully boxed chassis rails used on the old truck. Unlike the current light-duty Ram 1500, Heavy Duty models utilize an independent coil sprung suspension up front and a solid rear axle with leaf springs, to better support heavier payloads and higher weight capacities, which have increased for 2010. Perhaps most impressive is the overall Gross Combined Vehicle Weight rating (i.e. with a trailer), that stands at a staggering 25,400 lbs, enabling the new truck to yank a 17,000 lb plus load behind it.
For 2010, Ram engineers have paid attention, both to torsional stiffness and ride comfort on the HD; retuning the springs and shocks for more compliant damping, particularly on rough roads, while in an effort to improve front end weight capacity (for mounting such equipment as snow plows), larger front axle universal joints have been fitted, helping boost front axle loadings by an additional 300 lbs on diesel engined trucks.
HEMI V8 COULD USE A 6-SPEED
In terms of powertrain options, the 2010 Ram Heavy Duty is available with a choice of two engines and three transmissions. The 5.7-liter Hemi V8; is rated at 383 horsepower and 400 ft-lbs of torque, the latter coming in at fairly peaky 4000 rpm (max horsepower is at 5600 rpm). The engine boasts variable valve timing, free breathing cylinder heads and an active intake manifold with both short and long runners, designed to maximize throttle response at both low and high rpm.
Only a single transmission is offered with the Hemi – a five-speed 545RFE automatic with intelligent shifting, designed to provide a smooth transition between gears. Electronic Range select and a tow/haul mode are designed to prevent hunting through the gears, especially when the box is loaded down or you’re towing a trailer.
In a truck of this size, the Hemi is adequate, but doesn’t offer the quick sprinting sensation found in the Ram 1500. Also, despite the transmission being fairly slick shifting, it could really use an extra gear for highway cruising, especially when pulling a load and when traversing hills, as it sometimes feels as if the Hemi is freewheeling, especially at lower speeds.
CUMMINS DIESEL JUST PERFECT
The other engine in the Ram Heavy Duty portfolio is, of course, the outstanding Cummins 6.7-liter, straight-six turbo diesel (standard in 3500 trucks). For many years, one of the Ram’s key selling points (for commercial customers at least), was the availability of this engine and in the 2010 model it doesn’t disappoint. Although the Duramax and PowerStroke diesels from GM and Ford boast higher power and torque ratings, the Cummins incorporates features found on big over the road trucks that the others don’t, helping contribute to it’s reputation for supreme durability. Standard oil change intervals are a whopping 7500 miles apart, while the engine itself is designed to go 350,000 miles without the need for a major overhaul. The Cummins diesel is rated at 350 horsepower at 3000 rpm, but what’s interesting is the torque – 650 ft-lbs at just 1500 revs. When coupled with the six-speed manual gearbox (which features very low gearing – designed specifically for hauling or towing – first is an incredibly short 5.94:1); the result is almost instant throttle response when you engage gear.
The Cummins equipped Ram feels like it has the ability rip buildings from their foundations. Even when unladen, although not fast in terms of outright speed, once you step on the gas, the diesel Ram HD builds speed progressively and is in its element when navigating steep hills, particularly at low to moderate speeds with a heavy load behind.
The six-speed automatic transmission boasts far taller ratios than the manual, more in keeping with many passenger cars in fact, (first is 3.23:1 and 6th 0.625:1). However, if you tend to seek a more all-purpose truck, rather than a specific towing rig, the auto is probably a better choice. It’s smooth shifting and in overdrive the engine lopes along at a leisurely pace, allowing you to get around 16 miles per gallon on a good run (don’t expect more than 11-12 in town however). Gas engined trucks are likely to achieve 11/15-mpg city/highway under perceived ‘normal’ driving conditions (without towing heavy loads etc).
BEHIND THE WHEEL
Whichever way you slice it; braking on the 2010 Ram Heavy Duty is simply outstanding. The truck comes with massive front and rear discs, plus is the first of the Ram breed to include a factory integrated trailer brake controller, which really adds benefit on the automatic transmission. There’s less hunting through gears than with aftermarket systems on the old HD; plus with the Cummins standard engine brake, deceleration, particularly when descending steep hills with a heavy payload or trailer behind, is an absolute breeze.
In terms of ride quality, although the suspension tuning has been revised on 2010 and 2011 Heavy Duty Rams, it’s still very much in the idom of traditional pickups -washboard road surfaces result in noticeable rear end bounce, especially when the bed is empty, while shocks transmit through the steering when the coil-sprung front end hits a few bumps or potholes (the linkage sometimes feeling like it’s not fully attached to the rest of the truck).
Handling is not a primary reason people purchase a vehicle like this, but as far as ¾ and 1 ton pickups go, it’s fairly predictable, though the steering is fairly slow. And on 4×4 models, ground clearance, while an advantage in the boonies, results in noticeable body roll if you try to take a few turns with a bit of enthusiasm.
Perhaps our biggest observation in every day driving was the sheer size of the thing, especially in crew cab form with the 8-foot bed. Even though our Laramie trimmed truck featured the optional navigation system and back up camera, maneuvering this rig in urban settings van be very challenging at times.
In terms of four-wheeling capability, the 2010 Ram HD comes with the option of two-part time systems with two-speed transfer cases. One, dubbed the NV271 is a manually shifted unit, via a good old-fashioned lever, available on 4×4 ST and Powerwagon models. The other, NV273, is a shift on the fly electronic unit, fitted to SLT and Laramie trim levels. Both offer straightforward selection between two and four-wheel drive, though switching between high and low range on the 271 system might take getting used to for less experienced four wheelers.
Powerwagons also come with electronically locking front and rear differentials, which when combined with a 4.56:1 final drive; even with the standard Hemi V8 and five speed slushbox (a diesel powertrain isn’t offered on the Powerwagon); help deliver a go anywhere capability that’s simply quite amazing, especially for something of this size and weight (around 5800 lbs with the Hemi). A 12,000 capacity Warn winch, mounted behind the front bumper also means that besides not getting stuck, you and your Powerwagon will likely be towing out everybody else who gets stranded out on the trail.
Today the heavy duty pickup segment is more hotly contested than ever before, yet although Ford has made huge strides with its 2011 Super Duty, which boasts greater refinement and ride comfort than the Dodge, the combination of the available Cummins diesel engine, incredible off-road ability (in Power Wagon form) and a plethora of trim levels and configurations mean that the 2010 Ram Heavy Duty is still one of the best buys on the market.