2018 Ram Heavy Duty Review
Promoted for its power and strength, the Ram HD heavy-duty pickups balance style, comfort, and towing and hauling capability. Essentially a toughened-up offshoot of the Ram 1500, the Ram 2500 and Ram 3500 versions can be ordered as a stripped-down work truck, a luxury hauler, or anything in between.
A new top-rung Limited Tungsten edition joins the Ram HD lineup for the 2018 model year. A rearview camera has become standard on all models. The optional infotainment system, with 8.4-inch screen, gets some helpful upgrades in resolution, as well as operation with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Eight trim levels are offered: Tradesman, SLT, Lone Star, Big Horn, Power Wagon, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, and Limited. The new Limited Tungsten edition, with body-color running boards, is an option group. So is the Sport version. Rear-drive is standard, with four-wheel drive available.
Standard engine in Tradesman, SLT, and Lone Star/Big Horn trim is a 5.7-liter V8, developing 383 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. The optional upgrade, standard in upper trim levels, is a 6.4-liter V8, rated at 410 horsepower and 429 pound-feet. Both engines mate with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Heavy-duty pickups come in three cab configurations: two-door Regular, four-door Crew Cab, and massive Mega Cab. Regular and Crew Cab models are fitted with an 8-foot bed. A 6-foot 4-inch bed is optional for Crew Cab and standard on Mega Cab trucks.
The 6.7-liter inline six-cylinder turbodiesel engine is the best choice for towing. The diesel six makes 350 horsepower and 660 pound-feet with a 6-speed manual gearbox, or 370 hp and 800 pound-feet with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Like other heavy-duty pickups, Rams have solid front and rear axles. Instead of the usual leaf springs, however, coil springs are installed at the rear. An air suspension is available, too.
Crash-testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Ram 2500 a four-star score overall and for frontal impact, but five stars for side-impact. Ram HD trucks lack most advanced safety features, including blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking.
Inspired by big commercial trucks, the stylish Ram 2500 and 3500 are similar in appearance to the lighter-duty Ram 1500, with a taller grille and larger headlights.
Each trim level has a distinct approach to the character of big domestic heavy-duty pickups. On the work-ready Tradesman, bumpers are unpainted and wheels are steel. SLT, Lone Star, and Big Horn renditions add abundant chrome.
Available only with four-wheel drive, the Power Wagon stands apart from its mates, courtesy of a high-riding stance and running light atop the roof. A winch is integrated into the bumper.
Clean-looking and functional inside the cab, the Ram HD conveys a softer note than its rough-shod exterior suggests. Each model is comfortable and roomy up front.
Most controls sit within easy reach, on a symmetrical dashboard that’s nicely laid out. Materials range from durable plastics in Tradesman trucks to soft-touch surfaces in higher-end models. Upholstery possibilities start with vinyl in the Tradesman, escalating to various grades of cloth and leather. Semi-aniline leather in Laramie Longhorn and new Limited Tungsten versions exceeds materials used in some luxury cars.
Like most heavy-duty pickups, Ram trucks suffer from very tall step-in heights â€“ higher yet on four-wheel-drive versions.
Crew Cabs and bigger-yet Mega Cab models provide ample stretch-out room for five adults (six, with the standard front bench seat).
Any Ram HD ranks as a workhorse. Robust engines and compliant suspensions enhance hauling/towing confidence. Ram 3500 models with dual rear wheels offer greater stability when towing in crosswinds and other challenging conditions. They also offer larger tongue-weight capacities.
More than adequate for lighter loads, the 5.7-liter V8 can struggle on upgrades or when fully loaded. The 6.4-liter engine is smooth and strong, though thirsty. Diesel-engine power impresses for sheer brute force.
Helped by their rear coil springs, Ram trucks ride better than rivals, even when pulling a trailer. Compared to passenger cars or a Ram 1500, though, the less-composed ride is stiff and bouncy when empty.
The hydraulically boosted steering is light and vague. With an optional air suspension, a Ram can be lowered to ease entry and cargo-loading, or raised for additional ground clearance, a nice feature.
With abundant ground clearance and locking differentials, the Power Wagon scores for off-road tenacity, but it’s too big for narrow trails and it rides rough around town.
Like their Dodge-brand ancestors, heavy-duty Rams look the part of a potent truck and perform well, though steering/handling could be better. They’re available with a dizzying variety of options, like other full-size pickups.
Driving impressions by Andrew Ganz, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.
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