2019 Ram Heavy-Duty Pickup Muscles Its Way into the 1000-LB-FT Club

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With all three of the major players in the heavy-duty truck segment offering diesel pickups that have crested the 900-lb-ft torque plateau, it was only a matter of time until one of them eclipsed the magic 1000-lb-ft mark. The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty is the first to claim the title, thanks to a heavily reworked version of the venerable Cummins inline-six turbo-diesel. Hitting the 1000-lb-ft measurement right on the head in its high-output configuration, it enables a Ram 3500 regular cab 4×2 long-box dually equipped with the Max Tow package to tug a ridiculous 35,100 pounds or carry a 6570-pound payload. But there’s more to the story than just raw grunt.

Air Springs and High-Strength Steel

The truck is essentially new from the ground up, built on a new frame that makes extensive use of high-strength steel-98.5 percent, according to Ram-for improved strength and weight savings, with six crossmembers and fully boxed rear sections. A pair of Active-Tuned Mass Modules similar to those used on the 2019 Ram 1500 help dampen vibration. Suspension upgrades include new, stronger and lighter front and rear axles, plus progressive springs and upgraded bushings. The 3500 one-ton has rear leaf springs, while the 2500 three-quarter-ton retains the coil-spring setup. Rear air springs are available, with the 2500 setup replacing the traditional springs with a pair of air springs. The 3500 supplements the leaf springs with air bags, allowing the engineers to spec a smoother-riding leaf spring when the truck is unladen. Three modes of operation control the air springs: Normal/Payload automatically detects the load and adjusts the springs accordingly, Trailer Mode allows the bed to lower about an inch to maintain a level relationship with the trailer, and Bed Mode permits lowering of the bed to simplify trailer hookup or ease loading.

Riding atop that frame is a freshly restyled body that features an increased amount of high-strength steel, which, combined with an aluminum hood and other weight-saving measures, contributes to a claimed 143-pound overall weight reduction. Engineers strived for a sleeker profile and managed to come out of the wind tunnel with a 0.41 drag coefficient, the lowest ever for a Ram HD. The bodywork is exclusive, too, sharing no panels with the recently refreshed Ram 1500. Combined with new engine mounts, hydraulic body mounts at the C-pillars, active noise cancellation, new exhaust components, and the aforementioned vibration dampeners, Ram says it has lowered the ambient interior sound level by 10 decibels, a claim we will gladly confirm when we test one.

Extensive revisions were also made to the electrical system, including two available dual alternator setups to make sure all the latest tech features, instrumentation, and accessories function properly and to ensure plenty of power and junction points for upfitters who reconfigure the Ram chassis for commercial and emergency-vehicle use.

The interior continues the brand-wide uptick in quality and refinement started by the recently redesigned Ram 1500, emphasizing a new instrument panel, upscale materials, and a revised HVAC system that moves a higher volume of air while simultaneously reducing noise. Electric heating elements on diesel models speed up the delivery of warm air on cold mornings. The redesigned center console provides enough storage area to put a 15.0-inch laptop out of sight and offers three USB ports in front and two in back for a total of five; three of them, including one in back, communicate with the Uconnect infotainment system. A 5.0-inch screen is standard; an 8.4-incher is optional, as is a fully configurable 12.0-inch screen with unique graphics keyed to individual Ram models.

2020 Ram 2500HD

Powertrains Built for Towing and Hauling

Looking deeper into the powertrain, the lineup starts with a naturally aspirated Hemi 6.4-liter V-8. (The previous base engine, the 5.7-liter Hemi, has been removed from the lineup.) Rated at 410 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque, the 6.4 sends its output to the maker’s 8HP75 eight-speed automatic transmission made by ZF. Beefed up for HD duty with additional planet gears for two of the gearsets, a reinforced torque converter, and a heavy-duty parking pawl, it uses sixth gear as direct drive and seventh and eighth as overdrives. Interestingly, the Ram HD’s maximum payload figure of 7680 pounds is earned by a regular-cab long-box 3500 dually model equipped with the 6.4 gasoline Hemi V-8. It’s not that the diesel couldn’t handle the load, but the gasoline engine’s lighter weight contributes less to the gross vehicle weight rating.

Revisions to the Cummins 6.7-liter inline-six turbo-diesel are significant. Ram claims the new engine is 60 pounds lighter than its predecessor. New pistons, said to be lighter and stronger, utilize low friction rings and ride on new forged connecting rods in a new block made from compacted graphite iron. The new cast-iron cylinder head is home to new rocker arms, exhaust valves, and springs. Compression ratio for the standard output is 19.0:1; the high-output version uses a lower 16.2:1 ratio to facilitate additional boost. Speaking of which, the improved variable-geometry turbo mounts to a new exhaust manifold and is capable of delivering up to 33.0 psi of boost; the intercooler has been enlarged to the point where Ram calls it the largest ever fitted to its diesel pickups. The redesigned fuel-delivery system features a new pump running at 29,000 psi. The standard-duty model is rated at 370 horsepower at 2800 rpm and 850 lb-ft at 1700 rpm; the high-output version clocks in at 400 horsepower and 1000 lb-ft at 1800 rpm.

2020 Ram 2500HD

Shifting duties for the standard-output 6.7-liter diesel fall to an upgraded version of the six-speed automatic transmission used previously. Shift quality is said to be improved by the use of variable-force solenoid controls for the torque-convertor clutch, and a new reverse accumulator improves shift feel when going from park to reverse. Additional hydraulic elements were tweaked to smooth the shift from drive to park. Buyers opting for the high-output diesel get an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission with a larger thrust bearing and additional heat treating for specific components.

Choosing four-wheel drive brings a trio of transfer-case options. The 6.4-liter Hemi gasoline V-8 and standard-output 6.7-liter diesel powertrains utilize a BorgWarner transfer case with either a manual (BW-44-47) or electric (BW 44-46) shift. The low-range ratio is a 2.64:1 reduction. Harnessing the mountain of torque from the high-output Cummins requires the talents of the new and hefty BorgWarner part-time transfer case (BW 44-48) that is designed to withstand the 3500’s tow rating of 35,100 pounds when equipped with the Max Tow package (trailer-brake controller, cargo-view camera, fifth-wheel hitch, 12-inch rear axle with a 4.10:1 ratio gear set, larger bearings, dual rear wheels, and a few additional items).

Ram says the braking system has been upgraded with a new brake booster and master cylinder. We’ll have to take Ram’s word for it for now, but we can tell the front rotors measure 14.7 inches and the rears 14.1 inches and both are pinched two-piston calipers. Either way, Ram points that braking on the diesel models is aided by an integrated exhaust brake.

2020 Ram 2500HD

Power Wagon and Trim Levels

As usual, Ram will offer its HD pickup in Power Wagon form. Based on the 2500 4×4 Crew Cab, it brings a distinct suspension with factory lift, locking front and rear differentials with 4.10:1 gears, a disconnecting anti-roll bar, and a Warn winch with a kink-resistant synthetic cable that weighs in at 28 pounds less than a comparable steel cable. It’s also still possible to order the Power Wagon content on the base Tradesman model while retaining the Tradesman design elements.

Six trim levels fill out the 2019 HD lineup: Tradesman, Big Horn (rebranded as Lone Star in Texas), Power Wagon, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, and Limited. In addition to the usual smorgasbord of tech, luxury, and utility options available a la carte, buyers can select from numerous body configurations including a regular cab with a 169.1-inch wheelbase and an 8.0-foot box, a crew cab available in either a 149.1-inch wheelbase with a 6.4-foot box or a 169.1 wheelbase with an 8.0-foot box, and Mega Cab models with a 160.2-inch wheelbase with a 6.4-foot box. There are 12 exterior colors offered, including three new ones: Billet Silver, Patriot Blue, and Diamond Black. Six new eight-lug wheel designs ranging from 17 to 20 inches are also on tap.

The heavy-duty truck segment lives and dies by the numbers, and when you’re talking diesels it’s torque that gets the headlines. No matter that most casual owners will never come close to exploiting the maximum capability of the 1000-lb-ft beast, this is Ram’s time in the spotlight. No doubt Ford and Chevrolet are already plotting strategies to knock it off its perch.

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