Quick Spin: 2020 Ram 3500 HD

Quick Spin: 2020 Ram 3500 HD

Story and photos by Dan Heyman,

While the popular line of Ram pickups could probably have gotten by without doing much for 2020, as they seem to be ticking all the right boxes these days, the manufacturer obviously understands this is a competitive market and in light of GM having released new versions of its Sierra and Silverado HD pickups, and with Ford about to do so right around the corner, Ram was loathe to sit idly by.

So they’ve come up with what you see here: a bigger (but lighter), newly-styled and entirely more capable (and comfortable) Ram HD than we’ve ever seen before.

It starts with the styling; the “new bigness” starts with that positively massive grille that manages to appear purposeful and strong without being huge and borderline offensive, as it is on the GMC Sierra, for example. There’s no question it’s a Ram, though, as shown by the huge text on that grille. The headlights are also new, appearing as though they can project their beams about five miles down the road – at high noon. In Texas. In August. These are some proper HID numbers that should lower the need for additional lighting.

In general, all the styling is just big; big “3500” badges on the hood, big “Cummins” badges on the fender and big “Ram” badges on the lower doors to match the item on the grille and tailgate.

Then you go inside, and the “bigness” continues; the vehicle I tested had the biggest infotainment screen the brand offers – a 12.3-in. number that would make Tesla blush – plus all manner of toggles and buttons sized so they can easily be operated with work gloves. Add the properly spacious Mega Cab cabin that offers 1,040 mm of front legroom, 1,096 mm of rear legroom and 1,023 mm of rear headroom plus flat loading floor and heated seats both front and back, and you’ve got a truck that can haul your cargo and your crew in proper comfort.

Of course, this is an HD pickup and even if you add as many creature comforts as you want, if it can’t function as the work truck hauler it needs to be, you may as well have not even bothered.

To that end, for 2020, the 3500HD gets higher strength alloy steels in the body and frame (no aluminum here, though), upgraded transfer case, larger rear axle, larger rear brakes, larger axle shafts and upgraded driveshafts. That’s all before we discuss power; that’s 1,000 – one thousand – pound-feet of torque and 400 horsepower from a 6.7L turbodiesel I6 in the truck you see here. That’s enough to tow up to 15,875 kg and haul up to 3,484 kg depending on spec. Towing, meanwhile, is made easier by a new blind-spot system that can now cover the entirety of your trailer, and different profiles can be saved for different trailer lengths.

While there will always be a debate among pickup purists (or “zealots”) as to what a company claims their truck can do and what it can actually do, with even a short drive in the latest 3500HD as we had, much of that new capability will be felt as soon as you drop the hammer. We were towing a 32,000-lb trailer – just a few thousand below what it’s capable of – and the get up and go was honestly startling.

Power from that big I-6 is transmitted through a six-speed Aisin automatic transmission, and you can tell it’s been tuned to haul as it rarely gets in the way of the powertrain as both it and the engine work in concert to ensure progress that’s smooth and free of forward progress-sapping lurches and heaves. It’s just effortless torque all the way through the rev band with peak torque arriving at just 1,800 rpm. That’s about as instantaneous as acceleration can get when you’re putting that much load on a powertrain. Suspension duties, meanwhile, are leaf springs on the 3500HD, while the 2500 models get an option of a multi-link rear set-up or even air suspension, if a little more luxury is what you’re after.

While the acceleration is deep-chested, the performance from the new brakes – and the way they interact with the stability control system to mitigate trailer sway – is confidence-inspiring. Just as my cursory knowledge of physics suggests that accelerating while hauling this much weight shouldn’t feel as it does here, the way the brakes work with the trailer brakes to make sure everything is copacetic under braking and that the two pieces of the puzzle work together as one is a feeling to behold.

All that luxury is great, but more than likely, if you’re looking at a dually-equipped 3500HD like this one here, you want to know that it can tow and haul most things you throw at it, and from the brief time I had in it, it can most definitely do that. Looks like the pickup war rages on for 2020.