The Benchmark – 2019 Ram HD

The Benchmark – 2019 Ram HD

Story and photos by Jordan Allan, additional photos courtesy of FCA Canada

The pickup wars appear to be at an all-time high as evidenced by continually strong sales numbers and the constant innovation and improvements being made by each one of Detroit’s Big 3. With each of GM, Ford and Ram due for either a full redesign or facelift of their heavy-duty models in 2019-2020, the battle is only set to intensify. While both GM and Ford have recently unveiled photos and some information on their new HD models, both of which are set to be released as 2020 model years, Ram may have the early upper hand as they are the only manufacturer currently building their latest HD offering and are getting ready to stock dealership showrooms.

To show us what they’re all about, FCA recently flew us down to Las Vegas to get a chance to spend some serious seat time in the all-new 2019 Ram Heavy Duty and have a look first hand at what’s new and improved on these redesigned trucks.

If you were to ask what has changed for the Ram HD in 2019, the short answer is, well, everything. The exterior look is different, the interior has been redesigned, the towing and payload capacities have increased and, to top it all off, the 2019 Ram HD is the first production truck to reach the 1,000 lb-ft of torque milestone. Utilizing a new, optional high-output version of the 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel, the torque numbers have officially hit four digits and are complemented by an impressive 400 horsepower which contribute to the aforementioned massive towing capacity and payload numbers at 35,100 lbs. and 7,680 lbs. respectively.

The exterior design of the new truck is, of course, reminiscent of both the outgoing version and the also newly redesigned Ram 1500, but enough is different to make it uniquely its own. A massive front end design is featured but probably not just for the reasons you think. Sure big, bold and powerful are ideologies that Ram want to display, but a big part of the front end design was the need to fit a large radiator setup that is necessary to cool any one of the truck’s three engine options. Aside from that, there are seven all-new wheel options available and a total of 12 colours, while an updated and large Ram’s head logo is prominently featured on the back of the tailgate, which is a nice departure from doubling up on the ‘RAM’ wording also found on the front.

When the all-new Ram 1500 came out last year, probably the biggest talking point was the extremely luxurious interior which is heavily mirrored on the latest Ram Heavy Duty. The truck uses the most premium leather and real wood accents of any of its competitors and utilizes active noise cancellation to achieve the quietest cabin in its class which, after just a few hours behind the wheel, I can absolutely confirm as true. The centre console is now re-configurable and has enough space to store laptops or file folders, while storage in general is plenty with up to 258 litres of interior storage capacity found in the Mega Cab model.

A new 7-in., full-colour, 3D animation-capable driver information display is available, but the true talking point of the interior will be the addition of the optional 12-in., fully configurable infotainment touchscreen. The screen is very versatile in that it can display one application in its entirety which is especially useful for navigation, but can also be split in two which allows you to run two applications at once. Admittedly, when I first heard about the addition of a 12-in. touchscreen in the 1500, I was convinced that it would be distracting while driving, but I quickly found it to be quite the opposite. The large screen allows everything to be displayed a little larger which makes it that much easier to find and thus, allows you to focus more on the road.

For those of you who would consider yourself ‘old-school,’ the HVAC system can be controlled via the touchscreen but also with the redundant switches and knobs directly below the screen. Also, the rotary-dial shifter will only be available on the HEMI gasoline powered V8 model and not on any Cummins-equipped models.

As I mentioned, there are three engine options available on the Ram Heavy Duty starting with the 6.4L HEMI V8 that makes 410 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque and is paired to a class exclusive 8-speed automatic transmission. This engine comes standard on the Ram 2500 and 3500 while the regular 6.7L Cummins TurboDiesel is an option on those models. The lower output version of the two still produces 370 horsepower and a whopping 850 lb-ft of torque which is good to tow up to 22,740 lbs. Finally, the High Output version of the 6.7L Cummins is paired with an Aisin 6-speed automatic transmission and makes the 1,000 lb-ft of torque despite weighing 60 lbs. less than the outgoing version. This is achieved through a cylinder block made from compacted graphite iron and a new cast-iron cylinder head that includes new exhaust valves and springs plus new rocker arms.

Other new and notable features for the new Ram HD that I haven’t yet mentioned include the return of the class-exclusive rear air suspension that features new modes including Bed Lowering Mode – which came in handy when hooking up a trailer, Normal/Payload mode and Trailer-Tow mode. The truck sits on a new 98.5-percent high-strength steel frame that also uses lightweight materials to help reduce the total weight of the truck by up to 143 lbs. Both the 2500 and 3500 are of course offered with 6-ft. 4-in. or 8-ft. box and a choice of regular, Crew or Mega Cab configurations in either 2WD or 4WD.

Fans of the prestigious Ram Power Wagon will be pleased to learn that it will once again be offered and still carries with it the moniker of being ‘Canada’s Most Capabable Heavy-Duty Off-Road Pickup.’ The truck features 33-in Goodyear DuraTrac all-terrain tires, Ram Articulink suspension and Tru-Lok front and rear differentials. The Power Wagon is available to the 2500 models only and of course features the bold Power Wagon graphics on the hood, side of box and tailgate.

With the new, more refined look both inside and outside of the Ram HD, I hoped that the driving experience would follow suit and sound found out I would not be disappointed. The ride is smoother and quieter than ever even when equipped with the high-output Cummins and the maneuverability was top notch even in tight parking lots and tight city streets. The 12-in. infotainment display was easy to figure out and actually way more useful than I was expecting and, as you’d expect, the truck is really able to take off when you put your foot into it, with any of the engine options, but obviously even more with the high output model.

The sightlines from the driver’s seat were great, and the seating position was, too, allowing me to sit up high in order to get a better view of my front corners without squishing my head into the roofline. The back seat of the Mega Cab is, of course, huge and even featured about a foot of space behind the rear seats to securely store things you may not want to be seen out in the open.

One of the big selling points of this new Ram will, of course, be the towing capability which goes all the way up to 35,100 lbs. with the dual-rear-wheel, single-cab, 3500 high-output model and is still impressive on the less powerful models. Normally, we have to take manufacturers at their word with these kinds of numbers, so it was very refreshing to see that the Ram crew had brought out one of the Regular Cab 3500 dually models loaded with a flat deck trailer containing a large backhoe that weighed in at, you guessed it, 35,100 lbs. I won’t sit here and say you didn’t notice that substantial weight when behind the wheel, but I will say the truck most definitely didn’t struggle. Surely all 1,000 of those lb-ft’s were being utilized but the truck showed no signs of being held back.

It’s probably safe to say that majority of customers won’t ever tow that much, so Ram also had a full fleet of other types of trailers available for testing including an 11,000 lb. horse trailer, 12,400 fifth-wheel RV and a flatbed trailer hauling brick that came in at 10,150 lbs. Having either been in or driven each of these units, I will say that I was thoroughly impressed with the way each truck seemed to handle these massive loads with ease and was equally impressed by some of the new towing features available. These include a new 360-degree surround-view camera with trailer reverse guidance view which provides a view of both sides of the trailer on a single-display screen, and the aforementioned rear air suspension with the Bed Lowering Mode and Trailer-Tow mode.

This could change, but Ram has always appeared to be on its own schedule in the sense that they don’t appear to rush out new or updated models, and instead focus on making the current one as good as it can be and then bringing out an all-new one many years later. I’m not saying this is the only way to do it, however this is clearly a formula that has worked for Ram for many years and, I would guess, one that will continue.

I bring this up because it was clear to me that Ram spent thousands upon thousands of hours upgrading and improving every aspect of this truck in order to fully differentiate it from previous models. Often times when I get into a redesigned model of many other vehicles, I find myself wondering what exactly is different from its predecessor aside from the exterior appearance, and this is something that never crossed my mind once when driving or looking at this new Ram.  Every little detail from the exterior appearance, interior design, powertrain and suspension felt new and improved and brought a level of refinement that I just haven’t experienced in a pickup truck before.

In terms of pricing, there is, of course, the expected increase that comes with an all-new model, however it appears Ram has done a good job at keeping those increases rather modest. The cheapest option is the Ram 2500 Tradesman model with the regular cab and 4×2 which comes in at just $33,395, but is a model that the majority of people will likely look past. The true entry level, if you want a back seat (Crew Cab) and 4×4, begins at $57,995 for a Tradesman model and goes all the way up to $80,495 for the top of the line Limited. These prices reflect only those equipped with the standard 6.4L HEMI V8 gasoline engine, as the lower output 6.7L Cummins will cost you $9,100 extra, with the high output diesel upping the total $11,795. Prices can obviously soar way above this when you start selecting from the plethora of options available; however, the truck is right in line price-wise with its segment competitors.

As I mentioned, Ram will be the first to the party in terms of the Big 3’s new HD truck offerings, but after spending some time behind the wheel in a wide variety of situations, it’s going to be hard to beat. Having seen what the others will look like, it is, in my opinion, the best looking option and provides a sense of luxury that will be hard to beat. Undoubtedly, it won’t be long before someone surpasses the 1,000 lb-ft milestone but until then, Ram will reign as the torque champion and have done everything else on their new truck incredibly well in order to gain the upper hand, as they await the release of their competitors in the latest battle of the pickup wars.