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2019 RAM HD First Drive: Big, Bold and Well-Mannered

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Las Vegas, NV - RAM sells more than 700,000 pickups in the United States each year and about 100,000 in Canada, making it the top-selling model in the FCA family and the second-best-selling vehicle in Canada behind the Ford F-150 (of which nearly 126,000 find buyers every year). Revision time is therefore something taken very seriously for a model of this importance. After renewing the 1500 model a few months ago, RAM is applying the same recipe to the 2500 and 3500 models that are currently arriving at dealerships.

Bolder than ever
Bold looks became the trademark of what used to be the Dodge Ram, and it remains so with the 2019 RAM. Starting from an already-aggressive style, RAM adds another coat of it with its HD models. The grille at the front is 30% larger than the 2018 model, while the panels stay the same.

RAM has also worked on aerodynamics and weight loss. The new RAM HD has lost nearly 65 lb compare to the 2018 model. The hood is now aluminum for a saving of nearly 9 kg, the diesel engine lost 25 kg in its redesign and the redesigned bumpers weigh 4.5 kg less. Several steel components have been switched out for ones made of aluminum.

Photo: B.Charette

It might seem strange to talk about aerodynamics on such a big beast, but RAM engineers have housed active shutters in the grille and air intakes under the front bumper for an 8% improvement in aerodynamic performance, according to FCA. All these details result in slightly better fuel economy and a larger maximum payload.

In terms of availability, the RAM 2500 and 3500 come in three configurations (Regular Cab, Crew Cab and Mega Cab) and 6 models (Tradesman, Powerwagon, Laramie, Big Horn, Long Horn and Limited).

More technology
Once upon a time a pickup was a tool for doing work, but that time is past. At least, it’s now more than just that. You can still choose a 2500 Tradesman with a 6.4L V8 and two-wheel drive, in single-cab format for $50,495 (which sells for $33,600 in the U.S., by the way), and voilà, you have a tool for doing work. You also then have vinyl seats, manual windows, AM/FM radio, two USB ports, small 5-inch centre screen and no luxury to speak of.

Photo: RAM

However, most consumers buy a truck as their only vehicle and want the same level of luxury and technology as they would get in a car or SUV. FCA has therefore migrated all of the recent innovations and upgrades found in the 1500 model to the 2500 and 3500 models. Several new features have been added for the 2019 model like 12-inch optional central display with split screen to subdivide the info you see. If you like music, there's also a 750-watt harmon/kardon audio system with 17 speakers.

RAM has also added a 360-degree panoramic camera that also shows both sides of a trailer to assist the driver in manoeuvering and towing, a tire pressure monitoring system and optional Mopar cameras that allow the driver to see what’s going on in the bed area and in the back row.

The level of luxury is directly proportional to the price you’re ready to pay. Part of our test took place aboard a 3500 Longhorn model with full leather interior, wood and leather steering wheel and leather door interiors. Many cows were sacrificed to dress the huge cabin of this 3500.

Photo: RAM

Two engines in three flavours
The 2500 and 3500 models come standard with a 400-hp, 6.4L V8 with 429 lb-ft of torque that works in conjunction with a very competent 8-speed automatic transmission.

For $9,450 more, you have access to the first of two versions of the Cummins engine. This 6.7L turbo-diesel 6-cylinder produces 370 hp and 850 lb-ft of torque and is paired with an internal 6-speed automatic gearbox.

For $2,500 more, you're at the pinnacle, with the same 6.7L engine developing 400 hp and 1,000 lb-ft of torque. This is the first time an HD truck gets to benefit from that kind of impressive torque. This version of the Cummins engine is paired with a 6-speed Aisin gearbox that adds flexibility and fuel economy to the ride.

Photo: B.Charette

From 50 Gs to more than $100,000…
Without giving you the complete list of prices, let's just say that the list goes from $50,495 for a basic Tradesman version to $110,000 if you tick off virtually all the options on your Limited model.

As mentioned above, making the jump from the gasoline-engine RAM HD to the first diesel version costs $9,450, and $2,500 more to be able to tell your friends that you have 1,000 lb-ft of torque under the hood. To go from two to four-wheel drive is $2,500, plus $1,200 for double wheels, $1,000 for an 8-foot box and the list goes on.

Surprising on-road manners
My first experiences with a RAM HD diesel model didn’t exactly leave with warn and tender memories. The Cummins engine was known to be noisier than average, and comfort on those farm buses was non-existent.

RAM has made great strides since then. Among other things, you'll find in the new RAM an active noise-canceling system that according to FCA reduces the ambient noise by 10 decibels inside.

Photo: B.Charette

RAM has also installed new axles, high-strength steel frames, anti-vibration devices and new engine mounts to improve driving, comfort and roll. All these little details make a big difference in the driving experience you get from the 2019 RAM HD.

To shrink the stopping distances from this behemoth, engineers have also installed larger brakes. The driving position gives you a great impression of invulnerability and driving comfort is really surprising especially if you opt for the air suspension. In short, driving these big beasts is no longer a punishment.

Rest assured, all that comfort has not softened these vehicles’ ability to work hard. The Cummins can tow 35,100 lb, unmatched on the market, and can handle a payload of 7,680 lb. You’d have to buy a semi truck if you want more.

Photo: B.Charette

The truck segments contain some of the most loyal customers out there. And the question that comes back to us is always the same. Why should I buy an F-150, a Silverado or a RAM? There is no simple answer, but here are some arguments that speak in favor of the RAM HD: It offers the most user-friendly technology on the market, the greatest towing capacity, the highest torque numbers, the most luxurious interior (in its high-end versions) and a Powerwagon model capable of true off-road prowess.

What we liked

Unmatched towing capacity
High level of luxury
Advanced and user-friendly technology

What we liked less

Access without a step on the bed is very difficult
You have to plan for big gas/diesel budget
More than $100,000 for a high-end model

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