• Totally redesigned for 2019
  • 19,370-lb towing capacity and 4,520-lb payload capacity
  • Expansive list of safety and tech features
  • Gas V8 or turbodiesel inline-6
  • Lineup also includes new Power Wagon
  • Pricing starts at $35,090, including $1,695 destination
  • On sale Spring 2019

 

Who knew heavy-duty trucks could be so civilized? An extended day of driving the all-new 2019 Ram Heavy Duty reinforces how far heavy-duty trucks have come. It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of having a pickup this size as a daily driver would be like driving a thresher or a tractor: the trucks were for work, uncomfortable and noisy.

But times have changed, and heavy-duty trucks are becoming vehicles that can serve as family transportation while offering incredible towing and payload capability. It’s the same evolution that we saw in ½-ton pickup trucks like the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado, but now on a larger scale. When it comes to size and abilities, heavy-duty trucks are a step above ½-ton trucks allowing you to tow as much as possible without needing a commercial license.

Three truck makers dominate the heavy-duty segment, and for the first time, all three have new models within a few months’ time. The Ram Heavy Duty is the first, followed by the Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD, and Ford Super Duty for the 2020 model year, expected to arrive this summer and fall, respectively.

We drove northeast from the KBB offices to try out the 2500 (3/4-ton) Ram Heavy Duty, empty and with payload. We also took a Power Wagon off-road, and sampled Regular Cabs, Crew Cabs and Mega Cabs. Across the board, the Ram Heavy Duty trucks have benefitted from what makes the all-new 2019 Ram 1500 such a standout: you don’t have to sacrifice ride quality, comfort or interior amenities for the sake of capability.

New Foundation

As is the case when building a skyscraper, the most important part of these trucks is the foundation. In the case of the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty, many of its improvement can be credited to major changes in the frame. The all-new frame uses 98.5 percent high-strength steel, which makes it lighter and stronger. The main rails are hydroformed, and there are six crossmembers – all of which contribute to the truck’s greatly improved rigidity. The improvements continue with special attention paid to ride, handling and noise, which were addressed through chassis controls, new mounts, and the use of Active-Tuned Mass Modules. These frame-mounted units use countermeasures to eliminate unwanted vibrations, which makes the truck quieter and more comfortable. This same approach is used on the Ram 1500.

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Anytime a truck maker designs a suspension, the engineers’ goal is to make sure the it’s strong enough to handle payload and towing needs while keeping the ride comfortable whether the truck bed is empty or full. It’s not an easy job. Since heavy-duty trucks are the most capable models a consumer can buy, they must be prepared for hard work first, comfort second.

But the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty is able to deliver on both using Frequency Response Damping shocks, which automatically adjust based on road surface, and coil springs at all four corners. In back, there are progressive-rate springs in addition to a five-link setup. The 2500 is also available with rear air suspension, which replaces the rear coil springs with air bags, further improving ride without losing capability. Another big change for the Ram Heavy Duty is the new braking system, which uses 14-inch rotors and dual-piston calipers.

Two Engine Choices

As was the case in 2018, 2019 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty trucks are offered with either a 6.4-liter gas V8 or a 6.7-liter Cummins inline-6 turbodiesel. The gas engine continues to deliver 410 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque, and the reduced weight from the frame changes allow more use of cylinder deactivation, which increases range on a tank of gas. Also boosting fuel economy is the use of a 8-speed automatic with the V8. The transmission is controlled with a dashboard-mounted dial, like the one you would see on the Ram 1500.

While the Heavy Duty lineup offers two states of tune for the diesel – the base unit puts out 370 horsepower and 850 lb-ft and a high-output version serves up 400 horsepower and 1,000 lb-ft of torque -- the high-output version is only available with the 3500 (1-ton). Even though the Cummins has the same displacement as it had last year, the engine is basically all-new with a compacted graphite iron block, cast-iron cylinder head, and revamped components. The diesel uses a column-shift 6-speed automatic, while the previous manual transmission is no longer available. 

Interior Amenities

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As was the case with the 2019 Ram 1500, the Ram Heavy Duty trucks have stepped up their already impressive interior design and quality. Each trim level has its own design, with attractive premium and durable materials. Real wood and metal abound, and the gorgeous optional 12-inch touchscreen that made its debut on the Ram 1500 is now available. If you prefer having more tactile controls like knobs and buttons, you can get those with the smaller 8.4-inch screen instead.

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The dashboard is redesigned, and there’s a new overhead console. The interior offers up to 258 liters of storage (think about that – you could carry the equivalent of 129 two-liter bottles of soda in there). In addition to center console storage, there’s a dual glove box, contained storage when the rear bench seat is folded up, and two Ram Bins in the floor on Crew Cab models that are covered and hidden from view.

There’s a new heat/vent/air conditioning system, which provides 30 percent more airflow and operates more quietly. The new Ram Heavy Duty trucks use active noise cancellation and acoustic glass to reduce ambient sound by almost 10 decibels. The center console storage area is huge, and the center console can be reconfigured 12 ways.

There’s also available wireless smartphone charging and up to five USB ports in the center console, including USB type-C. You can also get as many as three 115-volt 3-prong outlets in the cab – one up front, one in back, and one in the RamBox. And, like the interior, the Ram’s exterior sports sharper lines, more industrial shapes, and six different grille designs to choose from. While the new look is crisper and cleaner than the previous model, it’s still nicely differentiated from the ½-ton Ram.

On the Road

We started the day driving 1-ton models, and sampled the Heavy Duty powered by the 6.4-liter V8 backed by an 8-speed automatic, which proves to be an impressive combination. Acceleration was quite good, and the V8 offers plenty of midrange passing power. The V8 is technically the base engine, but buyers will be happy with the power it provides. Transmission shifts were smooth, and the steering had just a touch of play, the right amount for when you’re towing. (You certainly don’t want twitchy steering with a large trailer connected.)

The Ram we spent the most time in was about as close to the perfect combination you could want – the 2500 Limited Mega Cab with the standard-output Cummins and air suspension. If the extra $9,000 or so for the diesel is in your budget, this is the one we’d recommend. There’s something to be said for smooth power that seems infinite. A slight squeeze of the throttle and you easily reach freeway speeds. The transmission doesn’t have as many gears as the one on the gas engine, but shifts are just as smooth.

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This truck also had the smart diesel brake exhaust system, which uses engine braking to slow the truck when going downhill, so you don’t have to ride the brakes. Putting it in Auto mode helps keep the truck at a constant speed while the truck descends. The ride was very comfortable, slightly firmer than the Ram 1500 and pleasant for the daily drive. Interestingly, manual shift mode consists of small + and – buttons on the steering wheel, and even in models with the column shifter, the tow/haul button is in the center stack, not in the more traditional spot at the end of the stalk.

Even though diesels are typically noisier than gas engines, all the noise reduction work pays off handsomely. You still hear a quiet murmur from the Cummins, but it’s only enough sound to reassure you that this fantastic engine is doing its job. The truck’s 12-inch center screen looks terrific but is not as intuitive as the 8.4-inch screen for daily use. You can use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto through either setup. The Mega Cab’s rear seat is very roomy, but a Crew Cab would serve most people quite nicely. The only real issue we had was with the rear center seat’s headrest. It blocks some of your vision in the rearview mirror and doesn’t fold down.

An especially nice detail on the Ram Heavy Duty are the power controls for the standard side mirrors and also for the outer second portion of the mirror, the portion that’s especially helpful when towing. Typically, you’d have to push these by hand to adjust them, leaving a lovely thumbprint on the outer mirror and not always getting the angle quite right. Plus, you don’t have to ask a friend to push on the passenger-side mirror, and once you get them where you want them, you can set your memory settings for the seat and the mirrors. This is the only truck on the market that offers this feature.

Capability

While both the Ram 2500 Heavy Duty and 3500 Heavy Duty will be available in dealerships, we anticipate most buyers will be drawn to the Crew Cab 2500 with the standard length bed. Choose that with the Cummins turbodiesel, and you can tow over 19,300 pounds with a payload capacity of 2,800 pounds. Want the ultimate off-roader? Get the Power Wagon. Based on the 2500, the Power Wagon comes with the 6.4-liter gas V8 only, has electronic locking front and rear differentials, and a 12,000-lb winch with synthetic cable.

There are plenty of available driver assists, including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and AEB with trailer brakes. Blind spot monitoring also covers the sides of the trailers, and there’s also rear cross-path detection. New cameras provide 360-degree surround view, trailer reverse view, and let you keep an eye on payload. You can even use an auxiliary camera to monitor what’s inside your trailer.

Ram 3500 Heavy Duty

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While the 2500 and 3500 trucks are based on the same all-new frame, there are some important differences between the two. For starters, while the 2500 uses a five-link rear suspension, the 3500 uses rear leaf springs. In addition, the 2500 is only offered as a single-rear-wheel setup, while the 3500 is offered with single- or dual rear wheels.

If you want to tow the maximum that the Heavy Duty allows, a whopping 35,100 pounds, you’ll need the 3500 Regular Cab longbed with the high-output turbodiesel. Want the highest payload (7,680 pounds)? You can get that in the 3500 Regular Cab longbed with the gas engine.

Like the 2500, the 2019 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty truck comes standard with a 6.4-liter gas V8. But with the 3500, you have the option of getting the high-output version of the 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel. The high-output version serves up 400 horsepower and 1,000 lb-ft of torque, with a different column-shifted 6-speed automatic. That 1,000 lb-ft number has long been seen as a goal for truck makers, and while Ram is the first automaker to achieve it, we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see GM or Ford respond in kind.

Pricing for the 3500 will start at $38,845 for the Tradesman and work their way up from there, topping out with a base price of $67,050 for the 3500 4x4 Mega Cab Limited. If you want to get the high-output turbodiesel, you'll have to add an extra $11,795. (Pricing doesn't include $1,695 destination.)

Summing Up

While we haven’t yet driven the new General Motors or Ford F-Series Super Duty, the Ram is going to be a hard act to follow. Its combination of excellent engines, comfortable quiet ride, tech features, luxury amenities, and capability have advanced the segment. We were impressed that you can get this much work done and still have an amenable daily driver that your family will like. We expect the new Ram Heavy Duty truck line will attract buyers that may not have considered one in the first place.

What is the price of the 2019 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty?

The Ram will be offered in five trim levels, plus the 2500-only Power Wagon. The Tradesman 2500 starts at $33,395 for the Regular Cab, followed by the Bighorn at $37,645. The midrange Laramie, only offered in Crew and Mega Cab, starts at $49,100, and the Crew Cab-only Power Wagon is $52,900. Pricing for the Laramie Longhorn begins at $56,300, and the top-of-the-line Limited starts at $61,300. These prices do not include $1,695 destination.

What is the towing capacity of the 2019 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty?

With the 2500, you can tow up to 19,370 pounds.

What is the payload capacity of the 2019 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty?

With the 2019 Ram 2500, you can carry up to 4,520 pounds of payload.

How much does it cost to get the diesel engine?

To get the standard output 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel, you’ll have to pay an additional $9,100.

Where is the Ram 2500 Heavy Duty built?

Ram Truck builds the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty at the Saltillo Truck Assembly Plant in Coahuila, Mexico.

2019 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Specifications

Drivetrain: Rear- or 4-wheel drive
Engines: 6.4-liter, 410-hp V8; 6.7-liter, 370-hp I-6
Wheelbase: 149.0 inches
Length: 238.8 inches
Width: 83.5 inches
Height: 78.2 inches (80.2 for 4WD models)

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