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Big Three Diesel Truck Shootout: Ram 2500

Posted in Project Vehicles on June 1, 2011 Comment (0)
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Photographers: David KennedyKevin McNulty

Usually when you’re called a tool, it’s not a compliment. But in the case of our three trucks, words like tool and utilitarian kept coming up as ways to describe the Ram.

Take the Cummins engine, for example. This venerable powerplant has been in heavy-duty Rams for years, reaching its current 6.7L iteration in the ’07 model. The Cummins has always had a very distinct, industrial sound (and vibration) at idle and at work, reminding us of its big brothers in tractors, big-rigs, and other utility vehicles. For most Ram buyers that sound is a good thing. It makes the smooth, quiet diesel V-8s in the Ford and GMC seem wimpy by comparison.

It sure affected us. The Ram tied the Ford for First Place in the Drivetrain judging category, as the Cummins felt powerful and capable doing everything we threw at it. Logically we knew the six-banger fell shy of the other engines in output, but from the driver’s seat, that difference felt neutralized. Maybe because the truck was the lightest of the three? (Shortly after the test we learned that Ram will make up much of the power difference with a High Output version of the Cummins that produces 800 lb-ft of peak torque. See Big Haulers Make News in this month’s Drivelines, page 22.)

Yet our radar gun isn’t swayed by such perceptions. The Ram lagged behind the Ford and GMC in every acceleration test. It also returned the worst fuel economy of the group, whether it was towing or not.

Cummins-powered Rams were the first trucks in this class to receive an exhaust brake. In past tests we’ve been very pleased with the brake’s dash-button engagement and its performance. This time, though, several judges felt the brake’s effectiveness fade while descending the Montezuma Grade. The truck never free-wheeled, and those drivers never felt in danger, but the incidents left them less than confident in the system. Since not every judge experienced the fading, it was difficult to pinpoint what would trigger the change in the brake’s performance.

The Ram’s steering effort, like the Ford’s, was on the light side, leading some judges to think the system was overboosteda perception more pronounced on-road than off-road. The Ram also had the tightest turning circle of the three, and all of us liked the truck’s thick-rimmed steering wheel.

Most judges praised the Ram’s suspension, at least when it was on the pavement. Its ride was the firmest of the three trucks, but we like that in a working pickup, and it was more sporty than harsh. Off-road the front end felt nicely damped, though the rear springs were prone to lots of wheelhop in sand and on loose dirt.

We also liked the Ram’s plain and straightforward interior layout. Not only were the ergonomics spot-on, with switches and controls exactly where we wanted them, but the no-frills approach felt right in line with this truck’s workhorse nature. One judge did complain that the split-bench seat’s cloth upholstery wasn’t as good as it should have been, but that perception could have been colored by the fact that the Ram was the only truck in the group without leather.

Unfortunately, the Ram was also the only truck in the group without any sort of traction aid. While this wasn’t much of an issue on dirt roads or in the sand, it made negotiating the rocky hillclimbs a real challenge on the last portion of our off-road evaluation.

In fact, the trip’s only major incident came when the Ram put a hole in the bottom of its radiator slipping off a rock in that last stretch of trail. We were able to nurse the truck back to a garage, where we put as many cans of Stop Leak into the radiator as we could find, and then we headed off on what should have been a three-hour trip back to the office. Despite the addition of a few eggs and copious amounts of pepper to the radiator (a surefire leak fix, said one staffer), we had to stop every 20 minutes or so to replace the water draining out the bottom. The trip took twice as long as it should have, but the Ram made it, towing its Fun Runner the entire way.

Likes

  • Iconic Cummins diesel
  • Sporty pavement ride
  • Nicely appointed for price

Dislikes

  • No traction aids
  • Intermittent exhaust brake
  • Worst mileage

View Slideshow

Specifications
General
Manufacturer Ram
Model 2500 SLT Crew Cab 4x4
Base Price $38,630
Price as Tested $52,590
Engine
Type I-6
Displacement (L/ci) 6.7/408
Bore & Stroke (in) 4.21x4.88
Compression Ratio 17.3:1
Fuel Req./Capacity (gal) Ultralow-sulfur diesel/34
SAE Peak Horsepower 350 @ 3,000 rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 650 @ 1,500 rpm
Transmission
Type 6-spd auto
Ratios First: 3.23:1; Second: 1.84:1; Third: 1.40:1; Fourth: 1.00:1; Fifth: 0.82:1; Sixth: 0.63:1; Reverse: 4.44:1
Transfer Case
Type 2-spd, part-time
Low-Range Ratio 2.72
Axles
Front Type AAM 1112-in
Front Diff Open
Rear Type AAM 1112-in
Rear Diff Open
Hubs Fulltime
Ratio 3.73:1
Traction Aid None
Suspension
Front Live axle, coil springs, shock absorbers, stabilizer bar
Rear Live axle, longitudinal leaf springs, shock absorbers, stabilizer bar
Steering
Type Power-assisted recirculating ball
Ratio 13.4:1
Wheels
Size (in) 17x8
Material Forged aluminum
Tires
Size LT265/70R17
Brand Michelin LTX A/S
Brakes
Front (in) 14.17 ventilated disc
Rear (in) 14.09 ventilated disc
60-0 Unladen (ft) 152.1
60-0 Towing (ft) 201.1
Acceleration
Standing 14-mile Unladen (sec @ mph) 16.34 @ 82.28
Standing 14-mile Towing (sec @ mph) 20.53 @ 65.99
Weight (lb)
Curb Weight 7,480
Curb Weight w/ Trailer 12,480
Advertised GVWR 9,600
Tow Capacity 12,550
Payload Capacity 2,300
Mileage (mpg)
EPA Estimate N/A
As Tested Unladen 15.4
As Tested Towing 9.965
Dimensions (in)
Wheelbase 148.9
Overall Length 237.4
Overall Width 79.1
Overall Height 77.7
Min. Front Ground Clearance 8.0 (at front differential)

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