Check out the lines on that dually bed-it's a single stamping of convex sheetmetal. The ta
On-road ride was, at first impression, slightly underwhelming. At highway speeds on asphalt roads, it was hard to get a sense of steering center; the vehicle seemed somewhat prone to wander, in need of frequent correction, and the front suspension felt slightly choppy and underdamped-a bit of a surprise, considering the weight of the diesel engine and automatic transmission over the front axle. We later determined that our test unit's E-range inflation pressures had been altered, front to rear, to 60 and 45 psi, respectively; we presumed this was done to soften up the ride in the back of a heavy (7,100-pound) pickup truck with an unladen 8-foot bed. Instead, what we experienced was a slightly jittery ride up front, though on further reflection it struck us as roughly on a par with that of the latest-generation Super Duty. (The trucks we tested were prototypes, too, and since prototypes tend to get hammered fairly hard in their lifetimes by OE engineering guys, much of this could have simply been due to an alignment issue.) More annoying to us was the amount of engine noise that intruded into the cab at highway speeds, at levels slightly higher than we'd expect from a luxuriously appointed crew cab. (And yes, we know, it's a big diesel.) On the other hand, we imagine that most buyers of 1-ton pickup trucks aren't going to expect their rigs to handle (or sound) like a luxury sedan, and as we kept our road speeds at the posted limit, we'd consider our critique of the Ram's suspension tuning, and engine noise, a secondary concern. (By comparison, we later piloted a 2500 TRX model with the 5.7L Hemi, and found it noticeably quieter inside.)
Minor gripes notwithstanding, the Cummins is a mother of a torque motor, and perfectly matched to the six-speed automatic; it gets the Ram up to speed very quickly-if there was any "turbo lag" on display in our tester during repeated acceleration runs, we sure couldn't sense any-and it's happy to cruise all day at 75 mph on the Interstate at its torque-peak 1,500 rpm in Sixth-gear overdrive. While we might have wanted a more heavily weighted front ride, we did notice a near-total lack of body-panel creaks and rattles that we'd come to associate with some later-model Rams; sure enough, new fluid-filled C-pillar hydromounts work with the retuned suspension to reduce frame bending and bed flex. Like we said, there's a lot of attention to detail going on here.
Yes, we actually towed this monster, all 17,000 pounds of it, over twisty and often steep
Later in the day, we got the chance to hop into a dually Crew Cab model to tow a spanking-new Case Maxxum 140 tractor secured to a 34-foot twin-axle gooseneck (combined weight: approximately 17,000 pounds) on some narrow, winding, and occasionally steep two-lane roads in the Texas hill country. With both sets of tires aired to identical pressures, and the suspension firmly planted beneath some 81/2 tons of load, the Dodge's towing manners were impeccable. The front suspension now seemed perfectly weighted, neither too light nor too sluggish, and the steering required much less correction to hold a steady line. The Cummins provided ample power for getting the truck up to speed, though we did manage to push it to its limits (i.e., spinning five grand at full throttle) on one challenging uphill grade; and while the engine labored at times, the 68RFE didn't seem to mind the workout a bit, rarely straying above 210 on the temp gauge, no matter how hard we abused it.
On steep downhill sections, the Dodge's onboard exhaust brake-another awesome feature that's exclusive to the Ram for 2010-proved admirably responsive to sudden weight transfers, providing excellent compression braking-and a way-cool big-rig throttle-down exhaust note, too. The Ram's Tow/Haul programming was a little slow to our liking to give us a downshift when we wanted it, but hey, we're wusses when it comes to towing anything heavier than Holman's flatfender. (You can toggle down manually if you like, which we did, via the shift buttons located on the steering column.) We rarely had to apply pedal braking during our tow trip, and the few times we did, the onboard trailer brake controller was on hand to help maintain the proper accelerative balance between truck and towed load. We have to admit, we were a little leery of this exercise at first given the size of the load and our lack of experience at towing anything this huge, but the new Ram HD's attributes made it surprisingly easy and stress-free.