The Latest Generation Of Heavy-Duty Rams Can Work And Wheel-And Flat-Out Haul
It probably goes without saying that this is not exactly the optimal time for any automaker to be unveiling a new fullsize pickup truck to consumers. Cash-for-Clunker programs aside, the number of new car buyers prowling the aisles at dealerships-let alone buyers looking for large vehicles that deliver less-than-stellar mileage-have been as rare as Elvis sightings in recent months. On the other hand, more than 1.6 million pickups were sold in the U.S. last year, even in a terrible economic climate, so consumer demand for these vehicles will always be present, if not overwhelming. And when you represent a brand that's as closely identified with pickup trucks as is Dodge, you can't afford to stand pat in an ever-evolving market, especially when your competitors have launched recent updates of their heavy-duty truck lines. To that end, the folks at Chrysler have rolled out the latest generation of the heavy-duty Ram for 2010.
For 2010, buyers can choose their Ram HD in Standard, Crew, and Mega Cab configurations, in wheelbases ranging from 140 to 169 inches, with either 6-foot, 4-inch or 8-foot beds, and in five distinct trim levels: ST, SLT, TRX, Laramie and, thankfully, Power Wagon, which was once rumored to be on the chopping block but which, we're happy to say, is going to be around for at least another year-and hopefully longer.
While the Ram HD is all new both inside and out, the truck's basic powertrains carry over from 2009. The 5.7L Hemi V-8 has been tweaked for 2010 with variable valve timing, increased compression and improved cylinder head flow efficiency, and is now rated at 383 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. The 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel Six still produces 650 stump-pulling lb-ft of torque, and it's also cleaner for 2010, having been equipped with a new particulate filter and NOx absorber catalyst that enable it to meet 20101/2 federal clean-diesel standards without the need for a more costly (and heavier) urea-based emissions system. The Hemi is backed by the reliable 545RFE five-speed automatic transmission, while the Cummins offers either the G56 six-speed manual or the optional Kokomo-sourced 68RFE six-speed automatic. Transfer cases are the standard electric-shift NVG 273 or (for the Power Wagon) the manual-shift NV 271 with 2.72:1 low-range. Solid axles hold up both ends of the Ram; the suspension comprises coils and struts up front, and leaf springs and overload leaves in the rear; and you can still get 4.56:1 axle gears with the Power Wagon.
For our on-road testdrive, held over a muggy day near San Antonio, Texas, we chose a Cummins-powered, single-rear-wheel 3500 Crew Cab in top-of-the-line Laramie trim with split leather seats and heated steering wheel, dual-zone A/C, nine-speaker Surround Sound, UConnectivity and Sirius satellite, all standard with the Laramie package. Immediately we were struck by the attention given to the new Ram's interior build quality and tactility-the cross-dash stitching, the soft-touch plastic armrests, and the brushed-stainless center console trim were all pleasing to the eye and to the touch. The split gloveboxes and rear in-floor storage bins are both clever and functional. We also (greatly) appreciated the presence of the new-for-2010 integrated trailer brake controller (!), located on the lower left dash panel.
Outside, the Ram's new design cues bespeak a painstaking attention to detail in design and engineering: the oversized 7x11-inch, fold-up/fold-out towing mirrors, designed to reduce wind noise, are equipped with integrated turn signals, puddle lamps, and memory functions, and the bedsides of the dual-rear-wheel Ram are an engineering marvel: A single stamping of convex sheetmetal running the entire length of the bed (no plastic fender cutouts), which was a challenge to create, since only a handful of OE sheetmetal suppliers have the means to manufacture it. The tailgate now sports a backup camera to aid with trailer hookups, and the front bumper has been recessed slightly back towards the frame, enabling easier access to the Ram's massive tow hooks.