2019 Ram Heavy Duty First Drive - Torques and Toques

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

The world is full of surprises. From the Cleveland Browns making it to Week 16 to the continued unpredictability of Elon Musk’s Twitter account, there is no shortage of shock and awe on this planet. Know what else was surprising? Last week, it snowed in Vegas. For once, there were toques aplenty on the Strip.

What’s not a surprise is the new Ram Heavy Duty pickups are equally as desirable as their half-ton brethren, particularly in the spiffy new cabin. What does 1,000 lb-ft of torque feel like? Can it haul the mail?

You bet your Golden Nugget poker chips it can.

Developing an engine cranking out 1,000 lb-ft of torque was no mean feat. Your author fully expected Ram to be the first manufacturer to break the four-digit torque ceiling in a consumer-grade truck. That’s not wholly surprising. What is surprising is the speed and alacrity in which it appeared, not to mention the driveability of a machine that could pull a house off its foundation.

So let’s dive right into the deep end. Planting one’s right foot on a throttle pedal that’s in command of four-figure torque is the closest thing most truck-loving gearheads will get to riding a nuclear bomb like Major Kong in Dr. Strangelove. The deep well of pull is seemingly bottomless, with a lightly laden truck building speed and momentum like a Freightliner.

I say “lightly laden” but, in fact, goosenecked into the bed of this $86,300 Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4×4 Longbox was a trailer whose total weight exceed 21,000 lbs. Headed down a 6 percent grade – which doesn’t sound like a lot until you’re barrelling down a narrow and windy road with the combined weight of 4.5 Hellcats aboard – the 6.7-liter inline-six Cummins diesel made good use of its engine brake to get the works of it woahed up, at times damn near bouncing off the rev limiter. It’s aggressive but in a reassuring way; your author never once felt as if he were about to fall victim to a runaway truck. Walking on the loud pedal headed back up the grade, the Ram HD maintained its speed and actually accelerated with élan on all but the steepest parts of the course. This is a stout mill.

And that’s the main tenet of Ram’s effort with this truck: confidence. By having the truck do a lot of the work, judicious use of the exhaust brake easily held the truck to 40 mph without having to work the friction brakes like a frenzied televangelist. Speaking of, the brake discs hanging out at the rear axle measure 365mm (14.4 inches) while the fronts are 360mm (14.2 inches).

How did Ram manage to enter Club 1000? It’s important to note not all Ram HDs are created equal. The Cummins 6.7-liter inline-six Turbo Diesel in the new 2019 Ram 2500 and 3500 Heavy Duty is offered in two variants. Standard output checks in at 370 horsepower at 2,800 rpm and “only” 850 lb-ft of torque at 1,700 rpm. The high output mill, installed in the 3500 truck and grabbing all the headlines, is the one which makes 400 horsepower at 2,800 rpm and 1,000 lb-ft of torque at 1,800 rpm.

Rod Romain is the chief engineer for Ram Heavy Duty and has a golden radio voice that actually sounds like a truck. Seriously. If a truck with 1,000 lb-ft of torque could speak, it would do so in Rod’s dulcet and gravelly tones. He explained the myriad of changes undertaken to hit 1000.

Changes begin at the core, with a cylinder block made from compacted graphite iron. Using compacted graphite iron instead of grey cast iron produces a cylinder block that is allegedly stronger and better able to dampen vibrations. It weighs a bit less, as the new mill weighs about 60 pounds less than the previous-gen engine.

A new cast-iron cylinder head builds on the new block with changes that include new exhaust valves and springs, and new rocker arms driven by a hollow camshaft, contributing to the weight savings. New oil and water pumps with aluminum housings are along for the ride, along with lighter and stronger pistons which connect to the crankshaft via new-design forged connecting rods and new bearings. Attention nerds: the new Turbo Diesel has a bore of 4.21 inches and stroke of 4.88 inches, while the compression ratio is 16.2:1 for the high output and 19.0:1 for the standard output. Boost maxes out at 33 psi.

So we know all this works a treat hauling about 21,000 lbs. But what about the big guns? The halo number of 35,100 lbs that Ram keeps throwing out there? To find out, we hitched up to an 11,500 lb gooseneck and then loaded it up with 15,810 lbs worth of backhoe and 7,790 lbs of cinder blocks. Presto: 35,100 lbs.

Predictably, this halo figure is limited to a single style of truck, namely a $56,800 Tradesman 3500 Regular Cab 4×2 with dual rear wheels. It had cloth seats and an iPhone-sized Uconnect screen. You weirdos would have loved it. Anyway, headed down the same 6 percent grade, descending 1,801 feet in 5.4 miles, the exhaust brake exhibited similar tendencies to rein in the massive amount of downhill momentum created by this truck and trailer.

At a turn around near the grade’s end, stepping out into the crisp Nevada air revealed nary a hit of burnt brake fluid or overcooked rotors. Climbing back in the saddle and pointing the Tradesman up the hill, the contractor-white dualie dragged it load up the gradient with dogged determination. Burying the loud pedal right into the carpet vinyl during the steepest sections of the course resulted in a steady 35 mph speed. With 35,100 lbs in tow, it gained speed as the terrain levelled out.

All this is well and good, but how about some real-world surprises? You know, stuff most drivers will see and use every single day. For starters, the narrow convex part of Ram HD’s sideview mirrors – mounted separately from the standard mirror glass like on most trucks, is power operated. This may not seem like a big deal to those who don’t tow on a regular basis but, as TTAC’s resident hauler, I can tell you that this detail is a huge leap forward. Gone are the days of lowering the window, stretching across the cab, putting a greasy thumbprint on the convex glass to make an adjustment … only for the angle to be off once one returns to their normal driving position. It’s an example of a real-world problem that’s been solved with a few bucks and a whole dose of common sense.

Also in this vein are the new in-line heaters plumbed into the ventilation network of Ram HDs equipped with the Cummins. These units allow heat to be generated for the cabin without having to wait the interminable amount of time it takes for the engine to generate a few BTUs.

The mahoosive 12-inch infotainment screen is available in a number of trims, not just the top-spec models. This includes, I am happy to report, the Power Wagon, with its freakin’ bench seat and baseball bat of a 4×4 lever sticking out of the floor. It’s a wonderful mix of traditional and modern.

A trio of cab sizes remain, including a 142 cubic foot Mega Cab variant which is so large that the truck’s annual maintenance includes checking for hibernating bears. Few companies are able to pull off a vast variety of trims and styles appended to the same truck like Ram. Limited and Longhorn are alter-egos to each other, for example, while well-equipped Laramie trucks have suede touches. There is a quintet of USB ports, aux switches which feel like chicklets covered in rubber and infused with maple syrup, and wireless smartphone charging in some models.

There is now a transmission knob-type button in 6.4-liter Hemi gasoline-powered Ram HDs thanks to the addition of a familiar eight-speed automatic. Completely unladen save for two well-fed journalists, a $73,150 3500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4×4 equipped with this engine returned about 15 mpg in your author’s hands on a long highway slog. Active louvers behind that big grille surely helped. Diesel customers still get to shift gears via a column shifter which sprouts from the steering column like an overgrown larch.

Technology like automatic emergency braking, once the domain of luxury sedans, has found its way onto the Ram HD. This system remains functional even when a loaded trailer is connected, as the emergency braking integrates the trailer brakes so a full-on panic stop is available even while hauling. Adaptive cruise is part of the deal and helps reduce driver fatigue.

In fact, most of what Ram engineers have built into the new HD pickups is designed to just that – reduce fatigue. An alert and rested driver is a safer driver, so the thinking goes, and it is difficult to argue that assertion.

Prodigious power, bold looks, and a sumptuous interior – perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise if Ram overtakes GM for second place in the truck market, as is their goal.

Snow in Vegas, though? Color me flabbergasted.

[Images: Matthew Guy/TTAC, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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3 of 25 comments
  • FreedMike FreedMike on Feb 28, 2019

    I'm sure it's a great truck. For 86 grand, it should be.

  • EGSE EGSE on Feb 28, 2019

    Damn, 86 large? Really? These will be sold to the horsey people where I live to pull their nags in rotted-out trailers. The folks I used to sell hay to who tried to pay me with rubber checks. If you expect to tow those big numbers with regularity you'd be better off finding a good used Class 5 like an FL50 and getting it refreshed the way you need it to be. Admittedly not as posh and it won't inflate your ego but your wallet will thank you. And you'll have a truck that's not straining and can last 400k miles. Edit: Remove reference to "Johnson", replace with "ego".

    • DenverMike DenverMike on Mar 01, 2019

      $86K is hardly necessary (or a reality after rebates), along with upper/hyper trim Longhorn, Limited, etc. But an old FL50? Really ?? Isn't that like going from a current Accord/Camry with Nav/leather/sunroof to a Checker Marathon? Any 1-ton dually pickup with a gooseneck can easily out do Class 5 FL50, Navistar "payload", long before breaking a sweat, plus with versatility the industrial/commercial trucks can't match, no frickin' way, never mind available 4X4. If you insist on Class 5, Ford and Ram have pickup based Cab-n-Chassis flatbeds (or pickup bed conversions) that will also go 400K miles or more, and they're commercial/industrial proven, but offer mid/upper trim, Lariat/Laramie, allow you to opt out of diesel (thank god!), with a base 6.4 Hemi, V10 or upcoming 7.3 gasser, and at substantial savings over diesel. After a rebuild and resto (at terrific costs), older (pre-emissions?) commercial/industrial trucks may have good drivetrains, but the stuff in the cab, electronics etc, can ruin your day, sideline you just the same. What do those parts cost over Ford or Ram? Were they built as robust? Shared with millions of 1/2 tons? What's their availability like? Can you get them at thousands of dealers across the country, usually "in stock" or overnight'd? Or widely available at AutoZone? Or are they obsolete to begin with? A bad idea or what?

  • Teddyc73 As I asked earlier under another article, when did "segment" or "class" become "space"? Does using that term make one feel more sophisticated? If GM's products in other segments...I mean "space" is more profitable then sedans then why shouldn't they discontinue it.
  • Robert Absolutely!!! I hate SUV's , I like the better gas milage and better ride and better handling!! Can't take a SUV 55mph into a highway exit ramp! I can in my Malibu and there's more than enough room for 5 and trunk is plenty big enough for me!
  • Teddyc73 Since when did automakers or car companies become "OEM". Probably about the same time "segment" or "class" became "space". I wish there were more sedans. I would like an American sedan. However, as others have stated, if they don't sell in large enough quantities to be profitable the automakers...I mean, "OEMs" aren't going to build them. It's simple business.
  • Varezhka I have still yet to see a Malibu on the road that didn't have a rental sticker. So yeah, GM probably lost money on every one they sold but kept it to boost their CAFE numbers.I'm personally happy that I no longer have to dread being "upgraded" to a Maxima or a Malibu anymore. And thankfully Altima is also on its way out.
  • Tassos Under incompetent, affirmative action hire Mary Barra, GM has been shooting itself in the foot on a daily basis.Whether the Malibu cancellation has been one of these shootings is NOT obvious at all.GM should be run as a PROFITABLE BUSINESS and NOT as an outfit that satisfies everybody and his mother in law's pet preferences.IF the Malibu was UNPROFITABLE, it SHOULD be canceled.More generally, if its SEGMENT is Unprofitable, and HALF the makers cancel their midsize sedans, not only will it lead to the SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST ones, but the survivors will obviously be more profitable if the LOSERS were kept being produced and the SMALL PIE of midsize sedans would yield slim pickings for every participant.SO NO, I APPROVE of the demise of the unprofitable Malibu, and hope Nissan does the same to the Altima, Hyundai with the SOnata, Mazda with the Mazda 6, and as many others as it takes to make the REMAINING players, like the Excellent, sporty Accord and the Bulletproof Reliable, cheap to maintain CAMRY, more profitable and affordable.