As editor of Diesel Army I was invited to take part in an exclusive testing session of the new 2019 2500 and 3500 RAM Heavy Duty trucks. After their big reveal in Detroit only a few short months ago, we were obviously crazed about getting the details on the new truck, especially the new high-output 6.7-liter Cummins engine. The iconic turbo-diesel engine is now even more powerful, durable, and capable than ever. With 400-horsepower and 1,000-ft/lb of torque, we couldn’t wait to get that seat of the pants feel.
RAM provided virtually every configuration of heavy-duty RAM available for the attending editors to sample. From the short-wheelbase dually trucks, mega cabs, and even Power Wagon gas trucks, they had it all available for our inspection. But before we climbed behind the wheel, we stopped in the showroom to eyeball some of the indoor models set up, which included the first ever diesel-powered Ram truck from 1989.
Changes for 2019
First on the agenda during the media day was to meet with some of the representatives with RAM to cover the newest changes in the powertrain, exterior, and even the interior. To kick things off, Jim Morrison, Head Of RAM Brand North America, spoke to us about the sales performance of RAM brand trucks in 2018 and had plenty of great things to say. “It was a good year for the RAM trucks. It was the best year of sales ever for the brand, actually. Globally, we made 724,000 sales which put us up 7-percent,” Morrison said. “With capability, confidence, and comfort in mind, we took the formula that we had such good luck with on the half-ton trucks and applied that to the heavy-duties and it looks to pay off.”
After Morrison gave us the down-low on the 2018 sales results and the outlook for 2019, he handed things off to Mike Gillam, the RAM Heavy Duty Exterior Design Manager. His role is to lead the way in all ideas and changes of the exterior.
“As Mr. Morrison said, we are focusing on capability, confidence, and comfort, ” said Gillam. “My job is to portray those values in a way that you can visually see them on our trucks. Capability, everyone now knows about our 1,000-ft/lb torque rating out of the high-output Cummins engine and the 35,100-pound towing capacity. Confidence. Since 1994, we have always had this “big-rig” look on our trucks. Since ’94, we have always been advancing that look and with this new 39-inch grille, we have made a barrel-chested, confidence-displaying nose that RAM should have.”
Following shortly after Mike Gillam was RAM Chief Interior Designer, Ryan Nagode. To sum up, Nagode provided us with all of the details within the new heavy-duty trucks covering interior materials, storage space, and technology. “All the way down to the Tradesmen Series trucks, we have some soft materials in the right key areas. As for storage, we really wanted to offer plenty of usable storage,” said Nagode. “A lot of times, other manufacturers will have space to use in their vehicles, but it will lead to questions like what can we fit in there even?”.
Lastly, we met with Ron Romain. He is the head of engineering of RAM trucks and he went over a few of the structural changes made to better these RAM trucks for 2019. “An all-aluminum hood, all steel bumpers use composite materials for additional weight reduction and that contribute to a weight loss of 140-pounds,” said Romain. “Other areas for efficiency improvements were in the aerodynamics. The RAM is best in class in aero efficiency.”
With their newly-designed plastics and reformed trims, the aero efficiency has increased 8-percent over the existing RAM. Also, the fine-tuned aerodynamics creates a smoother transition through the air. That smooth ride gliding through the air mixed with the acoustic glass, and windshield in the first row makes for -10-decibel drop. According to the company, it makes the RAM trucks the quietest truck in the heavy-duty market.
Diesel Engine Icon: 6.7-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel Delivering 1,000 ft/lbs of Torque
Firstly, the engine doesn’t physically look much different than other under the hood. But this engine is so much more than we’re used to. Not only does it offer higher horsepower and torque ratings, after some serious revisions, but this engine also weighs 60-pounds lighter. Same 6.7-liter displacement but now pushing out 400-horsepower and 1,000-ft/lbs of torque.
Major upgrades to these engines in 2019 including revised cylinder heads that feature new exhaust valves and springs, new rocker arms, forged connecting rods and bearings, lighter and stronger pistons with low-friction rings, and a reworked variable geometry turbo. Granted the engine was stout to begin with, but those are the changes that have been made to create that four-digit torque number.
Among these upgrades to the engine, one stands out from the rest. These new 6.7 engines are constructed with Compacted Graphite Iron (CGI) blocks. The current 6.7 engines and the previous 5.9’s utilize the cast iron block which is known to hold up well. But, there are many benefits to moving on to a CGI block, especially when it comes to performance. In fact, ever NASCAR engine block is cast in CGI.
First of all, CGI is 75-percent stronger than traditional cast iron as well as 45-percent stiffer and has double the fatigue strength. These great characteristics are important to an engine that generates high boost pressure and extreme heat every single day. It will be interesting to observe how the CGI blocks perform long-term versus their cast iron predecessors.
First Drive To Eldorado Canyon Mine
So after our initial rundown from the RAM execs, it was time to get behind the wheel. We were told to walk outside and pick out a truck with which we would commute to our next location: the Eldorado Canyon Mines. Eldorado is based at the historical Techatticup Mine just outside of Las Vegas and is the oldest, richest, and most famous gold mine in Southern Nevada.
In my quick walkaround, I spotted that the tailgate and tail lamps are different. Their new design offers a more sleek, modern look and the tailgate can now be operated from the interior of the truck – which is great for those who are backing up to a gooseneck trailer. But then how do you see the ball? Did I mention there are 360-degree cameras on this truck? If you find something this truck doesn’t do, please let us know.
The grill and headlights have also been upgraded. They’ve gone from the traditional clear halogens to the completely upgraded LED lamps. These lights are the troops that work alongside the new grille that has been introduced to make sure oncoming traffic knows that a RAM is headed their way. No doubt that RAM has stepped up their game on the exterior side of things this year.
Hitting The Road
With my truck choice made, it was time to hit the road. I was paired up with Houston, Texas native Jim Nelson. Nelson works for a radio show in the Houston area called “In Wheel Time”. After we checked out of the location, we were on our way. The first thing we noticed was the smooth transition into gear headed out. It was clear that the new Aisin transmission lives up to the hype by our just driving out of the parking lot.
We’ve all heard about the death wobble and the normal failure points to the front end of earlier RAM trucks, but, man, the 2019 truck is tight. The steering in every direction offers a smooth turn with no body roll at all, and you can turn the wheel effortlessly. With the advertised towing weight behind the truck, that is exactly the type of response that you want.
Mixing the outstanding drivability with the high-quality interior and you might feel like you’re in a luxury car. You have to remind yourself that you’re in an absolute workhorse of a truck. Hitting the freeways on the outskirts of Las Vegas, you can imagine what the traffic was like. But once that 1,000-lb/ft of torque and 400-horsepower kicks in, it was only a matter of a few seconds before we were snaking around slower traffic. Nelson and I discussed our thoughts during our hour cruise out to the testing location and we were both impressed with the new RAM right off the hit.
Arrival And Testing
Upon arrival, the RAM Group had trucks already lined up and loaded for testing. In front, there was a big four-door dually pulling a Case backhoe loaded on a trailer. Second in line was a massive camper connected to a new long wheelbase, single rear wheel RAM. Lastly, but certainly not least, was the regular cab dually with the largest load capacity of them all at 35,100 pounds. On this 35-foot trailer there was an even larger Case backhoe positioned just over the axles and loaded closer to the tongue was a monster pallet of pavers.
As a matter of fact, since that didn’t weigh enough to reach the advertised capacity, RAM staff loaded the bed down with sand bags to make sure it was accurate. Out of the available trucks, we drove the 35,100-pound load and the four-wheel-drive dually with the smaller backhoe on the trailer.
If you’re not aware, I pull a gooseneck trailer all year long to drag races, so this was a normal arena for me. After driving with that kind of weight behind us, our first thoughts were a little shocking. This new Cummins engine combined with Aisin transmission is an all-star.
The normal route of modifying the engine and its ancillaries to improve power and performance just didn’t seem necessary when towing this trailer. All the power we needed was there. The 1,000-lb/ft of torque kicks in just in time and holds that power all throughout the driving experience. In our testing, we wanted to see how the truck shifted as well as how it handled the temperatures of this extreme situation. As we’re out in the hills of Eldorado Canyon Mines why not push this thing up the 7-percent grade?
At a completely dead stop aiming upwards, it was pedal to the metal. The transmission shifted smooth as butter, locked into gear as requested, accelerating the truck fast enough that we need to start slowing down to crest the hill, and with all that the temperature gauges never moved. Our transmission temperature maintained 165-degrees, while the coolant temperature was steady at 201-degrees; the truck didn’t even smell warm.
Now, you may say, yeah, but you’re the only one who did that. No. There were groups driving all day doing the same thing so this truck has taken a beating and it didn’t seem to care what was thrown at it. I use a modified 2011 6.7-liter RAM to tow our race truck and the 2019 is comparable to its drivability right out of the box – no modifications needed. Great down-low performance all the way to accelerating past traffic at highway speeds.
In January, the 2019 RAM Heavy Duty pickup line was debuted to the public at the North American International (Detroit) Auto Show, but the pricing was not announced. But not only we were given all the details on the new trucks but also the pricing levels. The MSRP of each truck showcases how many different options and configurations you can build yourself. In total, there are 29 different models of the RAM 2500 and 28 in the RAM 3500.
Ram 2500 Heavy Duty
A new 2019 barebones Heavy Duty RAM pickup will start out at an MSRP of $33,395. That is for a two-wheel-drive, regular cab tradesman with a long-wheelbase powered by the 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 engine backed by an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Also with the 6.4-liter HEMI V8 engine, the top of the line RAM 2500 line is the four-wheel-drive Limited short-bed pickup truck. If luxury is your cup of tea, it’s going to cost you $65,700. Between all of the trim levels, the prices are listed below. NOTE: Delivery is $1,695. Upgrade from a Crew Cab to a Mega Cab is $1,500 and going to a 4×4 configuration – add $2,900.
- TRADESMAN Reg Cab 4×2 with HEMI 6.4L V8 – $33,395
- BIG HORN Reg Cab 4×2 with HEMI 6.4L V8 – $37,645
- LARAMIE Crew Cab 4×2 with HEMI 6.4L V8 – $49,100
- POWER WAGON Crew Cab with HEMI 6.4L V8 – $52,900
- LONGHORN Crew Cab with HEMI 6.4L V8 – $56,300
- LIMITED Crew Cab with HEMI 6.4L V8 – $61,300
Ram 3500 HD
If you’re here, this is what you’re wanting to know. In the 3500 models, a two-wheel-drive regular cab in Tradesman trim starts out at $34,845 and tops the charts at $67,050. If you’re looking to build yourself a new Ram, with a high-output Cummins engine, and all the bells and whistles, you’re looking at an ending price around $75,000.
The Limited options come equipped with a 12-inch Uconnect 4C touchscreen head unit. Talk about upgrading from the traditional den units we’re all used to, these are the future.
- TRADESMAN Reg Cab 4×2 with HEMI 6.4L V8 – $34,845
- BIG HORN Reg Cab 4×2 with HEMI 6.4L V8 – $39,095
- LARAMIE Crew Cab 4×2 with HEMI 6.4L V8 – $50,450
- LONGHORN Crew Cab 4×2 with HEMI 6.4L V8 – $57,650
- LIMITED Crew Cab 4×2 with HEMI 6.4L V8 – $62,650
The two optional engine choices for both the 2500 and the 3500 are the standard 6.7-liter Cummins and the High-Output 6.7-liter Cummins. These are the engines that allow the RAM Heavy-Duty truck to be the first to break that 1,000-lb/ft of torque wall that every manufacturer has been chasing after. With all of that torque comes it’s capabilities including the 35,100-pounds of tow and 7,680-pound payload capacity.
- The standard 6.7L Cummins Turbo Diesel engine will cost an additional $9,100. It is available on both RAM 2500 and RAM 3500 models.
- The “High Output” 6.7L Cummins Turbo Diesel mated to a high-performance Aisin 6-speed automatic transmission – producing 1,000 lb.-ft. of torque – will add $11,795 to the price. It is only available on the RAM 3500.
Interior- From the Tradesman all the way to the limited, the interiors are phenomenal. Ryan Negode and the interior team have knocked it out of the park. Every time we looked there was something extra added to the truck. The color choices of the interior in each model were second to none, the stitching and soft materials in the seating, and the hand-branded Longhorn label in the dashes was just out of control cool. Although something like that doesn’t appeal to everyone, you have to appreciate the time and quality that is put into the cabin of something you commute in.
Exterior- Some of you are year loyal and would rather have the older rugged look of the first generation RAM trucks, but the 2019 RAM has to get you excited. The changes that the exterior team have made like the tailgate, the rear lighting, and the new grille and headlight combo is groundbreaking. Working alongside the engineering team to not only create a beefy, yet professional, image, these changes work hand-in-hand in making the truck perform better aerodynamically.
Powertrain- Between the updated legendary Cummins engine, the new Aisin transmission, and the improvements made to the chassis, these trucks are the future of heavy-duty trucking. The fact that you can have over 35,000-pounds behind you and climb almost any terrain while maintaining proper temperatures with flawless shifting says something about the RAM brand. Some may not want to accept the new Aisin transmission, but until you try it, don’t knock it. After driving other trucks, this combination is the gun in a knife fight.
So, to sum up, the trucks from the Tradesman all the way to the Limited, RAM has it going on. With these trucks getting better and better every year, at what point will it stop? How many options can they come up? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below! To build and price your own RAM heavy-duty, be sure and check out their website. Stay tuned to Diesel Army for more news from the industry.