First Look: 2011 Ram Tradesman and Ram HD

Brand loyalty and brash claims aside, figures -- particularly those tied to pricing and performance -- help automakers move pickups in an increasingly competitive full-size truck market. Chrysler's Ram Trucks division is apparently no exception, as officials talked some interesting figures during the company's press conference at the Chicago Auto Show.

While some consumers may be keen to load full-size trucks with all sorts of luxurious goodies (witness the new Ram Laramie Longhorn, for example), commercial clients typically opt for simple, no-frills transportation. The new 2011 Ram 1500 Tradesman is designed to appeal to this demographic, while simultaneously delivering more bang for the buck.

Although similar to the existing Ram ST trim level, Ram adds a considerable amount of standard equipment - especially when it comes to powertrain. In lieu of the ST's entry-level 3.7-liter V-6, Tradesman models are fitted with the top-end, 390-horsepower, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 - along with a five-speed automatic - at no extra charge. Not only does this increase available power, but it also improves towing capacity (10,450 pounds) when compared to the six-cylinder ST.

Tradesman models also receive a standard class IV hitch receiver, 4- and 7-pin trailer connections, a heavy-duty transmission oil cooler, and a 3.55:1 rear axle ratio. Other standard content include an uprated 160-amp alternator and a 700-amp battery, unique 17-inch steel wheels, chrome grille trim, air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 media center radio with six speakers, driver and passenger grab handles, and automatic headlamps.

Despite the additional two cylinders and all the other goodies, the Ram Tradesman isn't much more expensive than the current Ram ST. Short-box models are expected to start at $22,780 (including $975 in destination charges) - that's only $995 more than a base ST short-bed, and roughly $2460 less than a comparably equipped ST V-8. Better yet, it manages to undercut base V-6 competition from Toyota and Ford by $2130 and $610, respectively.

Those seeking the biggest, baddest, and brawniest full-size pickup will perhaps be more interested in the tweaks performed to Ram's heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 models. Thanks in part to a new engine calibration, the optional 6.7-liter Cummins turbo-diesel I-6 is now rated at nearly 800 pound-feet of torque from 1600 rpm, when mated to a six-speed automatic transmission (Cummins engines mated to manual transmissions are limited to 610 pound-feet). That's a significant jump from the previous 650 pound-feet rating, and now matches the torque output of the new 6.7-liter turbo-diesel V-8 offered in the 2011 Ford Super Duty. Want to make the most of that newfound power? Order a Ram 3500 dually with the new Max Tow package. By adding a beefier 4.10:1 rear axle, upgraded steering box, and new engine and transmission oil coolers, the Max Tow group boosts the gross carrying weight rating (GCWR) on 3500 models from 24,500 pounds to a whopping 30,000. Better yet, it also increases the maximum fifth-wheel trailer towing capacity to 22,700 pounds.

Chrysler says the Ram 1500 Tradesman should roll into dealer showrooms nationwide by the third quarter of 2011, while the upgraded Ram 2500 and 3500 models should be available starting this summer.

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