First Drive: 2010 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty

#Ram, #2500

While it may seem like a relatively niche product, the Ram Heavy Duty is actually a pretty big deal for the car company that lost its way. With 54,000 employees and the Ram HD being the company's only new-for-2010 product, you might imagine Chrysler has put some serious resources into this truck. Additionally, our expectations were further raised by the game-changing innovations of last year's light-duty Ram.

For the first time, this Heavy Duty has a unique face from the light-duty Ram, with its own grille, hood, and bumper. Front fenders and headlights are still shared with the 1500, as is the segment-leading interior. The old Quad Cab has been retired for a larger Crew Cab, which joins regular and Mega cab offerings.

Following heavy-duty packaging tradition, Dodge offers an insane number of build configurations. Considering just the top-level classifications of a Ram HD (trim, engine, transmission, rear axle, drive layout, cab style, and bed length) leaves fifty-one different trucks. Compared to Ford's top Super Duty, the strongest Ram is about 6000 pounds shy on towing capacity, but we can only imagine a handful of scenarios in which you'd need to pull more than 18,500 pounds. Max payload for the Ram HD is rated at 5130 pounds.

To facilitate the burly towing and hauling numbers, Dodge engineers had to take back the controversial but comfortable rear coil springs they installed on the light-duty 2009 Ram 1500. Instead, all 2500 and 3500 models use two-stage leaf springs. The ride is undoubtedly truck-like, but a pair of liquid-filled mounts connecting the rear of the cab to the frame helps damp some of the jostle.

Power comes from either a gas V-8 or the more popular Cummins turbo-diesel inline-6 that produces 650 lb-ft of torque. Diesel buyers have a choice of a manual or automatic six-speed transmission, but shifts in the automatic Dodge don't match the smoothness of the competition. To improve hauling control, diesel engines come with a standard exhaust brake while a trailer brake controller is optional. A Class IV hitch with four- and seven-pin wiring connectors is standard on all heavy-duty Rams. The off-road-ready Power Wagon features 32-inch tires, locking differentials, Bilstein shocks, a 4.56 axle ratio, and a tepid graphics package.

In towing and off-road exercises, the Ram HD is plenty capable, but the new truck does little to move in on the Ford Super Duty's turf, and offers little reason for loyal truck buyers to defect from their favored brand. The 2010 Ram Heavy Duty is a respectable evolution, but we're still waiting for some truly revolutionary products from Chrysler.

The Specs

On sale: Now
Price: $28,165/$35,630 (2500/3500)
Engine: 5.7L V-8, 383 hp, 400 lb-ft; 6.7L turbo diesel I-6, 350 hp, 650 lb-ft
Drive: Rear- or 4-wheel

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