2013 Ram Heavy Duty - First Drive

Raising the Bar—Along with Power, Capacity, and Capability

Jul 30, 2013
Photographers: Jason Gonderman, Courtesy Of Ram
The heavy-duty truck segment is quite possibly the most competitive in the automotive marketplace right now, and for the 2013 model year Ram has once again outdone itself. Ram’s engineers have gone through and made improvements to nearly every aspect of the company’s HD truck line—in all trim levels—adding new technology, features, and best-in-class capabilities. To experience the new trucks firsthand, Ram invited us to the company’s Michigan proving grounds, where the entire lineup was available to drive.
2013 Ram 2500 HD
Our first experience with the new Ram HD lineup came in the form of a ’13 2500 Crew Cab. The exterior has received a refresh that includes all-new grille options and halogen projector headlights with LED turn signal and marker lights, which are available on the higher-end trim levels. The truck we would be driving was a Laramie, with all the options included.
Photo 2/15   |   2013 Ram 2500 Crew Cab
Inside, we were greeted by the next-generation 8.4-inch Uconnect system, which comes with new background screens tailor-made to each specific Ram model. The display is not only intuitive but also downright easy to use and features controls for the stereo and navigation system, along with redundant heating and A/C functions. Vehicle instrumentation is displayed on a new gauge-cluster-mounted 7-inch multiview display, which can be cycled through using the steering wheel-mounted controls to view information related to engine performance, trailer towing, and much more. A 3.5-inch display is now standard on the lower trim levels. Interior fit and finish have been improved all around, and the new materials used made us feel like we were driving a high-end luxury car. Our Laramie was trimmed in black with leather seats and brushed aluminum accents, which completed the high-end feel.
Driving down the highway, we quickly forgot we were driving a ¾-ton pickup truck. The truck’s ride is the smoothest we’ve felt of any of the HD trucks on the market, and that is really saying a lot. With a full load in the bed, the 2500 accelerated and stopped as quickly as if the truck were empty. And while we weren’t able to calculate any fuel economy data on our short drive, thanks to improvements to the Cummins engine and the addition of a front-axle-disconnect, the ’13 Ram HDs are said to see up to a 10 percent improvement in fuel economy.
Photo 3/15   |   2013 Ram 2500 Mega Cab Longhorn Edition
2013 Ram 3500 HD
After driving the ’13 2500s, we were treated to a spin around the proving grounds in a variety of configurations of the ’13 3500, most of which were hitched to trailers and loaded to their maximum tow rating, with a few unloaded for comparison. Because the towing capacity of the new Ram 3500 is so high, without a commercial driver’s license, most people won’t be able to take full advantage of the highest-rated models. To get around this, the folks at Ram set up a course within the proving grounds and tossed us the keys.
Photo 4/15   |   2013 Ram 3500 Crew Cab With Trailer
While the interior and exterior improvements carry over from the ’13 2500, underneath the body, the 3500 is an entirely different animal. To support the best-in-class towing and payload capabilities, the ’13 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty received both a re-engineered frame and suspension system. The new frame features high-strength 50 KSI steel, includes eight separate crossmembers, and has hydroformed main rails and fully boxed rear rails for the best combination of weight and strength. The Ram 3500 also benefits from a new three-link-style front suspension system, designed to handle the increased gross vehicle weight ratings. This new setup greatly improves roll stiffness and ride quality over previous generations.
Photo 5/15   |   2013 Ram 3500 Chassis
Driving these machines at capacity really shows how good of a truck Ram has come out with for 2013. Off the line, you’re not likely to win any drag races, but with nearly 30,000 pounds in tow it’s probably best that you don’t. While acceleration isn’t quick, it certainly isn’t slow, either, making merging onto the interstate with a full load a non-issue, instead of a nerve-racking experience. With a load in tow, cornering is confidence-inspiring with very little body roll to speak of, and ride quality is improved when compared to an unladen truck. Engine braking has been improved for ’13 by the addition of a new “smart” exhaust brake system. In addition to the standard on/off mode, when in smart mode the vehicle’s exhaust brake will pulse and apply varying levels of braking to maintain a consistent speed while traveling downhill, without the need for excessive use of the truck’s service brakes.
Photo 6/15   |   2013 Ram 3500 St Tradesman
The Aisin Transmission and High Output Cummins
Supporting the ’13 Ram 3500’s best-in-class towing and payload is the Aisin AS69RC six-speed automatic transmission, which was previously found only in 4500 and above chassis-cab models. When the Aisin transmission option is selected at the time of purchase, the truck will receive a High Output version of the 6.7L Cummins engine. Thanks to improved engine tuning and the Aisin transmission’s torque-handling ability, the High Output Cummins is able to produce 385 hp and a class-leading 850 lb-ft of torque. This model also receives an upgraded rear axle with an 11.8-inch, 300mm hypoid gearset with a four-pinion helical limited-slip differential and an aluminum differential cover for improved cooling. Similarly equipped trucks see a gain of nearly 25 percent in towing capacity when paired with the AS69RC as compared to the standard 68RFE. Think of this as the new de facto Max Tow package.
Driving the High Output 3500 is much like the normal 68RFE-equipped truck, until you roll hard into the throttle, where the increased power and torque make a noticeable difference when pulling a comparable amount of weight. The Aisin transmission fires off firm and methodical shifts. When equipped with the H.O. Cummins and Aisin transmission, the ’13 Ram 3500 makes hauling a large load so easy almost anyone can do it.
Overall, the ’13 Ram HD lineup does nothing but impress, and we are looking forward to getting behind the wheel of one again for an extended test.
Fast Look
We like: The updated interior is amazing, and the Cummins engine continues to impress. Small details such as the high-mount stoplight camera and integrated fifth-wheel hitch mounting make these trucks stand out from the competition.
We’d change: To get the Aisin transmission, three-link front suspension, and upgraded frame, you are limited to a 3500.
We say: If you are in the market for a new diesel pickup—in any trim level, for work or play—the ’13 Ram Heavy Duty deserves a serious look.
Fast Specs
Vehicle Model: 2013 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Mega Cab Laramie Longhorn High Output DRW 4x4
Base Price: $53,790
Price as Tested: $70,285
Engine Type: 6.7L Cummins I-6
Valvetrain: OHV
Aspiration: Turbocharged, intercooled
Transmission: Aisin AS69RC six-speed automatic
Axle Ratio: 4.10:1
MFG hp at rpm: 385 hp at 2,800 rpm
MFG Torque at rpm: 850 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm
Emissions: Diesel particulate filter (DPF), exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), selective catalytic reduction (SCR)
DEF Capacity: 8 gallons
Suspension (F/R): Three-link with coil springs and track bar/Hotchkiss-style leaf spring
Steering: Premium recirculating ball
Brakes (F/R): 14.17-inch vented rotors with dual-piston calipers/14.09-inch vented rotors with dual-piston calipers
Wheels/Tires: 17x8-inch polished aluminum/LT235/80R17
Curb Weight: 8,450 pounds
Max Payload Capacity: 5,500 pounds
Max Towing Capacity: 28,880 pounds

2015 Ram 2500 Specifications

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Fair Market Price $29,294
MSRP $30,985
Editors' Overall Rating
Mileage N/A City / N/A Highway
Engine 5.7L V8
Horse Power 383 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Torque 400 ft lb of torque @ 4,000 rpm
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Fair Market Price
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MSRP: $30,985
Mileage: N/A
Engine: 5.7L V8
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