2019 Detroit Auto Show – First Look: 2019 Ram Heavy Duty
Significant Redesign Puts Ram at Top of the Torque, Towing, and Toting Class
First things first: The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty is now officially the first series-production vehicle to offer an engine that makes 1,000 lb-ft of torque. We’ll get back to that later.
With that piece of speculation fodder out of the way, say hello to the Ram Truck division’s newest baby, the 2019 Heavy Duty (previously thought to be delayed till the 2020 model year). Initially available in 3/4-ton 2500 and 1-ton 3500 grades, the nearly all-new Ram Heavy Duty brings a long-awaited suite of updates to the company’s largest consumer trucks. The details are myriad, but here is the headline: The Ram Heavy Duty now offers the greatest towing capacity (35,100 pounds), payload capacity (7,680 pounds), and maximum available torque (1,000 lb-ft) of any 3/4- or 1-ton truck on the market today.
Deep ImpactIn order to achieve those superlatives, Ram started with the Heavy Duty’s bones. The 2019 truck boasts an all-new frame comprised of 98.5 percent high-strength steel, further bolstered by six crossmembers, hydroformed main rails, and fully boxed rear rails. These elements combine to give the 2019 Heavy Duty the best torsional rigidity in its class, according to Ram. Furthermore, the frame combines with lighter-weight powertrain components and an aluminum hood to give the 2019 truck a weight loss of up to 143 pounds compared to its predecessor.
Those stout bones are paired to equally tough front and rear axles featuring revised geometry for improved handling and ride control. The wide-set front framerails permit a wider stance for the front springs, improving roll resistance without sacrificing comfort. Furthermore, a new rear-axle crossmember provides improved provisions for fifth-wheel and gooseneck towing, upgraded for 2019 to match the Ram’s higher towing capacity.
Brakes were likewise optimized, with four-wheel discs standard on all corners. The new braking system includes upgraded calipers, brake booster, and master cylinder, as well as a more responsive brake pedal. Ram says the whole package helps reduce stopping distances, a good thing for a truck that can tow more than 17.5 tons.
Ram claims ride comfort has also improved, thanks in part to frequency response damping shocks that vary in stiffness depending on input from the wheels—smaller bumps will get soaked up for better ride comfort, while larger loads result in a stiffer response from the dampers to prevent wallowing or body roll. Progressive-rate springs, reengineered suspension bushings, and a segment-exclusive five-link rear suspension on the Ram 2500 further improve ride quality relative to the old Heavy Duty, itself a reasonably smooth operator. An available air suspension carries over from the old truck, allowing for active load leveling and a more comfortable ride, but with no sacrifice to payload or towing capacity.
Elbow GreaseTaking full advantage of the newly strengthened frame, axles, and underpinnings are three different engines. The standard powertrain in both the 2500 and 3500 is a 6.4L Hemi V-8, which is mostly carryover from 2018. However, it’s been paired to a beefed-up version of the Chrysler TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission, up from six speeds in the previous-generation model. With 410 hp at 5,600 rpm and 429 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm, the Hemi V-8 boasts best-in-class gasoline horsepower as well.
Optional will be both a standard- and a high-output version of a significantly updated 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel I-6. Now constructed of compacted graphite iron, the new cylinder block provides added strength, yet some weight savings over the Cummins engine it replaces. A new cast-iron cylinder head features new exhaust valves and springs and a hollow-camshaft rocker arm, improving breathing and weight savings. Lighter and stronger pistons feature low-friction piston rings, and forged connecting rods improve strength even more.
The standard-output 6.7L Cummins will produce an impressive 370 hp at 2,800 rpm and 850 lb-ft at 1,700 rpm, mated to a Ram-designed six-speed automatic transmission. This engine will be available on the Ram 2500 and 3500.
Optional on the Ram 3500 will be the high-output version of this engine, producing 400 hp at 2,800 rpm and a ridiculous 1,000 lb-ft at 1,800 rpm. As before, the high-output Cummins is mated to an Aisin-sourced six-speed automatic gearbox.
Body BuilderTaking some inspiration from the new-for-2019 Ram 1500, the Heavy Duty gets all-new styling befitting its significantly updated underpinnings. While the cabs and beds carry over from 2018, they’re rendered with increased use of high-strength steel, such as the hydroformed front-end structures and tailgate reinforcements.
These stouter body elements contribute to a tougher body shell less prone to noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH), but Ram took that a step further in a variety of ways. Revised engine and exhaust mounts reduce the amount of vibration transferred to the frame. There’s also active noise cancelling in the stereo, reducing boominess at higher speeds. Finally, Active Tuned Mass Modules (ATMM) on the framerails apply a cancelling vibration to the truck whenever shaky nuisances are detected. On the Ram 1500, this feature enables smoother engine idle stop response, while on the Ram Heavy Duty, it helps improve powertrain smoothness and increase the usable range of the standard 6.4L Hemi V-8’s cylinder deactivation technology.
Furthermore, all of the exterior sheetmetal is totally new, sharing nothing with the 2018 pickup. Ram designers aimed for an “interlocking” design, integrating the look of the front fenders, hood, grille, and headlights for a more seamless appearance. You see it most prominently in the shape of the headlights, which notch themselves into the grille surround for a tough, robust appearance. Speaking of that grille, as with the light-duty Ram 1500, the crosshairs have gone the way of the dodo, replaced with a distinctive grille design for each of the Ram Heavy Duty’s six trim levels. Not that it matters, but our favorite is the billet-style grille of the Laramie.
SanctuaryThe Ram Heavy Duty incorporates the same leaps-and-bounds interior improvements as its little brother did one year ago. At the center of the changes—literally—is an available 12-inch infotainment display, a vertically oriented touchscreen capable of displaying one massive function or two separate features.
However, each trim level benefits from improved ergonomics and sleek new styling. Once again, interlocking design elements make an appearance here, improving the lowly Tradesman and the high-end Limited alike with a fresh, modern interior that is a wonderful place to spend time. Other modifications taken from the Ram 1500 include added device storage and charging options and much richer materials choices—expect genuine leather, wood, and aluminum trim to abound. One small concession to economy is the available sunroof. Since the Ram Heavy Duty uses its predecessor’s base cab structure, only a smaller single-pane sunroof is available, rather than the 1500’s panoramic roof aperture.
However, one unique feature has been retained for 2019: Ram’s class-exclusive Mega Cab body configuration. Featuring luxurious reclining rear seats and a massive amount of storage behind them, the Mega Cab boasts more than double the interior storage capacity of competitors’ trucks. To borrow the old hot-rodder’s maxim, there’s no replacement for displacement, and this newly redesigned interior still displaces a lot more than its competition.
Little Red (or Blue) WagonReturning once again for 2019 is an all-new Ram Power Wagon variant. Sharing the same body, frame, and powertrain enhancements of the Ram 2500 Crew Cab, the Power Wagon includes a long list of off-road goodies like a factory suspension lift, locking front and rear differentials, a sway bar disconnect, and front bumper–mounted Warn Zeon 12,000-pound winch. The Power Wagon will also be available with a 360-degree camera option with forward-view gridlines, making it easier to see over and around obstacles to the front, sides, and rear of the truck.
As before, the Power Wagon will be available in a Tradesman grade, keeping all of the off-road hardware but using the Tradesman’s exterior styling cues. It’s unlikely the Power Wagon’s performance will degrade at all compared to its predecessor, meaning we are sure this will still be one of the most capable, off-road–ready fullsize trucks on the market today.
Techno TacticsRam is keen to point out that the 2019 Heavy Duty is the first in its segment to offer active safety systems in all models, including automated emergency braking with trailer brake functionality. This feature will be bundled in the Safety Group, which is available on all trim levels and also includes forward collision monitoring, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, LED exterior lighting with automatic high-beam assist, and rain-sensing wipers.
A 360-degree camera display is also available, easing parking and driving in tight spaces. The Heavy Duty can also monitor the tire pressures of up to 12 trailer tires, improving confidence while towing. Other high-tech features include standard Bluetooth connectivity, available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto technology, available Alpine or Harman Kardon audio systems, a full-color 7-inch driver information display, and extensive USB charging ports, some of which are Type C for rapid charging.
Ready For ActionThe 2019 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty and 3500 Heavy Duty benefit from a long list of significant revisions to the frame, engine, suspension, and body. Each on its own is a commendable, if somewhat forgettable, achievement for the company. But taken together, they add up to segment-best towing and payload capacity, as well as a damned impressive set of powertrain options, interior fitments, and exterior enhancements.
As with the award-winning Ram 1500, we predict very good things for the new 2019 Ram Heavy Duty, which will be on sale sometime before the middle of the year.
Source: Ram Trucks