2019 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty: 2020 Pickup Truck of the Year Contender
Barrier-Breaking Torque in a Massive Package
For Pickup Truck of the Year, we generally prefer our test vehicles to be no larger than a -ton, but occasionally, we do make exceptions. The 2019 Ram 3500 Heavy is one example, and we allowed it to compete for one simple reason—we wanted that high-output Cummins 6.7L I-6, replete with 1,000 lb-ft of torque. One note: We're testing a 2019 model because it wasn't available in time for last year's test and because 2020s weren't yet in the press fleet as of writing.
Ram stopped offering the high-output diesel in the 2019 2500 Heavy Duty, forcing that truck to make do with a still-impressive 850-lb-ft oil-burner. So we bit the bullet and asked for a 3500, although we weren't expecting Ram to send us this battleship-sized longbed bruiser. We won't lie, we were almost ready to give it the towing and hauling crown just by looking at it.
Still, we subjected the big Ram to due process alongside its competitors, and it availed itself of a few surprises. For example, even though it features a heavier-service suspension than any of the F-250s or GM 2500HDs in this test, the Ram 3500 still rides with impressive comfort on freeway slogs or off-road. In fact, many of our judges preferred its on-road comfort to that of the Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD Custom tester. And obviously, its 8-foot, 2-inch bed made loading and unloading our payload mats a snap—plenty of room for manual labor (or a gymnastics floor routine) in that cargo box.
Predictably, parking lot and off-road maneuverability were at the back of the pack, and although the Ram 3500 boasts incredible ground clearance, we still found a few humps that would rub the underside of the truck, owing to its poor breakover angle. And its 12-inch infotainment display is a great platform for the truck's 360-degree parking cameras, but the Ram was still intimidating to drive in tight quarters.
The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty also inspired a lively debate between our editors—is this truck a significant refresh or an all-new design? Unlike the new-from-the-ground-up 2019 Ram 1500, the Heavy Duty uses much of the same basic structure as its predecessor. Ram uses the word "reengineered" (not "redesigned") to describe the truck's frame, but extensive use of high-strength steel and aluminum yield a backbone that's stronger and lighter than that of the 2018 Heavy Duty.
The interior receives a significant face-lift in the way of a new fascia. Cleverly, Ram engineers discovered they could place the dashboard of the 2019 1500 into the Heavy Duty, then design a new fill panel to take up the space between the new dash and the windshield and pillars. But while the rest of the interior receives a cosmetic upgrade—improved leathers, added features, a massive center console, et al—it still features the dimensions of the outgoing truck, which means limited rear-seat headroom, no panoramic sunroof, and a few cheap-feeling surfaces. We hate to say it, but the Heavy Duty doesn't quite live up to the smaller 1500's stellar reputation—it just feels a bit more dated than we were expecting.
When towing, it was all but impossible to fault the big truck. Its long wheelbase and towing cameras made it easy to haul a load up the Cajon grade. And although this truck was certainly the heaviest in this year's test, it didn't feel overweight when it came time to slow down on descent—credit goes to the downshift-friendly Aisin six-speed automatic transmission and aggressive driver-actuated exhaust brake.
In many ways, the 2019 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty is the opposite of the Jeep Gladiator. It's excellent when hauling heavy, and its modern and luxurious interior features just enough space for four. It falters in around-town driving and off-road, but that's clearly not its mission. As a single-purpose, open-road tow pig, there's a lot to love in this truck.