Despite the effects of the Great Recession on personal-use truck sales, there is still demand for pickups ready to do hard work. The heavy-duty truck market has gotten smaller, but the guys who buy those pickups are fiercely loyal to the segment-they need the extreme capability these hard-working haulers provide. Some may wonder why anyone would own a truck that can tow nearly 20,000 pounds, but for a lot of people in construction, those who transport vehicles or goods, and those with ranches, this is just a part of everyday life.

Within the next few months, the heavy-duty category will heat up, as all three manufacturers have all-new offerings coming. The Ram Heavy Duty is the first to market, and it's already ahead of the game. When Ford and GM's all-new heavy-dutys come out, both new diesel engines are going to require urea injection to meet emissions requirements that take effect January 2010. The Ram Heavy Duty's Cummins inline-six turbodiesel, which puts out an impressive 350 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque, met those requirements-without urea-over a year ago. Instead, the Ram's 2500 and 3500 use a NOx adsorber with precious metals that convert the NOx into inert gases. Not only does this mean the Ram's emissions and exhaust systems are less complex than those in the upcoming Ford Super Duty and Silverado/Sierra HD (which could improve reliability and help keep maintenance costs down), it also means that, at the dealership, the Ram will very likely have a price advantage over its competitors. And while in this size category diesel is king, there are plenty of heavy-duty truck buyers who prefer gas power. The 5.7-liter Hemi, the Ram's base engine, has the most horsepower (383) and torque (400 pound-feet) of any V-8 in its class-and only the Ford Super Duty's V-10 has more torque than the Hemi, but it still has less horsepower.

The Ram's platform is similar to last year's, yet has undergone significant upgrades and enhancements that improve ride, handling, and noise levels. It uses a hydroformed, fully boxed frame, with coil springs in front and a live-axle, leaf-spring rear. There's no shortage of variety throughout the truck line, with a regular cab, Mega Cab, and a real crew cab, replacing the smallish Quad Cab option in the previous Ram. Buyers can choose from single or dual rear wheel setups, rear drive or two four-wheel-drive systems, short or long bed, three different axle ratios, and four trim levels. There's also the awesome Power Wagon, a Hemi-powered 2500 crew cab with 4.56:1 gears, electronic locking diffs, electronically disconnecting front anti-roll bar, skidplates, heavy-duty battery and alternator, and winch.