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.

Much of what is so impressive about the heavy-duty Ram is not only how easily it does all the tasks it's built for, but also how easy it is on the driver. During Truck of the Year testing, we took all the contenders through a driving loop, empty and with a full payload (bags of rock salt); our test crew also measured acceleration and braking data with each truck outfitted both ways. Testers noted that performance was excellent with or without a heavy load and, as expected, ride improves with a load in the bed. There were rave reviews for the Cummins engine, which not only provides gobs of power, but is surprisingly quiet doing it. Driving loops with the salt or without, the truck handled basically the same. That's how the Rams were throughout the week-they did everything asked of them without effort, and drove like much smaller trucks than they are.

Maximum towing capacity for the Ram 3500 is 17,500 pounds, significantly higher than the F-350's 16,000 or the Silverado/Sierra 3500HD's 13,000. And as the testers at this year's Truck of the Year discovered, towing a large boat is very easy with the Ram. As Ed Loh says, "I never thought I'd tow a trailer as long or as heavy as this 28-foot Chaparral, but a minute into the climb up Templin Highway, it was really no big deal. All the towing gizmos made it easy, and of course, so did the monster motor." The gizmos, in this case, are a diesel exhaust brake and Class IV receiver hitch with a four-pin/seven-pin harness plug. Our 3500 also had the integrated electronic trailer brake controller, plus it came with ingenious towing side mirrors that are normally vertical, but flip 90 degrees to make it easier to see around a trailer.

Judges noted that the interior materials and design are much nicer than in the past and that improvement makes this cabin the best in its class. The strategically added sound deadening makes it incredibly quiet too. You basically have to stand outside the truck while it's running, to hear the diesel.

The Ram is quieter and more comfortable and people-friendly than before without sacrificing its considerable capability. Several configurations even have lower MSRPs than they did in 2009. As Mark Williams explains, "Timing is everything. What a great break that, in the midst of all of this economic turmoil, the new Ram HD gets out ahead of its other two competitors-so much so, in fact, that Ford was forced to pull its project ahead, introducing the Super Duty almost 12 months before it goes on sale." The Ram Heavy Duty is so good, it's caused the other manufacturers to change their plans. So good that, when it came time to vote, we unanimously chose it as this year's Truck of the Year.


2010 Ram 2500 Mega Cab Laramie 4x4; 3500 Crew Cab SLT 4x4
POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS
Drivetrain layout Front engine, 4WD*
Engine type Turbodiesel I-6, iron block/head*
Valvetrain OHV, 4 valves/cyl*
Displacement 408.3 cu in/6690 cc*
Compression ratio 17.3:1*
Power (SAE net) 350 hp @ 3000 rpm*
Torque (SAE net) 650 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm*
Weight to power 21.7; 22.6 lb/hp
Transmission 6-speed automatic*
Axle/final/low ratio 3.73:1/2.33:1/2.72:1*
Suspension, f;r Live axle, coil springs, anti-roll bar; live axle, leaf springs*
Steering ratio 13.4:1*
Turns lock-to-lock 2.8*
Brakes, f;r 14.2-in vented disc; 14.1-in vented disc, ABS*
Wheels 8.0 x 17 in, aluminum; 6.0 x 17 in, steel
Tires 265/70R17 118R BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A M+S; 235/80R17 117R General AmeriTrac TR M+S
DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase 160.0; 168.9 in
Track, f/r 68.3/68.2; 69.5/75.8 in
Length x width x height 248.4 x 79.1 x 78.3 in; 259.4 x 79.1 x 78.3 in
Turning circle 46.9; 49.2 ft
Curb weight (f/r dist) 7580 lb (62/38%); 7920 lb (61/39%)
Seating capacity5; 6
Headroom, f/r 41.0/40.5; 41.0/39.9 in
Legroom, f/r 41.0/44.2; 41.0/39.9 in
Shoulder room, f/r 67.0/66.5; 66.0/65.7 in
Pickup box L x W x H 76.3 x 70.2 x 20.1 in; 98.3 x 66.4 x 20.2 in
Width bet. wheelhouses 51.0 in*
Payload capacity 2100; 4540 lb
Towing capacity 12,350; 13,200 lb
TEST DATA - Acceleration to mph**
0-30 3.1/3.1; 2.9/3.7 sec
0-40 4.7/5.1; 4.5/6.2
0-50 6.6/7.5; 6.7/9.2
0-60 9.2/10.8; 9.5/13.5
0-70 12.3/14.7; 12.7/18.2
0-80 16.0/19.3; 17.1/24.7
Passing, 45-65 mph 5.1/6.4; 5.6/8.1
Quarter mile 17.0 sec @ 82.3 mph/17.8 sec @ 77.3 mph; 17.1 sec @ 80.1 mph/19.1 sec @ 71.9 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 139/145; 138 ft/152ft**
Lateral acceleration 0.69; 0.67 g (avg)
MT figure eight 30.2 sec @ 0.51 g (avg); 30.5 sec @ 0.51 g (avg)
Top-gear revs @ 60 mph 1400; 1500 rpm
CONSUMER INFO
Base price $44,100; $47,580
Price as tested $56,895; $53,360
Stab/trac control No/no
Airbags Dual front, f/r curtain
Basic warranty 3 yrs/36,000 miles
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 miles
Roadside assistance 3 yrs/36,000 miles
Fuel capacity 34.0; 35.0 gal
EPA city/hwy econ Not rated
Recommended fuel Ultra-low sulfur diesel
* Applies to both models
** Empty/carrying max vehicle-specific payload
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