Among many new-car buyers, there is more concern and interest in what entertainment technology the vehicle has or supports than what's under the hood. But among truck buyers, especially those in the three-quarter to one-ton class, it's all about load-carrying, towing, and payload capability, and doing it in the lowest-cost, most reliable way. Ram has applied a lot of technology to the 2013 Ram HD Chassis Cab trucks, but the focus remains squarely on functionality.

First, a brief primer on just what the chassis cab is. If you've been to a dealership that deals a lot with commercial vehicles and fleets, you've probably seen trucks with, if you will, their shirts on but their pants off, a bare cab being tailed by a pair of naked frame rails. Those are chassis cab trucks and thanks to the absence of the bed, they're the vehicles that get converted into tow trucks, ambulances, dump trucks -- you name it

Since they live a life of labor, the focus is making them functional, reliable, and (relatively) efficient. So when Ram set about to give the 2013 Ram Chassis Cabs a refresh, it applied technology in a way to make the working man's life easier.

More Power, Less Maintenance

The familiar 5.7-liter Hemi gasoline V-8 is available in the Ram 3500 Chassis Cab, but the workhorse of the lineup, and the engine overwhelmingly selected for heavy duty tasks, is the 6.7-liter Cummins I-6 turbodiesel. The 2013 non-Chassis Cab Ram HD made a splash with the announcement of the top-level high-output diesel making an astounding 850 lb-ft of torque. To ensure reliable operation in the day-in, day-out rigors the Chassis Cab models will likely encounter, the output of the Cummins is detuned slightly, but is still plenty stout.

With the class-exclusive six-speed manual, the engine makes 320 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. The manual transmission has a new wear-compensating clutch, designed to deliver consistent performance throughout its service life.

If you're willing to give up shifting duties, you can get a higher-output version making a tad more horsepower at 325, but a lot more torque at 750 lb-ft. This configuration is paired with a new Aisin AS69RC transmission, which features a PTO output, a left-side PTO output, and split-shaft PTO configuration. This allows fire pumpers, dump beds, cranes and on-board compressors or generators to be driven off the transmission.

All diesel Chassis Cab models get the innovative new Ram Active Air intake system, which monitors ambient conditions and switches between drawing air from underhood or outside the vehicle based on air temperature, density, and weather conditions.

Because heat is the number one enemy of performance, the 2013 Chassis Cab models also get a new cooling system with high-efficiency fans, dual radiators, dual transmission coolers, and a charge air cooler for 25-percent-better heat-rejection capacity than last year's model.

As with the 2012 Chassis Cab models, the 2013 diesel models carry on the fluid-based selective catalyst reduction system, which injects urea-based diesel exhaust fluid into the exhaust stream to reduce NOx emissions. The system features an electric heater for functionality in all climate conditions. Extended service intervals of 15,000 miles for oil changes and fuel filters mean lower maintenance costs for fleets.

Heavy-Duty High-Tech

To help facilitate the addition of aftermarket electrical systems for the specialized tasks these trucks will be asked to do, the 2013 Ram Chassis Cab models feature Chrysler's new Powernet system, allowing high and low-speed data networks to support as many as 40 individual modules. The vehicle system interface module allows aftermarket modules to easily connect to the truck's electrical system.

For applications that have a high electrical load, a 220-amp dual alternator system is available to power emergency lighting and electric clutch pumps.

Most of the features described so far are hardware-related, but the 2013 Chassis Cabs do make some concessions to driver comfort and convenience. As is all the rage in automotive lighting these days, LEDs are used for the turn signals and side markers. But in this case, they were selected for their longer service life compared with traditional incandescent bulbs, not simply as eye candy. And because these trucks can be stretched as much as 10 feet, drivers might appreciate a virtual back-up spotter, which the 2013 Chassis Cab has in the form of a factory-wired backup camera on a multi-purpose mount to accommodate aftermarket upfits. Depending on trim and configuration, the camera signal is displayed on an 8.4-inch radio display or in the interior rearview mirror.

On models equipped with the 8.4-inch Uconnect display, the climate functions can be accessed through the touchscreen display or manual controls below the display. The center stack also holds two rows of buttons for functional features such as the exhaust brake, tow/haul mode and stability control. The second row can be configured to accommodate auxiliary functions, including PTO activation. The tow brake controller is relocated and prominently displayed to allow the driver to add or reduce brake assist on the fly. And to accommodate a variety of electronic communications equipment or to power a laptop, the stack features a 115-volt AC outlet and two 12-volt outlets, as well as an optional powered USB port on the driver's side.

Not Just for Work

But you can do more than just power your devices with the available Uconnect Access system, which turns the truck into a rolling WiFi hotspot. Data plans are available for daily, weekly, and monthly rates, with the current monthly rate going for $49.99. Uconnect also enables remote locking and starting from a computer or smartphone, emergency assist, and speech-to-text messaging capability. Of course, for those long drives between job sites or drop-offs, you need some tunes, and you get your choice of the standard AM, FM, Sirius, and HD Radio, as well as an optional CD player housed in the center console in models equipped with front buckets. And if you want to hook up your portable music player, you can do it through a USB, SD card, auxiliary input, or available Bluetooth streaming.

Finally, getting into the new Chassis Cabs is easier with Keyless Enter 'n Go, allowing the driver to unlock the doors and start the engine without having to touch the key fob.

So even though the 2013 Ram HD Chassis Cabs are built to work, you don't have to feel like you're deprived of the latest technology. The embedded communications and technology help to make the trucks partners in productivity.