Heavy Duty means something serious: Towing, hauling, and building things often require heavy-duty kind of pickups. These are the big boys in the truck world, leaving their traditional half-ton siblings for weekend fishermen and honey-do lists.
Heavy Duty means work, serious calluses on your hands kind of work.
But big rigs can provide a lot of fun, too, as I learned when I took the Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn Mega Cab 4x4 camping with three friends along the shores of Lake Superior.
The purpose of the trip was to head to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, relish the near-freezing temperatures at the end of May, set up some tents, and drink beer for a couple of days. Car camping is as much of a tradition in Michigan as bragging about how big the lakes are.
At first, I thought the Mega Cab Laramie Longhorn, complete with the improved 6.7-liter I-6 diesel engine, 6-foot-4-inch bed, and RamBox was almost too much truck for our trip. But after it served as an emergency shelter for two ill-prepared campers on two different nights, easily hauled all of our stuff, and provided unexpected great fuel economy, the Longhorn 2500 seemed ideal for the job.
My friends were certainly impressed when I arrived to pick them up. This Ram is big and beautiful with its Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl Coat paint job. The massive grille is imposing, especially seen from another vehicle's rearview mirror, as smaller vehicles always moved out of the way as we rambled north chewing beef jerky and trail mix.
The only thing we lacked was a tonneau cover to keep our gear dry during the rainy drive, so we opted for $3 worth of garbage bags to do the trick and give us the Joad family look for the journey. But this impressive pickup had just about everything else, arriving with more than $13,000 in options (including the $7795 diesel engine) and a sticker price of $66,695 including shipping.
Inside, the Longhorn, created to be the high-end competitor to Ford's King Ranch, comes with nearly everything but a kitchen sink: Heated front and rear seats? Check. 115-volt outlet? Check. 8.4-inch touch screen with the next-generation UConnect system? Check. Satellite radio and 506-watt Alpine stereo with nine speakers? A must-have once you get north of the Zilwaukee Bridge.
As one friend put it sitting in his reclining second-row seat, "This is probably the nicest thing I've ever ridden in."
Indeed, the entire interior of the Longhorn is luxurious and covered in leather. It's the S-Class of pickups. From the heated steering wheel to the adjustable pedals and the 10-way power driver's seat, it was easy to find the most comfortable driving position.
Meanwhile, the second row passengers were nearly as comfortable as I. The front offers 41 inches of legroom while the second row provides 34.7 inches. And even as they reclined their seats in the Mega Cab, there was still room behind them to store a acoustic guitar in its case. (Thankfully, the guitar stayed there the entire trip.)
There are other amenities throughout the cabin: the multi-gauged instrument panel, the fat steering wheel, and even those little buttons on the back of the steering wheel that let you control the volume of the stereo. The Longhorn feels more like a comfortable media room than a truck's cabin.
Another feature I loved was the RamBox. The ingenious remote lockable bed-storage system became our trunk on one side and cooler on the other. During the rain, some campers kept their shoes and electronics in it. Nothing ever got wet. Since the RamBox also has drain plugs, I decided to try the other box as a cooler. While it remained watertight, 40 pounds of ice melted in about 12 hours. I'd recommend an optional "cooler insulation package" on future models. However, lukewarm beer wasn't about to dampen our spirits along the Graveyard Coast of Lake Superior.
While we didn't haul a tractor or some other heavy-duty item, we could have; and I don't doubt the 17,000 pound max towing capacity on my test truck. Even with about 500 pounds of stuff in the back and 1000 pounds of people, we were well short of the 2160-pound payload limit. Better yet, the Longhorn gave us a fantastic ride. It's smooth and quiet enough that we could hear the guys in the back sawing logs on the six-hour drive.
The 6.7-liter Cummins diesel engine makes 350 hp and 850 lb-ft of torque and performed extremely well, even at 80 mph on the highway. It's pure power with solid acceleration at any speed. It was also surprisingly quiet, with just the faintest of ticking injectors heard inside the cabin.
For the 2013 model year, this diesel engine is B20-capable and includes an active air intake system that will draw warmer or cooler air into the engine depending upon its needs. In fact, the entire cooling system is new with dual radiators, dual transmission coolers, and other features to keep the engine's temperature cool. Cool means efficient, and efficient saves you money.
While not required to provide EPA mileage numbers, Ram says changes to the engine increased fuel economy by 10 percent. During my test drive of more than 600 miles, I averaged 18.6 mpg.
Changes to the suspension and steering were mostly done to allow for additional towing. (Ram HD currently claims best-in-class towing for some configurations.) But I thought the stiffer body and beefed up suspension would make the ride rougher. It didn't. Even with the bed empty, the ride was smooth.
We also never tested the truck's off-road capabilities or optional skidplates that were included. Sure, we hit a few dirt roads, but we were enjoying a gentleman's trip, so there were no sand dunes, mud holes, or otherwise ungentlemanly terrain. We also didn't want all our stuff flying out of the bed during a little off-road mayhem.
Mostly, the drive revealed that the most luxurious place to sit along Lake Superior is behind the wheel of the Laramie Longhorn.
Of course, once you open a beer, you need one of those folding chairs, a big campfire, and a stick to carve with a knife. Heavy-duty trucks may do a lot of work Monday through Friday, but they can also deliver a lot of fun over the weekend.
The Longhorn just delivers it with more style and comfort than most.
| 2013 Ram Laramie Longhorn Mega Cab 4x4 |
| BASE PRICE || $53,500 |
| PRICE AS TESTED || $66,695 |
| VEHICLE LAYOUT || Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door pickup |
| ENGINE || 6.7L/350-hp/850-lb-ft turbocharged diesel OHV I-6 |
| TRANSMISSION || 6-speed automatic |
| WHEELBASE || 160.5 in |
| LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT || 248.4 x 79.1 x 78.3 in |
| CURB WEIGHT || 7983 lb (mfr est) |
| GVWR || 10,000 lb |
| PAYLOAD CAPACITY || 2017 lb |
| TOWING CAPACITY || 16,850 lb |
| 0-60 MPH || 8.3 sec (TT est) |
| EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON || Not rated |
| CO2 EMISSIONS || N/A |
| ON SALE IN U.S. || Currently |