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2014 Ram 1500 and 2500 - Sibling Rivalry

Which Ram is right for you?

Feb 23, 2015
Photographers: Jason Gonderman
For the first time in the clean-diesel era, truck buyers have a tough choice to make: light-duty or heavy-duty. The 2014 model year has ushered in significant improvements to the entire Ram truck line. Ram has become the first manufacturer to bring to market a diesel engine available in a ½-ton pickup since the ’90s and has revolutionized the ¾-ton by introducing the first-ever factory five-link rear suspension in a heavy-duty application. These trucks have both thrown off the ties that have historically bound their segments, and by breaking with tradition Ram has created two exceptional machines.
This move has, however, created a lot of questions surrounding these new pickups. Will the 1500 live up to Ram’s reputation without a Cummins? Will a 3.0L V-6 be powerful enough? Can the Ram 2500 still tow as well as it used to? It was for this reason that we felt it to be our duty to acquire both of these trucks and run them side by side through a series of real-world tests. We set out to not only answer these questions but also to help people decide which truck is the right one for their needs. At the end of the day, not everyone needs a ¾-ton, but everybody should be driving a diesel.
The Test Subjects
Photo 2/28   |   Both Rams now sport LED taillights, and the 2500 comes with the option of an LED center high-mount brake light with an integrated cargo camera. A tri-fold soft tonneau cover is now a factory option for all Ram trucks.
Photo 3/28   |   From the rear, you would never know this truck didn’t have a Hemi. The tailgate is void of any EcoDiesel badging, and the truck even utilizes a similar dual exhaust setup.
To compare two different classes of trucks may seem like blasphemy to some, but when we look at the hard facts, these two are more similar than they seem at first glance. Keeping things as close to real-world as possible, we ordered our testers outfitted as most would buy them, and as similarly as possible. Both trucks are crew cab four-wheel-drive shortbeds, and both are trimmed in premium packages. The two trucks are also dimensionally similar, as they share the same sheetmetal from the grille back to the C-pillar, and they both come equipped with the same five-link-style rear suspension. Marking the only notable difference in options between our subjects is that the Ram 1500 was delivered with the company’s optional air suspension, Ram Boxes, and 20-inch wheels. And while both are equipped with shortbeds, the 1500’s measures 5 feet 7 inches, and the 2500’s is a slightly larger 6 feet 4 inches.
Highway Driving
The highway is where trucks spend most of their lives—even four-wheel-drive models—so to adequately test these two we mapped out a 500-mile loop that would take us along both flat highway and up to nearly 5,000 feet of elevation, four different times. Our two professional drivers set the cruise control at 5 mph over the posted speed limit (75 mph) and swapped vehicle position at the halfway point. At the end of our drive, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel netted an impressive 28.47 mpg, while the Cummins 6.7L-equipped 2500 knocked down 19.97 mpg.
On the highway is where the Ram 1500 with the EcoDiesel really excels. Power delivery from the 3.0L V-6 is extremely smooth and incredibly linear, accelerating briskly to well beyond the legal speed limit. While it doesn’t pack quite the same punch off the line as its Hemi-powered brethren (which, at 5.7L, is nearly twice the displacement of the VM V-6), passing is a nonissue thanks to the engine’s 420 lb-ft of torque. Sitting in the cab, one would be hard pressed to tell the truck is even running, let alone powered by a diesel. Ram engineers worked tirelessly to ensure the EcoDiesel was extremely smooth and quiet, and we would say their hard work has paid off. Shifting from the eight-speed transmission is polished and works well at keeping the EcoDiesel firmly in its powerband. Steering feel is effortless thanks to the electric power assist. It has good road feedback and a nice, on-center feel.
Stepping into the Ram 2500, the power difference is immediately noticeable, along with the increase in perceived turbo lag. The heavy-duty 68RFE six-speed transmission fires off quick and firm shifts, which are much more noticeable than the more refined eight-speed found in the 1500. While quieter than previous generations, inside or out you know when the 6.7L Cummins engine is running. Steering feel is somewhat heavy and a bit dead on center compared to the 1500, which helps to instill confidence when towing and aids in giving the truck a heavy-duty feel. While the Ram 2500 is primarily a workhorse, it rolls down the road straight and smooth, leaving very little to be desired.
Ride Quality
One of the biggest complaints about ¾-ton trucks that we have heard over the years has been about ride quality. Traditionally, to achieve the high payload and towing capacities, these trucks have needed an extremely firm suspension. Ram has now turned the heavy-duty world on its head with the introduction of the first-ever five-link coil spring rear suspension on a ¾-ton. Similar in design and upsized 10 percent from the smaller Ram 1500, the new rear suspension provides a smoothness that was previously only achieved with a trailer in tow. The Ram 2500’s ride is not soft, but it is no longer kidney-jarringly stiff. A comparison we can all relate to would be a leaf-sprung truck with 800 pounds of sandbags in the bed. The switch to a three-link-style front suspension provides far greater roll stiffness compared to the previous generation four-link suspension. Overall, we didn’t notice any increase in body roll or negative handling from the new style of suspension—only a greatly improved ride.
The Ram 1500 chassis and suspension are carryover from the previous model years and performed exactly as expected. The ride is compliant enough to isolate its occupants from highway irregularities, but not so soft as to lose its truck-like feeling. Optioned onto our Ram 1500 was the company’s air suspension system, which replaces the coil springs at all four corners. This system allows for the vehicle to lower into an aerodynamic mode while at highway speeds for better fuel economy, and to rise up when increased ground clearance is required. It also has the ability to self-level to adjust for trailer tongue weight or a payload in the bed. At $1,695, the upcharge for the air suspension is so reasonable, there’s almost no reason not to check that box.
Photo 11/28   |   The ’14 Ram 1500 4x4 was delivered with the new 3.0L EcoDiesel engine, ZF 8HP70 eight-speed automatic transmission, and BorgWarner 44-44 transfer case. To keep the test as close to equal as possible, a Crew Cab in Laramie trim was selected.
VEHICLE: ’14 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4
0-60: 8.9 seconds
¼-MILE: 16.8 seconds at 82.0 mph
REAR WHEEL HP: 202 hp at 3,620 rpm
REAR WHEEL TORQUE: 325 lb-ft at 3,160 rpm
AVERAGE MPG: 22.83 mpg
BEST MPG: 28.47 mpg
TOWING MPG: 19.46 mpg
VEHICLE MODEL: ’14 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4
BASE PRICE $44,925
ENGINE BLOCK: Compacted graphite iron (CGI)
CYLINDER HEADS: Aluminum, four bolts per cylinder
VALVETRAIN: Chaindriven DOHC, 24 valves
ASPIRATION: Single variable-geometry turbocharger, air-to-air intercooled
FUELING: Bosch high-pressure common-rail with CP4.2, solenoid injectors, and 29,000-psi injection pressure
MFG HP: 240 hp at 3,600 rpm
MFG TORQUE: 420 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: ZF 8HP70 eight-speed automatic
TRANSFER CASE: BorgWarner 44-44
AXLE RATIO: 3.55:1
SUSPENSION (FRONT/REAR): Independent upper and lower A-arms with air suspension/Five-link with track bar and air suspension
STEERING: Rack and pinion with electric power assist
BRAKES (FRONT/REAR): 13.2-inch ventilated disc with twin-piston caliper/13.8-inch disc with single-piston caliper
WHEELS/TIRES: 20x9-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels with 275/60R20 Goodyear Wrangler SR-A tires
CURB WEIGHT: 6,040 pounds (as tested, full fuel, no driver)
PAYLOAD CAPACITY: 1,140 pounds
TOWING CAPACIY: 6,700 pounds
FUEL CAPACITY: 26 gallons
DEF CAPACITY: 8 gallons
EMISSIONS CONTROLS: EGR, oxidation catalyst, DPF, SCR
Photo 12/28   |   Upscale pickup truck interiors are becoming more common, and the Ram 1500’s Laramie trim package is one of the finest. Soft leather and woodgrain abound, while black, silver, and chrome accents keep things looking sophisticated. The truck’s eight-speed transmission is shifted by way of a unique, center-stack-mounted knob, and starting duties are handled with a push button. An 8.4-inch touch screen display mounted in the center stack handles radio, navigation, and U-Connect functions, while a 7-inch screen in the instrument cluster shows vital engine data.
Trailer Towing
Trucks are built to work. If they can’t tow a trailer or haul a load, they are useless. So we hitched up a trailer to see just how well the new Ram 1500 EcoDiesel tows, and if the Ram 2500’s new five-link rear suspension negatively affected its already impressive abilities. We chose a trailer that weighed in at 7,020 pounds, slightly more than the 6,700-pound capacity of our Ram 1500, but a realistic example of what the average customer might tow. For the Ram 2500, we kept the same trailer load for the sake of comparison. The route chosen took us along urban highways and over, and down, a 5,000-foot pass. Again, both trucks were driven at 5 mph over the posted trailer speed limit (60 mph), and both had Tow Haul mode activated.
Photo 18/28   |   Tucked under the hood of the ’14 Ram 2500 is the renowned 6.7L Cummins I-6, which pumps out a pavement-punishing 370 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque when mated to the 68RFE six-speed automatic.
We saddled up the EcoDiesel first and loaded it up to 105 percent of its gross combined vehicle weight (GCVW) rating of 12,800 pounds. The Ram 1500 had no issues accelerating from a stop, getting up to speed, or slowing back down. Helping to reign in the load in tow is a factory-integrated trailer brake controller. While not overpowered, the truck never felt underpowered, either. The only place where the trucks showed any sign of weakness was climbing the nearly 7 percent final grade on the push to 5,000 feet of elevation. With the accelerator stapled to the floor, the truck’s speed dropped off to 53 mph, and engine temperature climbed to an almost alarming 244 degrees. Thankfully, as we crested the summit, the engine temperature returned to normal and we never experienced any other overheating issues during the remainder of the test. Overall, we were extremely impressed with the truck’s towing abilities. After a 260-mile round trip, the EcoDiesel averaged an astonishing 19.46 mpg, fully loaded.
Photo 19/28   |   Our ’14 Ram 2500 4x4 tester arrived equipped with the 6.7L Cummins engine mated to the 68RFE automatic transmission and BorgWarner 44-46 transfer case. The drivetrain was wrapped in a Crew Cab body with a Laramie Longhorn trim package.
It’s worth noting that while our test truck (equipped with a 3.55:1 gear ratio) was rated at 6,700 pounds, when the EcoDiesel Ram 1500 is optioned with 3.92:1 gears and the correct body configuration (standard cab two-wheel drive), the tow rating increases to 9,200 pounds. Order the lower gear ratio in the same trim as our tester—Crew Cab four-wheel-drive Laramie with Ram Boxes—and tow capacity jumps to 8,400 pounds.
The Ram 2500’s Cummins engine had zero issues moving the weight, as you would expect. Where the 1500 slowed on the grade, the 2500 continued to accelerate. What really impressed us was the downhill control provided by the factory exhaust brake. With the brake activated, we actually needed to accelerate to maintain speed, and the new smart exhaust brake function helped to slow the trailer during normal braking activities, saving wear on the vehicle’s service brakes. During the course of our towing loop, we never once noticed any detriment to trailer or vehicle control caused by the new five-link and coil rear suspension. In addition, the tongue weight of our trailer barely squatted the rear suspension past level. After the drive was complete, we ran the numbers, and the 2500 knocked down 15.82 mpg saddled to our 7,020-pound trailer. ’14 Ram 2500
VEHICLE: 14 Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4x4
0-60: 7.9 seconds
¼-MILE: 16.2 seconds at 86.6 mph
60-0 146.2 feet
REAR WHEEL HP: 319 hp at 2,760 rpm
REAR WHEEL TORQUE: 657 lb-ft at 2,340 rpm
AVERAGE MPG: 17.54 mpg
BEST MPG: 19.97 mpg
TOWING MPG: 15.82 mpg
VEHICLE MODEL: 14 Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4x4
BASE PRICE $52,200
CYLINDER HEADS: Cast iron, six bolts per cylinder
VALVETRAIN: OHV, 24, valves, solid lifters
ASPIRATION: Singe variable-geometry turbocharger, air-to-air intercooled
FUELING: Bosch high-pressure common rail with CP3 and solenoid injectors
MFG HP: 370 hp at 2,800 rpm
MFG TORQUE: 800 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 68RFE six-speed automatic
TRANSFER CASE: BorgWarmer 44-46
AXLE RATIO: 3.42:1
SUSPENSION (FRONT/REAR): Three-link with track bar, coil springs, and stablizer bar/Five-link with track bar, coil springs, and stablizer bar
STEERING: Recirculating ball, hydralic assist
BRAKES (FRONT/REAR): 14.2-inch disc with twin-piston caliper/14.1 inch disc with twin-piston caliper
WHEELS/TIRES: 18X8 inch polished aluminuk wheels with 275/70r18 Firestone Transforce HT Tires
CURB WEIGHT: 8,000 pounds (as tested, fuell fuel, no driver)
PAYLOAD CAPACITY: 2,180 pounds
TOWING CAPACIY: 17,010 pounds
FUEL CAPACITY: 31 gallons
DEF CAPACITY: 5.7 gallons
’14 Ram 3500
By now, you’re likely wondering why we didn’t include the Ram 3500 in our test. The answer to that question is twofold. First and foremost, when we were setting up the test and evaluating the criteria, we made the decision that since most 1-ton truck owners buy them to do heavy and frequent work, there’s likely not going to be much crossover with those looking at ½-ton pickups.
“At the end of the day, not everyone needs a ¾-ton, but everybody should be driving a diesel.”
Dyno Testing
It’s a ritual normally reserved for modified vehicles, but dyno testing can prove valuable even for stock trucks. While it doesn’t happen too often, manufacturers will sometimes overrate or underrate an engine. So, in an effort to validate the power numbers claimed by Ram, we took our two testers to K&N Engineering’s Research and Development facility in Riverside, California, and strapped both of them down to the SuperFlow dynamometer. Dyno testing new trucks can be tricky, especially when they are sporting an eight-speed transmission. For the test, we limited both trucks to their 1:1 transmission gear by using their range-select functions. The Ram 1500 was held to Sixth gear, while the 2500 was tested in Fourth. The test window began when each truck shifted into its selected gear. Testing was performed near sea level with a 15 percent load applied, and no correction factor was used. The Ram 1500 put down 202 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque while the 2500 pumped out 319 hp and 657 lb-ft to the rear wheels. Our testing concluded that both advertised power figures for the 3.0L VM Motori V-6 and the 6.7L Cummins I-6 are true. We also noted an approximate 19 percent parasitic drivetrain power loss from the Ram 1500, and 16 percent loss from the 2500.
Photo 23/28   |   2014 Dodge Ram 1500 Front Side View
2014 Ram 1500
Photo 24/28   |   2014 Ram 1500 Dyno Graph
2014 Ram 2500
Photo 25/28   |   2014 Ram 2500 Dyno Graph
Final Thoughts
After our time with the trucks was up, we came to a not-so-shocking conclusion: both are excellent vehicles in their own right. The new Ram 1500 with the EcoDiesel engine is a game-changer. We’re confident that in the right conditions it can break 30 mpg on the highway, and 20 mpg towing. Short of pulling up in front of the pump to be refueled, one would be hard pressed to tell there is a diesel engine under the hood.
As for the new chassis and suspension under the Ram 2500, we were simply amazed. Highway ride is vastly improved over previous generations, and we noticed no negative affect on its towing ability. Add to that legendary Cummins power that never ceases to impress, and you have one hell of a ¾-ton platform to tow and haul with.
Ultimately, the decision of which truck is the right choice comes down to towing. For the person who commutes in his truck and only tows his toys or whose trailer weights are at the lighter end of the spectrum, the Ram 1500 is a superb option. If the trailer weight tops 9,000 pounds, or your frequency of hitching up is more often, then the Ram 2500 is the truck of choice. Either way, neither truck will disappoint.


K&N Engineering
Riverside, CA 92507
Ram Trucks
Aubum Hills, MI 48321



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