By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
With the truck market in the biggest boom ever we?re seeing the selection of trucks expanding dramatically. In the next few years you?ll even see trucks being built by new-to-the-truck-market brands, like Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, and others ? everyone will have a truck.
The makeup of trucks has advanced so far beyond the traditional pickup people used to haul things around the farm that, once inside some upscale models you?d hardly know it is a truck. In addition, the comfort, convenience, and technology available rivals all but the upper level luxury cars in some models.
One truck that has remained more truck-like than any others is the Ram. Sure, it?s benefited from the extensive civilizing of the trucks, but it?s still that rugged piece of equipment designed to haul, pull, and climb.
We spent time, not long ago, in the Ram 1500 and were especially impressed by the power and economy of the Hemi V8 and the V6 EcoDiesel engines.? More recently we drove the Ram 2500, which turned out to be much more truck-like than the 1500. Both trucks are the same basic dimensions, but the 2500 just feels more substantial and heavy duty, even though the 1500 seem very rugged.
The Ram 2500 feels more like we expect a pickup should, and that is reflected in the capabilities and stiffer construction. Depending on how it?s equipped, and there are a multitude of choices, the 2017 Ram 2500 will pull up to 17,930 pounds ? that?s easily capable of handling a big boat or a large horse trailer with horses. The 2500 payload is 3,990 pounds in the maximum configuration. (For even bigger loads, the 3500 version can tow up to 31,210 pounds.)
The 2017 Ram 2500 is available with either a 383-hp 5.7-liter Hemi V8, a 410-hp 6.4-liter Hemi V8, or one of two versions of a 6.7-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel, either a 350-hp or 370-hp. The two Cummins diesel engines are rated at 660- and 800-lb.ft. of torque respectively. (That calls for an ?ark, ark, ark?. If you are Gen X or older you probably remember that chant made by Tim ?The Tool Man? Taylor as portrayed by actor Tim Allen when he was celebrating ?more power.?)
A standard heavy-duty six-speed automatic transmission is standard with all the engines, except the smaller diesel, which has a standard six-speed manual overdrive unit.
The 2500 is a rear drive model, with available four-wheel drive. New for 2017 is the optional Ram 2500 Heavy Duty 4×4 Off-Road Package. The package adds hill-decent control, tow hooks, transfer case skid plate and Bilstein shocks. A limited-slip differential, wheel fares and on-/off-road tires (18-inch or optional 20-inch) complete the package.
Like most serious trucks the Ram heavy duty is available in an endless number of configurations to customize the abilities and features for any truck owner. There are eight available trim levels: Tradesman, SLT, Big Horn, Lone Star, Power Wagon, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, and Limited.
The 2017 Ram 2500 base prices range from $33,540 for the Tradesman Regular Cab 4×2 with 8-foot box and go up to $59,170 for the Limited. Our Limited model test vehicle with Crew Cab, 4×4, and optional 6.7-liter Cummins turbo diesel ($8,700) was nearly $75,000. The price included most of the features we?d expect on an expensive luxury sedan.
The interior of the Limited model is plush, but not overly frilly like some top-level trucks we?ve driven that have lots of bling and cosmetic enhancements. It?s very comfortable, but as the roads get rough, so does the ride; it doesn?t have that float-over-the-bumps ride like some full-size trucks. The Ram is more oriented toward being a heavy-duty truck. It also doesn?t have the agility and maneuverability we find in some smaller trucks.
A handy available feature is the Ram Box cargo management system which is built into the sides of the pickup box. The strong plastic containers are lighted and they lock. They provide a great place for tools, other equipment, and even iced beverages. The system also includes cargo bed rails with four adjustable tie-down cleats and a bed extender that increases the bed capacity.
One feature we always appreciate in the Fiat Chrysler Automotive vehicles is the Uconnet? infotainment system. The large 8.4-inch touch screen is intuitive, it?s fast and it provides many helpful features. We?ve always thought the Uconnect system is the industry best, but there are some brands starting to gain on this one.
If we were in the market for a truck that performed like a truck, the Ram would be right at the top of our shopping list.