Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing
Something is missing. It isn't immediately obvious, but when we finally catch on it becomes impossible to ignore. There's a lot of Ram floating around the room here in Tarpley, Texas — on the banners in the hotel lobby, on top of the specification sheets for the 2010 Dodge Ram Power Wagon 4x4 and other heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 series trucks and even on the name tag we're obligated to wear to get past security — but precious little Dodge.
All of these items contain images of the familiar Ram's head logo with the word "Ram" occupying the space where "Dodge" usually figures prominently.
This isn't really a surprise, or at least it shouldn't be, because the Chrysler Corporation has announced the creation of a new Dodge Ram brand. None of us had thought this represented much of a departure, but the view from here points to a singular emphasis on Ram as the truck division's brand name from here forward, à la GMC.
Or not. Another announcement is expected in November to spell it all out; no one wearing a Ram hat or a Ram polo shirt is confirming or denying anything today.
Same as It Ever Was
The story of the 2010 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty 2500 and 2010 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty 3500 trucks is not necessarily about what has changed; instead, it's just as much about what has remained the same. Ram product planners concluded that customers for heavy-duty trucks are a conservative lot that appreciate the tried-and-true approach, especially when it comes to the internal-combustion hearts beating inside their industrial-strength beasts.
So the new 2010 Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks are powered by the same 5.7-liter Hemi V8 (rated at 383 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque) and 6.7-liter inline-6 Cummins turbodiesel (350 hp; 650 lb-ft of torque) as last year. These trusted engines feel as strong as ever, and they can be paired with the same transmission offerings as before, which is a standard five-speed automatic for the Hemi and a choice between a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic for the diesel.
The guys who care about the 2010 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty will certainly know what they're in for and should theoretically harbor none of the doubts that could crop up when new engines are in play, such as Ford's all-new Scorpion 6.7-liter V8, a turbodiesel that looks mighty on paper but nevertheless remains an unknown in the field. But there is a danger in this short-term strategy, as Dodge could end up on its back foot in a year or two should the competition's new engines perform well and attract the allegiance of HD truck buyers.
Ditto the Suspension
When we look inside the wheelwells of any of the new 2010 Dodge Ram Heavy-Duty trucks, we see that their frames and suspensions are largely carryover as well.
Two-wheel-drive 2500-series models have the same independent coil-spring suspension with dual control arms that we saw last year. And the 4x4 version rides on a five-link live front axle and coil springs, albeit with slightly beefier knuckles and U-joints to accommodate the 300-pound increase (from 5,200 to 5,500 pounds) in the front Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) on models equipped with the diesel engine.
Things are much the same in the rear, where the outgoing HD truck's leaf-spring architecture is retained. This isn't a vote of no-confidence for coil springs, however (which our own testing has shown to work quite well on the back end of the medium-duty Dodge Ram 1500 trucks).
But because these heavy-duty Rams have much higher payloads (up to 5,150 pounds) and towing capacities (up to 18,500 pounds) than the Ram 1500, weight on the rear axle can vary significantly. Put the choice of leaf springs down to the fact that their spring stiffness can be easily calibrated with special helper and overload leafs to produce a substantial increase in spring rate as they compress, with excellent durability over the long haul.
Ride comfort is helped here by the addition of a new hydraulic cab-to-frame mount at the rear corners of the Crew and Mega cabs. Located more or less midway along the frame rails, these mounts are tuned to lessen the vertical stabbing that comes with driving an unloaded HD truck on uneven surfaces. It works well enough on the farm-to-market roads in Texas that we drove with the Ram HDs, but the challenge presented by the cement slabs of a California freeway will have to wait until we get a truck for full-scale testing.
Additional changes to the 2010 Dodge Ram HD truck's frame were necessary to accommodate the new Crew Cab, which first appeared on the Ram 1500-series truck to great acclaim.
The Quad Cab that Dodge brought to the truck market to great acclaim (and immediate imitation by its competition) and used until last year didn't have enough rear legroom, but its use in the Ram HD enabled Dodge to make do with just two wheelbases for its heavy-duty truck: a 140.5-incher for the regular-cab long bed and the Quad Cab short bed, and a 160.5-inch version for the Quad Cab long bed and Mega Cab short bed versions.
The new Crew Cab is a full 9 inches longer than the much-maligned Quad Cab (which was originally meant only for light-duty street trucks), and that means two more wheelbase choices have been added to the HD list. The 2010 Ram Crew-short now rides on a 149.4-inch wheelbase while the 2010 Ram Crew-long is now a behemoth on a 169.4-inch wheelbase. The regular-cab long bed and Mega Cab short bed remain on the same wheelbases they had before.
Diesel dually customers who want to pull their massive fifth-wheel trailers can finally pair an 8-foot bed with the Crew Cab, eliminating a problem we encountered during our 2006 Heavy-Duty truck comparison test in which rear-seat legroom comfortable enough for long-distance travel could only be had with the Mega Cab and its mandatory 6-foot-4 bed.
Beyond this, the new cab strategy makes it possible for the 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 HD trucks to take full advantage of all of the good ergonomics, excellent fit and finish, and luxury amenities that characterized the cab's introduction for the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500. And that means you can load up on options like UConnect satellite navigation, satellite radio, Bluetooth, rear-seat entertainment, an iPod connection, 110-volt power outlets — the works.
Off-roaders will be glad to hear that the Ram (Dodge?) Power Wagon is back in a big way. But this is no Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. Instead the Power Wagon is an old-school off-roader better suited to winching and mudding in the backcountry than leaping across the desert at high speed.
Available only on the 2500 SLT Crew Cab 4x4 with the short bed and the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 (base price $39,430), the entire package is one big $6,500 (estimated) option on top of that.
The Power Wagon package brings you an electronic locking differential with 4.56:1 gears for both the front and rear axle, plus a front stabilizer bar that can be disconnected for more wheel articulation, all controlled by in-cab electric switches. There's a 12,000-pound Warn winch installed behind the chrome front bumper, with a 12-foot pendant for remote control. A new integrated electronic trailer brake controller is wired and ready to go on the lower dash, backed up by a Class IV trailer hitch and a heavy-duty alternator and battery.
Unique springs and Bilstein monotube shocks are combined with BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tires in size LT285/70R17 to tackle the rocks and muck. There are skid plates galore and the whole enchilada is topped with Power Wagon decals on the hood and flat-black graphics on the hood and lower body sides.
A weekend of heavy rain turned the demonstration course in Texas into a mud hole, but that only goes to show how well this truck works. Our Power Wagon is getting caked with more mud than the truck's handlers really want to see, but the big Ram gets through it all with a shrug, as if to say, "Is that all you've got?" Don't worry; we'll feed you some rocks when we get home.
About That Price
Ram HD prices are holding the line and even dipping a bit compared to last year, even with the bigger cabs and all-new sheet metal.
The 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 SLT Crew Cab 4x4 short bed is $40 cheaper than last year with a base price of $39,430, while the 2010 Dodge Ram 3500 Mega Cab Laramie 4x4 diesel dually we're looking at across the parking lot starts at a price that's some $430 less than last year at $51,595.
From here, the shortcomings we've previously noted with the Dodge Ram HD trucks have been addressed and the total package is looking very much improved. Dodge has kept the trustworthy powertrains and chassis while thoroughly upgrading the cabins, the interior trimmings and the exterior look.
Doing all this without a heavy-duty price increase is no small trick. If you can pull that off you can call it whatever you like — Dodge, Ram, whatever.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
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