By Mark Williams, photos from the manufacturer
Not long after the debut of the all-new 2013 Ram 1500, Ram Truck is revealing several significant improvements to the larger 2500 and 3500 models.
The last refresh of the Ram HD was in 2010, and we haven’t been quiet about where we felt the Ram HDs fell a touch behind (and in some areas, quite a bit) compared with the Ford Super Duty, Chevy Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD.
In our now-famous Hurt Locker towing Shootout, the Ram finished in third place in just about every one of our categories, with the exception of the exhaust brake test during our Davis Dam runs.
This is our first look at the 2013 Ram HDs, which were revealed today at the 2012 State Fair of Texas. Rather than give you a long, gigantic story, we’ve chosen to hit just the highlights and give you an opportunity to download a more detailed look at all the changes at the end of each of the sections below. They are broken into seven categories and include all the exact same information given to the journalists who attended the Ram Truck backgrounder and State Fair press conference.
It’s worth noting that the Ram Truck strategy has remained consistent. Several years ago, a new Ram team was quite clear about seeing the truck market break into two distinct directions. First, half-ton buyers seemed to be getting more and more interested in fuel economy. Second, buyers interested in heavier-duty trucks seemed to be all about capability and more traditional work-duty issues.
The result is a new Ram 1500 with a huge emphasis on fuel-economy improvements, and a new HD that’s all about better towing, power, strength and durability. And both are coming out in the same model year.
We’ll have more to report when we get some of the new trucks in our possession and compare them with an older model and the current-gen, similarly equipped Super Duty or Silverado/Sierra HD. For now, here’s what we know.
Engineering: A Bigger, Stronger Frame
Although Ram is not telling us exactly what the new front and rear axle ratings are for the 2013 HDs, they guarantee that it will have class-leading towing capability and gross combined weight ratings. The biggest change to accomplish this goal, as you might imagine, was making big improvements to an all-new frame. The bigger, stronger frame has a one-inch wider front section and fully boxed rear sections to accommodate an improved suspension. The front will continue to use the three-link live-axle strategy, but the new setup is said to offer better roll stiffness under load. The heavier-duty front axle will have higher GAWR numbers to accommodate heavier snowplows or other construction applications. The rear suspension and solid axle are stronger and improved, too.
Other improvements include an extra fifth-wheel cross-member to strengthen the rear section, as well as a seven-pin plug inside the bed and optional fifth-wheel type tailgate, similar to what the concept Ram 5500 Long Hauler used.
Also, new Ram HDs will get an improved steering setup, power folding mirrors and a completely new electrical architecture (similar to the Ram 1500 improvements) that should make any future upgrades, whether for commercial or dealership upgrades, much easier and safer.
For the full press release on all the engineering upgrades, download 2013 Ram HD Engineering.
Powertrain: Monster Torque Numbers
The new Ram HDs will continue to use both the 5.7-liter Hemi and 6.7-liter Cummins, but they now have a wider range of availability. The Hemi will be offered in the 3500 HD configuration (single-rear-wheel trucks only), while the Cummins will have three distinct power outputs, each matched with a different transmission option. The manual six-speed transmission will have a 350/660 horsepower and torque peak; the 68RFE automatic transmission will have 370/800; and the all-new Aisin six-speed automatic (AS69RC) will have 385/850.
To accommodate the higher torque numbers, the Cummins has quite a few cooling and intake improvements that allow the engine to produce monster torque numbers and do it efficiently. One cool feature is a new dual intake controller that determines the best place where air should be sucked into the engine: from the front of the grille or inside the engine area. Improvements at almost every point along the drivetrain are involved here. Additionally, Ram HDs are now using the more common DEF strategy to exhaust emission control and have included several other details to keep overall operating costs as low as possible.
Within the four-wheel-drive system, Ram HDs now offer a new electronically controlled front axle disconnect system within the transfer case controller. It can automatically disconnect select drivetrain components to improve fuel economy as much as 1 mpg.
The 2013 Ram HD is backed with a five-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty that covers the cost of all parts and labor needed to repair a covered powertrain component – engine, transmission and drive system. Coverage includes free towing to the nearest Ram dealer, if necessary. The warranty also is transferable, allowing customers who sell their truck during the warranty period to pass the coverage onto the new owner. The standard three-year/36,000-mile basic limited warranty provides bumper-to-bumper coverage for the Ram HDs, including everything from the body to the electrical system.
For the full press release on all the powertrain upgrades, download 2013 Ram HD Powertrain.
Design: Newer Inside, Similar Outside
Don’t expect the 2013 Ram HDs to have the same exterior styling as the new Ram 1500s. Two years ago, Ram decided to offer a clear visual distinction between the light- and heavy-duty models, and Ram designers want to keep that going. Much of the pronounced hood bulge and size is directly connected to the needed cooling for the Cummins turbo-diesel. Likewise, the grille will stay as large as possible to allow as much air as possible into the engine. However, whereas the exterior design is noticeably different, interior design will look more similar.
Inside the cabin of the new Ram HDs, you can expect to see an all-new gauge cluster, information center with the new 7-inch screen, and a completely redesigned center stack that incorporates the new 8.4-inch screen we saw on the new 1500s. Also, you can expect many of the same trim package upgrades and details to the interior doors and color schemes.
For the full press release on all the design changes and upgrades, download 2013 Ram HD Design.
Safety and Security: Keyless Entry & Remote Start
The new 2500 and 3500 Ram HDs, as well as the 3500/4500/5500 chassis cab models, offer more than 45 unique safety and security features, not the least of which are smart multistage front and midbody airbags and a new electronic stability control with hill start assist (very good for towing).
Other cool features include keyless entry and remote start technology that allow you to get into your truck and start the engine without touching your key fob. Also, just like the Ram 1500, Ram HDs get the remote central locking feature, which lets you lock your truck’s tailgate, RamBox latches and all the doors with one click.
For the full press release on safety and security, download 2013 Ram HD_Safety & Security.
Uconnect: Stay Connected
Ram is offering the new Uconnect entertainment and information system for both regular Ram HDs and commercial chassis cabs. The Chrysler-exclusive system uses a wireless network connection (partnered with Sprint) that can allow you to check email, contact emergency services, organize information about their favorite sports teams, get real-time weather reports or stay informed about the whereabouts of your favorite bands. You can give voice commands and make hands-free phone calls as well. The system can even act as a Wi-Fi hotspot for multiple users. Drivers interact with Uconnect via the new 8.4-inch touch-screen, but almost every command has a backup manual option (and voice command) as well. The system does carry a premium price, but those details are pending.
For the full press release on the facts and features of Uconnect, download 2013 Ram HD Uconnect.
Chassis Cabs, 3500, 4500, 5500
Ram is carrying over many of the improvements and features from the 2013 Ram 2500 and 3500 HD models to the work-duty chassis cab models, but there are some unique highlights. The frames are designed a little differently to deal with the up-fitter market, as well as offering a heavier-duty front and rear suspension to deal with the heavier load requirements. Also, extra care and engineering effort went into improving the chassis-cab steering setup for added strength and durability. Likewise, the engine and powertrain design is tuned for long-term toughness and reduced cost of ownership.
For the first time, the 3500 workhorse will have the Hemi as the base engine, with a segment-exclusive two-level, turbodiesel engine output and transmission option. The first Cummins version is rated at 320 hp and 650 pounds-feet of torque with the segment-exclusive six-speed manual, and the other with the Aisin six-speed automatic rated at 325 horsepower 750 pounds-feet of torque.
Other huge improvements and cost savers include much longer oil-change intervals, a smart DEF system and a completely new and more refined interior setup similar to the non-chassis-cab models.
These Class 3/4/5 models include standard electronic stability control, which also hosts other exclusive technologies in this category such as all-speed traction control, trailer-sway control, hill start assist, and multichannel antilock brakes.
For the full press release of all the new tech and features in the various chassis cab models, download 2013 Ram CC Overview.
Pricing has not been released yet, and we wouldn’t expect that info until we get much closer to the date these trucks start rolling off the line. Tentatively, they’re telling us these models will go on sale in the first or second quarter of 2013; we’d also guess that pricing would continue to be competitive with Ram’s existing lineup. Ram is getting aggressive with its new products, so we’d expect pricing to follow the same path.
If you want to see more images of the different technologies and upgrades, go to the PickupTrucks.com Facebook page, Like us, and take a look at all the cool images.