Although we haven't been able to get behind the wheel of a new 2013 Ram HD, we believe the new exhaust brake, called Smart Brake, on the newly up-rated Cummins turbodiesel is worth a closer look.
The new exhaust brake still uses the same sliding-nozzle turbine design, but now it's controlled by a more sophisticated software mapping program that effectively allows for three different settings. They're all controlled by a single button on the lower switch panel of the new center stack on all 2013 Ram HD models. We're hopeful Ram will at some point move the important activation button to a more prominent location because it looks like it might be somewhat difficult to find, buried along two rows of switches. Naturally, some packages will have fewer buttons than others, but it would make more sense to have this switch on the stickshift or column shifter.
As we understand it, the setup still uses a single button (with the carryover icon designating its purpose) that will first activate an Auto mode. This fully taps into the various engine and truck sensors around the vehicle (and trailer sensors where applicable) to determine the best and safest way to handle the identified overall weight, given the driver inputs and speeds.
In the On setting, engaged by hitting the button a second time, the exhaust brake and correlating software essentially go into a more aggressive mapping configuration where the system is quicker to engage and more comfortable slowing the truck and trailer to lower speeds. This means faster computations and exhaust brake adjustments to better keep the loads and overall speeds reduced (think of it as analogous to shifting your transmission from regular Drive to Tow/Haul).
As you might have anticipated, the third position for the new "two-step" exhaust brake is the Off position. Of course, the exhaust brake is only offered when Ram HDs are equipped with the Cummins 6.7-liter inline-six-cylinder engine but we should note that the new 2013 Ram 3500 models have the 5.7-liter Hemi as an option — and, of course, will not offer exhaust brake capability.