First Drive: 2013 Ram HD 2500/3500

RM013_019TF II

By Mark Williams

Bringing a new truck to the heavy-duty segment (three-quarter and one-ton trucks) is not what it used to be. Not long ago, it was simply about making small, incremental changes that nudged you ahead of your two competitors. As long as you offered loyal truck buyers a fair number of reasons to buy your truck (usually in the form of a slightly higher payload, larger towing number or higher gross combined vehicle weight rating), all would be fine.

But that was before Ford made a huge push to offer its own Super Duty turbo-diesel and transmission, and before GM completely revamped its suspensions and frames, not to mention upgrading its Duramax engines and Allison transmissions.

With the race to claim class-leading payloads and maximum towing capacities, the heavy-duty truck war has become as fierce as a clash of the the half-tons. It should come as no surprise that Ram is hoping to make a huge splash in the marketplace with its new 2500 and 3500 HD pickup trucks, the follow-ups to the highly successful Ram 1500 that came out late last year. Ram is coming off one of the biggest sales months ever just as the economy looks like it’s getting some color back in its cheeks. The timing couldn’t be better.

Our first look at the new Ram HDs came during last year’s State Fair of Texas, but now we’ve had the chance to get behind the wheel and finally see what this truck can do, specifically from a maximum towing and payload point of view. And we can say the efforts must have been gargantuan, because the results are that impressive.

More backbone

Ram HD 3500 2 II

All 2013 Ram HDs start with a completely new, much stronger foundation that uses eight reinforced cross-members sitting between roll-formed and fully boxed frame rails. The frame is stronger and wider up front, and stronger and stiffer in the back third of the platform. A massive new 12-inch-wide cross-member directly underneath the bed can be used as the support bracket for a fifth-wheel or gooseneck hitch when ordered from the factory. This is the first time Ram has offered this bed-hitch from the factory. The vastly improved and strengthened ladder frame allowed engineers to rethink the front and rear suspensions in order to improve ride quality and capacity as much as possible.

Specifically, the front suspension on all one-ton pickups will switch to a more controlled and laterally sophisticated three-link/coilover suspension with two gigantic trailering arms locating the live axle. The 2500s will continue with the existing five-link/coilover setup, but we’d guess most of the models (but not the Power Wagon) will also switch to the three-link strategy by 2014. Although there has been no announcement of any kind of air-bag suspension (so no load-leveling) coming, Ram engineers have tuned the rear leaf springs with a surprising amount of comfort when both loaded and empty. New spring rates and progressive multistage overload springs make the ride on most 2013 models dramatically different from the previous generation.

Additionally, there is a new, more massive rear axle to help accommodate the special max towing package that includes, among other things, an 11.8-inch ring-and-pinion gear housed in a wonderfully efficient, finned aluminum differential cover. But pulling heat from the axles isn’t the only place (or even the most important place) from which to pull heat.

More power choices

New Cummins II

Ram engineers knew that if they wanted to get more horsepower and torque out of the stout Cummins ISB motor, they would have to be smarter about pulling heat from the block. They’ve done that in several ways. Not only do the new Ram HDs have the biggest radiator fan you’ll find in an HD pickup, but they have twin radiators to extract tons of extra heat from the engine block. On the intake side, the new HD also tries to get the coolest air possible into the engine (for more power efficiency) by offering a segment-only dual air intake that decides where to pull air from, depending on load and need. There’s an intake cool air charger as well. It’s worth noting the intake system is smart enough to know when to pull warmer air during snow, heavy rain (or water fording) or extreme altitude climbing too, with intakes at the top of the front grille or behind the front passenger fender.  

As noted, the 6.7-liter inline-six Cummins will come in three different flavors: Those optioned with the six-speed manual transmission will get the 350-horsepower engine with 660 pounds-feet of torque; the regular Chrysler 68RFE six-speed automatic transmission will be paired with the 370-hp Cummins offering 800 pounds-feet of torque; and the maximum towing package gets a brand-new six-speed automatic Aisin AS69RC matched with the high-output Cummins that is rated at 385 hp and a class-leading 850 pounds-feet of torque. Finally, it will now be possible to order a 3500 Ram HD with single rear wheels with the Hemi gas engine, something never possible before.

Dual Radiators & fan II

There’s more big news: All three Cummins engine are paired with a new diesel exhaust fluid injection system, rather than the expensive catalytic reduction processes used last year. This simpler way of dealing with emissions (a strategy also used with the chassis cab 4500/5500 models) improves fuel economy by as much as 15 percent and helps keep overall costs down. 

Carrying the load

But the really big news for the segment comes in the form of the maximum payload and towing capacities of the 2013 Ram HDs. According to Ram charts and calculations (see links below), a regular-cab long-bed Ram 3500 HD with all the right options will be able to carry more than 6,700 pounds of payload and tow a fifth-wheel or gooseneck trailer weighing just a hair more than 30,000 pounds. Oddly, the maximum payload number is rated with the middle Cummins and 68RFE transmission, while the maximum towing number is rated with the high-output Cummins and the stouter Aisin six-speed.

We had the chance to tow several trailers weighing more than 28,000 pounds at Chrysler’s Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Mich. (it’s illegal to tow that kind of weight on public roads without a commercial driver’s license), and found it to be much easier than we expected. The newly tuned Tow/Haul setting helps a lot with more confident takeoffs; both transmissions (the 68RFE and AS69RC) were quick to downshift and keep the engine within 1,800 to 2,900 rpm, where it seemed to have the most pulling strength. Of course, with this kind of weight all things are relative, so don’t expect Superman-like pulling strength as the computers try to make the ramp-up smooth and gentle on the important axle, transmission and driveshaft parts. At higher speeds, the front end felt vastly more controlled; in manual mode, we found the shifts quick and assured without a hint of excessive force during gear changes. However, getting a trailer this big moving at freeway speeds is only half the battle.

Quite possibly the most impressive piece of technology on the truck is the new smart exhaust brake system that allows the driver to determine how aggressively he or she wants the exhaust brake to kick in. Whether in Off, On or Auto mode, the new exhaust brake will activate to help slow the vehicle down as long as the various sensors determine the conditions are right.

DEF Guage II

The On setting is the most aggressive and delivers the most impressive jake-brake-style rumble we’ve heard from any heavy-duty; it sounds exactly like a big-rig throttling down on the interstate every time you lift off the throttle.

The Auto mode is a softer setting for the exhaust brake that considers more parameters when changing the angles of the veins on the turbocharger to slow the truck and trailer combo. The result here is quite literally a leap forward for the 2013 Ram HDs over their competition, all in the name of safer, more controlled and better-sounding towing. We like that.

Interior

With all the mechanical and structural upgrades made to the 2013 Ram HDs, it would be easy to gloss over the interior changes, mostly because they look so similar to the huge changes we saw in the light-duty Ram 1500 that debuted last year. Ram is clearly taking the same interior trim package and styling cues that made the Ram 1500 a 2013 winner in WardsAuto’s 10 Best Interiors competition. It’s an attempt to redefine what a heavy-duty truck interior should and can look like. All the same trim packages, including the impressive high-zoot Laramie Longhorn, essentially carry over to the HD lineup, giving customers many different work-truck and luxury-cruiser options. But the beauty is not just skin deep here.

Just as in the 1500, Ram engineers replaced the entire electrical guts of the HDs to accommodate a vastly improved connectivity capability. The new 8.4-inch touch-screen UConnect system, newly available in Ram HDs, offers incredible access to detailed navigation, local and national weather, customizable music, info about your favorite sport teams, movie listings and real-time fuel prices right at your fingertips. Additional information screens in the center of the gauge cluster offer info on the engine, filter life, turbocharger, exhaust brake, preferred trailers and many other details. With all these features you begin to see that these new trucks are not just better than the ones they replace, they’re trying to set a new standard. And from our first look, these are the first HD pickups we’ve driven in a long time that literally add up to something greater than the sum of their parts. We like that too.

Impressions

Dual backup cameras II

It’s almost an impossible task to try to list or filter all the significant details about the Ram 2500/3500 from the meaningless ones — or at least the ones you don’t need to know about — because there is so much meat here. The 2013 Ram HDs are clearly better trucks than the ones they replaces, and in many areas they offer some of the best features in the segment, but they aren’t necessarily the perfect truck either. As noted, we still don’t have a load-leveling suspension; we still don’t have a way to see what gear our transmission is in unless we shift manually; and we still don’t have a Ram Long-Hauler ready to create a new breed of tow king.

However (fingers crossed), we’re told that there will be even more important changes for the Ram HDs coming in the 2014 model year. Normally, we’d think this was just an attempt to blow smoke up our backsides about new paint colors and trim packages, but from what we’re hearing from several industry sources, we think Ram may be holding a few big surprises for next year. What exactly that means we’re not sure, but we hope it looks something like the new Ram HDs, just more of them. We know the Ram 1500 will get the little diesel engine option soon; the Ram ProMaster full-size van is just around the corner; and now we can expect some added upgrades for the Ram HDs for the 2014 model year. We’re guessing we’ll hear more by the time we get to Chrysler’s What’s New event later next month.

For now, this is what we know, but it seems like we need to put together another Heavy-Duty Hurt Locker test with new Ford and GM offerings. We’ll keep you posted.

New Crossmember II

Dual Air Intake box II

RM013_020TF II

To download the most up-to-date specifications for the Ram 2500 and 3500, click here.

To download the most up-to-date tow ratings for all Ram HD configurations, click here.

To download the most up-to-date overview of the 2013 Ram HD 2500/3500 pickup trucks, click here.

To download the most up-to-date Ram HD order guide, click here.

 

 

Comments

Interesting - max load goes to the mid engine and max tow goes to the Aisin/850 lb.ft combo. I suspect it is Ram's version of what Ford does. The F350 has max haul and the F450 has max tow.

LET THE JEALOUS HATERS HATE ALL THEY WANT! MY NEXT TRUCK IS GOING TO BE THE CLASS LEADING, MAX TOW KING, AND SHOOTOUT WINNING RAM TRUCKS.

LET THE ASSS KICKING COMMENCE IN THE 2013 LIGHT DUTY SHOOTOUT!

Ram the best!!!
this looks like the end of furd and cheby!
GUTS!
GLORY!
RAM! the king of trucks!!! the leader in innovation.

Guts
Glory
Ram!!! This will be my next truck!!!

GUT
GLORY
RAM!

Lets just hope Ram wins the shoot out, because if they don't then it's the egg in the face scenario.

Will there be any video's?

Tradeing in my 2010 F150 for a 2013 Ram soon reason why my tranny just went this really sucks! Ram with 8 speed is a truck i am looking for Hemi V8 i am with you brother.

A bale of hay in the back of a truck isn't very impressive they need to show us something crazy.

Lou

The max hauling combo is on the "mid" engine because the 68rfe six speed auto weighs 150lbs less then the Aisin 6 speed auto. So, because all Cummins equipped DWR 3500s have the same GVWR the 68rfe trucks are going to have the larger payload.

Ford doing what they do, has nothing to do with Rams payload numbers.

We're putting the finishing touches on the video now. Will be coming soon. Stay tuned.

That is one nice looking truck in the first picture!

Looks real good but you dodge fans don't get to cocky, you haven't won anything. Just like ford did when the scorpion came out, it did not win anything.

That radiator fan is goofy big!

However, it sure makes the new GM twins look extra weak in comparison

Well color me impressed! I'd wait a year before buying one so they can work the kinks out, but now to see what Ford and Chevy do... I think Ford could easily match their numbers if they put a new frame under the super duty. Chevy is going to have to come out with a new duramax though... By any chance are Dodge's tow calculated with the sae standard? Also, why the weak engine with the manual? Is it not also Aisin?

People are we not living in the golden age of pickup trucks?!?!?!

I want to know where the DEF tank is and also interesting...how accurate is the DEF guage.

"Specifically, the front suspension on all one-ton pickups will switch to a more controlled and laterally sophisticated"
Laterally sophisticated?? WTH does that mean?
"three-link/coilover suspension with two gigantic trailering arms"
Trailering arms, eh? on the front axle... Radius arms, perhaps.
"The 2500s will continue with the existing five-link/coilover setup, but we’d guess most of the models (but not the Power Wagon) will also switch to the three-link strategy by 2014"
If they do, and I'm not so sure, the Power Wagon will not be a hold-out on the 5-link suspension.
SRW 1ton gassers won't appeal to many, since the GVW subjects them to DOT inspections, when commercially owned. They might make a nice plow truck- Combine the Max FAWR with the lighter engine and trans for more carrying capacity.

@Scott- the DEF tank is usually outboard of the frame, next to the fuel tank, in dead space under the bed floor. No reason the guage shouldn't be as accurate as any fuel guage. The MT engine has a lower torque rating so everything holds together- the transmission is not rated for 800lb-ft. Sure, they take the load in modifyed trucks, but for durability/warranty reasons, the engine is de-rated.

It would be nice to see the Cummins connected to the ZF 8hp90 transmission (not in 3500s, let that stick with the commercial transmission) 35% more ratio spread!
The engine configuration would be the same as the manual transmission one.

I didn't read anything about improved fuel economy. Looks like Ram will continue to follow the pack.

@Toycrusher,
You've seen GMs new Heavy Duty trucks?

Amazing how some idiots dedicate all their internet time to hate opposition.

What an absolutely beautiful piece of work. Simply blown away by the advancements made here. Ram, you are doing one heck of a job at building trucks. And all of this is coming from a die hard FORD man. You Ram guys should be proud of this truck, especially that cummins and the interior (something I believe dodge/ram needed improvement with), bc they nailed it

impressive (means alot coming from a GM Fan) or it should.. its a slick truck... seems that the intake is smart, but what about when it malfunctions (which is enevitable) Interior on the New Rams is Nice (outgoing Rams too for that matter)..hands down better than the current GM 3/4 and 1 tons..cant argue that one... I would be willing to bet though that the Current Duramax will Outpull the NEW Cummins or at a minimum be right on par with it...Either way, this is a Nice truck.. Hopefully GM takes thier 2014 1/2ton interiors and puts them or some "even better version" of it in thier new 3/4 ad 1 tons.


@ Ken,

RAM is a leader,GM,Ford are always trying to outdo RAM,as RAM is the leader ! RAM started the truck wars back in the 90's !

As I figured ,you are a typical Mopar basher ,you didnt read the whole story..You just looked at the pictures...lol...

So,look under the picture with the fan,you will see they said fuel economy is up by 15%.

@Canadian Dodge Ram Owner
Nice burn. And you are right, Pickuptrucks even states on the Ram truck timeline.

Pickuptrucks.com "I want to make something perfectly clear, this segment is not just about adding a diesel to Dodge Truck's engine lineup. When the Dodge-Cummins turbodiesel pickups came on the scene the light-duty truck market was changed forever."

This can be found at http://www.pickuptrucks.com/html/history/segment12.html

@ 390 CUBIC INCH HEMI,

Hope you correct your name,no such thing as a 390 HEMI.

Current HEMI Engines are :

5.7 HEMI = 345 cu.in

6.1 HEMI = 370 cu.in (production started in 2005 as 2006 model-ended in 2010)

6.4 HEMI = 392 cu.in

Even in the past ,No 390 HEMI..

Not going to lie. I think Ram may place 2ed but not first. It has alot of new great features but it still lags Hp which Mark even stated won the hill climbs last time. But who knows it may do great cant wait to see it

I still wouldn't buy a P.O.S. Ram. They had to copy GM with the shark fin antennae in the exact same spot where it's placed on GM vehicles? Really? What a bunch of pansy wannabees. All that money spent advertising about not having to use exhaust fluid and what do you know.....they're now using it. I think Ram has its head so far up its own a$$ that it can't see straight. What's funny is that even with all these upgrades, GM will still spank these clowns when the new Locker test comes out. I hope Pickuptrucks will wait until Ford and GM have their updated HD trucks in place later this year. No way the real big boys will allow a POS Ram to beat them. No way.

@Chris

How old are you? They really need a age limit for this site.....

Mark,

What are some of the "rumors" on the 2014's?

Hey Chris, do you think that maybe that antenna was designed by the satellite co? Maybe placed there for a reason?

@Chris, so the antenna theft from GM is a deal breaker?
If you look at all the manufactures, you will see some of the same parts used. Nothing new here.
Good job with the updated RAM.
The one thing that can be said about RAM, it's a viable alternative to Ford & GM.
I agree with the statment about Dodge using the Cummins engine in the 90's was a game changer in the 3/4 & 1-ton market.

@Canadian Dodge Ram Owner - The 6.4 is 391.
Do the math, bore and stroke is 4.09x3.72 .
They use 392 to try to play on their own hemi heritage.

In the past I had made the comment that 6.4 was the dispacement for Ford's 390 Fe block engine just to irritate HemiV8. looks like some noob has picked up on that.
Funny.

If you want to spin the heck out of an engine, read, RPM, maybe you like GM, as you must spin them higher. Alot people like diesels because generally they don't need spun as high. But then their 6.2S and 5.3s need more rpm as well, along with their lazy 6.0.

@Chris: its a sattlelite antenna, wow, big deal!

I wonder if they will ever go 7 or more speeds manual? Glad they offer the 6 speed manual, considering my towing needs are nothing as much as most, but a 3.42 geared 6 speed would work for me, since the ratios are a good deal differant.

I see George is complaning about gear ratio spread, he must not drive a truck much.

@Canadian Dodge Ram Owner, 6.4 liters = 390.551962 cubic inches.

I wonder if they will eventually put in some tow mirrors. That is probably the big ticket item left that I see that needs a proper upgrade.

I am a die hard Ford Truck guy, but holy cow at this bad ass truck!! VERY IMPRESSIVE RAM FOLKS!!!!

@Chris----

I think you will have some hurt feelings when the hurt locker test is run, the new 13 Model Year Ram 2500's are putting a hundred more foot pounds of torque to the ground than the 12 model Rams and the Ford and Chevy. And matching the horsepower of the Ford and Chevy. These are uncorrected numbers by H&S Performance on a bone stock truck. That is the 370/800 engine also.

@Warfish start modifying the Cummins for more power (via Tunes) and you'll see the Cummins shake that Dodge to pieces. The trans will be the first thing to go.

The Cummins is an awesome platform, but you have to basically replace all parts surrounding the Cummins to make big power.

6.4L VVT Hemi Engine Specs

Specs Item Specs
Engine Type 6.4L VVT Hemi Engine
Engine Code 6.4L VVT Hemi
Displacement 6.4 litre

6410 cc

(391.162 cu in)

Transmission Type Automatic
Compression Ratio 10.9:1
Bore and Stroke (in.) 4.09 x 3.72
http://allenginelist.com/cars/6-4l-vvt-hemi-engine-specs/

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

ENGINE: 392 HEMI® V-8 (6.4 L)
Availability Standard
Type and Description 90-degree V-type, liquid-cooled
Displacement 392 cu. in. (6,424 cu. cm)
Bore x Stroke 4.09 x 3.72 (103.9 x 94.5)
http://searchmyused.com/barrys/brochure/lineup/challenger/392specs.pdf

Odd, if you calculate 103.9x94.5 cc - it works out to 6409.77 or 6410 cc or 6.4

6424 does convert to 392 but all of the math for bore and stroke (either metric or customary) = 391.

390 is wrong whether you use bore and stroke or direct cc to ci conversion.

BTW 390.55 rounds off to 391. the number is larger than 0.5 so one rounds up.

Tradeing in my 2010 F150 for a 2013 Ram soon reason why my tranny just went this really sucks! Ram with 8 speed is a truck i am looking for Hemi V8 i am with you brother.

Posted by: Posted by: Lou | Oct 26, 2012 12:43:10 PM | May 17, 2013 2:52:23 AM
Is somebody pretending to be Lou?
I find it doubtfull that Lou would ever tell a suppertroll like Hemi V8 that he is with him, and that he'd go for the first model year with an 8 speed if he just had transmission problems. This just doesn't smell right.

Impressive for RAM however the competition will surpass it shortly! Enjoy your short moment to be proud!

since the MT engine is so de-rated, is it reasonable to assume it comes without urea and some of the other emissions bullsh** hat comes with the 800lbs ft engines? If so that seems like a clear choice to me if there ever was any.

HEMI stop posing as Lou, your the only one on here that is oppsesed about the no exestent RAM 6.4l Hemi, guess what not going to happen.

If they do a new a hurt locker watch the excuse they use to cover ford .....

@Len
they will try to go after ram like always, ford of course will change the grill and use their magic dust and call it all new! What a joke!
And chevy well looking at their half tons I dont see them as a threat to ram

@Carilloskis,

I think that Ram is the class leader pointing the direction all of the automakers will head towards.
Posted by: Lou | Apr 13, 2012 3:14:19 PM

GUTS
GLORY
RAM!

If I was to buy a HD truck today, it would be a Ram. Simply because they're the only one left that offers a manual transmission.

I think that the 2013 Ram is the new benchmark and compass pointing the direction all of the automakers will head towards.

Posted by: Lou



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