By Andrew Mikonis
Although most of the new Ram heavy-duty chassis cab models (that includes the 3500, 4500 and 5500) remain similar to 2013 specs, there are some significant changes for 2014. The biggest difference (and most exciting from our vantage point) is the addition of a new base engine for most of the models, an all-new 6.4-liter Hemi gasoline V-8.
"It's a true truck engine," said Kevin Mets, head of Ram Truck heavy duty pickup engineering, "tested on the same durability schedule as the Cummins turbodiesel." The new Hemi produces most of its torque at 1,800 rpm versus the competitions' 2,800 rpm level. Based on many of the same design strategies as the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, Mets said component sharing (the two engines share about 70 percent with one another) means "proven durability." Additionally, Ram engineers wanted to make sure the new engine would run best on 87-octane fuel (the 5.7-liter Hemi recommends 89 octane) in order to make the engine more fleet friendly. Mets also said a cooled exhaust-gas recirculation system helps to reduce overall fuel consumption as well.
A significant upgrade to the 6.4-liter Hemi over the 5.7-liter Hemi that used to be offered on some chassis cab models is the automatic cylinder deactivation feature, which allows the engine to run on four cylinders when off throttle or at various steady cruise situations; most buyes will match the bigger Hemi with the 66RFE automatic transmission. When paired with the Aisin A66RC automatic, it can run on four cylinders in PTO mode as well. The engine is also designed to deliver 250 pounds-feet of torque on the power takeoff, which will be available for either right- or left-side use.
From a durability standpoint, Mets said the stainless-steel exhaust system, sodium-filled exhaust valves and oversized oil cooler should also keep long-term costs down. The oil change interval for the gas engine is 10,000 miles.
Of special note to fleet buyers is a dual alternator option that can produce a total of 380 amps. The base alternator puts out 180 peak amps with a 220-amp upgrade available; the dual option adds a 160-amp unit. Dual alternator diesels are rated at 440 amps. Like other chassis cab engine options, the 6.4-liter V-8 carries a transferrable five-year/100,000-mile warranty.
Maximum available front gross axle weight rating for 4500 and 5500 diesels has increased to 7,250 pounds. The new base engine maximum front GAWR matches last year's 7,000-pound diesel rating.
If you are trying to stay below certain weight ratings with your truck, a new 3500 single-rear-wheel chassis cab model debuts for 2014. Exclusive features include the carryover 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 as an option and three new 18-inch-wheel choices (steel, chrome-clad steel or polished aluminum) depending on trim level.
In other 2014 3500 chassis cab news, four-wheel-drive models receive a new front axle disconnect system to help save fuel as well. The three-link front suspension along with all the other frame improvements introduced last year on 3500 retail pickups are now on all 3500 commercial chassis cab models. A new tire pressure monitoring system that displays all tire pressures on a dedicated gauge screen is available for both single- and dual-rear-wheel models - a first in the segment. Mets called it a "passive system" that doesn't trigger a warning light, so that operators will be able to adjust pressures based on their needs.
Finally, a new dual tank option for all models increases capacity to 74 gallons. Also, the 52-gallon standard tank can be deleted in favor of a midship-mounted 22-gallon tank.
Chassis cabs were not available for driving at the 2014 Ram media event; however, we did test a single-rear-wheel Ram 3500 crew cab pickup with the new 6.4-liter engine for a taste of what a sub-10,000-pound truck drive might be like. Those noncommercial rigs get the same 410-horsepower at 5,600 rpm ratings as all other pickups, while heavier models will get the down-rated 370-hp (at 4,600 rpm) 6.4-liter Hemi. Both, however, produce 429 pounds-feet of torque. To put it bluntly, we like this motor. The bigger Hemi definitely delivers a stronger pull, with a touch more smoothness at lower rpms. Over a variety of road conditions, which included choppy dirt roads, the three-link front suspension felt vastly improved and almost downright refined. Our test truck had a bed full of hay bales and carried the tall load with composure and control. We'll have a more in-depth assessment of various chassis cab models when we get the chance to sample the full line at a later date. But for now, this bodes well for the rest of the lineup.
To read the press release on the 2014 Ram 3500/4500/5500 Chassis Cabs, click here.
To review the specifications for the 2014 Ram 3500 HD Chassis Cab, click here.
To review the specifications for the 2014 Ram 4500/5500 HD Chassis Cabs, click here.