2019 Ram 2500/3500 First Drive: Going for the Beef

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Cars.com photos by Mark Williams

By Mark Williams

The big news for the heavily refreshed 2019 Ram 2500/3500 lineup is the 1,000 pounds-feet of torque from the all-new 6.7-liter Cummins inline-six-cylinder diesel engine. Although diesel options tend to dominate the heavy-duty class (Ford Super Duty trucks with Power Stroke turbo-diesels make up the majority of Ford's HD purchases; ditto for the Duramax in the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra HDs), the fact that the 2019 Ram HDs now have a new eight-speed transmission (complete with an exclusive rotary dial on the dash) paired with the standard 6.4-liter gas V-8 is interesting for a few reasons. First, more gears will likely mean better fuel economy. Second, lower 1st gear ratios means more pulling power when needed. Third, for the off-roading Ram 2500 Power Wagon, a lower 1st gear means a crawl ratio of approximately 51:1 (taking 1st gear times axle ratio times low range). Finally, the new knob gear selector creates quite a bit of open space around the center console.

Related: 2019 Ram 2500/3500 Video: Up Close With the Ram Experts

Also for 2019, the manual transmission has been discontinued as an option. The Ram HDs were the only full-size pickups to offer a manual transmission. Some will miss it, but these new HD pickups will be judged on how much improvement they deliver in the real world. Ram gave a small group of journalists an early opportunity to drive the snot out of several different configurations — a few of which had sizable trailers attached. 

Driving the Big Dually

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The first truck we drove was a Ram 3500 Longhorn 4x4 dually with the high-output Cummins and newly upgraded Aisin six-speed with 3.73:1 gears. The new grille has a strong and taller look with auto-turning headlights for better night visibility. This beast had a Big Tex gooseneck double-axle dump bed attached with eight 1,000-pound bags of gravel loaded in the cargo area, making for a total trailer weight of 16,500 pounds. The combination itself was pretty well balanced, with about 2,500 pounds resting on the bed's integrated ball. Fortunately, Ram engineers also updated the bed-mounted trailer chain cleats to accommodate the largest hooks that trailer manufacturers use on their biggest and heaviest trailers. Because there is no industry standard here, we've had issues with smallish bed loops and large chain hooks.

With a quick touch of the Tow/Haul switch at the bottom of the center console and tapping the exhaust brake control twice to activate Auto mode (it still offers three settings: off, on and Auto), we found the first few shifts firm and solid with better holding power on our steeper downhill runs. Of course, heading uphill with heavy throttle had us loving the sound of the new Cummins, which has a toned-down note but still offers a distinct sound — factory ratings for this new engine are 400 horsepower at 2,800 rpm and 1,000 pounds-feet of torque at 1,800 rpm.

Our drive route took us over some less-well-known Southern California coastal mountains then down into orchard and farmland just north of Los Angeles. The two-lane roads were narrow but also heavily traveled by semitrucks that use the route to haul quarry rock, so road construction (and width), for the most part, was not a problem. However, recent storm activity had brought culvert water and debris to the winding two-lane, so we did have to drop a tire or two into the dirt and rocks on some of the tighter switchbacks.

Our most used new feature for these circumstances was the Ram HDs' new split towing mirror that allows individual adjustment of the upper (standard) and lower (wide-angle) mirrors via separate switches inside. Added to the optional 360-degree camera view that allows a split screen and multiple rear-angle views with zooming options, there is almost nothing you can't watch around your trailer (Mopar even offers an extra camera hookup you can put at the back of your trailer or inside to keep an eye on your precious cargo).

Powertrain Performance

The upgraded six-speed transmission that pairs with the Cummins is a noticeable standout feature of the 2019 Ram HDs; it has much smoother takeoffs and shifts between 1st and 2nd gear, as well as 2nd and 3rd, even under hard throttle starts and pulls. It's an interesting choice to stick with a six-speed transmission when other manufacturers have eight- and 10-speed options, but Ram says its customers really the like the Cummins with the six-speed. During our drive time we experienced one situation when downshifting from 65 mph on the freeway, just coming off throttle into an off-ramp corner, where the transmission seemed to have some trouble with a relatively harsh 3rd-to-2nd shift (Tow/Haul on and exhaust brake set to Auto). We're not sure if the shifting weight of the gravel bags inside the trailer created some odd inputs or if the engine and transmission integration still needs one more fine-tune before signoff, but we'll circle back with Ram engineers on that and report back later.

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We also drove work-truck-oriented regular-cab Ram Tradesman and Big Horn models. Our Bright White no-frills Tradesman carried 25 8-foot logs stacked in the 8-foot bed for a total of 2,500 pounds of payload. Equipped with the Hemi V-8, which offers 410 hp at 5,600 rpm and 429 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm, the engine felt strong, even at the 4,000-foot elevation. The most impressive feature in this muscular combination was the new eight-speed transmission. The lower 1st-gear ratio (4.71:1) allows for a big pull off the line, something we weren't expecting with this much load in the bed. We were told there are 41 new algorithms in the transmission computer to allow for many more possible adjustment parameters, empty or loaded. Our only quibble here is it would have been nice if HD owners could select their own drive modes (if they want to), depending on the weather, road surface or load requirements. Another new feature we liked is the transmission's thumb-activated tap-up, tap-down manual control allows the driver to activate and then see on the instrument panel exactly when the transmission is shifting and what gear it is in at any moment. Ford has had that feature for a while, and GM won't have it on its 2020 models — we hope GM gets the hint.

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We also had the chance to drive a mainstream 2019 Ram 3500 Big Horn 4x4 with the gas engine, but hauling only 1,250 pounds of sandbags and bags of fresh horse-stall ground cover. Although the 3500 certainly feels heavier, it still was amazingly nimble and quick to respond to sharp steering and throttle inputs — not something you normally associate with a loaded HD pickup.

Seating in all the new test vehicles is quite respectable, especially in the Limited, but oddly enough our favorite was the one-ton Big Horn's denimlike cloth seats that provide plenty of lower back and side bolster support; they also seem quite durable. Our only complaint is that Ram did not upgrade HD cabins as it did with the redesigned 2019 Ram 1500, a strategy employed by Ford and GM. Essentially, all Ram HD cabs carry over from the previous generation, meaning they are the same size and shape with the same-sized storage bins and layout — so no massive moonroof in the upper trim level. Also, all Ram HD trim levels have only a tilt steering wheel with pedal and seat adjustments for fine-tuning the driver position; a telescoping adjustment isn't offered.

Although we didn't get a chance to try one on this drive, 2500s with the optional Cummins turbo-diesel will get the down-rated 370 hp and 850 pounds-feet of torque. One-ton models offer a choice between the two Cummins ratings, with the higher-output engine offering a 3.73:1 axle for single and dual rear wheels or the 4.10:1 axle for duallys only.

Power Wagon Upgrades

The last vehicle we drove was the revised Ram 2500 Power Wagon, which gets the same powertrain and frame upgrades as the rest of the HD lineup but also receives a few more exterior styling changes. Although many of the upgrades are less visible (like the stronger frame, less vibration in the cab and noise-canceling materials), the big changes come with a new transmission that delivers a much lower 1st gear, which will give this big off-roader even greater crawling abilities on steep, rocky trails. A low-range crawl ratio of 51:1 puts the Power Wagon's crawling abilities on par with the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. That borders on farm tractor capability, but now it's all controlled by a much smarter transmission computer with more gear options. The Power Wagon continues to offer a push-button front sway-bar disconnect and front and rear locking differentials for crazy ninja-like mountain climbing, but now it has a rotary dial gear selector. Add in the optional Uconnect 12-inch touchscreen and the interior is quite impressive.

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While many things contribute to the new Power Wagon's smoother, more powerful, more responsive and quieter ride, it's difficult not to give the new transmission much of the credit: The shifts are much smoother, almost seamless, even when downshifting. Further, even when running through a desert off-road park at a healthy speed in low range, there were none of the harsh noises or shock shifts we've come to expect from all HD 4x4s when running in 4-Low. There's no question, the Power Wagon was the favorite 2019 Ram HD of the day, given the ridges and hill climbs we conquered. Maybe that means we'll have to put it up against a few of its competitors as soon as we have a chance. And maybe that's what we need to do with a few other Ram HD versions as well. More to come for sure.

More From PickupTrucks.com:

2019 Ram 2500 Tradesman

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2019 Ram 3500 Big Horn

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Comments

Nice choice of trailers. Big Tex makes a premium trailer.


These updated Ram offerings do appear to have a good chance at taking more of the HD market. I think the new Gm HD's are mechanically a good product but the exterior styling might just be what keeps them in 3rd place of the HD market.

Ford will remain in 1st place like usual but with the least updated HD on the market will likely lose some market share.

Kudos to Fiat for being the first to 1K. At the minimum its a PR coup the other manufactures passed on/missed.

While 6 spd autos may be "good", viable, decent, adequate and the only ones that can presently handle 1K torque/the Cummins they are only 6 spds and in this arena its presently an 8 to 10 speed world. Fiats gonna have to spend some money and up that game.

Bummer to see the manual tranny go. But with the way most people are, the market, the money the logistics and the autos it was inevitable. More kudos to Fiat for hanging on as long as it did.

I know the rotary dial transmission control is looked down upon by most but it (or buttons) makes so much more sense than any lever or shifter. The opportunities for design and use of the space saved is HUGE and a vast improvement.

I think the New chevy HDs are in trouble between looks and interior. Look for the Fiat to take the lionshare of good press between the new models. The wildcard is where the older Ford will place. While old compared to its all new competitors it was very advanced when new and is again well. I look expect the Fiat HD help continue to close the gap and or pass chevy for the #2 spot in full size trucks.

Clint weighs in with his very objective analysis

In a market where the new Fords and Chevys in this segment all seem to be priced out of sight, the RAM folks offer a work truck with muscles. Kind of like....me

how much torque management in the lower gears?

Nice truck. Already having an issue with the 6 spd? Typical Fiat.....come one Ram.

Can't wait for the gasser comparison.

The diesel should also be very interesting. Especially since GM and Ford offer the 10 spd.

A lot of good points but I can't believe that they still only offer a 6-speed transmission on the diesel or that they stuck with the old cab on the HD models. In my opinion my diesel needs the extra gears more than my gas burners do.

I am glad this small grp of journalist comprised of people who drives and know trucks. Need to know how much coal I can roll with 1,000 ftlb of torque?
A competitor magazine did a comparison of the Taco, Ranger and Colorado, and mentioned the Ranger Fx4 and Colorado Z71 do not come with lockers, (both do, Ranger is electric and Colorado is the G80), they were so clueless on a lot of counts.

No reason not to be happy with a six speed in a diesel as long as its a good durable long lasting trans. The Cummins has loads of torque so the priority is making sure the trans will live with all that punishment.

Before I buy another HD I'd rather wait for the review of the 7.3 and 10 speed from Ford first. Yes I am a Ford man now!

"Ford has had that feature for a while, and GM won't have it on its 2020 models — we hope GM gets the hint."

Pretty typical. First, GM will go with an attack ad, pooh-poohing the need for tap-up and tap-down. Then, once again a few years behind the others, they'll offer this option. Just like heated steering wheel and other features.

@ Dale

There talking about what gear you are in on the speedometer. Ford came up with this a few years ago. It's a nice feature. i don't think it's a necessity. I could care less.

Every manufacturer follows each other...

So could I say, Ford is still trying to find a diesel engine that beats the Duramax?? because even though the 6.7L appears to be solid, it still can't beat it! PUTC has proven that year after year.

I will agree with you on GM's ads. The past few years they have been horrible. They need to go back to the Bob Seager "Like a Rock" videos. Those were awesome

If you want to know what gear you are in, just count as it shifts, Ha Ha
Don't worry about it, the Allison knows what gear is best

I like the White Single cab the best.

A shame the manual is no longer available in fullsize, not that you had many options to get one in the end, but still the end of a long chapter in American trucks. Almost as big a shame as seeing the dial shifter being staged as its replacement.

Has anyone else seen the new camo photos of the CUV that car mags are calling the Ford Bronco, two door, short wheelbase?

Scary. the opposite of viagara.

Has anyone else seen the new camo photos of the CUV that car mags are calling the Ford Bronco, two door, short wheelbase?

Scary. the opposite of viagara.


Posted by: papajim | Feb 28, 2019 10:09:38 PM

You talking about the PROTYPES?

Unlike the Mexican made joke Blazer, the Bronco will be a BOF RWD/4WD off-roading vehicle.

Nice truck. Already having an issue with the 6 spd? Typical Fiat.....come one Ram."
TNTGMC | Feb 28, 2019 11:34:09 PM

What year is your Ram?

@ hemi

I don't own any Ram. I have the most powerful V8 produced. And fastest one too! And its produced by the general.

Wrong....like usual

The 6.7L Scorpion V8 is much more powerful. And the 3.5L HO F150 Limited is quicker.

And TFL proved a 5.0L F150 is quicker than a 6.2L Sierra

And that’s the lighter 10spd Sierra too

a 5.0 beats a 6.2? (only in your dreams dude)

@uh huh

Please don't waste your time going to an ALL FORD all-the-time website looking for facts. They're still whining about the mess Ford made of the Ranger rollout and EPA fraud. PUTC has the unvarnished research and info buyers want.

TFL should be called The Ford Lane.

@ uh huh

If you read for comprehension. I said most powerful V8 and fastest too. Which means V8. Yes, the all new H.O. appears to beat the 6.2L. Congrats after 20 some years Ford finally gets job done all for around $75k.

And your power stroke might be more powerful....so it claims but it has gotten beaten for how many years straight?? Alteast 4 here on PUTC comparisons

And the TFL was a 2wd truck. Now, I know from your comment you drive a car. Terrible.

I drive the most power V-6 in the 1/2 ton market

@ turbo

I'll take the V8 over V6. Love the sound and durability.

But hey, if u like your trucks to sound like weed walkers when u drive by...🤣😂🤣

But Ford has the fake V8 sound coming through your speaker system. Just crank that up to 10 baby👍

Wackers

@Full Size_only

"i am sure he is just being the typical gm shill who is quick to call a gm truck losing as being fake"

Nothing different than all of the Ford shills do here, I think most of us enjoy the banter. Papajim will often make a stronger case for his points than we see from many of the other shills. Regardless, when shills on either side make good points, I enjoy reading them.

@Texas

"Nothing different than all of the Ford shills do here, I think most of us enjoy the banter.
Posted by: Texas1836 | Mar 1, 2019 9:13:07 AM"

I agree, the back and forth between brand shills has to be the reason we keep coming back to this site even when some here do bring informative truck comments while others just lack any truck knowledge.

For papajim to insinuate TFL should have Ford in it just flat out reeks of childish "if my favorite didn't win then its fake" especially when other comparisons have shown a Gm win. That's why i chuckled when i read his comment this morning.

@fullsize

when you go after someone on this site prepare to be pursued as well. your comments are barely readable. try writing for comprehension now and then.


@papajim


"@fullsize

when you go after someone on this site prepare to be pursued as well. your comments are barely readable. try writing for comprehension now and then.
Posted by: papajim | Mar 1, 2019 10:59:32 AM"


My apologizes grammar professor and by the way, you are suppose to capitalize the first letter of a sentence. Somehow you missed that 3 times....

a 5.0 beats a 6.2? (only in your dreams dude)

@uh huh

Please don't waste your time going to an ALL FORD all-the-time website looking for facts. They're still whining about the mess Ford made of the Ranger rollout and EPA fraud. PUTC has the unvarnished research and info buyers want.

TFL should be called The Ford Lane.


Posted by: papajim | Mar 1, 2019 6:31:23 AM

How would you know whether or not TFL is whining about the Ranger? Unless you “ waste your time going there “ , you would have no idea as to what or what not TFL is talking about.

“ 2019 World’s Toughest Truck Drag Race – V8 Edition “

5.0L F150 BEATS the 6.2L Sierra

https://www.tfltruck.com/2018/11/2019-worlds-toughest-truck-drag-race-v8-edition/

If this is “ in my dreams “, then it’s your nightmare

spelling and punctuation are hard and fast rules of decent composition.

For questions about the proper use of language in a setting like the comments section here at PUTC, please refer to The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. It's about 100 years old, although revisions are available with later dates.

Strunk and White have noted that some rules are a bit fluid, such as the one you made reference to (above). If you can find that my comments fell short of Strunk and White's book, please let me know.

@uh huh

recent drag races hosted by FTL showed the Ford truck jumping the light big-time. They recorded the results anyway. Zero cred.

https://youtu.be/A2vD3mMrZbY

Most fuel efficient V8 on road.

The EcoBoost was a full 1 mpg less than the mighty V8 from GM

@ uh huh

Again you're comparing a 2wd truck to a 4wd truck

If they are both 4wd trucks
5.0L does it in 5.9 secs
6.2L does it in 5.4 secs

The 6.2L bears by half sec.

Here is proof!!!

https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/a16420807/2018-ford-f-150-50l-v-8-4x4-supercrew-review/

https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/a24851287/2019-chevy-silverado-pickup-high-country-by-the-numbers/

Know what your talking about

Facts.

@ papajim

The above articles prove without a doubt the 5.0L configured the same as 6.2L. It's no match

He drives a car and doesn't understand trucks.. just wants to argue like a spoiled child who doesn't know any better.

@uh huh

recent drag races hosted by FTL showed the Ford truck jumping the light big-time. They recorded the results anyway. Zero cred.


Posted by: papajim | Mar 1, 2019 1:08:46 PM

Prove it. Especially try proving it when there is no “ Christmas Tree “.

@ TNTGMC

So are you denying that the 5.0L F150 in that test didn’t beat the 6.2L Sierra?

@ hemi

I don't own any Ram. I have the most powerful V8 produced. And fastest one too! And its produced by the general.


Posted by: TNTGMC | Feb 28, 2019 11:54:56 PM

Thats what i thought. lol

@ uh huh

Again, it's not an apples to apples comparison. And yes the Ford jumps

Read the above articles.. I am correct 😂🤣😀

@ Hemi

Why would I buy an inferior truck. My 6.2L is superior to a hemi 5.7L or 6.4L in every way!

Do you own a Ram
Thank you! Have a great day

He drives a car and doesn't understand trucks

@tntgmc

Sounds like most of the guys who write about trucks at C&D, Road/Track, Motor Trend, Consumer Reports, etc.

Sorry you GM T ROLLS.

The fastest V8 1/2 ton is a 2WD 5.0L F150.

He drives a car and doesn't understand trucks

@tntgmc

Sounds like most of the guys who write about trucks at C&D, Road/Track, Motor Trend, Consumer Reports, etc.


Posted by: papajim | Mar 1, 2019 1:37:06 PM

Quite comical as your GM cohort TNTGMC quotes C&D

You guys are idiots

@ uh huh...aka Frank

Sorry. Above articles prove otherwise

Above TFL proves that:

1. Ford jumps
2. Not comparing same trucks

And I'm not a fan of 2wd trucks, just bc here in midwest, you gotta have a 4wd in the winter months

Now in southern states I can see the point.

@ uh huh

Can u have a conversation without insulting?

You're quite comical Frank.

Why don't u use just one name.

And quoting any magazine for 0 to 60 times just proves I'm right and you're wrong. I could care less what the critics say about the truck

I want the performance side of it. The subjective part is my own opinion driving it.

Now have a great day.

Being different trucks is irrelevant to the fact a 2WD 5.0L F150 is quicker than a 6.2L GM truck.

If one wants the quickest 1/2ton...they have a choice. And it’s between a 2WD and 4WD Ford.

2WD 5.0L F150

4WD 3.5L HO F150 Limited

@ uh huh

Frank u believe what u want. You're always right even when you're wrong......no wonder why u have 5 different names on the site. Gotta cover up your mistakes and the fact u don't drive a truck

There has to be a mustang, Taurus, fusion, or focus forum u could go blog in....

There’s video proof of a 3.5L HO LIMITED over at Truck Trend beating all comers.

And at TFL there’s video proof of a 2WD 5.0L beating a 6.2L Sierra

Yet you deny both.

@ uh huh Frank

I said fastest and most powerful V8.

The 5.0L jumped....and it's not as powerful

The H.O. is quicker, so far, I agree with that, but let's add GMs performance parts like I have on my truck.

Plus I've talked about price difference. Every limited truck has been reviewed at $75k. U can get a 6.2L in LTZ or SLT form in the mid $40s. That's a huge difference.

Also it's been over 20 years since Ford has had a half ton beat GM...congrats. Took them long enough. Good job!👏👏

The 3.5L HO F150 Limited beat the 6.2L GM off road performance pkg equipped truck at Truck Trend.



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