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

Show me the link. I searched for video and I couldn't find it

Thanks.

Plus, look at the price difference.

https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/comparison-test/a22984237/2019-ford-f-150-vs-chevrolet-silverado-vs-ram-1500-pickup/

Here is another article. Didn't have performance parts on it. And price difference was over $7k. Base price $15k. And u can still get it in lower price LTZ form.

So .3secs. For $20k. That's absurd

http://www.trucktrend.com/truck-of-the-year/1812-pickup-truck-of-the-year-contender-2019-gmc-sierra-1500-ptoty19/

Never mind. Found it and it was on the AT4 truck. Not the Denali. Would have been nice to see it on the Denali.

More of an apples to apples bc the Limited is it's competition

I am one that will miss manual transmissions. I understand why manuals are going away but I prefer manuals. With a few midsize trucks that offer manuals in a base or work trim manuals for the most part are gone. Also true for cars as well. Kudos for Ram for being the last t offer manuals in HD but automatics only was inevitable. If Ram doesn't take the No. 2 spot from Chevy it will come very close. Ram is the brand to watch. I don't have a dog in this fight but I would like to see Ram take the No. 2 spot.

If Ram doesn't take the No. 2 spot from Chevy it will come very close

@Jeff

RAM had a great sales total in February, they published the numbers yesterday, but they had to throw a record amount of cash on the hood to do it. In fact, their trick was they incented dealers using a special program to get the dealer service departments to stock up on RAM pickups to be used as loaners for people dropping off their cars/trucks. That's the bottom of the barrel in autos. Once you've filled that niche it means there's very little left in the way of customer demand. RAM even promised the dealers yet more money for the disposition of those trucks when they retire from service department chores.

https://www.autonews.com/sales/behind-rams-big-month-7500-payout-dealers-buy

here's the news story about RAM's desperate attempt to catch GM

I have noticed that Ram has been very aggressive in their attempt to move to #2. This is a good time for them to capture as much as they can in sales to help them attain #2, as GM is only producing somewhere around 60% of their capacity as a result of the model switch-over. If I were only basing a truck purchase decision on looks, the Ram might tempt me.

No question about it.

They lead on features, looks, styling--by a mile, and ergonomics.

Someone who had no previous experience with flimsy (RAM, Dodge, Chrysler) quality in past seasons with these guys would hands-down buy the RAM. Their mild hybrid system in the base truck is very attractive too.
Only if one looks at reputation for customer satisfaction and experience with the dealerships, would they have second thoughts.

Papajim doesn't quite understand what a power train mule is.

but I suppose you're gonna tell us.

Maybe Ram is doing what is necessary to get more market share. As long as dealers don't get too many trucks to where Ram has to find places to park its excess production. This could be a repeat of Chrysler during 1979 when Chrysler kept producing cars beyond what the dealers would take. There were some sizable discounts on Chrysler products but even with the discounts the inventory of Chrysler, Dodges, and Plymouths kept piling up. I remember this well during the Summer of 1979 and after this it was Iacocca getting a Government loan to keep Chrysler afloat. FCA will be increasing its capacity to build the new Wagoneer and to expand production of the Durango.

Maybe Ram is doing what is necessary to get more market share

@jeff s

there's a name for it Jeff---it's called 'buying' business. They buying cars for people and they're calling it "selling." Their job is to SELL cars, not buy them.

They are giving money to dealers so that the dealers can "give" a car to customers when their cars are in the shop for service. This is something they can do once. Mercedes did it back in the summer of 2008 and basically forced their dealers to buy C300 sedans for service dept. loaners.

Not good. Nobody is fooled by this stuff---except you

@papajim--There you go again with your insults. This is your way of putting others down and bullying them. Ram is attempting to gain market share otherwise why bother to make more trucks. I understand the strategy but understanding and believing that that strategy will work are two different things. In your put down of me you never acknowledged my concern of FCA repeating the mistakes of Chrysler in 1979 with overproduction.

You are insulting and go at every chance to put others down who do not 100% agree with you You have actually convinced me to never buy another GM product. You even said GM doesn't need my business and doesn't care. At some point I will buy another new vehicle or maybe a preowned one but since you said GM doesn't need my business then maybe my business is detrimental to GM. On and off for almost 50 years I have owned a GM product. I am routing for Ram because I want to see them succeed and become real competition. Unlike you who is totally biased competition improves all manufacturers even GM. Ram needs to work on their reliability to succeed. You are more concerned with the stock price and earnings per share of the auto manufacturer when you buy a vehicle. I am concerned that the vehicle fits my needs, is reliable, and that I like it.

the FAKE Jeff again. They must have the day off today at the Sheep Ranch

@papajim--If I really don't like a vehicle no amount of insults and bullying will get me to buy it. Texas1836 uses a rational reason to why he likes what he likes without tearing a particular brand down. If you have a bad experience with a particular brand then you are not likely to buy that brand again--I respect that. It is not a crime to admit that you like certain features of a particular brand but say that you will not buy it because of past experience--that is being honest without maligning an individual or a brand.

@papajim--The real Jeff. You are insulting and a bully.

@papajim--Again the insults with the sheep ranch. Not from Australia but I don't insult others by calling them sheep. If anything you are the GM sheep you will go to every means available to defend GM regardless. Pathetic that someone who feels powerless has to revert to insults to feel powerful.

you are the GM sheep, you will go to every means available to defend GM regardless

@the fake jeff

You are responding to a comment I made about a story in the news this week. RAM/FCA has done some bogus stuff regarding its sales figures.

GM was not mentioned in the news story nor by me. Catch your breath dude.

part 2 in case you aren't familiar sheep farming is a big activity in New Zealand and Australia. My references to sheep ranches come in regard to the complete exit of automakers from those regions, despite all of the noise we hear from BAFO and Robt Ryan. Their auto industry today is zero. Thus, all those workers went somewhere and I'm guessing many of their are trading in their wrenches and drill presses for chaps and saddles.

I'm guessing many of THEM are trading in their wrenches and drill presses for chaps and saddles.

EDIT

@papajim--I doubt most of the auto workers are now sheep ranchers. There is no defense for what you said. One thing to bring up a news story another thing to call someone a fool.

@papajim--Do you know why GM and Ford are no longer making vehicles in Australia? Australia stopped subsidizing both. Have you ever thought that maybe it was not worth subsidizing both just for the promise to keep some jobs which could be lost anyway. Canada should have done the same thing and if GM, Ford, or FCA asks for the US Taxpayers to bail them out then let them leave as well. Eventually GM, Ford, and FCA will all import Chinese made vehicles (GM already is) and continued subsidies and bailouts is not going to prevent that from happening. Government should not subsidize any business which is a lot like giving drugs to addicts.

Government should not subsidize any business---agree

So Jeff. You've called me names, and you've covered every story except mine.

What do you make of RAM/FCA trying to incentivize their dealers to boost February's monthly sales to make their sales figures look better even if it meant that FCA was GIVING money to the dealers to make it happen? That's the question.

Please respond with something substantive instead of name calling.

@papajim--I don't agree with this particular practice of Ram's but I don't agree with all of what Barra and the Board are doing with GM, or all of what Ford is doing as well. I answered your question you never answered mine about the stockpile of new Chrysler vehicles during 1979 and concerns that FCA could do this again. Again you didn't even acknowledge that. Not a lot you or I can do about it. I will not be buying an FCA or GM product again but I might buy a new or preowned Ford or Lincoln in the future (more likely a Lincoln). As you have said GM doesn't need my business and I like Lincolns better than Cadillacs. If I were to buy a half ton full size pickup I would probably buy an F-150 because the deals seem to be better and those I know who own them have had good service out of them. I might buy a Honda or Toyota it just depends on the vehicle and if I like it. I like our CRV a lot and would definitely buy another Honda.

@papajim--I didn't call you names I said that you insult and put others down. That is not name calling. Anyone that doesn't agree with you 100% you attack. Everyone on this site has their own reasons for why they like a particular brand and if you have to resort to name calling and attacking then you have lost any credibility you ever had. I don't have to agree with someone to respect them and I am not going to attack them for what they drive and where they live (yes you have made it clear that you don't like where I live). Where someone lives or what they drive is their own business and this is not an appropriate forum in which to attach them.

@Jeff

You just used 400 words to say that, basically, you are way too hardheaded to admit that the comment I made 24 hours ago about RAM's bogus incentives was just too much for you to handle.

They jived the February sales numbers---at considerable expense---just because they could.

Now what do they do? The RAM dealers will have to struggle through March and April with too much inventory just so RAM could make a February month-end announcement that will lay an egg because GM doesn't report till the end of the First Quarter.

Cool down papa don't you blow your top.

Don't you know you're driving people away from the GM brand?

Quit with your bully tactics or more will leave the GM brand.

BAFO has created yet another ID to use on PUTC.

Bully tactics? The biggest faker and tr*ll who ever commented here is back with another effort to divide and annoy people.

@ papajim --Again I answered your question and you evaded mine. This is typical papajim malign and then proceed to shred someone. I am glad I have never met you because I would not want to do something I would regret..Just a bored old man who takes joy in attacking others.

@AJ--Absolutely. Papajim has convinced me not to ever buy another GM. Maybe this is his strategy but I believe he is more a a bully.

@papajim--Apparently you have trouble reading my comments I don't care what Ram does and I no longer care what GM does. Both brands are dead to me. You have convinced me not to ever buy another GM product. Are you satisfied now.

Are you satisfied now.
Posted by: Jeff sis | Mar 4, 2019

No. Just like Muddy Waters---I can't be satisfied

@papajim--No you are never satisfied until you put someone down. You want to be right so much that you will bully people into what you believe. I said that I don't agree with the strategy that Ram is doing but as you have said about my opinions about GM that I don't know anything so why does it matter to you. If anything you have totally convinced me never to buy a GM product because I associate GM with you. GM just had a 5% drop in sales for February which I would not even bring up but now I am glad that they lost sales. I would like to see them lose some more sales.

There are no February figures for either Ford or GM---what are you smoking? RAM pickups had a solid February but they used some (enhancements?) gimmicks to make it happen.

You'll know what Ford and GM did for Q1 in a few weeks.

In the meantime consider getting some help. Your tone sounds a little sketchy, frankly.

@papajim--Again you are referring to drugs. Do you miss taking them because drug use seems to come up in many of your discussions.

An estimate but below is the link. It sure isn't the big increase in GM sales that you brag about.

https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2019/03/february-sales-freeze-most-brands-out-in-the-cold-last-month/#more-1664140

@Jeff

Despite the fact that the president's poll numbers remain steady, and the economy continues to grow, both on Wall Street and main street---there are many in the media that are making every effort to talk-down the US economy.

It must be especially galling for them because these are many of the same folks who broke-out the confetti and hired the marching bands every time the Obama economy managed to crack seasonally adjusted 2 percent GDP.

Nowdays the EU is barely breathing, China's having some soft financial reports---and it even appears that they'll be forced to adjust to Mike Pompeo's (and Larry Kudlow's) efforts to make them accept the White House's latest trade terms. The stronger dollar keeps unleaded gas under 3 bucks in most parts of the country and has not dimmed the energy in US stocks that much.

FCA and GM seem to be making some moves in the way of new products & ideas. In a few weeks we'll see the latest figures from the big 3 and you can be sure that CNN and the Wall Street whiners will be forced to admit that Q1 is not as bad as they'd hoped.

@papajim--The link I gave you is not CNN or the traditional media, it is a car site Yes they are projections but their projections are very accurate.

@papajim--The main issue with China is theft of intellectual property and patents. The price of admission in selling in the Chinese market is that a company has to partner with a Chinese company. Once you partner with a Chinese company that company will use your designs and patents and make their own versions of the product with a slight design change and name change. Chery automotive has had making Chevrolets for GM for the Chinese market for a number of years and has been copying specific Chevy models changing the name enough but still similar to the Chevy model. Chery has produced a knockoff of the Colorado that is

their projections are very accurate
Posted by: Jeff s | Mar 5, 2019

Please cite specific examples of their accuracy. As for me I'll wait till the automakers release their fully audited financials instead of relying on some clown on the web.

The hokey story about IP theft is minimally of importance in autos. It's more of a telecom and IT story.

When a company like Nissan can make money selling the Frontier using 20 year old technology, it's obvious that IP is hardly the big issue in autos, Chinese or otherwise.

The China story during the last two years is about making them bend on the N. Korea issue, and making them left their ridiculous tariffs on US goods, which appears to be coming.

close except it has a smaller engine and lacks many features that Colorado has. There is even a Chinese knockoff of an F-150 with a small 4 cylinder I can't remember its exact name but it could be Furd--this is no joke. The Chinese have done this as well with Apple products. The Chinese Government might agree to stop these unfair practices but in practice turn their heads away and pretend they didn't know about them. Agree we will come to an agreement with China and it might be the best agreement we can come up with but don't rely on China sticking to their end of the bargain and I say this regardless of who is President. I admit I buy my fair share of Chinese made products but if you have a computer, smart phone, watch, small appliance you can't avoid buying Chinese unless you go to a thrift shop and find something older still made in the USA. My 3 year old rear engine Troy Bilt riding mower has a Chinese made OHV engine.

@papajim--Many of the writers on this site are former auto manufacturer employees and I am not talking about line workers but marketing and planning. Maybe 5.3 % decline is projected and either the actual projection is slightly more or less. Their projections are not just based on Chevrolet and GMC trucks but sales of all GM products including slower selling sedans like the LaCrosse, Impala, Malibu, and Cruze. What the projections say is that GM and Ford sales were down. The numbers are not drawn out of a hat but have some basis. These writers eat, sleep, and live cars, trucks and anything with an engine on wheels.

@papajim--It is an issue when a Chinese company copies your best selling and newest product. Do you believe that Ford wants a Chinese knockoff competing against their F-150? Chinese are not interested in copying a Frontier they can easily get that. When they copy one of best selling products in a market that you are selling in and yes even if it only is in China. North Korea is one of the major issues.

Chinese are not interested in copying a Frontier they can easily get that

@Jeff S

Did they tell you that or are you guessing?

@Jeff

Re: GM and Ford sales numbers. Let's wait till the audited numbers are out.

American media companies are rather unreliable these days when it comes to reporting on the economy and politics.

It's just a few weeks. Then at least we'll have accurate numbers.

@papajim--I don't have an issue waiting for the sales numbers.

@papajim--Why would the Chinese be interested in copying a Frontier when their own brands like Great Wall of China or a generation ahead of the Frontier? If you are going to copy a truck why would you copy the least advanced one? Didn't I just say the F-150 and Colorado are the ones being copied? MIght as well copy a Yugo if that is the case. All the Chinese need to do to copy a Frontier is buy a used one, not worth the effort.

I take that back the Chinese probably already have the service manual on the Frontier. It is probably printed in China. The Chinese didn't"t even have to buy an F-150 they hacked into Ford's server and got the design. I doubt the Chinese are interested in a antiquated truck they already have the design.



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