Sunday, May 25, 2014

2014 RAM 2500 HEMI HD CREW CAB 4x4 V-8.Liter 6-4

Heavy-duty trucks are really judged by one thing and one thing alone: can it get the job done, and can it do it again. And again. And again. RAM, the truck and commercial division of Dodge, sought to upgrade the 2500’s capabilities in the new model year and have done so by offering a slew of upgrades, both under the hood and in the suspension.

New for 2014 is a five-link coil rear suspension, and a rear air suspension option which doesn’t negatively impact towing or payload. The air suspension offers automatic load leveling, which improves stability and ride even when towing large loads. RAM also proudly touts their unsurpassed powertrain warranty and extended maintenance cycles which make it cheaper to keep the RAM 2500 on the road.

With the 6.4-liter Hemi engine nestled between its fenders, the Ram 2500 has an entirely different personality than does its diesel analogue. Step hard on the accelerator in the 2500 Hemi, and the run to 60 mph takes 7.9 seconds; stay in it, and the quarter-mile mark arrives in 16.1 at 88 mph. (Note: Our test truck substituted a 4.11:1 rear end for the stock 3.73:1, a $125 option.) Although that’s 0.6 second better in the 0-to-60 and quarter-mile measures than the 2012 Ram 2500 diesel we last tested, it doesn’t tell the entire story. When it comes to motivating 7039 pounds of Ram truck, the gasoline Hemi is all hands on deck, working overtime to rush through its six-speed automatic transmission. Its diesel-powered sibling, however, goes about its business with conviction, working hard but never feeling stressed or short of muscle.

Deciphering tow ratings for pickups can be a gray area—the trailering tables for Ram’s HD pickups are 23 pages long—but checking the box for the aforementioned 4.10:1 rear axle increased the tow rating of our Ram 2500 Big Horn crew-cab 4x4 test truck to 15,500 pounds from the 12,500-pound figure quoted for the standard 3.73:1 axle. Tow ratings for the standard 5.7-liter gas engine check in at 11,060 pounds for the 3.73:1 axle and 13,060 pounds for the 4.10:1. Despite having nearly double the amount of torque on tap, the Cummins diesel with six-speed automatic combo in the Ram 2500 Big Horn crew-cab 4x4 ups the max tow figure to only 17,120 pounds. In that light, the eight-grand less-expensive 6.4-liter Hemi begins to make more sense, particularly for buyers who don’t tow on a daily basis. (Curiously, selecting the popular RamBox bed storage bins lowers the tow figure by a seemingly inconsequential 140 pounds in the 6.4-liter gas trucks and 110 pounds in the diesel.) Fuel economy is an equally close race: We averaged 11 mpg in the Ram 2500 Hemi compared with 12 mpg in the 2012 Ram 2500 diesel. A 2013 Ram 3500 dualie we tested last year averaged 13 mpg.

Until now, virtually every truck rated at three-quarter tons and higher employed rear leaf springs, technology almost as old as the wheel itself. Reliable and dumb-nuts simple, poor ride quality is the leaf spring’s enduring sore spot. To get a handle on it without compromising payload capability, Ram has outfitted the 2500 with a new five-link coil-spring rear suspension for 2014. We’re sure it’s a fine arrangement on its own merits, but our tester was outfitted with the also-new-for-2014 auto-leveling rear air suspension ($1595) that replaces the springs with airbags. So equipped, the 2500 Big Horn crew cab challenged our preconceived notions regarding the unladen ride quality of a heavy-duty truck. There’s no mistaking the giant Ram 2500 for a car, but the engineers have certainly taken some rough edges off the truck’s ride, particularly in regard to impact harshness.

Ease of maneuvering the 7039-pound Ram and reducing driver fatigue are top priorities for the truck’s hydraulic power steering, so attributes such as feedback and on-center feel are absent. Nonetheless, the big 2500 displays surprisingly good transient responses in town and tracks true on the highway, with one caveat: when the winds kick up, the truck wanders like a college dropout with a trust fund, requiring constant correction to stay on the path. Pressed hard on our 300-foot skidpad, the Ram 2500 pulled 0.70 g of lateral grip while exhibiting heavy understeer. Hauling the truck down to a stop from 70 mph consumed 202 feet, with the driver reporting no fade in repeated stops. “Pedal feel” is a relative term in the HD truck world, and the Ram 2500’s brake pedal gets the job done, but without distinction.

Cowboy Deluxe ,The Big Horn trim level of our test truck sits above the Tradesman and SLT in Ram truck hierarchy. Our example included the 22Z package ($1835), with steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, underhood illumination, Big Horn badging, and a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat. The Luxury Group package ($640) added, among other niceties, a heated steering wheel and seats, auto-dimming mirrors, and Ram’s trick, configurable seven-inch multiview screen in the instrument cluster. Checking the box for Chrysler’s familiar Uconnect system ($1005) brought an 8.4-inch touch screen, satellite radio, navigation, and multiple connectivity options.

So equipped, the 2500 crew cab’s interior is the same comfy place we’ve come to know and love in recent Ram trucks. Controls are within easy reach, storage is ample (dual glove boxes!), and dual rearview cameras (cargo view, $325, and backup, $200) made it easy to forget we were in a nearly 20-foot-long vehicle. But it was ready to work, with the Fifth-Wheel/Gooseneck Towing Prep group ($400), 220-amp alternator ($100), side steps ($600), LT275/70-18 on-/off-road tires ($200), a spray-in bedliner ($475), and finally, the Protection group ($100), which adds tow hooks and a transfer-case skid plate. By the time the Ram 2500 Big Horn cleared the ticket window, it was commanding an as-tested $52,600.

We’re impressed with how civilized the HD-truck segment has become over the past decade or so, but there’s still no getting around the fact that this 6.4-liter Hemi-powered Ram is a 3.5-ton rolling workhorse. There is a price to pay at the pump, regardless of which fossil fuel you choose to burn, and the choice between gas and diesel seems to heavy metal or you are rocking rolling you have the bridge captain HD haul piles of stuff most often behind or in your truck.

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