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The interior of the Ram HD is loaded with luxurious features found in high-end vehicles, isolating the driver from exterior noise.
LAS VEGAS — If you’re old enough to remember the first Cummins-powered Ram, I’ll wager the overwhelming memory is noise. Lots of noise. Ground-pounding, ear-shattering noise.
You could hear it coming for miles and inside the truck, conversation below a shout was near-impossible.
That was back in 1989, and its “stump-pulling” torque was less than 500 lb.-ft., a power level finally attained in 2001. That thing could haul, uh... donkey, as I recall. These were work trucks with few driver comfort features.
As torque wars escalated between Ram, Ford and GM, the Cummins torque rating hit 850 lb.-ft. in 2013, and tow rating rose accordingly.
Now, the 2019 Ram heavy duty is rated at 1,000 lb.-ft. and 400 horsepower. It will pull all manner of equipment, it will haul, uh... donkey and it will probably pull a forest of stumps. If it’s the Power Wagon, it will simply crawl over those stumps or most anything else.
Quietly. And elegantly.
Those are just two of the qualities immediately evident when driving the new Ram 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty trucks: effortless towing and sedan-quality silence in the cabin.
Offered in regular cab, crew and Mega Cab, the base engine is a 6.4-litre Hemi V-8 gas engine rated at 410 horsepower and 429 lb.-ft. of torque.
For the first time, it gets an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The optional Cummins in-line six-cylinder 6.7-litre turbo-diesel has two versions: 370 horsepower and 850 lb.-ft. of torque on both Ram 2500 and 3500, and the high-output monster that pumps out 400 horsepower and 1,000 lb.-ft. of torque. You can only get it on the 3500 — in single- or dual-wheel versions. Both use a six-speed automatic to handle the shift work.
First impression? Migawd, it’s big. The grille is taller and more upright to accommodate a larger radiator. The frame and axles are stronger and the brakes are better.
Once I’ve climbed inside a 3500 Mega Cab dually in Limited livery, I discover a cabin much like the Ram 1500: high-quality finishes, heated leather seats and the latest Uconnect system. It also features easy-to-read gauges and a cavernous centre console. And there’s a bonus — the convex part of the towing mirrors is now power adjustable.
There’s plenty of room for five, but the rear seats fold to provide a flat-load floor in the rear of the cab.
We left Sin City to spend the day in the past — at the historic Eldorado Canyon Mine site where we pulled trailers and went on an off-road run in the wilds of the Nevada desert behind the wheel of the new Power Wagon.
You can’t say the Mega Cab’s hand-ling is nimble, but steering is communicative and well-weighted. The ride is far smoother and quieter than I expected — on par with a full-size SUV actually.
When we get to the mine site (which is best described as odd), we find trucks already hooked up for trailer testing.
They were a regular cab Tradesman 3500 with a flatbed trailer loaded to 35,100 pounds, a 3500 Longhorn with 11,000-pound horse trailer, a Ram 3500 with a 12,400-pound travel trailer and a Laramie with flatbed trailer loaded with 10,150 pounds of concrete blocks.
Towing in each case was seemingly effortless, even on an uphill grade. And going downhill was a breeze with Ram’s outstanding exhaust brake.
The test setup points out the importance of choosing a truck suited to your needs. Only the 3500 regular-cab 4x2 will yank 35,100 pounds. The low end of the scale is the Power Wagon, which has a max of 10,600 pounds. But then, it’s more of an off-road monster.
I did get to try Ram’s newest trick for making hooking up a trailer less of a spectator sport: the rear air suspension now has driver activation for bed-lowering, normal/payload mode and trailer-tow mode.
It’s especially effective with a goose-neck setup, but also works for a travel trailer.
Combined with the surround-view camera with trailer-reverse guidance view, all you do is lower the suspension, back up to the goose neck (or over the travel trailer hitch), raise the suspension, do the hookups and you’re gone.
As for the Power Wagon, it’s extremely capable, with all kinds of tricks to handle driving over some desolate, inhospitable ground without beating up its occupants.
Base pricing starts at $57,995 for the Tradesman 2500 Regular Cab 4x2 and runs up to $82,495 for the Crew Cab Limited 4x4.
The optional 6.7-litre diesel adds $9,450, while the high-output 6.7-litre diesel adds $11,950.
Harry Pegg / Winnipeg Free Press
The 2019 Ram HD is the latest model to tackle the competitive heavy-duty pickup truck market. Featuring opulent interior choices and powertrains able to tow as much as 35,100 pounds, the Ram HD lives up to its name.