Ram 2500 pickup excels at heavy loads

 Set up for towing large loads, the Ram 2500 is the harder-working, heavier-hauling, heavy-duty pickup that is big brother to the standard-duty Ram, which is growing in popularity among American pickup drivers.

Driving the Ram 2500 pickup truck is not an ordinary experience. The brute can wear you out.

Maneuvering into a parking space in a doughnut-shop lot can become embarrassing for the backward/forward adjustments and realignments it requires. Climbing into the cab can be challenging for the bounce and upward hoist it demands. Nudging the burly hulk on snow at low speed when the truck’s four-wheel-drive system is engaged can be startling because of the pitching, grabbing and stuttering of the front wheels when they’re powered.

But of course, the Ram 2500 is not an ordinary pickup. It’s the heavier hauling, harder working, heftier treading pickup truck sold by Ram, the truck division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

“Your average mom and dad are not going to buy one,” stated Kevin Bihl, a manager at Haverhill’s Bill DeLuca Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram. “A regular driver doesn’t need that much power.”

Even if that average mom and dad occasionally tow recreational trailers carrying, say, a Sea-doo watercraft in the summer or a Ski-doo snowmobile in winter, “the Ram 1500 does the job,” Bihl noted.

The 1500 is the standard-duty pickup from Ram. It’s the Ram-truck version you see on our roads the vast, vast majority of the time.

And you’re seeing it more frequently, too. Last year the Ram pickup moved into second place in popularity among trucks sold in America, by outselling the Chevrolet Silverado for the first time in history.

The Ram 2500 is the big brother of the more common Ram 1500. And it is big. The 2500’s largest rear cargo box stretches eight feet in length and contains 75 cubic feet on inner volume. The 1500’s largest box, at a little over six feet long, contains 61 cubic feet. That’s about 23 percent less.

When fitted with a four-door, six-person crew cab, that big-bed 2500 is 18 inches longer than a comparable Ram 1500. Its ground clearance is about five inches higher.

That extra size explains all the back-and-forth jags and wiggles to get a Ram 2500 into a donut-shop parking space.

The least powerful engine in the Ram 2500 is a gasoline-fueled, 410-horsepower V8. It’s about 12 percent larger in size than the most powerful engine available in the Ram 1500, a V8 that puts out 395 horsepower.

The heavy-hauling Ram 2500 also can be purchased with a diesel-fueled, turbo-charged V8 engine that provides abundant pulling power for very large, heavy trailers.

Trailer towing is a primary task performed by the Ram 2500, stated Kevin Bihl of the DeLuca Ram dealership. But the optional diesel engine adds $9,100 to the truck’s price. That drives the price of a basic Ram 2500 equipped with all-wheel drive close to $50,000. With a gasoline V8, a basic Ram 2500 starts at $38,390 when equipped with four-wheel drive. (Although rear-drive 2500s are available from Ram, customers at DeLuca chose four-wheel drive exclusively, at a $2,900 add-on, Bihl said.)

And although the diesel-engine gives the truck maximum towing capability, the lower-priced gasoline engine is also quite capable, Bihl noted.

“The gas engine can do most things, so an average buyer doesn’t purchase the diesel engine,” he explained.

At DeLuca, gas-powered 2500s outsell diesel-engine models by about five to one, estimated Bihl. He manages the business development center for the Bill DeLuca family of dealerships. In addition to the Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram facility, the company operates Bill DeLuca Chevrolet Buick GMC in Haverhill, Bill DeLuca Chevrolet in Andover and Bill DeLuca Cadillac in Andover.

Consumers purchase the Ram 2500 when they have extraordinary towing needs, like big travel trailers for long-distance motor touring, Bihl explained. But mostly businesses choose the burly Ram model above the standard-duty Ram 1500. That includes companies that snowplow commercially, and landscaping outfits that tow utility trailers loaded with gang mowers.

Most often at DeLuca they choose mid-level models that include an ample amount of comfortable amenities, but not an abundance of advanced features. For example, at a list price of $53,045, the Ram 2500 Laramie with four-wheel drive, a four-door crew cab, and the shorter, six-foot, four-inch box instead of the eight-foot box, comes with a 10-speaker premium audio system and large touchscreen for controlling entertainment, communication and cabin features. It has front and rear parking sensors. Its drive system shifts from two- to four-wheel drive at the push of a button while in motion.

The model I evaluated a week ago was a top-level Ram 2500 Limited, with the diesel-engine option. A few other add-ons, such as distance-keeping, stop-and-go cruise control, front-collision warning with automatic breaking, and surround-view cameras, boosted its list price to $82,290.

Kevin Bihl pointed out that such luxury-laden high-end models are typically purchased for a company’s owner or high-level executives. It’s not just for their comfort, but also to give a good impression to clients or customers they may ferry about.

I wasn’t set up to do any heavy-load towing to test the 2500’s abilities in that category. But driving the big truck through a snowy, icy, slushy and slippery winter storm taught two valuable lessons.

First, during winter freeway runs, push-button shift-on-the-fly to four-wheel drive is a valuable safety resource. I was running the Ram 2500 on Interstate 93 through the storm, at an appropriate but elevated speed, operating in rear-wheel drive for the better fuel economy it gives. The Ram tracked with certainty. But when I reached a freeway section where I passed a trooper assisting a motorist who had skidded into the snow-filled median, I sensed ice on the road. I switched immediately to four-wheel drive, and the Ram tracked with certainty.

But around town when slush was kicking up and ice was coating surfaces, some of the upper-crust amenities lost to the weather.

The model had retracting running boards that folded under the truck when it was moving, and swung out to provide easy steps when the doors opened. Through the storm and in its aftermath, the running boards didn’t shed the slush that covered them. Stepping around them was more difficult than stepping into the truck without them would have been.

When ice built up on the front parking sensors low on the bumper, at crawling speeds they continually sounded the alarm as if the Ram 2500 was about the bump into something. When I cleared the ice, it reformed.

Those sorts of problems shouldn’t besmirch the Ram. Any vehicle with similar equipment would have encountered the same problems.

But the lesson still stands: Be careful, because no matter how advanced the technology, sooner or later the weather will beat it.

Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.  

2020 Ram 2500

Vehicle type: 2- and 4-door, 3- to 6-passenger, rear- and four-wheel-drive heavy-duty pickup truck

Price range: $38,390 to $66,295 (4WD models)

Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic warranty; 5 years/100,000 miles powertrain warranty

Base engine: 6.4-liter V8

Power: 410 horsepower at 5,600 rpm; 429 lb.-ft. torque at 4,000 rpm

Base transmission: 8-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 140 to 169 inches

Length: 232 to 261 inches

Width: 84 inches

Height: 78 inches

Fuel capacity: 28 to 32 gallons

 

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