Based on the new-for-'09 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup, the burly tow/haul monsters finally bring a true crew cab to the Dodge Ram HD domain. The crew cab is said to be the highest-volume segment of the heavy-duty pickup arena (approx. 50 percent of HD pickup sales). Regular cab and Mega Cab models will be offered, as will two box sizes (6'4" or 8' even), and five distinct trim levels (ST, SLT, TRX, Laramie, and Power Wagon).
Most of the exterior carries over from the handsome 1500 model such as the front fenders and headlamps, but concessions to industrial-grade duties necessitated a few more pronounced big-rig cues. The grille is taller for greater cooling capacity, widened rear fenders house an extra pair of wheels on dually models, and a unique front bumper design accomodates a winch or two hooks on models so equipped. The taller grille is filled with either black or silver center bullets (depending upon model), and features either a chrome or a body color surround. A unique tailgate aids aerodynamics with an integrated spoiler in the upper sheetmetal.
Previous generations of the Ram helped make the Cummins turbodiesel inline six insanely popular with the towing/hauling crowd: Dodge claims that the take rate on that engine in the HD line is over 90 perecent. So, you diesel aficionados, bask in the optional 6.7-liter Cummins six with its gasoline-like 350 hp and earth mover-like 650 lb-ft torque (at just 1,500 rpm). Standard equipment with the Cummins is a trailer brake (fun for waking up the neighbors). And so confident is Dodge in the reliability of the stout inline six that it promises life-to-major overhaul intervals of 350,000 miles as long as the 7,500 oil-change intervals are observed. And as all new diesels must, this unit passes 50-state emissions regulations with a diesel particulate filter (DPF) to virtually eliminate particulate matter emissions and an absorber catalyst to reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx) by as much as 90 percent. As such, the Ram HD diesel meets 2010.5 emissions regs.
Standard in the HD line is Dodge's excellent HEMI 5.7-liter V-8, which received variable-valve timing, an increased compression ratio, an active intake manifold, and less restrictive exhaust and intake systems to yield 383 hp and 400 lb-ft torque for 2009.
Transmissions for the 6.7-liter Cummins are either a G56 six-speed manual or a 68RFE six-speed automatic. The manual features an ultra-low creeper first gear for heavy hauling, and the six-speed auto features Electronic Range Select (enabling the driver to manually limit the highest gear available) and a dedicated tow/haul mode. The 5.7-liter HEMI comes with a heavy-duty 545RFE five-speed automatic with automatic downshifting on deceleration and the aforementioned Electronic Range Select. For off-roaders, two 4X4 transfer cases are available (a manual and an electric shift-on-the-fly), as are four different axle ratios depending upon equipment level.
Last, but far from least in this rig's repertoire, are the herculean towing and hauling capacities of the new Dodge Ram HD pickups. Let's just say they go from impressive to insane. A hydro-formed, fully boxed frame with increased torsional rigidity and stiffness provides the backbone for a coil-sprung front suspension; departing from its 1500 brethren, the Ram HD uses a tried-and-true multi-leaf spring with a live axle in the rear for industrial duty.
Topping out the range is the Ram 3500 HD Cummins turbodiesel 4X4 with dually wheels; with a 4.10 rear axle ratio, it manages a Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of 25,400 lbs (24,000 GCWR for the 4X2). Broken down, this means a max towing capacity of 18,500 lbs. and a max payload of 5,110 lbs. Elsewhere, increased front axle ratings allow for the abuse meted out by things like heavier snowplow attachments.
All of this towing and hauling is sure to burn through a few hydrocarbons; helping offset that reality for fleet purchasers is a B20 (20 percent biodiesel) option for the Ram HD Cummins turbodiesel. Sale date for the Ram HD lineup is this fall.