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Driven: 2009 Dodge Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Bluetec Page 2

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2009 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty

The engine is ever-present, if not always in sound, in harshness. The engine's percussive idle when cold settles to a loud, pulsing thrum when it's hot, but that takes some time. The floor shudders and vibrates as you hear the ripples of certain resonant frequencies come and go. And there isn't much else refined about it; the steering reminds us of how most pickups drove just 15 or 20 years ago and demonstrates how significant the recent changes in light-duty trucks have been.

In fact, the 2009 Dodge Ram 2500 reminds us through and through why we don't provide you with full reviews of heavy-duty trucks.

The Heavy Duty gets an entirely different instrument panel than the soft, refined, and well-designed one now used throughout the light-duty Ram 1500 lineup. It's quite the piece of hard-plastic real estate, with lots of hard edges and sloppy injection molding. If Chrysler sent us this one with so many jagged edges, you have to wonder. On the bright side, most of the controls are large and grippy enough for hands in work gloves, and it looks like it would clean up easily.

The cabin is vast, and accommodations are more than ample. The front seats are very generous—perhaps ideal for the obese as I had two inches on either side of my hips—and adjustable for a very wide range of driver sizes. In back, it's a bit tight in the Crew Cab for grownups; there's not quite enough legroom tall folks but kids will be comfy back there all day. The center console is large enough to store a laptop or a small toolbox, and the thinner upper compartment itself is probably large enough for a netbook.

A redesigned 2010 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty, which looks like it will have a much-improved interior, along with better handling and cues that bring it in line with the new 2009 Dodge Ram 1500, is still due later this fall.

Most of these trucks will probably be sold to ranchers, backcountry business owners, construction foreman, and people with really serious towing needs.

Let's not forget, many of these buyers want luxury features. Our test truck was equipped with both a navigation system and a rear DVD entertainment system that included a remote and wireless headphones. Our $55,200 test truck, the 2009 Dodge Ram 2500 Laramie Quad 4x4, started at $41,450, but it had a host of options, including the nav and DVD systems, upgraded audio, leather upholstery, and remote start, in addition to the upgraded powertrain. Surprisingly though, side-curtain bags are optional.

Heavy-duty engines like the Cummins Big-Rig Six, as we nicknamed this one in our weeklong drive, really wouldn't be that appealing in 'normal' pickups. For one, they aren't particularly fuel-efficient; we just cracked 10 mpg in ours (seven gallons over almost 75 miles of city driving). Though admittedly a gasoline engine capable of this type of work would be down in the single digits. Secondly, they aren't up to the standards of noise and vibration that most personal-use buyers expect.

Yet diesels are especially great for towing, hauling, and highway use, and they should be offered in more sensible forms in light-duty trucks. So why aren't they?

Unfortunately Chrysler has temporarily sidelined its Cummins light-duty diesel for the Dodge Ram 1500, General Motors has shelved its 4.5-liter Duramax diesel V-8, which was slated for the light-duty Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, and even Ford has cancelled the new 4.4-liter diesel V-8 that it was just short of launching early next year in the 2010 Ford F-150 (along with the most of its other full-size trucks).

The reason? Gas prices (until recently) had come down, lower than diesel, and with the economy as it is, automakers aren't sure that shoppers are really that willing to pay much extra for diesels.

Our time with the Ram 2500 proved yet again that heavy duty trucks don't work so well as personal or family transportation. They're just too ridiculously cumbersome—and a little scary. But a clean diesel in a light-duty pickup is a fuel-saving option that automakers certainly should reconsider.


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Comments (2)
  1. It's too bad the HD Rams are made in Mexico.
    Chrysler should have shut down that plant and moved the production to St. Louis instead of the other way around. Especially after taking all that taxpayer money to keep them afloat.
     
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  2. I happen to own this truck, and the steering is really, really good compared to other trucks, and light years ahead of the trucks of the 70's or even 80's, so I don't think you ever drove a truck from 20 years ago, if you did, you would have known the difference. I have driven Fords, Chevys and Dodges from the last 30 years, and this truck is a Cadillac compared to a 1980's 1-ton Chevy with a 3-speed manual or a 1989 Ford 1-ton flatbed. The Jake brake works best when you have a load, this truck is designed for loads, such as really heavy trailers. The Cummins Diesel engine actually came out in 2007, as a 2007.5 option, and is industry leading quiet, and in some ways as quiet as a gas engine in leading trucks of the same size. I agree the fit and finish is not as good as some trucks, but at least the truck is a real truck that hauls real loads and is not plagued by a independent front suspension, if you want a car, buy a car, don't expect your heavy duty truck to act like a car! This review reminds me of someone that has no idea what they are reviewing, it is like the sport bike rider complaining that the Harley Davidson makes too much noise and shakes too much, and not at all smooth like Suzuki or Yamaha street bike.
     
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