Review: 2010 Ram 2500 HD Laramie Crew Cab 4×4
By Chris Haak
Welcome to tractor trailer driver fantasy camp, known in some circles as the new Ram 2500 HD Laramie Crew Cab 4×4. Driving the new Ram HD trully makes one feel like the king of the road. It also makes you feel like driving a nearly four-ton truck (over four tons with passengers, let alone cargo) just might be overkill unless you really need something with its capabilities.
But back to the tractor trailer thing: the Ram has a miniature version of the engine in over-the-road tractors, has a diesel exhaust brake, 9600-pound GVW rating, an eight foot long box, and stands about a head taller than nearly any vehicle on the road, save those big rigs. But even their drivers are nearly at eye level to the Ram’s driver. And though the Ram’s styling has been toned down a bit (and is more familiar, with hundreds of thousands of them on the road) from the original 1994 “big rig” Ram pickup, it still looks like a cross between a Charger sedan and a semi. I haven’t even mentioned the sound effects that the big Cummins six cylinder turbodiesel makes.
I’ve driven many, many half-ton pickups over the years, but it’s been some time since I’ve driven a three quarter ton or heavier truck. It’s not really that much bigger than a half ton truck, but long box crew cabs are a rare breed in half tons; you don’t even see many HDs with long boxes these days, except for the serious haulers (this configuration is the longest Ram sold today). The biggest differences from a gasoline V8-powered light-duty pickup are ride quality (particularly when unladen), ride height, and acceleration.
The Cummins turbo diesel engine is a popular engine among buyers of heavy-duty pickups. It comes from a company that has been building diesels for much larger trucks for nearly a century. It also puts out some impressive numbers: 350 horsepower at 3,000 RPMs and an eye-popping 650 lb-ft of torque at just 1,500 RPMs. They need to peak at low RPMs, after all, because the redline is around the 3,000 RPM horsepower peak. Most travel is done between 1,200 and 1,500 RPMs regardless of whether you’re at highway speeds or loping along in town, because the diesel doesn’t need to spin quickly to make its numbers. That diesel, by the way, meets 50-state emission requirements without needing urea exhaust treatment as the GM and Ford big diesels do.
There is noticeable turbo lag off the line, and the seat-of-the-pants torque is much less apparent than I expected it to be. Part, I’m sure, is because the truck’s 7,329 pound curb weight means a lot of inertia must be overcome. Though I didn’t have the opportunity to challenge the Ram with a heavy payload or a trailer during its stay at the Autosavant garage, the Cummins powertrain proved its mettle when climbing hills. As with other six cylinder turbodiesels I’ve driven, the Cummins very rarely requires a downshift when pulling the heavy Ram up even fairly steep hills. In other words, it doesn’t really break a sweat in those situations. And why should it? With a 2,279 pound payload capacity and a 12,500 pound trailer towing capacity, what concern is a little hill?
The cab is incredibly spacious. For this new-generation Ram, Chrysler added a true crew cab model. Previously, the Ram lineup offered a regular cab, a Quad Cab (basically an extended cab, but with forward-hinged doors) and the ridiculously-large Mega Cab. For the 2010 lineup, the half-ton Rams offer the regular cab, Quad Cab, or Crew Cab, and the HD Rams offer the regular cab, Crew Cab, or Mega Cab. The Crew Cab configuration provides plenty of space for nearly anything or anyone you’d want to haul, making the limousine-like Mega Cab more or less overkill that costs extra money and eats into your cargo volume.
My test vehicle was configured with a 168.9 inch wheelbase and a 259.4 inch overall length. For those of you who measure things in feet, that means the wheelbase is about 14 feet long and the overall length is over 21 and a half feet. All that length means that parking is clearly a challenge, but once on the road, the length is a non-issue. Width, however, is something that I had to maintain constant vigilance over. In situations with narrow streets and parked cars with an oncoming car, I always deferred to an oncoming car, even though I knew the Ram would “win” the contest. There’s not much point of that kind of win if I was returning a banged-up truck to the Chrysler folks.
The first time I saw the then-new 2009 Ram’s interior, I was impressed. I felt that Chrysler had really turned a corner, with higher-end models boasting stitched fake leather on the instrument panel hood, padded armrests, clever storage features, technology like backup cameras and navigation systems, satellite radio, and more. I was still reasonably impressed the first time I drove a 2009 Ram 1500 – but that was a very brief drive. Having now spent a week in a Ram, it’s clear that some of the interior materials are not exactly as good as they appear to be in photos or at first glance. For example, the French stitched instrument panel hood still looks great, but that piece connects to hard, gray plastic elsewhere on the dash. The upper door panels, where you’d lean your elbow if you had the window open on a nice day, are hard as a rock. The radio/navigation display is somewhat small, and an awful lot of sound makes its way into the cabin.
That being said, it’s a much more pleasant work environment, particularly inside my top-end Laramie tester, than were previous Ram HDs with the Cummins turbo diesel. The Cummins never hiccuped during its week-long stay at the Autosavant garage, and started right up instantly. The remote start feature was nice, but not really necessary. The diesel cranked quickly (thanks, no doubt, to its dual batteries) and settled into a steady clatter. The new Cummins engine is more than twice as large as the 3.0 liter Mercedes-Benz-sourced diesel in the former Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD and definitely lacks the German’s refinement, but did share its smell-free exhaust. Literally, if you stick your nose behind the Cummins Turbo Diesel’s tailpipe while the engine is idling, you will not smell any of the telltale diesel scents of yore. In fact, the sensation is almost like that of steam being blown in your face. (The things we do in the name of science, right?)
When driving, acceleration is somewhat leisurely (zero to sixty is somewhere in the nine- or nine-and-a-half second range), but the soundtrack is loads of fun, at least for the driver. Not only do you get the turbine-like “whoosh” when the turbo spools up, but the diesel exhaust brake (known more commonly as a Jake Brake) can be activated via a pushbutton on the dash near the audio controls. Without activating the engine braking feature, diesels aren’t able to significantly slow down a vehicle, even in lower gears. With the compression brake and a downshift, the truck will slow dramatically. And, of course, the telltale Jake Brake noise comes from the muffler, some 18 feet behind the driver’s ear. The Ram’s Jake Brake isn’t nearly as noisy as one on, say, an old dump truck, but still adds to the Ram’s tractor trailer fantasy camp aura.
Downshifts are easy to execute on the six-speed automatic transmission (a manual is also available in the Ram, while Ford and GM have gone purely with automatics in their new trucks) via pushbuttons on the column-mounted shifter. Sometimes, downshifts were too easy, if you have the bad habit of resting your hand on the shift lever while driving down the road.
In-cabin refinement falls short of the expectations that cars and crossovers have set (or even half-ton trucks, for that matter), with lots of extra noise and a very harsh ride. The ride is harsh primarily because the suspension has to accommodate a payload of 2,279 pounds, so there’s very little (if any) compliance over bumps. Instead, the truck just sort of hops over them, and you and your passengers will definitely feel it. I only used the truck as a family hauler once during its week with me, and though everyone fit quite well, my wife couldn’t stand the harsh ride and noisy engine. For me, the engine was fun to listen to, but if I wanted it to be quieter, I could just press the throttle a little less. Perhaps also to the detriment of refinement and ride quality, the tires are heavy duty and sized at LT265/70R17. Unlike typical passenger car tires that might be inflated to 32-35 psi, these tires are inflated to between 65 and 75 psi.
The Ram 2500 HD Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 has a base price of $43,600 ($42,650 plus $950 destination), but that price doesn’t include the diesel. Add $225 for the beautiful Inferno Red Crystal paint, $405 for the six-speed automatic, $325 for a limited slip rear differential, $7,615 for the Cummns Turbo Diesel (with 9,600 GVW rating, diesel exhaust brake, and tow hooks), $80 for giant power chrome heated T-Tow mirrors with LED puddle lamps and integrated turn signals, $800 for the media center navigation system, Sirius Satellite Radio (with traffic service), $200 for the OWL on/off road tires, and $200 for the rear-view camera. Altogether, the price came to $53,450, but of course, discounts and incentives are available to help move the metal.
During my time with the truck, I observed combined fuel economy of about 14.8 miles per gallon, according to the truck. Even at that mileage number (which is pretty impressive, considering the weight of the truck and that I got a similar number years ago when I reviewed a then-new 2007 Toyota Tundra half ton), the giant 35 gallon fuel tank gives a theoretical range in excess of 500 miles. Highway travel in the Ram netted about 15.5 miles per gallon, and that average then dropped as stop-and-go city driving ate into the tank of ultra low sulfur diesel fuel. Still, it was impressive how driving habits seemingly had little effect on the big Ram’s observed fuel economy. Surely, adding at trailer or a ton of cargo would have an impact. The EPA doesn’t require fuel economy ratings for trucks with a GVWR of more than 8,500 pounds, so we don’t know what the truck is supposed to do in terms of fuel economy.
Finally, a word about branding. As many are aware, Chrysler Group has decided to separate the Ram trucks from the Dodge brand. This truck is allegedly no longer a “Dodge Ram,” but just a “Ram.” The Monroney only mentions “Dodge” where it says, “For more information visit www.dodge.com or call 1-800-4ADODGE,” but otherwise calls the truck a Ram. As a public service to Chrysler’s branding efforts, I thought I’d point out the places on the truck that still say “Dodge” so they can be corrected: the chrome ram’s head logo on the tailgate, the black indentation behind the radio, and the welcome screen on the navigation system all say “Dodge.”
It was fun to pretend for a week that I drove a big rig. Without a giant trailer to tow, I’d never buy one of these (nor should anyone else, with half-ton trucks capable of so much today), and the sheer size of the truck (length, width, andheight) makes it impractical as a daily driver. It can’t navigate many drive-through windows and can’t fit in many garages. When I pulled the truck into my garage (which is about 20 feet long inside), the tail end hung out by at least three feet (I couldn’t park the truck against the stairs into my kitchen, after all), and I had to fold the giant mirrors to get it into the garage width-wise. The new Ram HD is certainly a capable truck, and in fact is able to handle far more work than most people are able to throw at it. If you’re in need of a heavy-duty truck and like the notion of an inline-six turbodiesel instead of a V8, you should take a look a the Ram. It’s just about the closest thing to a semi that you can drive without a CDL.