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2014 Ram 3500 Review
The RAM truck line, formerly Dodge RAM trucks, features the 1500 series models, the 2500 and 3500 models, and RAM Chassis CAB. New for 2012 and 2013 is the RAM C/V..
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by Bill Cawthon and David Zatz, allpar.com
Twenty-five years ago, the first Dodge Ram pickup with a Cummins diesel engine went on sale. From then on, the strong, reliable Cummins diesel engine attracted many buyers, — and not a few of them referred to the pickup as “a Cummins engine in a Dodge wrapper.”
Eventually, Dodge improved the “wrapper,” and buyers started to find more reasons to buy Ram trucks. From the crash in 2009 to the end of 2012, Ram achieved the highest growth of any American pickup.
For 2014, along with the usual refinements for the Cummins diesel, Ram announced a truck-specific 6.4 liter Hemi engine with 410 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, maintaining reasonable gas mileage through cylinder deactivation; buyers can order it with dual alternators for heavy electrical loads (up to 380 amps on 6.4 engines, up to 440 on diesels).
We tested a “fleet style” Ram 2500, stripped of bling and extras, though both are available in excess. Both had the Cummins diesel engine, still a class leader in mean time between rebuilds and reputedly still the most efficient on the market.
Even without the extras, the Ram 2500 was very comfortable and the coil suspension worked exactly as advertised, delivering a ride superior to light-duty trucks from Ford and GM, including the new 2014 Silverado.
To test handling and maneuverability, we headed out on Protero Road to Westlake Boulevard, a narrow road with no shoulders, but enough twists and turns to give a snake a conniption fit. It heads up a mountainside and then comes back down, where we picked up Mulholland Highway, another twisty two-lane with delusions of grandeur. Even when the lanes narrowed down to being barely wide enough for the exterior mirrors, the Ram was able to stay in-lane through the turns.
If you're going to take a big truck up a mountain, it would be hard to beat that silver Ram 2500. The Cummins diesel provided plenty of power and the smooth-shifting six-speed made the nearly constant gear changes easy; it had a fine clutch feel despite the high torque.
Seating was comfortable enough for a solid day’s driving; supportive without being too firm. Truck seats have come a long way.
Mulholland Highway deposited us on the Pacific Coast Highway, a real highway this time. The return route to Ventura Farms was less dramatic and we enjoyed a comfortable ride.
The trucks have six powertrain choices: the 5.7 Hemi with a Chrysler six-speed, the 6.4 Hemi with a Chrysler or Aisin six-speed, or the Cummins diesel with a manual, six-speed Chrysler automatic, or Aisin six-speed automatic. The Aisin transmissions might be widely available to counter some lingering doubts about Chrysler’s own automatics, which were nevertheless beefed up for the 2014s.
The Ram 2500 and 3500 carry different suspensions. Ram 2500 now uses a Jeep-inspired rear suspension similar to the Ram 1500, a five-link/coil design which explained its far better handling, ride, and articulation over obstacles. A load-levelling airbag-type rear air suspension is optional, as is a gooseneck hitch (fifth wheel capability). The 2500 also has a front axle disconnect system to raise 4x4 gas mileage by up to 1 mpg.
Ram 3500 keeps the familiar leaf spring system, with a supplemental air suspension to avoid giving up the trucks’ best in class payload, gross weight rating, or towing capacity (Ram 3500 can tow up to 30,000 pounds and has up to a 7,320 pound payload, with a peak GCWR of 37,600 lb). Also boosting the GCWR was the 11.8 inch rear axle with a 300mm hypoid gear set, four pinion helical differential, and cooling-fin-equipped aluminum differential cover.
Up front, both Rams have an advanced three-link suspension with greater roll stiffness, avoiding body roll. Ram Power Wagon gets a modified version with high-movement links for better flexibility and axle articulation.
The Hemi engines have numerous truck-specific changes for added durability over similar car engines. The Cummins added a new smart exhaust brake (using their unique sliding-nozzle turbine), and better performance from a new cooling system. The trucks were created to be the most upfitter-friendly, with electronic interface modules, clear frames in standard sizes, and other measures.
A tailgate handle-mounted, rear high-definition camera backup system is available with dynamic imaging in the 8.4-inch display.
Ram Heavy Duty uses four-channel electronic stability control for dual rear-wheel Ram 3500, the first such application on a “duallie” in its class; stability control is standard across all 2500 and 3500 pickups.