Half-ton trucks may be what really pays the bills for the American automakers but the Heavy Duty side of the yard is what serious truck buyers gravitate towards (and of course generates huge profits as well); those people that actually use their trucks for work, income, and a big part of daily life including spending much of their day inside them, i.e. they are mobile offices as much as they are workhorses.
With the current generation of RAM 2500 (the 3/4 ton model) available in multiple configurations and trims, last year we looked at a 2500 Tradesman with a PowerWagon option package in 4×4 trim, and now we have what is likely the volume and overall profit leader in the line, the 2500 Laramie Crew Cab trim set up for towing but still with the gas-fed 6.4l Hemi V8 engine. RAM offers so many different interior trim levels that it’s interesting to see the differences, there really should be one version or another that appeals to any actual truck buyer amongst them.
And for many (actually, most) that is the Laramie trim – the trim levels start at Tradesman (basic but still very comfortable with all the absolute essentials), continuing through Big Horn, then converging around Laramie and Power Wagon trims (similar price points but focused on different needs), and then continuing up the ladder to Laramie Longhorn and finally Limited as the top dog for luxury.
That mid-range positioning doesn’t mean that the Laramie actually lacks for anything, it’s remarkably complete and really emphasizes the creativity at RAM that they can find two more whole trim levels above it to appeal to those for whom enough simply isn’t.
In RAM-World Light and Heavy Duty don’t differ very much when it comes to their interiors, the trim levels are fairly well aligned and the features are similar, making it easier when one wants to either upgrade or perhaps step down a capability level, the creature comforts can remain the same. The most obvious difference was in fact that the parking brake is a manually foot-activated device here as opposed to an electronically activated one in the 1500.
At this trim level, once the door is opened, there becomes evident an opulently trimmed leather seat, leather covered dashboard, in this case the optional 12″ display screen on the center stack, and lots of room to stretch out along with a huge center console with enormous amounts of storage space and multiple levels, bins, and cubbies within along with numerous power ports and other convenience items. The seats and door panels feature suede inserts, contrasting piping and attractive stitching.
The back seat is similarly spacious, but notably here the center position gets a short seat cushion opposed to the 1500 wherein that bugaboo has finally been eliminated in the most recent (current) generation. So for four occupants of virtually any size, this is supremely comfortable with gobs of space (far more than any sedan and most SUVs) but the fifth occupant gets the short straw, or seat, if you will and won’t be quite as cozy.
Of course the back seats fold up in a 60/40 split fashion and in this truck there was a handy foldout device that created a slightly elevated flat floor platform, ideal for perhaps a dog or to stow something better on a flat surface than the slightly humped floor beneath it when it’s deployed across the width of the cab. Under the floormats are lift-out bins that could be filled with small items or ice and beverages for break time.
Heading back up front, as we’ve seen before that supersized screen is excellent for showing all kinds of detail depending on what particular subject is chosen but it can also function as a split screen in order to have two different functions visible at once and of course can also be reconfigured as well as the user choosing exactly which “soft” buttons are displayed and available at any given time along the bottom to provide shortcuts to frequently used items/apps.
This being a platform where trailer towing is of greater than usual importance, there are multiple camera views possible, there is also a way to lower the back of the truck to slip the hitch ball under a trailer coupling and raise it back up all while in the comfort of the cab, and of course the integrated trailer brake system to make it all more or less effortless and much less labor intensive than in the days of yore. Some of these functions are accessed via a row of actual toggle switches at the bottom of the screen and others are part of the touch screen, such as the various camera view choices for example.
Befitting a vehicle that costs on the order of a decent (but really not overly opulent) luxury sedan or SUV, there is a 17-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, of course memory settings for seats, mirrors, and pedals, push button start and all the other usual trappings that will make a non-stop cross-country run bearable or in fact downright comfortable, to say nothing of a simple cross-county (no “r”) run.
The contrasting stitching on the dash and seats is flawless, the materials look and feel great and while not everything is completely soft, pretty much everything that you’d ever really come in contact with and might prefer to be soft actually is.
I noted that the piece of trim (bolster?) between the two passenger side gloveboxes is soft black textured plastic in that area, the matching item on the driver side is actually harder since it is much less likely to be touched by an occupant there. Both items look identical while feeling different which isn’t something every manufacturer has mastered, but here the different finishes are only betrayed when touched.
The stainless-look trim around various edges of vents, door pulls, storage cubbies etc. had an interesting aspect as well; in this case the main surface is smooth and semi-shiny, but everything adjacent to it, i.e. wrapping over the edge, is finished in a sort of crinkle version of same that was deliberately rough to the touch and sort of softly sparkled in the sun, an interesting treatment I hadn’t noted elsewhere before this and that gives off a very subtle but rich impression. In the above picture the RAM legend and horizontal surface above it would be the surface area and the textured area around it is representative of the edges of the pieces.
But everything smacks of being very high quality as well as durable and nothing looks like it is present without an actual purpose, i.e. that’s no lipstick on a pig, this animal was bred to naturally have a set of full and rosy lips fronting a bevy of fine features, with excellent bone structure and toned muscle beneath.
The muscle, excuse me, engine in this case (and the standard offering in the 2500 lineup) is the 6.4 liter Hemi V-8 with cylinder deactivation, a feature that was completely imperceptible to this driver when in operation. Producing 410hp and 429lb-ft of torque it transfers that power to the wheels through a smooth and slick shifting 8-speed automatic coupled to an electronic Shift-On-The-Fly transfer case.
As with the last version of this that I tested, power was abundant, immediate, and long-lasting with the 3.73 axle ratio in any situation I encountered. It’s no wonder that it’s a popular choice these days and often chosen instead of the well-loved (albeit pricey to the tune of another $9,300) Cummins turbo-diesel, depending on how the truck will be used.
Even with this engine, and of course depending on the exact configuration specified, the RAM 2500 is capable of an over 4,000 pound payload and a tow rating of up to 17,540 pounds, heady figures indeed and likely plenty for the vast majority of owners not constantly towing cross-country.
I looked up this particular truck using its VIN in RAM’s handy online lookup feature and in this Laramie trim with 4WD, Crew Cab, the 3.73 axle ratio and the options it was equipped with those figures are reduced to 2,839 pounds payload and 14,339 pounds towing, however still significantly higher than the 1500 models could safely or comfortably provide and, perhaps more notably, not necessarily at a significant cost difference either, which we will touch on later.
As regards towing, this particular truck was outfitted with Automatic Leveling Rear Air Suspension and the 5th Wheel & Gooseneck Prep Package which includes the mounting holes/areas for either option as well as in-bed mounted wiring connectors for said trailers.
Trailer Sway Damping and the aforementioned Brake Controller are also present here as are the large (and adjustable) Tow Mirrors and the Towing Tech Group consisting of a Cargo View Camera mounted in the upper cargo light, Surround View Camera System and Trailer Reversing Guidance that helps you to figure where the trailer will end up when you turn the wheel this way, or that way, or this way again, but without the usual frustration experienced by infrequent towers.
Driving this truck makes evident that these Heavy Duty trucks really are much heavier than the lighter duty full-sizers. With a 10,000lb GVWR on this one, it feels significantly stiffer and more solid but in a good way, not just as ponderous extra mass.
Sure, the mass IS there and IS noted but this isn’t like piloting a big U-Haul, it’s still fairly manageable for the day to day without dread. The ride is certainly stiff and it can be sometimes jarring depending on the bump, so not nearly as cossetting as the smaller ones, however with a heavy load or a trailer (as it’s designed for, right?) that should all pay off.
Loaded with just myself and traversing the same section of concrete freeway as last year with the other 2500, once again I embarrassingly noted more jiggle on me than a whole season of Charlie’s Angels. Our own Mr. Shafer explained that phenomenon last year to excellent effect as having to do with the spacing of the freeway slabs between cuts combining with the wheelbase to produce a harmonic that manifests itself as a bouncing effect although the roadway is in fact perfectly smooth and normal vehicles to either side didn’t exhibit anything untoward whatsoever.
In short, that part got tiring (again), but on the vast majority of other road surfaces progress was swift, smooth, and amazingly silent. When at a stop and outside of the truck, the engine is far from quiet, exhibiting a bit of a powerful roar even at idle. Inside, windows up, silence. Remarkable. At speed, let’s say 80mph, only the faintest rustle of wind can be noted passing the side window and around the rear corners of the cab. This is luxury. And a huge factor in avoiding fatigue on any journey.
This truck also showed off a few features I hadn’t noted before, in this case a new “Night Edition” package which has to do with exterior cosmetics rather than brighter lights…all the trim and the grille is blacked out, the bumpers are body color, for some reason the black plastic trailer mirrors are part of this, the wheels are 20-inch by 8-inch black large-spoked alloys with Firestone Transforce AT tires as well as black interior accent trim pieces.
I also realized this truck has clearance lights, which I didn’t believe were necessary unless the truck reached a certain width such as with the dually models. I suppose perhaps it’s a new accessory item that may be popular for people to make their truck look bigger. At $95 it’s a fairly insignificant expense that does jazz it up a bit at night along with the lights on the tips of the mirrors.
I don’t foresee the need for myself to ever own something with this much capability but I have to say it did impress and the notably increased strength and weight over for example my own older half-ton truck as well as current generation half-tons were obvious. If I had need to tow often or far or both or haul significantly heavy items regularly then it makes perfect sense to choose something like this.
But for around town for someone that does not have those needs, no, of course it doesn’t make sense. However if someone wants to put up with the downsides (weight, fuel economy, size) then that’s their choice too, after all, driving a small convertible has downsides at times as well and isn’t always the most rational choice for every situation either.
As regards fuel economy these trucks are interesting in that they are not required to display an official rating on their window sticker due to their weight. I ended up actually driving 476 miles this week which is above my usual norm. The first thirty miles were exclusively in town with normal (i.e. light) traffic and the trip computer displayed an initially shocking 10mpg.
Then I decided to drive to Colorado Springs and back the next day, adding another 280 miles to the tally at the end of which resulted in a displayed overall total of 17.5mpg which I was rather impressed with (My older half-ton would struggle to ever hit that).
Traffic caused speeds to range from 40 in several construction zones to around 80mph or so, traffic was moderate but definitely present with several slowdowns so not just smooth sailing. The remaining 166 miles were a combination of local in-town and semi-local highways which brought it all back down to a final average of just over 15mpg.
The in-town definitely hurts it but sustained highway driving where it presumably shuts down part of the engine obviously helps tremendously. If towing a heavy load regularly for long distances then perhaps the diesel might make a lot of sense as that will surely hit the gasser harder.
Pricing for this model with the Laramie trim package and 4WD starts at $52,350 – and I’ll point out for reference that the equivalent crew-cab Laramie half-ton with the same 6’4″ bed starts at $47,390, so only about a 10% difference.
From there the Billet Silver Metallic paint is $200 (easing you into things here…), Leather Seats and Wireless Charging Pad (lovely) runs $545, the aforementioned Towing Tech Group pulls another $1,095 with that same $1,095 figure again for the Safety Group (Lane-Keep Assist, Full Speed Forward Collision Warning Plus, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Adaptive Steering), the Protection Group for $145 (really?) includes Tow Hooks and a Transfer Case Skid Plate, the Gooseneck/5th Wheel Prep is $495, and the Bed Utility Group (Spray-In Bedliner, LED Lighting, Deployable Bed Step) adds another $745.
Having somehow aggravated a long-standing but usually dormant right knee injury I’ve been making more constant use of the Adaptive Cruise Control over the last few weeks and vehicles and am now quite comfortable letting vehicles actually do the stop-and-going as needed so that my leg can be moved to different positions to avoid pain, not just using the technology on longer lightly trafficked freeway journeys.
This truck did very well in that regard, increasing the distance interval parameter with a steering wheel button made braking actions smoother than with a shorter interval (makes sense), and playing with that button in traffic made it possible to avoid others cutting in between by shortening the distance. It’s very interesting technology indeed but still does require attention (and the vehicle generally has a feature to alert the driver if it seems attention is flagging). This truck will fully stop for you but won’t start moving again without a button press, some others do the whole thing automatically, although choosing a longer interval when slowing helps to make it “crawl” along.
To channel my inner Ron Popeil “But Wait, There’s More!!!”, we continue with the Night Edition package detailed earlier for $2,495, and the Laramie Level 2 Equipment Group for $4,195 (a big load consisting of Ventilated Front Seats, Rain Sensitive Wipers, Remote Tailgate Release, Heated Second Row Seats, the Memory Settings, the H-K Sound System, various SiriusXM packages to help with traffic etc, a 4G LTE WiFi Hot Spot, and Blind Spot Monitoring).
$695 covers the Tri-Fold Tonneau Cover, $445 for an Anti-Spin Differential Rear Axle, the $95 Clearance Lamps, Power Deployable (automatic) Running Boards that are sorely needed and highly useful for $995, the Automatic Level Rear Air Suspension for $1,705, the 12″ UConnect with Navigation system for $1,295 and lastly the Trailer Camera Prewiring for $695. Add another $1,695 for destination charge and the hopefully fully depreciable total for you is $70,980.
As an aside and because I was curious since we have tested a couple of very expensive 1500-level trucks here within the last year I went into the RAM configurator and spec’ed out a 1500-series Laramie to as close to the same spec as this 2500 and before incentives I came up with a total of around $68,300, so really not very far off which was surprising.
Remove options that aren’t available on the lighter truck such as the 5th wheel stuff and you almost get to par. As durable as a half-ton truck is, the Heavy Duty is even more so, to see it offered at very similar pricing was interesting.
It’s another interesting truck from RAM that seems to be very up to date as far as useful technology is concerned, along with attractive and non-offensive styling and of course a multitude of ways to configure these trucks to exactly what might be needed (or desired) it’s no wonder they are so plentiful.
Couple that with what actually can be described as value if one is completely objective about it and it’s easy to see the popularity amongst those that can use it to its fullest to help them earn an income and/or run a business. And of course plenty are used for pleasure pursuits as well. Overall these trucks can work hard and play hard but either way they just keep on keepin’ on.
A Heavy-Duty Thank You goes to RAM for setting us up with this truck along with a tank of gasoline for the week!