"Oh, What Fun It Is To Ride…"
A Victory & Reseda review of the 2014 Ram 2500
Remember what you asked Santa for Christmas?
I am not talking this past Christmas, but when you were a child. Our imaginations ran wild back then! We recited every hot toy in the market – especially the ones we wanted. We also wanted generic toys, too! The specifics usually come in a huge surprise.
Come Christmas morning when the wrapping paper is strewn across the living room floor, boxes open at random places – our gifts came to life! There was no amount of batteries to keep us happy with our toys. Our imaginations simply took over the day.
In my childhood, one such gift was a Tonka truck. These metal toys were the most durable of the vehicular kind. The most common truck came in the guise of Jeep’s own full-sized pickup – during the last years of under Kaiser’s ownership. Since then, we often view our adult trucks in the same way our Tonka toys were – durable, useful and simple by design.
However, today's pickup trucks are a far cry from being considered a toy. These are hard-working machines designed to do anything we want them to – from hauling lumber to towing the boat to the lake. The bigger the truck, the greater the task it will do.
This particular truck had a very special task it was going to accomplish. It is not exactly the task you might think of when it comes to a three-quarter ton, diesel-fueled, four-wheel-drive, crew cab pickup.
This Christmas, I offered up the truck in this review to the Aliveness Project in Minneapolis to do a special task for the HIV/AIDS services organization. In its 26th year, the Aliveness Project delivers holiday baskets to its clients within the Twin Cities. My contacts at the organization loved the idea of sending a big "sleigh" with holiday baskets to some of their clients on Christmas Eve day. I am also glad to help out this wonderful organization, as they do so much for its clients every year from providing nutritional services at their Minneapolis location to linking a wide range of services to their clients.
This is no ordinary "sleigh" delivering holiday baskets, however. This is one of the best pickups in the business – the 2014 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Mega Cab.
Let us get the details out of the way. This is the largest cab in the business with an extended rear seating area that folds flat for a large carpeted cargo hold. Under the hood is a 6.7liter Cummins turbocharged six-cylinder diesel engine with 370 horsepower and 800 pound-feet of torque. You have a towing capacity of up to 17,970 pounds with a payload of up to 3,140 pounds.
That is a heck of a "sleigh."
The story of Ram's Heavy Duty trucks goes beyond its capabilities. In 2013, Chrysler revamped their entire Ram pickup line to up the ante on the competition. The result is a distinctive and aggressive design – both in the 1500 and the Heavy Duty –improvements to add to the best interior in the business, suspension re-engineering and other upgrades everywhere underneath the cab and bed.
In the 2500, these improvements were relative to the task at hand. The new TFT screen in the instrument binnacle, the 8.4-inch UConnect Touch screen and UConnect Assist telematics program are welcome additions to the larger pickup’s cabin. They add to a high quality and extremely useful cab that make everything easier to manage – even when you are not towing or hauling anything in the back.
This truck sported the desirable Laramie trim – a mix of subtle "cowboy luxury" and high end trimmings. The seats are big – exactly as in the Ram 1500. The leather is tough for jeans-wearing folks and more sophisticated dress.
The idea of the Mega Cab is to expand interior space and practicality. The extension beyond the rear door conceals a mini-cargo hold. The idea is to stow bags, tools and anything that needs to be inside and protected in many elements – including the cold and snowy conditions the Ram 2500 was subjected for in this review.
However, if you fold the rear seat down, you will have a flat carpeted place for luggage, supplies, cases of materials and refreshments – and holiday baskets for a half-dozen families or so. There is enough space in the floor between the seats for stowable precious items – such as poinsettias.
When selecting the Mega Cab, you only get the six-foot-four-inch box connected to the frame in the rear. This model came with the handy Ram Box side stowage on the sides of the box and controlled either by a valet key or the remote power lock system.
The 6.7liter Cummins turbocharged diesel is serious business. If you calculate the 371 horsepower and the 800 pound-feet of torque onto an actual application, you will find the most flexible diesel engine in any heavy-duty pickup. This motor is amazing. Cold startups were no problem. Highway speeds were also no problem.
There is more to the power story. Chrysler's six-speed automatic was connected to the Cummins diesel and a four-wheel drive system. The combination of all three is great on any surface. Snowy and caked roads were laughed at by the strength of this driveline. It does help that Firestone Transforce AT tires were shod on twenty-inch alloy wheels – good, solid tires for these surfaces.
Normally, any truck shod with twenty-inch tires would not be desirable for the ride-handling-towing mix you expect in a heavy-duty pickup. However, the change to coil springs in the rear certainly help to smooth out the worse the Ram 2500 was subjected to. In comparison to leaf springs, the Ram's rear suspension allows for more give and balance to any load or task the truck has to do. When empty, it does improve the ride, even when subjected to bad road surfaces.
The four-wheel drive system does solve a lot of traction issues. Turning when all four wheels are driving is a task with plenty of bucking on tight maneuvers. When in two-wheel drive, the steering system is actually quite good in dealing with u-turns and tight spots. Brakes are OK since it does take some pre-braking and plenty of distance to get the Ram 2500 to stop safely. One must understand that heavy-duty pickups take more care when doing routine tasks than their half-ton brethren.
The Cummins turbocharged diesel is considered the best choice amongst the three engines offered in the Ram 2500. The main reason is fuel efficiency. The Ram 2500 turned an average of 15.8MPG – a great improvement over both HEMIs in mainly in-town and suburban tasks.
Pricing for the three-quarter ton Ram starts off at over $30,000 for a standard cab, Tradesman with rear-wheel drive, an eight-foot box and the 5.7liter HEMI V8. The Laramie Mega Cab model with four-wheel drive and the Cummins diesel rang the sticker up to $63,255. The Cummins option alone accounted for $8,000. You have a choice of seven trims, three cabs and two boxes.
If two basic words were to describe the Ram 2500, they would "big" and "useful." If you think a full-sized pickup is big, even they seem "normal" compared to the raised height, extended length and mass of a heavy-duty pickup. However, Chrysler did a very good job is at least taming the Ram 2500 to the level of its smaller, more popular rig. In the meantime, it is a very powerful tool to haul anything – from the pontoon boat for the lakefront cabin to Holiday Baskets for nine worthy clients and their families.
This is why many truck experts and other writers covering this pickup market agree that Ram has the best trucks in the business. Having driven four Rams over the course of two years – this assessment is in full agreement. This is a truck done right.
In the case of the Ram 2500 – this is a heavy-duty truck…I mean "sleigh"…done right. I could not ask for anything more for Christmas.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Chrysler Group LLC
All photos by Randy Stern