The New Crew

(Photos by Larry Walton/Editorial Services West & Dodge)

By Bruce Smith

Oft times it’s the small refinements that make the biggest difference in the outcome; a tweak here and a change there can turn a product or service from being average to being exceptional. Such can be said of the 2010 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty pickups.

More specifically, the refinements shown in the new 2500/3500 Crew Cabs, which now firmly roots Dodge as a major player in the rapidly growing four-door heavy-duty pickup market, make it significantly better than the Quad Cabs they replace.

Dodge has offered four-door Quad Cab pickups for years. But the rear doors were more ¾-size than full. The new Crew Cab, has full-size doors along with a long list of refinements and new features owners will appreciate.

Along for the ride

We took advantage of a special ride-and-drive opportunity in San Antonio, Texas, to see first-hand how the engineering and design changes come together in the 2010 Heavy Duty Rams. The fleet of upper trim level (SLT, Laramie, TRX) 2500/3500 Ram Crews we drove ranged from two-wheel-drive, Hemi-powered models to Cummins-powered 4×4 duallys.

We drove them empty and loaded, on road and off.

Stronger front axle u-joints and re-turning of the 4x4 front suspension has increased front gross axle weight ratings on Cummins models by 600 pounds. Note exhaust brake is standard item as well.

The Heavy Duty Rams, which were in dealerships by mid-November, are more refined and capable than the models they replace. You notice the difference before you even open the doors.

The front bumpers are taller and more akin to those found on big rigs; the hoods are taller and have louvers running down each side of the center bulge; the tow hook openings are larger; the grille taller; the front fenders and headlights match those of the Ram 1500; and the dually rear fenders are now one piece, giving the big daddy of Dodge tow vehicles a more refined appearance.

The four doors also take on the same styling cues as the light-duty Ram 1500, reducing wind noise and giving the cab a smoother, sleeker look. The bed rails are now covered with caps, and the tailgate is sculpted adding to the new Crews’ appeal.

Inside we found even more changes to our liking. Many of the nice creature comfort and convenience features introduced in the ’09 Ram 1500, such as the well-bolstered seats, multiple storage compartments, soft-feel interior coverings, and available two-tier center console, have been adopted in the new Heavy Duty Crew Cabs.

The 2010 Ram Mega Cab further enhances comfort by adding another 9 inches to the back of the cab. Such extra space adds more storage space along with extra leg room in the back to go with the reclining rear seats.

Rich in design

It didn’t take but a minute to get comfortable in the Laramie 4×4 2500 and 3500 SLT Dually models I drove. The seats were supportive in the right places, and the armrests and dash no longer exuded the cheap, hard plastic feel so often found in many of today’s pickups.

Both bench and bucket seat options are available. Seats in the new Crews have been greatly improved over the previous 2500/3500 Ram pickup offerings.

The interior was nicely laid out for contractors, with storage compartments and nooks everywhere, including a dual glovebox. Plug-ins for accessories, such as a cell phone charger or laptop, were in the right locations as was the 120V inverter plug on the dash. Cup and bottle holders were plentiful, dash easily read and controls made for big hands. It’s a truck you feel good in because everything fits.

That feeling is further bolstered as the miles roll beneath the wheels. The new Crew is significantly smoother, quieter, and overall more comfortable than its heavy-duty predecessor. Little noise or vibration intrude into the cab, making it feel like you’re in an office more than a truck cab.

Ram Mega Cab owners get the added benefit of having reclining rear seats thanks to the nine-inch longer cab. Center seat position folds up in all models.

The big Dodge’s refined ride quality is due in part to the nicer seats and reduction of wind noise though the small body styling changes and improved sound insulation between cab and engine compartment.

But it’s the fine-tuning of the connection between the cab and chassis with fluid-filled mounts and suspension components that significantly reduced the jitters and shakes felt in the old Quad Cabs – especially driving unloaded.

Work muscle

When it comes to work capability, the new Crews leave little doubt they can handle most tasks thrown their way.

Use of fluid-filled cab mounts reduce the road jitters felt by drivers of the older Heavy Duty Rams.

Heavy Duty Rams come standard with the 5.7L Hemi delivering 383 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque behind a heavy-duty five-speed automatic. But the majority of HD Ram buyers opt for the Cummins package ($7,500) with its 6.7L turbo diesel backed with either the standard six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.

The Cummins six generates 350 horses at 3,000 rpm and a trailer-slinging 650 pound-feet of torque at 1,500 rpm. Furthermore, Dodge says the 6.7L Cummins surpasses 2010 emissions requirements in all 50 states, has an oil change interval of 7,500 miles, and a life-to-major overhaul interval of 350,000 miles –more than 100,000 miles more than its closest competitor.

The engine’s low-end torque is massive and whether empty or loaded, the truck moves out briskly with no sense of turbo lag. It’s also quite content at freeway speeds; we found ourselves watching the speedometer to keep from rolling along well above the posted speed limits.

That power and durability can be really put to use if you load the new Rams to the maximum hauling and trailing limits, both of which set new industry levels.

Ram Crew Cabs can tow their maximum loads when properly equipped with 5th wheel or goosenecks. Dodge offers hide-away gooseneck kits through their dealers.

Both 2500 and 3500 Rams can tow up to 5,000 pounds on the Class IV receiver hitch, which is standard on the truck. When properly equipped with a gooseneck, which Mopar offers as a dealer-installed accessory, the new Ram Crew 2500 2WD can tow trailers up to 13,450 pounds and payloads up to 3,160 pounds. (The 4×4 models lose about 700 pounds capacity across the board because of the added drivetrain components.)

If greater load-moving capacity is needed, the 2WD Cummins-powered 3500 Dually Crew Cab has a maximum towing capacity of 17,150 pounds and a payload of 4,280 pounds in the 2WD ST (base-model). All Cummins models come with a factory integrated exhaust brake.

Those numbers are up several hundred pounds across the board thanks to small changes in suspension and brake enhancements.

Benefits Package

Dodge has proven a lot of small changes add up to a big difference, and in doing so the 2010 Ram Crew Cabs have set a new bar for overall performance and comfort in the heavy-duty pickup segment.

“We went all over the country to learn how people really use their heavy-duty trucks at work and play,” Fred Diaz, president and chief executive officer–Dodge Ram Brand, Chrysler Group, told us during the driving session. “We did our research with a cross-functional team, and what we learned, we brought to the process of creating these pickups.” (Dodge is planning on extending the reach into the medium-duty market as well with the introduction of a “new crew” of commercial-grade work trucks: the new 2011 Dodge Ram 3500, 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs.)

As for pricing, Dodge is pushing hard to make the new Crew Cab offerings quite attractive: The base model ST 4×2 is $1,970 less than the 2009 model it replaces, and the 4×4 models $40 less. EW