ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: This 2014 Ram 2500 Laramie Limited Crew Cab is a really big truck. It's a real-life Tonka toy with a 17,450-pound tow rating. I love it.
I had a chance to mess around with the Ram Heavy Duties last year, when the crew at Chrysler thoughtfully turned their proving ground into a big playground for doing Truck Things: Hauling bales of hay, pulling heavy agricultural equipment, driving over bumpy roads, etc. It's not surprising that the Rams excelled in that more or less controlled environment. What is surprising is that the trucks also excel in the wild -- which is to say, on the streets of suburbia.
Driver confidence is almost assumed with a vehicle of this size. It's the comfort factor that catches you off guard. The ride isn't as refined as that of the new full-size Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra or the Ram 1500; there are jostles and bumps and you drive over potholes, though fortunately, less lean in the corners than I'd expected given the ride height.
This crew cab's proportions are intimidating (given current trends, I'm sure the next generation of full-sized pickups will be similar), but you adjust incredibly rapidly. Within a few miles I was whipping the truck through Michigan lefts, into parking lots and up my very narrow driveway (power-folding mirrors would have been a welcome addition here).
Inside, you're treated to a functional cabin dressed up with leather and wood. Seats are comfy. The view is commanding. Everything you might need, including the very useful shift-on-the-fly 4WD mode selector, is within easy reach.
Frankly, I could do without the fancy trimmings; I'd love to try a stripped-down Tradesman truck on for size. But for someone who depends on their vehicle for their livelihood, I could see the extra expense being justifiable; at least that's the line marketers like to drop. And anyone who wants to blow nearly $70K on a truck just to show off? Hey, it's America. Do whatever you want. Just learn to park it properly.
Also justifiable, depending on your anticipated workload, is that 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel. It's a double-take-inducing add-on at nearly $8K, but the output is impressive with a whopping 800 lb-ft of torque from 1,600 rpm. The Hemi-equipped trucks aren't exactly slugs, but if you try the two side by side, the Cummins is clearly more satisfying. And then there are the fuel economy gains, which are somewhat hard to quantify as no official figures have been released. If the built-in computer is accurate, though, I returned nearly 16 mpg in mixed city/highway driving, with 4WD engaged for a good part of that.
When I last drove the Ram heavy duties, I was -- perhaps fairly -- accused of gushing about them. Maybe I'm doing that again, but if anything, I'd say I came away from a weekend of real-world driving even more impressed with them. Of course, I have to note that other domestic automakers are also capable of building very good heavy duty pickups. For now, though, Ram seems to offer the most enticing, roundly satisfying big-truck package.
SENIOR ROAD TEST EDITOR NATALIE NEFF: Graham, you can have your stripped-down Tradesman truck; I'll take a beast like this, gussied up with all the fixins that, back in the day, no “real” heavy-duty would be caught dead in: 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, power 10-way driver seat with memory, keyless entry, etc. Indeed, give me all this Laramie trim with all $13,000 worth of options, including the luxury (sic) floor mats.
And even then this Ram is a mite lacking, if only for one key piece of equipment. Those purty chrome-clad trailer-tow mirrors are only manual-fold models. Make mine power-retractable, please. That would make this big-ol' Ram monster truck close to perfection on wheels.
No doubt the never-ending snow-a-thon that this winter has wreaked had me enjoying this truck more than I might at, say, the height of summer. All I know is the couple of times I climbed up into its pre-warmed (thank you, remote start), leather-draped (OK, mine would be pleather-draped) cabin and made my way down Woodward Avenue to the office, I couldn't help but dial up the four-wheel-drive and plow through every intersection sideways, letting whatever wheel that could muster traction through the knee-high piles of slush and snow do its thing, the 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel feeding endless amounts of torque to those giant tires, hands flying opposite lock and back again, watching the road ahead through the side glass and yelling “Yippee!” to all those suckers floundering in mere cars around me. If nothing else, this heavy-duty Ram is a hoot.
Parking, on the other hand, not so much. It's not for a lack of help; the Laramie trim comes with standard rear backup camera, and the front, well, that's what massive bumpers are for, right? But just managing a 90-degree turn requires a wide berth (turning diameter is almost 47 feet), while its 79.1-inch width means passing on every opening between that crookedly parked Honda Odyssey and off-center Chevy Cruze for the spacious hinterlands of strip mall-dom and hoofing it into Target.
OK, that about sums up my complaints about the 2014 Ram 2500. It's hard to park.
2014 Ram 2500 Laramie Limited Crew Cab
Base Price: $53,295
As-Tested Price: $67,175
Drivetrain: 6.7-liter turbocharged diesel I6; 4WD, six-speed automatic
Output: 370 hp @ 2,800 rpm, 800 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm
Curb Weight: 7,726 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): N/A
Options: 6.7-liter Cummins turbo diesel, exhaust brake ($7,995); customer preferred package 2FM including 20 x 8 polished aluminum wheels, Premium leather-trimmed bucket seats, power 10-way driver seat with memory and power six-way passenger seat, ventilated front seats, rear 60/40 split folding seat, folding flat load floor storage, automatic high beam headlamp control, heated steering wheel, keyless entry, leather-wrapped grab handle, luxury front and rear floor mats, monotone paint, rain sensitive windshield wipers, RamBox cargo management system, steering wheel mounted audio controls, wheel to wheel side steps, wood/leather-wrapped steering wheel ($2,295); Power chrome trailer tow mirrors with manual fold-away, power sunroof ($995); tri-fold tonneau cover ($500); six-speed automatic transmission ($500); fifth wheel/gooseneck towing prep group ($400); 440-amp rated dual alts, 220-amp alternator ($395); anti-spin differential rear axle ($325); single-disk CD player ($195); rear window defroster ($150); wood/leather wrapped steering wheel ($50)
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