2010 Dodge Ram 2500 Laramie Crew Cab (Heavy Duty) diesel test drive
Some buyers say the Ram 2500 is just like every Dodge Ram before it: a Cummins diesel wrapped in a Dodge body. This time, though, as in 1995, the Ram Heavy Duty is impressive on its own right, even if you choose the Hemi engine.
Our Ram 2500 pickup had a solid feel, with no rattles, buzzes, or squeaks at all; going around corners, there was little body roll or protest, though, as with just about any pickup (due to the weight distribution), it was easy to break the rear tires loose on road dirt, snow, or water. Control on broken pavement was quite good, cornering on smooth pavement was surprisingly good, and the ride was not too jiggly; while you felt bumps, they were well cushioned, and didn't induce a lot of secondary bounces. You can drive a long distance in the Ram without feeling like you're being punished; the seats could be softer, but with the lumbar support dialed down, they were not uncomfortable or back-breaking. Nor, sadly, did they live up to their looks, at least on the Laramie.
We took the Ram around some harsh turns, and on clean pavement, it stuck to the road like glue; without a load to stick them to the road, the rear tires sometimes lost traction for a moment, but the truck was still a better performer than we thought possible. Cornering is far better than it has any right to be. Grip is far better than most big trucks, especially over bad roads. The Ram can be thrown around sharp turns and or taken at inadvisable speeds around a tight cloverleaf without activating the stability control. Body roll is surprisingly low.
The first impressions of the Ram can't help but be favorable. The styling is unique in pickups, which is good since Ford and Toyota have copied the 1993 Ram’s “big-rig” styling; unlike the Ford, the truck’s face was not cast with bluntness, designed to impress rather than to intimidate. The 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 garners nearly as many compliments as the Challenger, and not just from men. (Our Laramie model, to be fair, had extra chrome, including the grille, door handles, and huge rear-view mirrors; it also had an optional side step.)
For many buyers, regardless of how usable, ergonomic, or attractive the interior is, no matter how good the cornering or breaks, the Cummins turbodiesel remains the star attraction of the show. Pumping out 350 horsepower at 3,000 rpm, and 650 lb-ft of torque at a stunning 1,500 rpm, just off idle (automatic transmission), the Cummins diesel engine is far more powerful than the Hemi V8 (which dials in at 383 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque).
Power is not the only selling point of the Cummins; it plays leapfrog in power ratings with GM (using Isuzu technology) and Ford / Navistar, sometimes being more powerful, sometimes less. To be fair, the straight six tends to have gobs of low-end torque, which is handy in a big heavy truck pulling or carrying a big heavy load; press the gas and the diesel engine jumps up to its peak torque, at 1,500 rpm, and from there it's a continuous smooth application of force. But that's not the only reason buyers pony up fairly high prices for the diesel Dodge.
Cummins engines are known for durability; they are designed to be rebuilt after a 350,000 miles, around a hundred thousand miles longer than GM or Ford's diesels. They are also known for efficiency, and a truck like this consumes a lot of fuel over its life. A diesel can pay for itself during the long lifespan of these trucks, and a more efficient engine can add up over the years. Our gas mileage around town varied from 8-14 mpg, depending on how heavy we were on the throttle; in rural 40-50 mph driving we shot up to around 20, and on the highway, at fast legal speeds, we managed to stay around 16-17 mpg. Given the aerodynamics of a pickup, it pays to go slower; the sweet spot seems to be somewhere between 45 and 60 mpg. These figures might not sound good, and in fact, they are not, compared to regular pickups; but heavy duty pickups are in a class of their own. (The 4x4 apparatus also robs around 1 mpg through weight and presumably wind resistance.)
The diesel pickups come with a G56 six-speed manual transmission boasting an extra-low first gear ratio for faster takeoffs or easier acceleration with a heavy load; our test truck, though, had the 68RFE six-speed automatic with Electronic Range Select, which lets drivers limit the highest gear and make manual shifts. (Hemis get the 545RFE five-speed automatic). A +/- switch is on the column shifter, and you press it up or down, holding your finger down on one or the other to go back to Drive. The gear shows up in the gauge cluster, in big print. This is mostly useful for towing and downhill or long uphill runs; the automatic transmission is a gentle mind-reader otherwise, nearly always picking the right gear. When you hit the gas it kicks down fairly quickly, helping the big diesel to be more responsive. Still, under full throttle runs, the automatic tended to shift long before reaching the diesel's low redline. It's hard to know how much of a difference that made, but those seeking pure performance may prefer to use the manual control.
The high torque of the Cummins — starting at a mere 1,500 rpm — helps the Ram to start moving with the slightest pressure on the gas pedal; but it's smooth. The powertrain feels like that of a luxury car (sounding like that of a semi), with bountiful torque and a silky automatic transmission quietly and without fuss making its way through six gears. If you need instant acceleration, pushing the pedal down further results in a quick downshift, which boosts the engine into its peak power zone — which doesn't take much since torque peaks at 1,500 rpm — and with a clattery roar, the truck surges forward. You can get quite a bit of acceleration without ever moving near the peak horsepower.
The torque made itself known after a heavy, wet snow that filled the bed to within a few inches of the top; when we drove the truck around with that heavy load of frozen water, the suspension was more nicely damped, the rear tires had a much firmer grip on the road, but there was no perceptible difference in acceleration.
Diesels are known for making noise, and the Cummins powerplant is quieter than it has been, but there's no mistaking what it is. At idle and under acceleration, it makes the clattering, rattling noise associated with diesels. When idling at a mere 600 rpm or so, the Cummins diesel sounds like a gasoline engine racing (and clattering). Under steady, moderate throttle, the engine makes an even roar with a light rattle. The noise isn't annoying or deafening; but it's definitely there.
Inside the Ram 2500 Laramie diesel pickup
The Laramie looks more like a luxury car than a work truck, aside from the massive size of some of the fixtures. Extensive use of large, curved chrome bezels brings everything upscale, including the rounded chrome bevels surround the six analog gauges (for towing or obsessive owners, the built in information center provides these temperatures and the transmission temperature in degrees.) The chrome is extended to the climate control vents, all the knobs, the door handles, and the door pulls, as well as a rounded-cornered woodgrain rectangle on each door. Woodgrain is also applies to the center stack bezel; the grain looks about as real as most actual woodgrain in automotive use (where wood has to be impregnated with plastic for safety and durability reasons.)
In addition to the six gauges, drivers get three squares for warning lights, so they can see multiple problems at once if needed; the usual warning lights scattered across the cluster; and a large central vehicle information center designed to show numerous pieces of information at once. The speedometer and tachometer both seem marketing-oriented, since the redline is below 4,000 rpm and the speedometer really doesn't need to go over 100 mph, even if the truck is capable of that speed.
Whenever the truck is started, the display first shows the Dodge logo (the diesel shows a yellow glow-plug indicator as well, but even in cold weather, the engine starts immediately; reader Gerry pointed out that the Cummins engine does not even use glow plugs, eschewing them in favor of a heating grid). Shown at all times in bold type along the top is the temperature and compass heading; the radio station (or, if satellite radio is active, the name of the station) is shown in regular type underneath the direction. At the bottom, the odometer (or a trip odometer, or a timer) is always shown.
Our test car was delivered with a "change oil" alert, so the screen defaulted to that, bonging each time and then showing "contact dealer." That was soon replaced by a low tire pressure alert, which brings up the Light Load button. The rear tires take either 45 or 60 pounds of pressure; if you have two light passengers up front with absolutely minimal cargo, you can put a mere 45 psi into the rear tires (the fronts still get 60) and then press the Light Load button to tell the computer you know the rear tires are low, they should be low. It's an either/or thing, if you want the light load button you also have to let the air out of the tires. Otherwise it refuses to go into light load mode, warning you that you have too much air in the tires instead. The reduced air pressure in the tires presumably improves the ride and cornering.
A series of four buttons on the steering wheel can take you up and down through the trip computer; going down shows the average gas mileage and distance to empty (conveniently, on the same screen), and lets you enter Setup. Going back up lets you explore more system information: coolant temp, oil temp, oil pressure, transmission temp, and total engine hours. Setup lets you change things like whether the wipers activate the headlights, whether a single press opens all door locks, etc. This system is easier to use than in the past, because it shows options with a check (or no check) to show if they are active, letting people quickly page through the options. Unfortunately, if you want to leave the system on, say, monitoring transmission temperature, you'll have to put it back there each time you start up.
This box shows the words Fuel Saver on Hemi-equipped vehicles when running on four cylinders. Like the GM system, there seems to be a time delay built in, which is no surprise since the cylinder deactivation can engage and disengage far faster than the time it takes the human eye to see a light flicker; presumably there's some sort of programming to determine when it's worth putting the light on.
The whole gauge cluster is backlit with an even light-gray light; the vehicle information system is white on black regardless. The effect is clear but attractive in bright light, twilight, and night driving.
The controls in the Ram 2500 pickup were convenient and sensible. The parking brake was far from the hood release and both were clearly marked; the audio controls on the steering wheel were placed on the back instead of sharing space with the info system; the headlights had an automatic, driving lights, and headlights mode as well as "off;" and pushing the knob turned on the fog lights.
The PRNDL (gear indicator) was a neat design showing all the gears and changing the color of whatever letter was selected electronically, with Reverse in red. The four wheel drive system used a knob; options were rear wheel drive, 4x4 lock in high and low gear modes, and neutral, engaged with a pushbutton.
The trailer brake sits underneath the headlight control, out of the way but not out of sight; it can be ignored when not in use. The diesel “Jake brake” button sits to the left of the tow/haul mode; handy when dealing with a large load or a steep downhill slope, it automatically applies the exhaust brake whenever you let off the gas, giving the characteristic big-rig sound, but it's not for casual use. It took a bit of research in the owner's manual to figure out what the icon meant. (The Ram doesn't come with an owner's manual; it comes with a CD, and you can download a PDF owner's manual from the Dodge web site. A glossy color quick-start guide in the glove compartment cover most of the basics.)
The dual climate control used one knob for fan speed, and pushed in for air recirculation; a second knob was for the vent control, with a push activating the mirror defrosters; and up/down buttons for driver and passenger temperature. Pushbuttons synchronized the two temperature settings, or turned on the a/c compressor. Button strips controlled the tow/haul mode, ESP, hazard flashers, 110V AC outlet, parking alert, heated seats, light load, and heated steering wheel (which heated up quickly and evenly, thank you).
Those who work from their trucks should be happy with the 110 volt AC outlet, and the folding center console that can hold a laptop with room to spare; the console has two flip-up dividers to subdivide the area, a removeable coin holder that assumes no pennies, a padded top (inside and out, to avoid damaging oversized objects when closed, and a DC outlet. What’s more, underneath that huge storage area is... another big storage area, of almost the same size, but where you wouldn’t think of looking for it (under the seat cushion). That's a lot of storage for clipboards, pads, books, and such.
If you need even more space, there are two storage bins underneath the rear floor mats. This could be a good place to store valuables out of the way, where uninformed thieves would not look. The compartments hold office-garbage-can-sized plastic containers, which can be purchased at Dodge dealers if you want to have several miniature equipment or supply pods depending on your trip.
The front seat moves back far enough to let someone type on a laptop, if they don't want to turn to the side and have it sit on the wide center armrest.
There are amenities more suitable for driving, including the rubberized sunglass holder on top of the center stack, the huge glove compartments — two of them — and map pockets on every door. Cupholders abound with two molded into the door pockets and three in a dropdown gizmo in the center stack; rear passengers also get two cupholders in a fold-down armrest. Or you can put all the dropdown things up and seat six people (though there are only two shoulder belts in front, there is a lap belt for the center position). The transmission hump makes it a bit awkward for anyone in the center, but the leg room in our crew cab was quite good.
Visibility is normal for a 4x4 full-sized pickup. You're too far off the ground to see everything on the opposite side or behind you; but the large windshield gives you a panaromic view of what's ahead. The defroster worked slowly, even with a warm engine, but eventually cleared the windshield and side windows.
Ram has new, larger mirrors, with better aerodynamics; they can include turn-signal indicators, puddle lamps, and adjustable convex sub-mirrors. Huge 7-in. x 11-in. mirrors for trailer towing are standard, flipping up and out into a vertical configuration when towing.
Our test vehicle had the turn indicators, puddle lamps, and convex sections, but not the flip-out 7 x 11 towing mirrors. The convex portion of the mirror provided a good holistic view of the road, while the oversized flat section provided perspective and a more traditional view. Together, they were a great asset and could help drivers to avoid many accidents.
Our test truck was the largest Ram makes: a crew cab with a long eight-foot bed. There is also a Mega Cab again, which has a larger cab but a smaller bed; you can go as small as a regular cab with six and a half foot bed. The interior was surprisingly roomy, with plenty of leg room in the back seats; the back was fully outfitted, with both heat vents and air conditioning vents that could be aimed by the rear passengers. Rear seat TV is optional, presumably for those who use the Ram as a family trailer-or-boat-towing car, the way in years past they would use a Chrysler Town & Country station wagon or in current years might use a Chevy Suburban (assuming they didn't have a trailer that attached to the pickup bed). The rear doors opened almost 90 degrees to make access easier; the step certainly helped and several people were surprised by how easy it was to get into the tall 4x4.
Fancy features and foofy frills
Buyers can choose a surprising array of features, including heated/ventilated front seats; heated rear seats and steering wheel; Backseat TV with three channels, and a first-in-segment 10-speaker surround-sound system.
The parking alert system is perhaps the most useful of these gadgets, as it can easily save a life, makes parking far easier, and can avoid an accident. More kids are now killed by being backed over than any other kind of accident, and rear visibility on a pickup is naturally restricted by the height of the vehicle; though the Ram has huge rear-view mirrors and the door glass goes down farther than usual, that “low object directly behind the truck” area is an inevitable blind spot that is ameliorated by the parking alert and rearview camera (the latter comes with the nav system). Dodge’s system has an audible alert that increases in frequency and a visual indicator on the dashboard, though it's missing the "rangefinder" LEDs of past models.
The dashboard included a warning section underneath the trip computer display; this showed the door ajar light (showing which door was ajar), the heating grid (replacing glow plugs) icon, and the cruise control status, with an icon of a gauge when the system was on, adding a pointer when a speed was locked in.
Our test truck included remote start, and since these pickups have radio-controlled ignition keys for security, there was no keyway as such, saving a few dollars and avoiding a future repair. You can unlock the doors by sliding out the “real” metal key from inside the fob, but you’re meant to always use the remote buttons. There are provisions for low batteries, as you might expect (and a standard key was issued to us, though it can't be used to start the car).
Remote Start was an interesting device; unlike the regular turn-the-key-and-it-starts routine, it seemed to delay for a few seconds before cranking the engine. (Watch the video below to hear the time delay.) In addition, if you start the engine and then shut if off remotely with the key, it won't start again until you've manually gone into the cab, presumably to prevent repeated accidental start/stops. (Remote start does require two long presses so accidents aren't likely unless a child gets hold of your key ring.)
An unusual feature for a Dodge or, for that matter, any car, was the standard (on Laramie) electric steering wheel heater, which quickly and fairly evenly warmed the wheel on cold days. Other upmarket features included express up/down windows (all four), an electric rear window opener, satellite radio with a 30 gigabyte hard drive, parking alert (to warn you of objects in your path when you back up), universal garage door remote, and remote starter.
The truck we tested had the optional hard-drive stereo, with both satellite radio and a hard drive to substitute for your iPod, holding a generous 30 gigabytes of music, pictures, and such; it can be filled by “ripping” CDs and DVDs, or by connecting via USB. You can also just plug in a device with the auxiliary cord, though then you can't use the convenient wheel-mounted controls. Sound is good but not excellent; being able to control the subwoofer would help. The controls are generally intuitive, but this system, with its touch screen controls, is more distracting than the standard stereo, and we suspect that most people would find satellite radio entertaining enough without the hard drive and its associated touch-screen/no-knob system.
It is sometimes amazing to think of the kind of trucks Dodge was building when they started their link with Cummins. The base engine was a slant six pushing out just 100 horsepower, a rating not seen in American trucks for a long time. Radios were optional, much less ten speaker hard-drive-based stereos with nav systems; forget about leather, the seats were covered in vinyl. No chrome, no five or six speed automatics; no automatic temperature control, but heaters were a popular option. It was a different time, to be sure, but trucks were expected to be for no-frills work.
A huge breakthrough came in 1994, when the first Dodge Ram 1500 hit the streets (getting an extra 0 from D-150). Dodge engineers had gone across the country to discover what truck owners wanted and needed, and it turned out that a lot of the people who spent large sums of money on a truck that they would spend most of their time in wanted something better, something softer on the inside, that they could use as an office when on the road. While the Laramie is not the best selling trim line, costing what it does, a decent number of people do spring for it, wanting the same luxury in their work vehicle that they would get if they drove a car. The Ram 2500 Laramie certainly delivers in that regard. (It also appeals to those who don't necessarily use a truck for work, but for towing an RV or a large boat.)
The base model Ram 2500 (and its bigger brother, the 3500) has most of the same ergonomic features; it might not have leather or a navigation system, but it still has the large storage areas and silky-smooth six-speed automatic (or G56 six-speed manual).
Ram body and pickup exterior
The rubberized top of the bumper can prevent people from slipping if they climbed on the bumper to get into the bed, but especially with the 4x4, getting into the bed is difficult. Two methods worked for us, short of using a stepladder: stepping on the lower area by the license plate and swinging a leg over the gate, or, with the gate open,precariously getting a toehold onto the small rubberized square still showing, grabbing onto the side, and swinging up. Neither was attractive and a stepladder isn't a bad piece of equipment, especially for shorter owners.
The license plate lights were set back into the bumper to shed light on the step and the trailer hookups; and the tailgate locked with a gentle click. Steel loops built into the pickup bed were useful for tying down cargo, and extended beyond the Mopar bed liner in our truck. That liner seemed tough and scratch resistant, with no sign of weakness, and would be advisable for most owners.
Extensive work was done on the Ram to increase gas mileage and cut interior noise, and it shows. The 2010 Ram pickup is around as aerodynamic as the benchmark 1993 Dodge Rams. It’s a far cry from the “drive fast with cotton strips glued on while someone takes pictures” method, and resulted in a surprisingly quiet cab. Wind noise is present at highway speeds, but not nearly as much as one would expect, and buffeting seems to be a thing of the past. A tonneau cover may help with highway mileage where possible.
Getting in and out is a bit difficult due to the 4x4’s ride height; but the large door openings help as do front pull-handles. Once inside, passengers have comfortable seats that seem to work for both large and small people, and generous headroom, shoulder room, and legroom (especially in the crew cab). The seats are on the overly firm side but not chiropractor-level so.
The hood was unlike much of the truck; the hood release was sensibly labelled and placed, but the hood only popped up a little bit before the security latch caught it, and then it was some work to get fingers into the narrow opening (protected by a rubber moulding for aerodynamic and noise purposes) and shove the latch over from right to left. It's not something you'd want to do on a regular basis; I can't imagine the fleet mechanics will be overjoyed.
Ram 2500 Laramie Crew Cab Value
The base 2010 Ram 2500 costs $28,165 (all prices here include destination charges within the United States). That's for a 4x2 with regular cab and Hemi V8 engine. Outfitted with the 4x4 and crew cab with long box (the largest and priciest configuration), the price jumps up to $35,010 for the ST model; around $3,000 of that is for the four wheel drive.
The Crew Cab Laramie with 4x4 and 8.2 box, a luxury-liner top-of-the-line pickup with numerous standard features, starts at $43,600 (4x4 is included in that price; get rear wheel drive and you save $3,160). This is a pretty well loaded vehicle with remote keyless entry, cruise, power locks, windows, mirrors, express front windows (up and down), automatic headlights, power chrome heated mirrors with automatic dimmers and built-in turn signals, rear parking assist system, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, DVD satellite stereo with 506 watts, eight speakers, and subwoofer, second-row in-floor storage, memory for the radio, mirrors, adjustable pedals, and driver's seat, power six-way driver and passenger seat, heated steering wheel, trip computer, integrated phone system, heated front seats, steering-wheel audio controls, AC outlet, rear sliding window, and overhead garage door opener. Oh, and for those who need a truck, it also includes the trailer tow wiring with four and seven pin connectors, a class IV receiver hitch, and fog lamps.
That's a huge amount of standard equipment, some of which is still making its way into luxury cars (like a heated steering wheel). Our test car had some minor options - red paint ($225), a six-speed automatic ($405 but the manual comes with a thousand-dollar credit, so it's more like $1,575), limited-slip rear axle ($325), roof-mounted clearance lamps ($80), on/off-road tires ($200), and backup camera ($200).
The huge option on our Ram 2500 truck, though, was the 6.7 liter Cummins turbodiesel, which increased gas mileage, raised the gross vehicle weight rating to 9,600 pounds, and included the diesel exhaust brake and tow hooks. That ran to a stunning $7,615, but it's well worth it for those who keep their trucks for 20 years or 700,000 miles, whichever comes first.
The final option on our truck was the $800 media center, including the hard drive stereo, GPS navigation system, and Sirius Traffic services for a year. That brought the total price up to a stunning $53,450, almost but not quite double the price of the base, two-door, 6-foot-bed, V8-powered Ram 2500.
The Ram comes with a five year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty, 24 hour towing assistance, and 3-year or 36,000 mile basic warranty. Assembled in Saltillo, Mexico (Dodge also makes trucks in Warren, Michigan), the Ram is made from mostly American components (the Hemi is also Mexican but the Cummins is American).
Overall, the 2010 Ram 2500, like the 2010 Ram 1500, before it, can claim a clear victory over every other pickup in its class when it comes to daily driving feel, cornering, and features. Gas mileage appears to be above average (it's hard to tell, since the government doesn't require gas mileage tests in this class), power is smooth and bountiful, and the looks are as good as a pickup can get. It looks like Dodge (excuse me, Ram) has another winner — and another class leader for GM and Ford to imitate.