At minimum a Ram HD is more than 19 feet long, six-and-a-half feet wide, six feet tall, needs nearly 3.5 traffic lanes to execute a U-turn and is 5800 pounds of sink-in-hot-pavement truck. If you haven't got a lot of weight to carry or pull a 1500 will probably serve better.
That said and once accustomed to the outside dimensions, the 2010 Ram HD is not hard to drive. You need to allow a bit more space for stopping distance than the average car but that's easy given the visibility from the higher driving position. The steering is reasonably quick, and the 4WD's steering feels almost as good as that on the independently sprung 2WD. You'll be twisting the wheel more than a car to make the same turn, and the Ram changes direction easily and we couldn't overwhelm the steering pump (making it sluggish and heavy) in parking lot maneuvering or threading a 4WD through mud, trees and rock.
There are good reasons why many enthusiast magazines don't do handling tests on HD pickups because handling is a relative term. The Ram changes directions admirably and has predictable characteristics, but start horseplay in a vehicle where the rear axle alone weighs as much as a big Harley and you'll learn the hard way what drop-throttle oversteer is.
Given the engines, transmissions, brakes and basic suspension architecture are little changed from 2009, what stands out the most on the 2010 Ram is the quiet and ride smoothness. We found the Crew Cabs and Mega Cabs quiet, solid and nearly shudder free. (We haven't driven a Regular Cab.) Part of this solid feel is suspension tuning and part of the smoothness is the advanced body mounting system.
With the new seats for 2010 there is now no single aspect of the truck that will wear you out. At 75 mph on moderately good pavement we floored the pedal on a diesel and the engine wasn't heard over the road noise and wind noise wasn't heard above either. We could still converse in regular tones, even with riders in the rear seat. Since it revs higher the Hemi comes across no quieter than the diesel except at cold idle.
The 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is standard and available only on 2500 and with an automatic transmission. The Hemi, redesigned for 2009, develops 383 horsepower at 5600 rpm and, like any good truck engine, it makes more torque than horsepower, with 400 pound-feet at 4000 rpm. We could cruise along at moderate rpm doing Texas highway speeds and although the Hemi has cylinder deactivation for improved mileage it won't happen much in a 4WD pickup that weighs more than three tons. On our drive the trip computer showed an average 12.2 mpg which was frankly a bit better than we thought it would be. The Hemi is a realistic choice for those not towing severe loads, or heavy loads for long distances, where purchase price is a more important consideration than towing performance, fuel economy or maximum engine life.
The Cummins Turbo Diesel option is a proven option, ready for 2010-emissions compliance three years early. Both Ford and GM are introducing new diesel engines in early 2010 for that decree, and both of them will require the use of diesel exhaust fluid (aka urea or trade names such as AdBlue) at regular maintenance intervals. Only the cab-and-chassis diesel Rams will require the additive. Dodge's diesel option costs about $6,500. Since the engine is essentially the same as last year's and does not require the added costs associated with urea, it should remain the best buy in diesel options.
The 2010 HD also continues to offer the choice of manual or automatic six-speed transmissions for diesel buyers, although the manual is rated at 610 lb-ft of torque at 1400 rpm vs 650 lb-ft at 1500 for automatic, and the automatic is available with shorter axle ratios and higher tow ratings. Unless you do a lot of snow plow work, we recommend the automatic. The exhaust brake makes grades and slowing stress free by delivering up to 190 braking horsepower (bhp) to control descent speed, thereby leaving the service brakes cool and free for more immediate stopping.
The Cummins inline six-cylinder is built like a tractor-trailer engine, with exceptional longevity and low-rpm grunt, and frequently used in fire apparatus and motorhomes that carry 2-10 times what a Ram pickup will. Torque is what gets a load in motion, and with the Cummins making nearly as much torque when you let the clutch out as the Hemi does at 4,000 rpm, it is the obvious choice for heavy towing. Many RVers report better fuel mileage towing with their Cummins than a Hemi gets in an empty truck. On essentially the same drive that saw 12.2 mpg in a Hemi 2500, we recorded about 16.5 mpg in a 1000-pounds-heavier, dual-rear-wheel Cummins automatic.
For 2010, Dodge has added an integrated trailer brake controller to match the competition. In our trailer drives, the system worked as it should, as smooth or smoother than the most expensive aftermarket controllers. Like most such systems it does not work with all electric-over-hydraulic trailer brakes becoming more common on upper-end and heavier RV's. A fifth-wheel plug arrangement is available from Mopar and will maintain the warranty when properly installed.
The Power Wagon needs to be considered a separate model based not only on equipment but also performance. Locking differentials and a front anti-sway bar disconnect give low-speed off-highway performance no full-size pickup can match. It's also quite good at speed across a gravel road or dry wash, though not a direct match for Ford's F-150 Raptor, which will cost $41,000 with the 6.2-liter engine, has a smaller cab, and has roughly 60 percent of the payload and towing capacity of a Power Wagon.
Top tow rating with the Hemi is in the 11,350-pounds range, on a 2500 series regular cab, long bed, low trim level. Adding a larger cab, more lux or 4WD will lower the rating, possibly by 1,100 pounds. Maximum payload varies by the same parameters, engine and number of rear wheels, ranging from 1880 on a Mega Cab Laramie 2WD diesel 2500 up to 5130 pounds on a 3500 DRW regular cab 4WD long bed. The maximum tow rating is 17,600 pounds, on a diesel automatic 3500 DRW regular cab ST. Note that virtually all pickup truck tow ratings apply to a truck with a driver and only the mechanical options required; any cargo, people, or aftermarket equipment on board (winch, tool box, fifth-wheel hitch, etc.) will have to be subtracted from the max ratings.
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