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2017 Ram 2500 Test Drive Review
These days, trucks get asked to do more than ever. They have to be capable of all sorts of use and abuse at the worksite, but also serve as the family hauler. So trucks are getting more and more comfortable while retaining (and building upon) the capability that defines them.
Enter the 2017 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty. It is far more than a simple work truck, and that’s because it has to be. Ford and Chevy provide stiff competition when it comes to the worksite. As such, Ram has to offer its 2500 in a plethora of trims and offer plenty of unique features and creature comforts to make it an attractive option. The result is a truck that is not only great to drive and live with every day, but powerful and functional enough to live up to its “Heavy Duty” billing.
Look and Feel
As far back as 1994 (when the brand was part of Dodge), Ram trucks have employed a Big Rig styling aesthetic, with the iconic crosshair grille and hood rising above the flanking headlights.
But Ram is starting to phase out the crosshair grille. We’ve seen the alternative in the new polygon grille on the Ram 1500 Limited. There is also now what Ram must internally call the “bad-ass grille.” It's a fully blacked-out grille that can be found on the Ram 1500 Rebel and the Ram 2500 Power Wagon we tested for a week.
In this corner of the market, every cabin is spacious, but what you do with that space is what matters. Ram trucks have well-laid-out controls, and they are very easily accessible. It’s in the same category as the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra in that all three are intuitive and inviting.
The Ram 2500 lineup includes Tradesman, SLT, Big Horn, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, and Limited trim levels. In many ways, the Power Wagon is its own beast, but on price, it slots between the Laramie and Laramie Longhorn.
With all the luxury trucks out there, the honest-to-goodness work truck might seem like a dying breed, but the Tradesman is the real deal for the worksite. It comes with plain vinyl bench seats, a basic LCD-screen radio, steel wheels, and plastic bumpers.
There are usually plenty of letters to denote different trims in a vehicle lineup, but the only alphanumeric trim that remains in the 2500's lineup is the SLT. It's a popular version and comes with the improved 5-inch touchscreen and sliding rear window. It also adds cloth seats, chrome bumpers, a mini trip computer, and a one-year subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio.
The Big Horn adds fog lights, a power driver’s seat, backup camera, and the larger 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen.
If you want chrome, the Laramie has plenty, along with heated and ventilated front seats and front and rear parking sensors.
The Power Wagon test model comes with adjustable pedals, heated and cooled leather seats, a heated steering wheel, a power rear window, and remote start.
The Limited trim is the top of the lineup and comes with a unique grille design, full leather interior, remote start, and Ram Box cargo management, and it has chrome everywhere. It is one seriously well-equipped truck, and it's designed to take on the GMC Sierra Denali.
Ram never did subtle well, but the Power Wagon is like a 4-wheeled Old Spice ad. Between the massive grille, blacked-out fenders and bumper, and massive “Power Wagon” decal up the side of the bed, there’s no way to not make an entrance with this vehicle. Thankfully, it has the bite to back up its bark.
V8 power is standard in the Ram 2500, which offers a 5.7-liter V8 as base equipment. That engine delivers 383 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, but if you seek more oomph, Ram offers a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 that puts out 410 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque. This larger V8 is found under the hood of our Power Wagon.
But as with most heavy-duty pickups, there's also a diesel option for the Ram 2500, and the Cummins 6-cylinder turbodiesel has long been available within the Ram Heavy Duty lineup. In its current iteration, it displaces 6.7 liters and puts out 350 horsepower and 660 lb-ft of torque with the 6-speed manual transmission (more on that in a moment). If you go for the 6-speed automatic, those output numbers jump to 370 horsepower and 800 lb-ft of torque.
If you go for either gas engine, you get the 6-speed automatic, and that’s it. But if you opt for the Cummins, you can master each rev with the 6-speed manual transmission. Of course, diesel buyers can opt for the 6-speed automatic, instead of the manual. In our week with the Power Wagon and its hefty 6.4-liter Hemi, we observed fuel economy of just under 12 mpg combined.
A surprising element about this truck is its maneuverability, despite it being a full-size, heavy-duty truck. A three-point turn is not as much of a chore as one might imagine, and you can maneuver in a parking lot quite well.
Designed for off-roading, the Power Wagon includes some unique running gear, including Bilstein performance shocks, 33-inch all-terrain tires, and skid plates for the fuel tank and transfer case. It also features a Warn Winch rated for 12,000 pounds, which we used to tow a Jeep Cherokee on dirt with total ease.
The Power Wagon boasts some trick off-road gear that you’d expect to find on a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon before a Ram pickup. This kit includes an electronically disconnecting front sway bar and front and rear lockers. The sway-bar disconnection allows for greater articulation between the two front wheels, meaning you can tackle very uneven surfaces.
The lockers are for when the Power Wagon encounters uneven footing. A typical differential will leave one wheel spinning while the other goes nowhere. The locker allows them to both crawl at the same speed. With front and rear axles locked, there are few surfaces this truck can’t handle.
Notice, I didn’t write “few places this truck can’t go.” Despite all its incredible off-road gear, many trails are heavily wooded, and the Power Wagon might not fit on some spots where a Jeep Wrangler or Toyota 4Runner could squeeze through.
You may often see Jeeps with winches on the front, however the winch on this Power Wagon is integrated into the front bumper. To use it, you reach into the bumper and pull a metal lever on the driver's side, which releases the motor clutch. This allows you to pull the tow hook out freely. Then you connect the remote-control wire to an outlet on the passenger side of the winch. Instructions are on the remote.
Make sure you slowly reel in the winch so that the cable gets taut before towing the stuck vehicle. If available, drape ropes over the center of the cable. This way, if the cable snaps, it will get dragged down before going for your shins or the windshield of your brand new truck.
On non-Power Wagon versions, an available air suspension provides a seriously smooth ride and lets you adjust ride height. You can lower the truck to make getting in and out easier, and the truck will also lower automatically at highway speeds for improved aerodynamics and handling.
In addition to the old-school column shifter, you get a tow/haul mode button on the dash. When properly equipped, the Ram 2500 can tow up to 17,980 pounds. The Power Wagon specifically tops out at just over 10,000 pounds.
The max payload for the entire 2500 lineup is 3,990 pounds, though the Power Wagon can carry just 1,510.
Form and Function
The cabin of the Ram 2500 is sprinkled with cubbies, cupholders, and compartments. The dual glovebox on our test model was a nice touch. Additionally, the center console is large enough to hold a laptop.
While the smaller Ram 1500 has a unique dial shifter to put it into gear, the Ram 2500 has a traditional column-style shifter, and this truck is better for it. Our Power Wagon test model also featured a front bench with a fold-up center console seat. It allows the Ram crew cab to seat six, although the front middle seat will be tight, due not only to the transmission hump in the floor, but also to the Power Wagon’s floor-mounted 4x4 shifter.
Our Power Wagon test model came with the available Ram Box cargo-management system. The Ram Boxes are drainable, include in-box lights, and are looped into the power locks for the whole truck. I took a look at a 2016 Ram 1500 Limited last year—they really add to the truck’s usability.
The Power Wagon also came with a bed extender for corralling large items, a tonneau bed cover, and a locking tailgate. The combination of cover and locking tailgate is incredibly helpful if you are storing valuable items (or even expensive equipment) in the bed and will have to leave the truck for a while.
As we stated, the Tradesman provides a basic radio with an LCD screen, like a truck from 10 years ago. Bluetooth connectivity is optional on the Tradesman but standard on every other version of the Ram 2500.
SLT, Big Horn, and the Power Wagon trims come standard with a 5-inch color touchscreen to operate the stereo, a paired phone, or vehicle settings. Our Power Wagon came with the available 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen, which is standard on the Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, and Limited versions.
Uconnect is one of the most intuitive infotainment systems on the market today. It has a tablet-like layout, with Home buttons at the bottom of the screen for all the major systems, like radio, media, climate controls, navigation, phone, and apps, which includes vehicle settings. Many of the audio and climate controls have hard-button backups, and that is a very welcome redundancy.
There’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto yet, but new versions of the Uconnect system have been making their way into other FCA products. Perhaps by 2019 or even 2018, we’ll see these popular systems in Ram’s big trucks.
The Ram 2500 comes standard with front and side-impact airbags, as well as a tire pressure monitoring system and electronic stability control. You can get a reversing camera as optional equipment, but if you wait for the 2018 model year, it will come standard.
Our Power Wagon came with available front and rear parking sensors, giving you the confidence to pull right up to the curb without gingerly inching that way. The large mirrors with integrated wide-angle mirrors take some getting used to but are immensely helpful when trying to maneuver in traffic.
And the wide-angle mirrors make seeing other cars and obstructions a heck of a lot easier.
The 2017 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty has a base MSRP of $32,145 for a single cab, rear-wheel-drive Tradesman trim. An SLT in the same configuration starts at $36,345. The Big Horn starts with the crew cab model, which has an MSRP of $42,725.
Moving upmarket, the Laramie starts at $47,645 and the Laramie Longhorn starts at $54,375. The range-topping Limited starts at $57,775.
The Power Wagon starts at $51,695, but our test model had a heap of options, including the tonneau cover ($545), Ram Box system ($1,295), spray-in bed-liner ($495), Uconnect infotainment ($500), and a host of other small items, as well as a $1,320 (!) destination charge. All told, our test model clocked in at $62,905.
That’s quite a chunk of change, but frankly, that’s how much a good new truck costs in 2017. Despite its brutish outward appearance, the Power Wagon is more than a unique grille, a winch, and some off-road gear. If you want the best towing numbers, you can always go for the Ford Super Duty, but that truck has a cold, uninviting interior and is not as comfortable for long trips.
There’s a good chance you'll spend more time on the road with your truck than on the work site. If you are one of these people, the Ram 2500 is a better option. It’s plenty powerful, but also has a comfortable suspension, upscale trims, and creature comforts to make it a highly capable, daily drivable machine.
From open-wheel racecars to specialty off-road vehicles, George Kennedy has driven it all. A career automotive journalist, George has been a contributor, editor, and/or producer at some of the most respected publications and outlets, including Consumer Reports, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Autoblog.com, Hemmings Classic Wheels, BoldRide.com, the Providence Journal, and WheelsTV.
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