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Diversify, diversify, diversify. It's the one word that financial advisors would love to brand onto the backs of their clients eyelids to help them achieve the best possible return on their investment portfolios. The idea is that if you spread your capital across a number of different asset types, then you stand a better chance of weathering any potential economic storms.
Unsurprisingly, in the commercial vehicle segment diversification is also a worthy goal to pursue - and it appears to be one that Ram has identified as being key to its lineup of Heavy Duty trucks. For 2014, Ram has given its 2500 and 3500 series Heavy Duty models a range of engine options and chassis improvements designed to expand their appeal across the widest possible demographic.
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Three Flavors Of Diesel, Two Flavors Of Gasoline
Even before Ram split off from Dodge, the Heavy Duty line of trucks were known for their outstanding Cummins turbodiesel power plants. That trend of excellent continues for 2014 thanks to the presence of a 6.7-liter, six-cylinder turbodiesel engine that can be ordered in as many as three different tunes. The entry-level diesel develops 350 horsepower and 660 lb-ft of torque, the middle child puts out 370 horses and 800 lb-ft of torque, and the king-of-the-hill version (offered exclusively in 3500 series trucks) produces a might 385 horsepower and 850 lb-ft of twist. While it might seem odd that the Cummins can be so many ways, it's actually tied into transmission choice: the base six-speed manual can't handle the same level of torque that the Aisin-sourced autobox yoked to the 850 lb-ft is capable of absorbing (and for some reason, there's a different six-speed automatic unit yoked to the 800 lb-ft engine).
The 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine that was offered last year continues to be available with the 2014 Ram Heavy Duty trucks (producing 383 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque), but a new optional 6.4-liter eight-cylinder engine joins the stable for those seeking more low-end grunt. Also a Hemi unit, the 6.4-liter mill generates 410 horses and 429 lb-ft of torque, with the latter coming on at 4,000 rpm. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard with either gas motor.
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Real-World Brute Force
There's no question that the Cummins motor is the workhorse of the Ram Heavy Duty family. I had the chance to tow 25,000 lbs (in the form of two Case International tractors) with the Ram 3500 dual-rear-wheel model outfitted with a fifth-wheel trailer hitch (a factory option), and the experience was an eye-opening one. The 850 lb-ft of torque generated by the Aisin-equipped 6.7-liter motor had zero issues with getting the load moving off of the line or keeping it at speed once we were underway.
The 6.4-liter mill is also impressive - I hauled 1,000 lbs of hay bales in the bed of a 2500 series Ram with no impact on forward momentum - and comparing the same load handling to the 3500 (also filled with hay bales) it's easy to see where the gas engine pulls ahead in terms of throttle response and noise for non-towing applications. The truck also comes with cylinder-deactivation technology, which should improve fuel mileage for those who double-duty their work ride. Four-wheel drive can be had with either gasoline or turbodiesel versions of the Ram Heavy Duty pickups.
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Not Just A Drivetrain Story
It takes more than just a flotilla of gutsy engines to successfully execute a commercial-grade truck lineup, and the 2014 Ram Heavy Duty pickups are also stand-outs when it comes to their chassis designs. The biggest innovation can be found with the RAM 2500, which gains a class-exclusive rear coil spring design in place of last year's leaf spring setup. The upshot of going with coils is a smoother driving experience, regardless of whether there is a load in the back of the pickup or not, and the difference in comfort, noise, and vibration between the 2500 and 3500 versions of the Ram was astounding on both smooth and rough pavement. A fresh three-link front suspension setup is also in store for the 2500, creating a package that is much more drivable on a daily basis than one would expect from such a capable truck. You can also get rear airbags to help level out the load for 2500 editions of the 2014 Ram Heavy Duty (also available with 3500 series duallies).
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Light-Duty Luxury, Worksite Practicality
Light-Duty Luxury, Worksite Practicality
The 2014 Ram Heavy Duty doesn't skimp in the luxury department, as it's possible to deck out the 2500 and 3500 series trucks with the same Longhorn and Limited trims that make the light-duty versions of the pickup such comfortable land yachts. High end leather, the latest uConnect system from Chrysler, and a seriously upscale cabin highlight the Crew and Mega Cab (five to six-passenger) Heavy Duty models. If you want to get serious about going off-road, the new 6.4-liter V-8 can be paired with the 2500 Power Wagon model's Bilstein shocks, remote-disconnecting front swaybar, WARN winch, locking front and rear differentials, and increased ride height, and for day-to-day work-site duties the Regular cab Ram ST comes with must-haves like air conditioning combined with easy-to-clean cloth seats and a no-frills interior.
The 2014 Ram Heavy Duty trucks present a panoply of task-focused options suitable for tackling almost any conceivable job. The stakes have been raised for three-quarter and full-ton truck buyers thanks to the willingness on Chrysler's part to invest in innovation in what has traditionally been a conservative segment of the commercial market.
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