Kent Sundling: Mr. Truck 1-28-13
Ram dominates the truck race in 2013 with big improvements, next year GM and Ford have new trucks. This year Ram 1500 has improved with fuel efficiency using a new eight-speed automatic transmission (TorqueFlite 8). The new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine features 42 percent more horsepower, 13 percent more torque and 20 percent better fuel economy when compared to the previous 3.7-liter V-6 powertrain with 305 horsepower, with 269 pound-foot of torque. The 5.7-liter HEMI® V-8 with variable-valve timing provides 395 horsepower, 407 pound-foot of torque and 10 percent better fuel economy when compared to the Hemi in 2012.
A new dash-mounted rotary shifter on the eight-speed is supposed to allow you to switch between reverse and drive gears when you’re stuck, faster than the shifters on the column or console. Some of the big rigs have a console shifter. A 6-foot-4-inch bed size is now available on Crew Cab models.
Also new for 2013 on the 1500 Ram is air suspension. Similar to what’s been offered on the Grand Cherokee, air suspension system featuring five height settings. Another benefit to the new air suspension is load-leveling, which automatically detects load on the suspension from a trailer or payload. The air pressure increases until the vehicle reaches normal ride height, leveling the truck and improving the loaded ride.
The 2013 Ram 1500 features electric power steering. This gives some improvement in fuel mileage and extra power removing the previous hydraulic pump, high-pressure hydraulic hoses and coolers.
Ram Heavy Duty
The dually one ton towing race just went over the top. The Ram 3500 Heavy Duty pickup claims a 30,000-pound trailer capacity thanks to a new 50,000 pounds-per-square-inch, high-strength steel frame, improved transfer case, higher-load transmission (same transmission used on 4500 and 5500), an upgraded 6.7-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel engine with a best-in-class 850 pound-foot of torque and other driveline upgrades. The Ram 3500’s Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) which is the maximum combined weight of the truck, payload and trailer, has been raised to 37,600 pounds. So the curb weight of the trucks needs to be 7,600 pounds to tow 30,000 pounds, meaning a regular cab 2-wheel drive. This puts the Ram 3500 dually almost half the weight rating of a semi-tractor trailer class 8 rig.
This jumps towing capacity in the one ton segment by 7000 pounds. On my farm in the 70s I was overloaded towing 25,000 pounds of trailer with a one ton pickup, but I wasn’t in heavy traffic or going down the fast side of the Rockies. Towing gooseneck trailers across the country in bad weather keeps my hands full, with decades of experience. An average driver and a 30,000 pound trailer worries me. If I knew the drivers were tested professionals it would be different. But if the 30,000 pound trailer is a 5th wheel RV trailer, anyone could be driving it whether 16-years-old or 96 with a car drivers license.
Ram’s closest competitor is a 23,100-pound maximum trailer. For 2013, the Ram 2500 will also have increased towing and GCWR, at 18,350 pounds and 25,000 pounds.
Ram Heavy Duty adds for 2013 a factory-integrated fifth-wheel and gooseneck hitch mount, a 17,000-pound Class V hitch with 1,800 pounds of tongue weight, electronic stability control for dual-rear-wheels and a new Center High-Mounted Stop Light positioned camera, to provide a view of the bed for easier hook-up of fifth-wheel or gooseneck trailers.
For 2013, all Ram Heavy Duty diesels have an all-new cooling system. A high-efficiency fan, dual radiators, dual transmission coolers and low-slung charge air cooler. Cummins Turbo Diesel-equipped Ram trucks also provide 15,000-mile oil change intervals.
It also has a new adjustable exhaust brake. Ram keeps improving their effective exhaust brake. One of my favorite features for towing trailers in the mountains. I congratulate Ram for moving their integrated trailer brake controller to the right side of the steering wheel. There’s a reason semi-trucks have their trailer brake handle on the right side of the steering wheel. It’s easier to see, easier to access when you need to brake the trailer separate from the truck on mountain curves and slick roads or even when you get cut off on the highway and have to swerve out of the way and control a swaying trailer.
With this new towing capacity of the 2013 Ram 3500, what about the trailer? Semi trailers have been required to have ABS brakes since 1991. They even have a light on the rear to show if the ABS is working.
Most trailers towed with pickup trucks now, have electric drum brakes with no ABS. You won’t find electric drum brakes on any vehicle that hauls passengers. Electric brakes are not the best, they are the cheapest. To me stopping a pickup truck with a 30,000 pound trailer is still the problem. Ram’s exhaust brake is very good at slowing down a truck, but it’s not as powerful as an engine brake that semi trucks have.
The next problem is suspension, yes the new Ram has a beefed up front and rear suspension, but the rear suspension is still Hotchkiss leaf springs. Leaf springs squat under load. Imagine a 30,000 pound gooseneck trailer with a 25 percent tongue weight equals 7500 pounds. From zero to 7500 pounds mostly on the rear axle, the rear of the new Ram could drop several inches. This affects the headlight angle and more importantly the rear differential pinion angle. If the drive train levels out too much, the rear axle hops, the universal joints pop and unpleasant noises occur. Hopefully Heavy Duty Ram will offer air suspension like little brother 1500. You’ll have a hard time finding a class 8 over the road semi-truck without air suspension.
Kent Sundling (alias “Mr. Truck”) spent 20 years wearing out pickup trucks as only a farmer could. With over 1 million miles pulling trailers, Mr. Truck has a unique collection of truck and farm stories that will educate and entertain. Mr.Truck gave up his bib overalls and John Deeres in his quest to save the farm and moved to the big city to sell trucks. After selling trucks for 10 years, this farmer now writes for eight magazines and owns over two dozen Web sites, helping folks find the “Right Truck.” If you have a question for Mr. Truck, you may contact him at his Web site, http://www.MrTruck.net. ❖