With the available High Output 6.7L Cummins, Ram took the trophy in 2019 for first truck to reach 1,000 lb-ft of torque from the factory. While this number is very impressive, I wanted to test the new 5th Generation Cummins-equipped Ram HD trucks for myself. Last week, I flew to Las Vegas to put the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty trucks to the test in the El Dorado Canyon. Steep grades, sharp turns, and narrow roads made for ideal testing conditions. Almost every model and trim was present, along with a variety of trailers and loads to tow up and down the canyon.
2019 Ram Heavy Duty Performance
If you’ve ridden as a passenger when I drive my trucks, you would know that every time I drive, I’m pushing my diesel truck to the limit. Diesels are built for work. Why go easy on them? With the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty trucks, I took the same approach.
What We Liked
1,000 Ft-Lb Torque Straight From the Factory
The 5th generation Cummins made history this model year. The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty truck paired with an Aisin transmission will be the first truck in its class to reach the 1,000 ft-lb torque milestone. The engine underwent many changes to meet this mark. A new CGI block is used that is lighter and 75% stronger. Advanced Cylinder heads provide better cooling and durability. The fuel system is now a 29,000 PSI system. Turbochargers received some changes on the compressor side. Any diesel enthusiast knows that when it comes to engines, Cummins is at the top of the list. Even though the 6.7L platform underwent a couple of changes, it still holds true to its inline, six cylinder design. The 6.7L Cummins is a major sell-point for the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty trucks.
Unparalleled Towing Capability
It didn’t matter what trailer I pulled, how fast I drove, or how steep the grade, the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty trucks paired with the high output 6.7L Cummins engine and the Aisin Transmission pulled better than any truck I’ve previously driven. Even with a 35,100 lb load, the trucks made moving the trailers look effortless. After sitting behind the wheel, I felt comfortable and confident that the truck could accomplish any towing task easily. The standard 6.7L Cummins engine paired with the 68RFE transmission also pulled astonishingly well. We drove for two hours with a 15,000 pound trailer just to get to our primary test-drive event. In that span of time, we had to navigate the highways, winding roads, and traffic! While I won’t tell you the highest speed we reached, let me tell you this- for a small period of time, I completely forgot I was pulling a trailer at all. The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty truck with the standard Cummins engine felt as if it was unloaded.
While I don’t particularly like these transmissions compared to Ram’s competitors, both the Aisin and the 68RFE performed very well under load. Journalists drove the trucks up and down the El Dorado Canyon for over four hours! After talking to different journalists, and along with my own experiences, transmission fluid temperature never spiked above 180 degrees. In fact, I personally never had the temperature rise above 176 degrees. My stock 2018 Ram 2500 Megacab has reached higher temperatures in Florida with lighter loads!
There is no doubt in my mind that the 5th Gen Ram diesel trucks drive significantly better stock over the 4th gen. Ram really stepped it up this year in terms of unloaded driving. Shift points felt firm and purposeful. On previous generation trucks, downshifts could be almost painful at times. That is not the case with the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty. A new dual core processor is used for faster communication in the transmission. The Dual Core processor helps execute quicker shifts and greatly improves shift quality. You can definitely feel the difference.
Maintain Speed Downhill Easily
The trucks’ capability to maintain a safe speed going downhill was very impressive. Even with a 35,000 pound trailer at a steep decline, I only had to press the brakes a handful of times in a 4 Mile stretch. One thing I did notice was that the engine braking felt significantly smoother than my current 2018 Ram 2500. Sometimes it can feel a bit clunky on my truck. This is especially the case when traditionally braking in tandem with the engine brake. The new 2019 Ram Heavy Duty engine braking system was practically flawless.
While I personally enjoy the sound of a diesel engine, I understand why a quiet cabin is important to so many of you. The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty trucks are the quietest they’ve ever been. Even with the hood open, the 2019 6.7L Cummins engine is unbelievably quiet. Ram also made improvements to the cabin itself to reduce external noise by up to 10 db. Acoustic glass and active noise cancellation help make this possible.
What We Didn’t Like
Two Variations, Two Different Outputs
While the new 2019 Ram Heavy Duty trucks are more capable than ever, they aren’t perfect. Due to the fact that there are two different available 6.7L Cummins engines, you won’t get the 1,000 lb-ft of torque unless you opt-in for the high output Cummins paired with the Aisin Transmission. There is a very noticeable difference between the two.
When compared to competitors, the 2019 standard 6.7L Cummins engine still falls a bit short. Both Ford and GM trucks produce over 400 horsepower and 900 ft-lbs of torque across their entire spectrum of diesel trucks. Can you notice the difference when towing? Nope. But if you’re someone who commutes in a diesel truck, this could be a pain-point.
Transmissions Improved, But Still Fall Short
Both the 68RFE and Aisin equipped 2019 Ram HD trucks feel significantly better on the road, but they still fall short compared to GM or Ford’s transmissions. The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty still feels like a truck. GM and Ford trucks feature 8 or 10 speed transmissions offering superb ride quality and effortless shifting, like a car.
Towing technology was big theme amongst automotive manufacturers this year. Because of this, I was curious as to what Ram would offer their customers to help their customers tow easier.
What We Liked
Bed Lowering Mode
Ram introduced a bed lowering mode on 2019 HD models. Drivers can now lower the truck’s bed 2.5 inches by pressing a button. This is a very useful feature for truck owners who tow frequently as trailer hook-up time is greatly reduced. When used in unison with Ram’s active grid lines you can easily line up your gooseneck trailer and ball. Once positioned correctly, simply press the button again and the truck raises. I think this feature will also make it easier for owners to enter the bed.
While Ram’s HD tailgate doesn’t have the functionality we recently discovered on newer 1500 trucks, it still received some modern touches. For higher trims, you can lower the tailgate at the press of a button inside the cabin. I think this is a valuable feature as you now no longer have to exit the truck to open the tailgate. Tailgates now offer dampening control too, so you can’t slam them.
2019 Ram Heavy Duty trucks will gain a couple of camera views geared towards towing. A split camera view is now available, giving you a line of sight down both sides of the vehicle. I really liked this feature as we had the opportunity to pull some very long trailers. Both Cargo and Rear-view cameras are also still included. Cargo cameras now, as I touched on previously, feature active grid lines to help drivers easily line-up their gooseneck or fifth-wheel trailers. Auxiliary cameras can be used to provide an extra camera view of the rear-end of any trailers or inside the actual trailer. Ram also added a 360 degree camera for the truck. It made navigating tight spaces and sharp turns very easy.
Trailer Tire Pressure Monitoring
Monitoring trailer tires can be a very time consuming, but important task for drivers who tow. With Ram’s 5th generation heavy duty, drivers have the ability to add up to five trailers with tire pressure monitoring systems. The first truck I drove had this feature. It gave me peace of mind knowing that all I have to do is flip through a couple of screens to check on my trailer tires. If trailer tire pressure falls 10% or more, you actually get a warning too.
What We Didn’t Like
Ram added a couple of tow-centric features to their arsenal. However, they still fall a little short compared to other manufacturers’ recent towing innovations. For example, certain Ford trucks can back themselves up while pulling a trailer. If you’re someone that is very comfortable pulling a trailer, I doubt these features really matter to you. Either way, it seems Ram wasn’t as concerned with trailer innovation in 2019 compared to their competitors.
Ram has always done very well when it comes to their trucks’ interiors. With the fifth-generation Ram trucks, I was looking for them to maintain their dedication to interior excellence. The 4th generation Ram trucks had very impressive interiors, but could they improve? Absolutely! Here are my thoughts.
What We Liked
An Interior For Anyone’s Needs
Ram has always excelled at providing a large spectrum of interiors to meet the needs of any customer. Want a basic work truck? The Tradesman model is perfect. Want a truck that turns heads, and offers luxury that even certain luxury cars don’t contain? The Laramie Longhorn or Limited Trims are right up your alley. Want something in between? The Big Horn is a perfect solution for customers wanting some luxury for their work trucks. In 2019, the new Ram HD trucks will have six total available trim packages. Only five trims are available with diesel engines.
With the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty Trucks, there are now 3 different available head units. Tradesman models feature the 3″ Uconnect system. Ram’s 8.4” Uconnect is available middle level trims like the Big Horn or Laramie. Ram’s top tier trims including the Laramie Longhorn and Limited trims gain an exclusive 12” Uconnect headunit.
The 12” Uconnect System single-handedly brought another level of luxury to Ram’s pickup truck line. A split screen feature gives greater connectivity, allowing you to keep track of both your navigation and media screens simultaneously. You can also view the different available camera views simultaneously with another screen. Navigation visibility is also greatly increased. The large screen allows you to see a significant distance ahead of you without having to zoom out.
I was instantly impressed sitting in the new truck. Ram added a significant amount of leather to all of the touch points in the truck. Wherever you rest your arm or however you sit, you will be more comfortable than ever before. To make the trucks even more comfortable, Ram added 4-way adjustable headrests. Front passengers gained all functions of the power seats. Heated and vented seats have three levels for optimum control. While I don’t live in a cold climate, I’m very happy Ram made some crucial changes to their HVAC system. A new inline heater helps bring heat faster to customers in colder climates. Ram also raised HVAC outlets up-front to help rear passengers receive more air.
Sound System Revamp
Previously, higher trim packages featured an Alpine sound system. While the Alpine sound system sounded pretty good, it is no match for the new 17 Speaker Harman Kardon Sound System. The new sound system even includes a subwoofer and amplifier. Ram also partnered with Sirius to give customers a new Sirius XM on demand experience.
New Center Console Design
The center console on new Ram HD trucks, labeled a Swiss Army knife by their lead interior designer, is the best center console I’ve seen to date. It boasts 40 liters of storage space, that can be configured by the driver. There are three adjustable positions, giving Ram truck owners the ability to configure the storage space to their distinct needs. The center console also has five USB ports and features wireless charging.
What We Didn’t Like
A Few Features Could Take the Trucks to Another Level
Ram hit a homerun with their 12″ Uconnect, but they were missing a couple of key features I was looking for. Even the highest trims still feature a regular sunroof. The addition of a Panoramic Sunroof would’ve furthered Ram’s pursuit of best-in-class interior. I would’ve also liked to see a digital gauge display. Chevrolet’s new Silverado HD trucks along with the GMC Sierra HD trucks have this feature. GMC even took it one step further by offering a head up display. Other than that, it was so difficult to find things we didn’t like with the interiors of the new 2019 Ram Heavy Duty Trucks.
Ram offers many different trims to meet the various needs of consumers. Basic models, however, are arguably too basic. I believe the 3″ Uconnect screen should be enlarged. It’s 2019, no head unit should be smaller than the screen of my iPhone.
Ram trucks are known for their big-rig look straight from the factory. Does the 5th generation maintain that same big-rig look? Definitely! Here are our thoughts on the new interior.
What We Liked
Antennas have always been an eye sore on heavy duty trucks. Especially when you invest significant money on a show truck, you’ve always had to invest in an aftermarket antenna, like the 50 cal. bullet antennas. With the new 5th generation Ram trucks, they actually removed the antenna all together and included it in the “shark fin” on top of the cab! This is true for every trim!
An Almost Invisible Bed Step
One last feature I appreciate is the bed step beneath the rear bumper. GM has four steps to access the bed on their new HD trucks, however, they’re all integrated into the bumper or the side panels of the truck. While functional, the aesthetics just aren’t there. Ram’s new bed step hides beneath the bumper. This step is easily pushed in and out with your foot resulting in a more aesthetic solution.
Sharp New Exterior
Ram’s 2019 Heavy Duty is definitely a looker. A new grille featuring 30% more surface area adorns the front end. The new trucks feature three available headlight styles. Higher trims gained LED projector headlights with directional control. The new headlights look fantastic and provide a much better light output than standard halogen lamps. Middle level trims feature LED reflector headlights, and low level trims still have halogen reflector headlamps. Finally Ram trucks will be available with factory LED lighting. It The front bumper holds new fog lamps and redesigned tow hooks. Certain tow hooks even feature a chrome finish for a luxurious look.
Round fenders are still present on the new trucks, allowing easy installation of bigger tires and wheels. New Ram logos and badges give the truck a more chiseled appearance. The sides of the trucks look very similar to the fourth generation overall.
An Updated Look, But Not A Total Redesign
I love the 4th generation Ram trucks, so I was very interested to see how the 5th generation Rams would compare. 5th generation Ram HD trucks look like a modernized 4th generation truck. GM made some significant changes to their trucks’ exteriors which have come with significant controversy. I’m glad Ram stuck within similar design boundaries for their new trucks.
Power Running Boards
Running boards don’t always add to the aesthetic aspect of a truck’s exterior, but they serve an important purpose. Many truck owners purchase aftermarket running boards like the Amp Research Powersteps. Ram’s Limited trims now come standard with electrically powered running boards. When a door is opened, the running boards extend. This gives easy access into the cab. After a door is closed, they contract and hide from sight! I’ve always wanted a set of Amp Research steps, so this is a feature I really appreciated.
What We Didn’t Like
Halogen Headlamps Should Disappear
While two variations of the new headlamps feature LED lighting, halogen reflective lighting is still present on Tradesman models. In my opinion, LED lighting should be used across the board. They provide longer life and better light output. If Tradesman trucks are built with function in mind, doesn’t it make sense that they receive the most functional headlights? In the HVAC company my family owns, we have several work trucks as a part of our fleet. Sometimes we have to work late at night. We would definitely benefit from longer lasting and brighter headlamps.
Beds Weren’t A Priority
The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty trucks offered some significant improvements over 2018 trucks. One area I found lacking innovation was the truck bed. When compared to GM’s new DuraBed, it’s clear this is one area Ram wasn’t focused on. No significant mentions of the bed were made during presentations either. There is a lot of room for improvement. We’re hoping for additional tow hooks and better utilization of cargo space in the future.
Disclaimer: For this event, Ram paid for our travel and stay in Las Vegas. It did not have any impact on our review of their trucks.