Towing with the 2016 Ram lineup [w/video]
New Trucks, Old Trucks, And A Tracked Loader – We Put Them To The Test
There was an extremely diverse array of vehicles at my disposal, including Ram's gasoline- and diesel-powered offerings with trucks ranging from the 1500 on up through the 5500 Chassis Cab, as well ProMaster vans. Beyond that, FCA brought out a number of vintage Dodge pickups for me to play with, while also working with Case IH to provide a track-loader I could test. I put together a range of videos covering everything from the classics to the production trucks to the construction equipment. And despite some technical difficulties – you'll notice a distinct lack of in-car videos, with blame going to a corrupted micro SD card – I've assembled ten videos that give an up-close look at Ram's offerings.
2015 Ram ProMaster City
Let's start small. The ProMaster City only has a towing capacity of 2,000 pounds. That's a reasonably impressive figure for a van that uses the same powertrain as a Chrysler 200. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder and nine-speed automatic weren't really bothered with the extra weight added by the trailer. Even when accelerating at freeway speeds, the ProMaster City didn't feel out of breath or hampered by its load. That said, the rear of the van was unloaded, which probably wouldn't be the case for most consumers. It's unclear how the City would feel if its driver were taking advantage of the max payload (1,883 pounds) and towing.
2015 Ram ProMaster 1500
To be polite, the Ram ProMaster is a difficult vehicle to like. Its awkward seating position is bus-like and lacks the visibility enjoyed by the Ford Transit or the utter driving comfort of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Its 3.0-liter, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine, meanwhile, is something of an anomaly. While it's potent for a four-cylinder diesel, producing 295 pound-feet of torque and 174 horsepower, those numbers don't feel all that impressive when loaded down.
The model I tested was barely using half of its 5,100-pound maximum towing weight and was loaded down with just 500 of its 3,620-pound payload. Yet it lacked the pluckiness of the smaller City. Some of the blame can be placed on the six-speed automated manual transmission, which aside from lacking a clutch pedal, behaves just like a normal manual gearbox. Ram claims it was fitted for durability and fuel economy, but that's a bit like saying you scalped yourself to cut down on the cost of haircuts. It's a horrid transmission, completely unable to execute anything resembling a competent upshift while it hunts hopelessly for gears on downshifts. No amount of durability or efficiency gains can be worth suffering through this transmission.
2016 Ram 2500 Tradesman Diesel
This four-door, two-wheel-drive model was powered by Cummins excellent 6.7-liter, turbodiesel straight-six, although it had a six-speed automatic rather than the awesome six-speed manual. The 2,500 pounds of cargo in its bed, which was more or less the maximum payload for the truck, may as well have not been there. Power was constant, which should be expected when you have a staggering 800 pound-feet of torque at the disposal of your right foot. Simply step on the gas and a realm of possibilities opens up. You become convinced that you could tow anything, up to and including a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, Mount Everest, and a small moon. It's a hilarious, effortless kind of power, and it also comes with a deliciously angry exhaust note. I love this truck.
2016 Ram 3500
This is a truck you'll probably never, ever see on the road. It's a Ram 3500, which isn't that uncommon, but as you can see, it's single-cab dually. It could be cooler, of course. This model only has a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 with 383 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque on offer, which is certainly a letdown after experiencing the 2500's Cummins. That said, this 3500 was carrying a much heavier load – the bed was packed with 6,000 of the truck's nearly 7,400-pound max payload – so it's a bit easier to excuse the way this truck strained to accelerate near freeway speeds. At lower speeds, though, the Hemi was able to charge the Ram up to an adequate pace without much complaint.
This wasn't the only 3500 on offer for us to test. I also sampled a trio of diesel-powered 3500 duallies – a Big Horn, SLT, and Limited – that were hitched up with goose-neck trailers ranging from 20,820 to 31,135 pounds. All three trucks were fitted with Aisin six-speed transmissions and 6.7-liter Cummins diesels, meaning 900 lb-ft of twist. Even with all that weight, though, none of these trucks were especially tough to get up to speed. If anything, it was under braking and at freeway speeds where the size and weight of the trailers were felt. Engine braking was a must, and even then, I was forced to start slowing quite early for the few turns that came up on the CPG ride/handling course.
2016 Ram 5500 Chassis Cab
I drove the Ram Chassis Cab not because there was much question about its performance, but because of what its market represents. Chassis cabs are a big deal, and serve as everything from dump trucks for landscaping companies – like the truck in the video – to utility trucks for phone and cable companies to ambulances. The powertrain is more or less lifted from the passenger pickups, with either the naturally aspirated 6.4-liter Hemi V8 or the 6.7-liter Cummins. It may not seem like it, but this was the most versatile truck I tested.
2016 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel
The Ram 1500 has been around for years, although its 3.0-liter, EcoDiesel V6 from VM Motori is a relatively new addition. Towing a 5,800-pound trailer – slightly more than two-thirds its max tow weight – the EcoDiesel's 420 pound-feet of torque was perfectly adequate. It lacked the outright punch of the Cummins diesel in Ram's bigger pickups, but it managed the 20-plus-foot trailer without a lot of trouble. Of particular note on this truck was Ram's air suspension, optional on everything but the top-end Limited trim, which does a good job of hiding some of the bad manners that come with towing large objects. The trailer can still impact the ride, but I noticed that even with the nearly 6,000 pound trailer, the 1500 rode much more nicely than some of the non-air-suspended HD trucks.
1941 Dodge WC Command Car
The Dodge WC Series was kind of like the chassis cab of World War II. Built from 1941 to 1945, these trucks served as everything from ambulances, to communications cars, to recon trucks. Here, we have the command car variant, a favorite of Gen. George Patton and other high-ranking US Army officers. And of course, it's hilarious to drive. First gear is essentially a crawler, so the handlers recommended I start in second. Steering is both unpowered and wildly imprecise, but is still able to put a huge smile on your face. The foot starter was a new concept to me, but the appeal was very clear in war time, allowing the driver to simply leave the keys in the ignition, fire up, and go without much thought. This was almost my favorite vehicle of the day.
1964 Dodge Custom Sport Special
As I explain in the video, this was probably the rarest vehicle in attendance. While Dodge made plenty of pickups in the mid-1960s, the Custom Sport Special was easily the most potent, with some examples, like this one, featuring a 426-cubic-inch Street Wedge V8. Think of this, then, as the earliest ancestor to the old, V10-powered SRT Ram. A full 365 horsepower is channeled to the rear wheels via a push-button, three-speed LoadFlite transmission (I was told it was a TorqueFlite by the handlers, which is why I misnamed it in the video). Power is, not surprisingly, easy to access. The throttle response is almost too sharp, like an on-off switch, but that engine sounds so amazing you really won't care.
1938 Dodge Airflow Tanker Truck
Unfortunately, the FCA historical handlers wouldn't let anyone take out this stunning Airflow Tanker Truck. While the video mainly focuses on the Art Deco details, this truck also has a good story to it. Capable of hauling 1,200 gallons of fuel, Texaco ordered 75 vehicles like this one between 1937 and 1940. One of just 266 trucks, this particular tanker served at Chicago's Midway Airport, although FCA couldn't tell us how long it spent on the tarmac. They weren't only used for hauling fuel, though – the insulated fuel tank was perfect for hauling beer, and the Schlitz Brewing Company purchased a number Airflows.
2015 Case IH TR340
I simply couldn't pass up the chance to drive this little guy. The tracked TR340 was one of two Case IH products I could test – the other was a wheeled loader – and put huge smiles on the faces of every journalist that got to drive them. Operation wasn't too complicated, as I explain in the video, but it certainly took some getting used to. With two joysticks and a foot pedal, the TR340 forces you to rethink they way you drive and get about. Going forward isn't tough, but because it's a tracked vehicle, going backwards is the complete opposite from a car. When you turn the wheel right while in reverse, the nose still points right. It's similarly tough to figure out the right joystick, which involves the loader in front As for the TR340, it's powered by a rear-mounted, 3.4-liter, four-cylinder turbodiesel with 282 pound-feet of torque and 84 horsepower.
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