2016 Ram Truck and Van Full Line Review

#hashtags: #Motor Trend Truck #Ram 1500 #Ram #FCA #Chelsea Proving Grounds #Ann Arbor #Michigan #ProMaster City #ProMaster

After my year chaperoning our 2014 Motor Trend Truck of the Year-winning 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Outdoorsman Crew Cab 4×4, I was asked to go drive the entire 2016 Ram pickup and van lineup. Each vehicle would either have a loaded cargo area or be hooked to a trailer or both. We drove the hard-working vehicles at FCA’s Chelsea Proving Grounds outside Ann Arbor, Michigan. The lineup includes the small ProMaster City and full-size ProMaster wagons and cargo vans; the Ram 1500, 2500, and 3500 pickups; and the Ram 3500, 4500 5500 chassis cabs. Ram truck models come in a variety of trim levels, from the base Tradesman work truck to the loaded Laramie Limited model. The Ram 3500 HD is tow rated up to 31,210 pounds, depending on cab configuration and features. Pictured: A 2016 Ram 3500 with a 1940 Dodge PickupBecause our drive took place on the automaker’s proving grounds, we didn’t need a CDL or special license to operate some of the bigger loads. We drove the vehicles around a four-mile test loop, which has a smooth outside lane with a 70-mph speed limit; the inside lane has a 35-mph speed limit because of the rough pavement used for ride quality testing. Many of the Ram pickups we drove were equipped with the available smart engine brake, which uses the variable geometry turbo to keep the truck running along at a set speed on steep grades, and a transmission tow/haul mode, which holds the gears longer while towing. Another feature available on the HD models is a cargo-view camera mounted in the center high-mount stop lamp. It makes hooking up a fifth-wheel or gooseneck trailer easier; the backup camera eases lining up with a conventional receiver-mounted trailer. First up, I jumped behind the wheel of a red Ram 3500 HD SLT Crew Cab with dual rear wheels and the 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel I-6. Mated to the Aisin six-speed automatic transmission, the engine makes 385 hp and 900 lb-ft of torque. The pickup was towing a Big Tex fifth-wheel trailer loaded with a Case Construction compact excavator. Total trailer weight came to 18,105 pounds. Although the Ram 3500 HD and Cummins engine had no problem towing the loaded trailer around the proving grounds’ 4-mile test loop, ride quality improved once the truck and trailer combination was moving faster than 45 mph. Although not as fast as an unladen pickup, the truck and engine showed no signs of strain while towing the heavy load. Next up was a silver Ram 3500 HD Laramie Limited Crew Cab with dual rear wheels. Also equipped with the 900 lb-ft Cummins engine, this pickup was towing a Big Tex trailer loaded with a Case Construction backhoe loader. Total trailer weight came to 29,395 pounds. Despite having nearly 10,000 pounds more trailer weight behind it, the silver Ram 3500 HD didn’t feel any more strained than the red pickup. The ride even seemed smoother at lesser road speeds. While waiting for my turn in the Ram 3500 HD with the heaviest load, I drove a pair of Ram 2500 HD pickups with a Cummins making 370 hp and 800 lb-ft mated to a six-speed automatic. The first was a four-wheel-drive Ram 2500 HD Laramie Limited Crew Cab. The Ram 3500 HD models featured leaf spring suspensions with optional air assist, but this 2500 HD used a five-link rear suspension. Our tester was equipped with the available air suspension and a power moonroof and the RamBox. Max payload for a Ram 2500 HD is rated at 17,980 pounds. Our 2500 HD Crew Cab was towing an enclosed trailer loaded with rubber mats, bringing total trailer weight to 12,325 pounds and GCWR to 21,490 pounds. Although the Ram 2500 HD had no problem towing the load, the unevenly distributed weight did cause some trailer sway at speed. The second three-quarter ton was a base two-wheel-drive Ram 2500 HD Tradesman without the air suspension. This truck was loaded down with 2,600 pounds of rubber mats in the bed and without a trailer. Total vehicle weight was 10,000 pounds. With approximately 5,800 pounds over the rear axle, the Ram 2500 HD rode smooth and accelerated much quicker than the trucks pulling trailers. I then drove a Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Laramie Limited Crew Cab with the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6, rated 240 hp and 420 lb-ft, mated to a ZF eight-speed automatic. That truck pulled an enclosed trailer loaded with 5,800 pounds of rubber mats; in this configuration, the Ram 1500 is rated to tow up to 9,200 pounds. Like my long-term Ram 1500 EcoDiesel that I used to tow a new project car (which you can read about in the long-term Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Verdict review here), this tester had no problem towing a nearly three-ton load. Once I finished driving the other pickups, I finally got a turn behind the wheel of a two-wheel-drive Ram 3500 SLT regular cab with dual rear wheels and the Cummins turbodiesel engine making 900 lb-ft. This truck was saddled with a Big Tex fifth-wheel trailer with a 35-foot deck. Loaded with lots of scrap steel, the trailer weighed in at 31,135 pounds, just a hair under the max payload rating of 31,210 pounds. Although I could tell there was more weight than the next heaviest load (29,395 pounds), the Ram 3500 HD and Cummins combo easily towed the trailer around the 4-mile driving loop. Ride quality was surprisingly good for a short-wheelbase pickup, though much of that could be attributed to the extremely heavy load. Each of the pickups were able to travel around the driving loop at the 70-mph speed limit on the straights, though I slowed down to speeds between 50 and 60 mph depending on the weight of the load and the length of the trailer. With some loads I crossed over to the inside lane to feel how the trucks rode on choppy roads at speed. Each of the trucks was able to absorb the harshest impacts surprisingly well. After driving each of the pickups around the driving loop, it was time to drive a 2016 Ram ProMaster cargo van with a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel I-4 mated to an automated manual transmission. The turbodiesel engine is rated 174 hp and 295 lb-ft. Loaded with 500 pounds of cargo in the back and hooked to a 2,500-pound trailer, the ProMaster easily hauled the load down the road. Although it achieved 70 mph on the straightaways without much effort, the front-wheel-drive van felt more stable taking the curves slower than 50 mph. Without a driveshaft tunnel to the rear wheels, the front-drive van has a load floor Ram says is 9 inches lower than its competitors. The lower load floor also helps with ramp angle. The base engine in the ProMaster is the automaker’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine rated 280 hp and 260 lb-ft and mated to a six-speed automatic. Although the available EcoDiesel engine doesn’t increase cargo and trailering capabilities, it is said to get better fuel economy than the Pentastar. Additionally, oil change intervals for the EcoDiesel are up to 18,500 miles from 10,000 miles for the Pentastar engine. Once I finished towing heavy loads, it was time to play in the dirt. After taking the Ram 5500 HD Chassis Cab fitted with a dump bed around the driving loop, I took it over to the dump site to empty the two cubic yards worth of dirt in the back. Finally, I got to move some dirt around with a Case Construction skid steer loader and a compact track loader. Way cool. Ram is proud of its 2016 lineup. The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel with eight-speed automatic can tow up to 9,200 pounds and achieves up to 29 mpg highway, the best fuel economy of any half-ton pickup. Ram says the 2500 HD pickup can tow up to 17,980 pounds with the available Cummins with 800 lb-ft of torque. With the 6.7-liter Cummins’ available 900 lb-ft, the Ram 3500 HD has a best-in-class payload (7,390 pounds) and towing capacity (31,210 pound). After the drive at FCA’s Chelsea Proving Grounds, I have no doubt the 2016 Ram lineup can handle any task thrown at it.