The evolution of Ram’s 2500- and 3500-series heavy-duty pickups continues with a new engine option and substantial suspension changes for 2014. Additional towing might with a gas engine and an improved ride in the 2500 are the results.
Joining the carryover standard 5.7-liter Hemi gas V8 and optional 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel inline 6-cylinder engines is a new 6.4-liter Hemi V8. Though it shares the displacement and cast-iron-block/aluminum-head construction of the engine found in Chrysler Group’s high-performance SRT8 car and SUV models, the specifics of the 6.4-liter Ram V8 are different with an emphasis on generating torque. The 6.4 truck engine employs a distinct dual-runner-length intake manifold that boosts low-end torque. While the SRT8 version develops 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, the Ram mill—with a lower 10.0:1 compression ratio that allows it to run on regular-grade gasoline—is rated at 410 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 429 pound-feet at 4000 revs. That’s 27 more horsepower and 29 more pound-feet than the base 5.7 V8 makes when burning mid-grade fuel. In a preview test drive of a 4-wheel-drive 2500 Laramie-trim crew cab, we found the 6.4-liter engine responded quickly and strongly to throttle inputs, and emanated a rich V8 burble during acceleration.
Efficiency and economy of operation have also drawn consideration. Joined to a 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive ratios in the top two gears, the Ram 6.4 also employs gas-saving cylinder deactivation that allows the engine to operate on just four cylinders under low-load conditions. (Cylinder deactivation also functions when the engine is being used for power take-off operations.) Variable valve timing and cooled exhaust-gas recirculation reduce pumping losses for more efficient operation and reduced emissions.
The 6.4-liter option, which costs $1495, is available for all 2500/3500 pickups. It is the only gas engine available in 3500s with the dual-rear-wheel axle.
In pursuit of a better ride when not carrying a load, the 2500s are adopting a beefier version of the light-duty Ram 1500’s highly praised coil-spring rear suspension. The axle is located to the frame with five links designed to control both axle twist under acceleration and lateral forces. Ram points out that the switch to coils and links from parallel leaf springs also comes with a weight savings of about 40 pounds while still helping the truck maintain best-in-class towing capacity of up to 17,970 pounds.A further twist is the optional availability of rear air suspension, with air bags replacing the coil springs. The air suspension automatically levels the vehicle when it detects load from cargo or a trailer. Ram says the suspension should improve ride comfort, and perhaps it does when loaded. Our test drive of an unladen 2500 with the air suspension didn’t feel quite as cushy as an all-coil-spring 1500.
While the 3500 retains leaf-spring rear suspension, for 2014 it adds a supplemental load-leveling air-suspension option. This allows for the use of softer spring leaves for a bit more suspension travel when unladen.
The 1-ton-class 3500 is handing down several key operating features to the ¾-ton-rated 2500. These include three-link front suspension geometry for improved control of body roll, fuel-saving front-axle disconnect on 4-wheel-drive models that can unhook certain drivetrain components when not needed, and recirculating-ball steering. The 2500 also joins its heftier sibling in offering a gooseneck/5th wheel prep package for trailer towing. The redesigned frame includes an under-bed cross member with provisions for these trailering devices. There’s a junction built into the cargo bed for trailer electric connections, and a cargo-bed camera built into the high-mount brake light that assists drivers in hitching trailers.
The 4×4 Laramie crew cab we chanced to drive started at $46,855 but bottom-lined at $56,830. Aside from the 6.4-liter V8 and air suspension, other significant features that ran up the tab included the RamBox cargo lockers and dividers and the newly uprated Uconnect 8.4N infotainment system with 8.4-inch touchscreen and navigation system.