For big jobs that require brute strength along with equal measures of style and comfort, the tough new 2010 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty fits the bill in a very big way.
The full-size Ram 2500 and 3500 models are truly imposing pickups that, with their abundance of firepower, appear ready and willing to devour every other pickup on the market.
If the Heavy Duty (or HD for short) appears vaguely familiar, it's because the design has been modified from the new-for-2009 Ram 1500-series light-duty pickups that arrived last fall. But with their massive grilles, bulging hoods and tall-in-the-saddle architecture, the HDs carry on a tradition of Dodge individuality that dates back to the World War II-era Power Wagons.
As with its light-duty counterparts, the HD is available in Regular Cab, new-for-2010 four-door Crew-Cab and the extra-spacious extended-length four-door Mega Cab sizes. Each version can also be ordered in two- or four-wheel drive.
A standard 8-foot-long pickup box is bolted to Regular Cab HDs, while Crew Cabs can be ordered with an eight-foot or 6-foot 4-inch bed. The latter is standard-issue on all Mega Cabs.
Dodge has placed considerable importance on providing HD fans with what they desire most, including all the comforts and amenities of a mobile office. The HD contains added cabin insulation plus a suspension tuned for a quieter ride than before. In addition, an available giant center console includes an upper bin for stowing laptop computers, plus a lower compartment that's suitable for hanging files. Then there are the extra under-rear-seat and below-floor compartments on Crew and Mega Cabs.
If the Ram's macho-plus silhouette fails to impress, Dodge has developed a range of stout powerplants that should make serious truckers salivate. First up is the return of the "Hemi" that's exclusive to the 2500 series. It's the same basic motor available in the light-duty Ram pickups as well as in a variety of Dodge and Chrysler sedans. This 5.7-liter powerhouse packs 383 horsepower (a gain of 28 over the 2009 model) and 400 pound-feet of torque.
However, the crowd-pleasing favorite remains the 6.7-liter inline six-cylinder Cummins-built high-pressure turbo-diesel. Of late, three-quarters of all Dodge HD trucks sold have been Cummins-equipped, and for good reason. Selecting this 2009 carry-over stump-puller that's optional on the 2500- (three-quarter-ton) series, but standard 3500-series, buys you 350 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of mountain-moving torque at just 1,500 rpm.
The Hemi gets a five-speed automatic transmission, while a six-speed manual (with an extra-low first gear that helps pull heavy objects), or optional six-speed automatic is offered on turbo-diesel trucks.
A major advantage offered by the turbo-diesel is its impressive durability. Dodge claims that the engine is good for 350,000 miles before requiring major service.
Model choices carry on pretty much as before, from the work-truck-basic LT, all the way up to the largesse-laden Laramie. Of the remaining in-between designations, the four-wheel-drive Power Wagon is easily the most off-road capable since it comes with locking front and rear differentials, skid-plate underbody protection, 32-inch off-road rubber and a 12,000-pound capacity winch, to name just a few items.
There are also a number of features designed just for turbo-diesel HDs, beginning with a category exclusive exhaust brake that's more commonly found on big-rig tractor trailers. When coasting, the system traps compressed exhaust gasses inside the engine's cylinders, forcing it to slow, which also slows the truck. The result is less wear and tear on the brakes and greater control for the driver when heading downhill with a heavy load.
Heavy duty? There might not be anything quite like it.
The 2010 Ram HD proves that North American automakers can still produce pickup trucks that are without equal anywhere in the world. And the HD is easily among the best of the best.