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Gary Barbera Has Rows and Rows of MotorTrend’s 2020 Truck of the Year RAM Heavy Duty

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The Ram Heavy Duty is the 2020 MotorTrend Truck of the Year

Put Up or Shut Up: Ram’s new Heavy Duty shows what happens when you stop chasing big rig truck numbers


The easiest job in the automotive industry has to be marketing pickup trucks. We’re all familiar with the ads: An oversized dually slams through a concrete wall, a voice actor in his best movie trailer baritone introduces the “all-new, more capable” Brodozer 4500 as the camera pans back showing the truck towing the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet.

This approach to advertising has trapped pickup engineers into a vicious cycle of chasing max tow and payload numbers—frankly, to the point that the added performance and capability is of little use to the average buyer. After all, once your combined truck and trailer weighs more than 26,001 pounds, legally you should be carrying a commercial driver’s license.

So, what happens if you take the mad men out of the driver’s seat and let the engineers and designers focus on performance, capability, and versatility, the things that real truck buyers both want and need? You get MotorTrend’s 2020 Truck of the Year, the Ram Heavy Duty.

Read about Car, SUV, and Truck of the Year contenders and finalists here.

Advancement in Design

It’s not easy making the large and in charge form of a heavy-duty pickup attractive—let alone beautiful—but the Ram Heavy Duty handily delivers in ways no other three-quarter (2500) or one-ton (3500) pickup does. The cynic in you might be quick to dismiss the new Ram HD’s sheet metal as an 11/10ths-sized Ram 1500, but that’d be underselling all the hard work involved in designing the new Ram.

Riding on a new high-strength steel platform and available in regular, crew, and “mega” cabs with either a 6-foot-4 or 8-foot bed and single or dual rear wheels, the new Ram HD looks clean, purposeful, and modern while featuring a host of functional improvements.

The grille, for instance, is 30 percent larger than before to feed the largest radiator and intercooler ever fit to a heavy-duty Ram, and the aluminum hood helps shed weight. The resulting design is not only the most aerodynamic in its class, with a claimed 0.40 coefficient of drag, but also arguably the prettiest. Even the massive Ram 3500HD dually has a graceful elegance that no other full-size rig can match.

Just like with the light-duty 1500, Ram HD buyers are spoiled for choice. Each of its six trim levels features a distinctive grille, wheel options, and trim befitting the character of the truck, covering the bases from functional and work-ready in Tradesman models to the adventure-friendly 2500 Power Wagon and downright luxurious 3500 Limited.

Things are even better inside. Ram invested heavily in making the Heavy Duty’s cabin—the mobile office for many of its owners—a nicer place to be. All models get two to four color scheme options, acoustic glass, active noise cancelling, and a variety of standard infotainment options, ranging from a 5.0-inch screen to an optional 8.4-incher and finally a massive 12.0-inch Uconnect system. The latter two include apps and other tools to help ease the pain of towing and hauling.

Gary Barbera Ram Trucks in Philadelphia

Despite the new goodies, the Ram cabin remains just as functional as before. Up to five USB and USB-C outlets, wireless charging, an optional auxiliary switch bank, and a new center console join carryover features such as seating for up to six passengers, Ram Bins underneath the rear floor to stash hitch receivers and other odds and ends, and fold-out panels that turn the back of the cabin into a two-tiered load floor.

Particular attention was paid to the Ram Limited models, which play in the rapidly growing luxury truck market. The beautifully finished and exquisitely detailed cabin of the Ram 3500HD Limited—with thick baseball-glove-soft leather, rich contrasting wood trim, and finely textured metal bits—could teach some premium brands a few things. “This is how luxury should feel,” MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina said. “No other truck on the market can beat it.”

Engineering Excellence

More so than any other pickup, three-quarter and one-ton trucks are jack-of-all-trades machines. Whereas smaller trucks are more likely to haul air than cargo, heavy-duty trucks tend to tow at least weekly. Furthermore, more heavy-duty truck owners fill their truck beds or go off-road regularly than those owning lighter-duty trucks. Hitting the diverse needs of these truck buyers isn’t easy, but Ram delivers.

As most truck buyers know, the key to a dependable truck is found under hood, where the Ram HD has three compelling engine options. A carryover 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 making a healthy 410 hp and 429 lb.-ft of torque is standard on both the 2500 and 3500. Although output hasn’t changed versus the previous generation, the big Hemi is fitted with Ram’s latest cylinder deactivation technology and frame shakers to allow the big gas-burning V-8 to run in fuel-saving V-4 mode longer than previously possible. Backing up the legacy Hemi is a beefed-up version of the Ram 1500’s quick-shifting eight-speed automatic, putting the old six-speed automatic out to pasture.

If the Hemi doesn’t satisfy you, the duo of revamped Cummins turbodiesels sure will. Sporting new blocks, pistons, heads, and camshafts designed to make the 6.7-liter I-6 smoother, lighter, and more efficient, the standard version of the new engine makes a healthy 370 hp and 850 lb.-ft of torque. It’s paired with an updated house-built six-speed automatic.

If that’s not enough for you, Ram also offers a high-output version of that new Cummins I-6 on the 3500. Making 400 horsepower and 1,000 lb.-ft of torque, this new engine is the first in a mainstream heavy-duty truck to crack the four-digit torque mark—something Ram’s marketing team no doubt loves. As Detroit editor Alisa Priddle put it, “Who needs coffee in the morning when you have 1,000 lb.-ft of torque?”

Working hand in hand with the high-output Cummins is an Aisin-sourced six-speed automatic, which, when equipped with the Max Tow package, a regular cab, rear drive, and dual-rear-wheel 3500HD, helps the HD tow up to 35,100 pounds. Maximum payload is an impressive 7,680 pounds, found on Hemi-equipped versions of the same 3500 model.

A host of other mechanical improvements round out our Truck of the Year package. The Heavy Duty’s two available four-wheel-drive transfer cases—one for the Hemi and standard-output Cummins, the other for the high-output diesel—were both beefed up, as were the truck’s front and rear live axles and brakes. The unique 2500 Power Wagon off-roader sees its fair share of upgrades, too.

Ram also spent a lot of time refining the Heavy Duty’s suspensions. One of the biggest pain points in heavy-duty trucks—including the previous Ram HD—is truly terrible ride quality when unloaded. Ram employed a multifaceted approach to fix this issue.

All the new HDs get what Ram calls Frequency Response Damping shocks, which work with the rear five-link coil springs on the 2500 and traditional leaf springs on the 3500 to give both trucks better ride quality and handling when empty or loaded. Optional rear helper air springs, which improve ride quality, offer further refinement to the Ram HD lineup, ensure the truck stays level while loaded, and also make it easier to pick up and drop trailers.

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Check out Gary Barbera on The Boulevard’s Rows and Rows of Rams at or google Gary Barbera.