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Ram beefs up heavy-duty trucks for more towing

Thu, 27 Sep 2012

The Chrysler Group is upgrading its heavy-duty Ram pickups for the 2013 model to deliver what it says will be class-leading towing capacity. Diesel-powered versions also adopt selective catalytic reduction exhaust treatment to cut emissions and extend maintenance intervals.

The automaker has also created a dedicated commercial vehicle team within the Ram brand to boost its business with fleet and work truck buyers.

The heavy-duty trucks, in 2500 and 3500 pickups and 3500, 4500 and 5500 chassis cab, were introduced Thursday at the Texas state fair. The trucks go on sale early next year.

The heavy-duty versions of the Ram pull up a number of comfort and convenience features added to the light-duty Ram earlier this year. They include an 8-inch display in the center stack to control ventilation, audio and navigation; an optional 7-inch display in the gauge cluster to monitor vehicle operation and fuel economy; availability of new-generation Uconnect systems with wireless Internet connectivity; and redesigned interior trim. The center stack includes a row of knobs and buttons that are redundant controls for the audio and heating/ventilation/air conditioning system. Buyers can also customize a second row of buttons to operate towing accessories.

Ram officials declined to say what the towing and gross combined weight ratings will be for the heavy-duty trucks—that data will be released early next year. But executives said the ratings will top their competitors by a significant amount.

The automaker re-engineered the trucks’ frame. The frames use high-strength steel to boost load capability while minimizing weight. The frame’s main rails are hydroformed while the rear section is fully boxed for added strength. There are eight crossmembers, including elements added under the truck’s box specifically for mounting gooseneck trailer hitches. The fifth-wheel towing hitch is upgraded to Class 5 rating, with 17,000-pound load capability and 1,800-pound tongue weight.

The truck’s front frame was widened by 2 inches and the front suspension redesigned for more roll stiffness. The changes also make the heavy-duty Ram more suitable for heavy tasks such as snow plowing.

Under the hood, the 5.7-liter V8 gasoline engine is now available in the Ram 3500 pickup. It is rated at 383 hp and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

A popular option in the heavy-duty Ram is the 6.7-liter Cummins inline six-cylinder turbodiesel engine. The engine is offered in three versions:

-- Mated to a six-speed manual transmission, output is rated at 350 hp and 660 lb-ft of torque.

-- Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, output is rated at 370hp and 800 lb-ft of torque.

-- New for 2013, the engine can be mated to an Aisin six-speed automatic. This combination delivers 385 hp and 850 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm.

All heavy-duty Rams with a diesel engine get upgraded engine cooling systems, including an active air-intake box. Under heavy load in hot weather, a flap in the box opens to draw cooler air from the engine compartment. Normally, air for the engine is drawn from an inlet mounted inside a front fender.

The diesel also switches from a particulate trap to selective catalytic reduction to cut exhaust emissions. Chrysler says the change helps extend .oil change intervals to 15, 000 miles. It also prompted the adoption of a capless refueling system, which let engineers put fillers for diesel fuel and diesel exhaust fluid side by side.

By Dale Jewett