New Car Review
2017 RAM 2500: New Car Review
There's a full-fledged arms race on to offer the "most capable heavy-duty truck," with a new top dog seemingly crowned with every passing year. This is especially apparent among turbocharged diesel trucks, in which power and torque are rising at an absurd rate. Take the 2017 RAM 2500 HD, which not too long ago made eyes bug out at its 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel's ridiculous 800 lb-ft of torque. Today, however, it's already been overshadowed by other three-quarter-ton trucks topping the 900-lb-ft mark.
Now, to be fair, the RAM 3500 (reviewed separately) does boast a cool 900 lb-ft for those who need the extra capability, but there's so much more than a spec sheet to consider with regards to the RAM 2500. Indeed, it offers many unique elements, such as a coil-spring rear suspension that boasts superior ride comfort over its competitors' leaf springs, as well as better trailer control and handling. There's also its aptly named Mega Cab, which boasts limo-like back-seat space. And if you're interested in going off-road, no other factory truck matches the mighty Power Wagon for serious rock crawling.
So if you're looking for the most eye-popping numbers, perhaps the RAM 2500 won't be for you; but we think there are enough other elements going for it that you'd be smart to check it out.
What's New for 2017?
The RAM Power Wagon gets updated for 2017 with tougher, more distinctive styling reminiscent of the RAM 1500 Rebel off-roading model. There's also an Off-Road package available that adds most of the Power Wagon's functional upgrades to the lesser-equipped, lower-priced and conventionally styled Tradesman trim.
What We Like
Comfortable ride and tow-friendly handling courtesy the rear coil-spring suspension; off-road-capable Power Wagon; uniquely huge Mega Cab; brawny styling
What We Don't
Diesel engine has less torque than 2500 rivals; showing its age in a few areas
The RAM 2500 offers three engines. Standard is a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 rated at 383 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. A 6.4-liter V8 that boasts 410 hp and 429 lb-ft is optional on most trims and standard on the Power Wagon. For the most taxing jobs, there's a 6.6-liter Cummins turbodiesel inline 6-cylinder, which cranks out up to 370 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque with a 6-speed automatic, or 350 hp and 660 lb-ft with a 6-speed manual transmission.
The Environmental Protection Agency doesn't test heavy-duty trucks for fuel economy, but don't get your hopes up as far as fuel costs go.
Standard Features & Options
The 2017 RAM 2500 HD offers seven trim levels: Tradesman, SLT, Big Horn/Lone Star, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, Limited and the off-road-oriented Power Wagon.
The RAM 2500 Tradesman ($32,200) is a commercial-oriented workhorse that doesn't include much. Standard features range from 17-inch steel wheels, crank windows and manual door locks to a vinyl floor covering and vinyl upholstery. The truck does, however, include air conditioning, cruise control and a USB port and auxiliary jack for music. Power windows and locks are included on Crew Cab versions.
Next up is the RAM 2500 SLT ($36,400), which adds 18-in steel wheels, chrome exterior trim, a trailer brake controller, power windows and locks regardless of cab size, a sliding rear window, keyless entry, cloth upholstery, a 5-in Uconnect touchscreen, Bluetooth and satellite radio.
Next up is the Big Horn ($40,900) -- or Lone Star, should you live in Texas. It gains 18-in alloy wheels, extra chrome, fog lights, a limited-slip differential, remote start, an 8-way power driver's seat, upgraded cloth upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
From there, drivers can upgrade to the RAM 2500 Laramie ($47,700), which is only offered as a Crew Cab or an even longer Mega Cab. The limited-slip diff reverts to an option, but added features include dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, even more chrome trim, upgraded headlights, heated and ventilated front seats, leather upholstery, driver memory functions, a 6-way power passenger seat, a heated steering wheel, the 8.4-in Uconnect touchscreen and a 10-speaker sound system.
Then there's the Laramie Longhorn ($54,400), which adds running boards, a bed liner, better leather, power-adjustable pedals, heated rear seats, a navigation system and HD Radio.
The Limited ($54,400) gets a different grille plus 20-in wheels, automatic high beams and wipers, keyless ignition and entry, and the RamBox cargo storage boxes that are available on other trims.
The Power Wagon ($51,700) is available only as a Crew Cab, with the 6 ft.-4 in. box and 6.4-liter V8. It also includes special styling, tow hooks, 17-in black-trimmed wheels, all-terrain tires, an off-roading suspension, locking front and rear differentials, a electronic disconnecting front roll bar, hill descent control, skid plates and a 12,000-pound power winch. Much of the Power Wagon's off-roading mechanical equipment can be added to the Tradesman through an optional package.
Most of the upgrades included on upper trims are available as options on lower trims, be it alone or in packages. Other optional add-ons include a load-leveling suspension, a sunroof, a bed camera and a CD player.
The 2017 RAM 2500 comes with 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, stability control and front-seat and full-length side-curtain airbags. It also boasts optional safety features such as park assist and a rearview camera. Unfortunately, it isn't offered with many of today's latest safety gadgets, such as forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist or a blind spot monitoring system.
While heavy-duty trucks don't get crash-tested by third parties, we suspect you'll be on the safer side of most collisions.
Behind the Wheel
There are those who say the RAM HD's rear coil-spring suspension puts it at a disadvantage in the toughness department. Hogwash, we say. Whether you're towing a massive load or tackling rock-strewn terrain in the Power Wagon, there's little holding the RAM 2500 back. Importantly, that suspension lends it a more comfortable ride than its GM and Ford rivals, along with impressive trailer-control, especially on winding roads. And although the RAM has gone a long time without a complete redesign compared to other heavy-duty trucks, it doesn't feel that dated from behind the wheel.
As for that Power Wagon, we experienced first-hand its immense off-roading capabilities. Its sky-high ground clearance, huge 33-in tires, gaping approach angles, locking differentials and disconnecting front sway bar -- just to name a few elements -- let you tackle terrain that no other unmodified truck can.
Inside, you'll find the same stylish design and user-friendly tech features as in the 1500 pickup. Some elements are starting to show their age -- such as the tilt-only steering wheel -- but in general, the RAM doesn't give up much (if anything) to newer Ford and GM heavy-duty rivals. One unique element is the available Mega Cab option, which swells back-seat space and comfort to limo-like proportions. Yes, it does limit bed length, but if you're looking for a family-friendly tow vehicle, it's a fantastic choice.
Other Cars to Consider
2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty -- The F-250 Super Duty is all-new for 2017. It gets a stronger frame, more powerful engines, an upgraded cabin and more available features. It's also available in a wider variety of models and trim levels.
2017 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD -- Now available with an upgraded diesel engine good for more than 900 lb-ft of torque, the 2017 Silverado 2500 HD continues to be a capable heavy-duty workhorse.
2017 GMC Sierra 2500HD -- The Sierra is virtually the same truck as the Silverado and gets the same new Duramax diesel engine for 2017. The Sierra is available in the popular, luxurious Denali trim, which is comparable to the RAM Limited.
Used RAM 3500 HD -- If you desire one of the RAM 3500 HD's higher trim levels but find them to be prohibitively expensive, consider a used model. Even a 2-year-old RAM 3500 HD includes much of the same capability you'd get with today's model, but at a substantial discount.
Unless you're a fleet manager looking for a truck with no frills and big capability (in which case you should get the Tradesman), we think the Big Horn/Lone Star represents the sweet spot in terms of included features, price and looks. If you want to get your truck dirty, seriously consider the RAM Power Wagon -- apart from a louder on-road ride and the sky-high climb required to get aboard, it's just as livable on a daily basis, just as capable for towing and hauling, and eight times as cool.