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2021 Ram HD Review

The 2021 Ram Heavy Duty pickup truck range consists of 2500 and 3500 versions. These are excellent and highly capable vehicles, but they have to compete with other excellent and highly capable rivals, the Ford F-Series Super Duty, Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD. The General Motors twins launched a new generation last year, the Ford Super Duty received a refresh at the same time and the Ram 2500/3500 trucks were all-new as recently as 2019.

Which all adds up to make the heavy-duty pickup class crazy-competitive. Although the Ram 2500/3500 trucks don’t dominate in any single measurable category, they offer perhaps the most upscale designs of the bunch.

All the desirable HD truck ingredients are here, like a domed hood brawny shoulders and an imposing grille. There’s also the choice of a tastefully leather-clad interior (shared with the Ram 1500), complete with an optional portrait-oriented 12-inch infotainment touchscreen.

Towing, payload and torque figures are also suitably stratospheric. Just as they are with every other heavy-duty pickup. The takeaway is that there isn’t a bad choice and buyers might allow their decision to be influenced by badge loyalty.

What’s New for 2021?

A Limited Night Edition brings 20-inch alloy wheels, grille and badging all finished in black, along with a choice of specific colors. See the 2021 Ram 2500 models for sale near you or see the 2021 Ram 3500 models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Ample power and torque with gasoline and Cummins diesel engines
  • Interior trim and features adapted from the Ram 1500
  • Optional 12-in Uconnect touchscreen
  • Power Wagon’s off-road prowess
  • Optional air suspension

What We Don’t

  • Steering column only adjusts for height, not reach
  • Power Wagon variant is gasoline-only

How Much?

Ram 2500: $35,790-$68,030

Ram 3500: $37,240-$69,380

Fuel Economy

The base engine in the Ram 2500/3500 lineup is a 6.4-liter V8 making 410 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque. The basic Cummins turbodiesel option is a 6.7-liter inline-6 generating 370 hp and 850 lb-ft of torque.

A high-output version of the Cummins turbodiesel engine produces 400 hp and a massive 1,000 lb-ft of torque. With this unit, the Ram Heavy Duty can pull up to 35,100 pounds and handle a 7,680-pound payload.

The gasoline engine links up to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The diesel engines are paired with 6-speed automatic transmissions. Rear-wheel drive is the standard setup, with all-wheel available as an option. The Power Wagon variant is the exception, with all-wheel drive as standard.

The Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t evaluate heavy-duty pickups for fuel efficiency, but expect Ram Heavy Duty trucks to see fuel economy in the low teens.

Standard Features and Options

The 2021 Ram Heavy Duty pickup is available in basic Tradesman, value-oriented Big Horn/Lone Star, off-road-oriented Power Wagon, mainstream Laramie, luxurious Laramie Longhorn and range-topping Limited trims.

The Tradesman Crew Cab is $3,555 more than the 2500 Regular cab counterpart. And the Mega Cab skips the Tradesman trim and starts at the Big Horn level, adding $12,780 to the most basic price. The optional diesel engines cost $9,400 or $12,195 for the high-output version. Where it’s not standard, expect to pay around $3,000 for all-wheel drive. Vehicle prices include the $1,695 destination charge.

Tradesman trim ($35,790) comes in Regular and Crew Cab body styles. It’s a bare-bones work truck with a standard black mesh grille, black bumpers, halogen headlamps, 17-in steel wheels, heavy-duty vinyl or cloth seats and an open upper glovebox. Features include a push-button start, basic 5-in infotainment screen with an AM/FM stereo, Bluetooth connectivity, and a rearview camera with dynamic grid lines and a zoom function. Lane-keeping assistance with adaptive steering is optional.

Big Horn ($39,715), known as the Lone Star in Texas, is available in Regular, Crew and Mega Cab body styles. They add a chrome grille surround, chrome bumpers, 18-in steel wheels, a choice of a front bench or bucket seats, and an integrated trailer brake controller.

Options include a power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated steering wheel, heated front seats, 8.4-inch touchscreen AM/FM/Satellite radio, navigation, premium audio system, sunroof, LED exterior lighting, front/rear parking sensors, and 20-in alloy wheels.

As mentioned above, a new Night Edition adds black wheels and trim.

The Power Wagon ($55,230) comes solely as a Crew Cab and with all-wheel drive. Equipment includes black fender flares, black off-road grille, powder-coated black bumpers, large tow hooks, Warn Zeon 12 winch, manual transfer case lever, tread-embossed cloth/vinyl seats, 7-in digital instrument cluster, 33-in Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac high-traction tires wrapped around 17-in alloy wheels, LED exterior lighting, fog lamps, Bilstein shocks, locking front/rear differentials, skid plates for the fuel tank and transfer case, hill descent control, 4.10:1 final drive, and a disconnecting anti-roll bar up front.

Laramie ($51,330) available in Crew and Mega Cab body styles. This version brings a chrome billet grille, chrome mirrors/door handles, 18-in alloy wheels, body-color wheel flares, leather seat trim, heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, ambient lighting, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration.

Laramie trim is eligible for power-retractable side steps, 20-in alloy wheels, leather/suede seat coverings, 12-in Uconnect infotainment touchscreen, and a 17-speaker audio system.

Laramie Longhorn ($58,775) — available in Crew and Mega Cab body styles — upgrades to a chrome-slatted grille, fixed side steps (powered side steps are optional), chrome bumpers, adaptive headlamps, Southwest-style leather-wrapped dashboard/door panels/armrests, alligator-look dash/seats/console/door trim, satin chrome/brushed-nickel cabin highlights, barn-wood accents, and wood center-console tandem doors.

The top-of-the-line Limited trim ($63,630) comes in Crew and Mega Cab body styles, adding the 12-in infotainment touchscreen, navigation, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, corrugated mesh chrome grille, 20-in chrome alloy wheels, aluminum interior accents, and power-operated side steps. Body-colored bumpers are optional.

A towing technology package includes cargo-view and surround-view cameras, trailer tow mirrors, trailer reverse guidance, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

The Max Tow package is only available for Ram 3500 models and brings fifth-wheel gooseneck prep, 30K fifth-wheel hitch, a heavy-duty Aisin transmission, dual rear wheels with 4.10:1 rear axle, self-leveling rear suspension, cargo-view camera, trailer brake controller, and a DOT safety kit.

A sport appearance package for Laramie, Lone Star, and Big Horn models adds a black-themed interior, monochrome exterior, body-color trim, and front/rear parking sensors.

Safety

A safety package adds adaptive cruise control with full stop, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, LED exterior lighting, automatic high beams, rain-sensing wipers, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) perform crash tests of heavy-duty trucks, but the similar Ram 1500 received scores of Good from the IIHS across the board, earning it a Top Safety Pick+ award.

The Ram Heavy Duty may not perform identically in a crash, but the Ram 1500’s results point toward its larger stablemates offering relatively good protection in an accident.

Behind the Wheel

People choose a truck with this kind of hauling capability because there’s a job to do that a lesser vehicle can’t hack. That said, the 2021 Ram 2500 and the 2021 Ram 3500 have far smoother, more composed rides than their solid front and rear axles might imply.

This is achieved by features like C-pillar hydromounts and Frequency Response Damping shock absorbers stifling unwanted body movement without making the ride overly stiff. And the optional rear air suspension, replacing rear coil springs on 2500 models, enables greater suspension compliance when the bed is empty. An air suspension for the 3500 supplements the truck’s rear leaf springs.

Active noise canceling working through the audio system and noise-insulating acoustic front glass both help to minimize road roar and engine drone.

The capable Ram 2500 Power Wagon is an off-road workhorse. A true 2-speed transfer case, front/rear locking differentials, hill descent control and a disconnecting front stabilizer bar, should take drivers just about anywhere. If it was available with a diesel engine, it would be even better.

One especially cool feature of the Ram Heavy Duty is the ability to hook up a trailer using the rear camera and then re-level the truck with the optional air suspension system.

Despite heavy-duty truck makers battling it out for the right to advertise the highest possible overall towing capacity, few buyers (if any) will actually be towing anything near the 35,000-plus-pound capacities of contemporary heavy-duty trucks.

Naturally, when pulling a load of this size, everything occurs at a slower, more deliberate pace, even with the high-output Cummins 6.7-liter turbodiesel and its 1,000 lb-ft of torque. Yet the Ram Heavy Duty always delivers a confident driving experience. The truck’s hydroboost brakes and its exhaust braking feature are especially welcome on downhill stretches. 

Other Cars to Consider

2021 Ford F-Series Super DutyFord’s aluminum-bodied light-duty and heavy-duty trucks make up the top-selling model nameplate in the United States. The Super Duty is unsurpassed with a 7.3-liter gasoline V8 generating 430 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque, plus an optional 6.7-liter turbodiesel V8 developing 475 hp and a 1,050 lb-ft of torque.

2021 Chevrolet Silverado HD — This current generation of Silverado HD only debuted last year. Rivals from Ram and Ford employ a solid front axle in the interest of long-term durability, but the Silverado HD has an independent front suspension for sustained comfort over long trips. Engine options are a 6.6-liter gasoline V8 making 401 hp and 464 lb-ft of torque or a 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 supplying 445 hp and 910 lb-ft of torque.

Questions You May Ask

Is the 2021 Ram 3500 a one-ton pickup truck?

Yes, it is. It’s in the same category as the Chevy Silverado 3500 HD and Ford F-350. The Ram 2500 is classified as a three-quarter-ton truck.

How much can a 2021 Ram 3500 Cummins tow?

Cummins is a third-party supplier specializing in diesel engines. The 6.7-liter inline-6 turbocharged unit in the Ram 3500 can make an astounding 1,000 lb-ft of torque. With such muscle and the dually rear axle, this truck has the highest towing capacity of the 2021 Ram 2500/3500 range: 35,100 pounds.

Where is the 2021 Ram 2500/3500 made?

At the Saltillo Truck Assembly Plant in Coahuila, Mexico.

Autotrader’s Advice

Anyone considering a new heavy-duty pickup is no doubt motivated by the need to tow and/or haul substantial loads. The 2021 Ram Heavy Duty is more than capable of handling the requirements of the typical heavy-duty truck buyer. Its powertrains are comparable with rivals from Ford and GM. Yet Ram has also carved out a particular niche for itself by offering attractive exteriors and interiors, especially at the upper trim levels. Find a Ram 2500 for sale or find a Ram 3500 for sale

Colin Ryan
Colin Ryan specializes in writing about new cars. But he has also covered trucks, vans, 3-wheelers, even the occasional motorbike. That’s the kind of thing that happens while contributing to the Los Angeles Times, Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Popular Mechanics, Variety, Mazda and Lexus customer magazines, as well as many enthusiast sites and publications. He was also a staff writer at BBC Top... Read More about Colin Ryan

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