A Merit Badge for the Big Blue Truck

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty Pickup Trucks

Let me start off with a story…

The Boy Scouts of America introduced a merit badge called Truck Transportation in the mid-1970s. It is one of the few merit badges that have young boys look at the industrial complex that feeds into their community’s economy. They realize that some Boy Scouts may be interested in pursuing a life in the world of transport of goods either behind the wheel or back at the office.

Full disclosure – yes, I was a Boy Scout in the mid-to-late 1970s. My brother attained Eagle Scout status sometime during that era. Me? I stopped at Star Scout, but I have the dubious honor of becoming one of the first – if not, the first Scout to earn the Truck Transportation merit badge in my troop, district, or, even council.

Funny thing, they have renamed all of the districts and councils since my brother and I left the Boy Scouts. Our troop(s) no longer exist. But, hey, I did retain plenty of what I learned from that merit badge.

Just like many things in my life, what I learned had nothing to do with any actual achievements I made. Yet, I am actually prepared to discuss pickup trucks now in my current professional capacity. Interesting how life works.

2019 Ram 2500 Big Horn Mega Cab 4X4

In a related subject, I was happy to see that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles introduced a new version of their superb Ram Heavy Duty pickup truck. The timing was right, as Ford updated their F-Series Super Duty and General Motors made an all-new version of their pickup trucks. With updates and new trucks in the fold, the heavy-duty pickup truck game is about to get real.

Ram has always made a truck that was friendlier to owners and operators. This is a fact. We can argue about technology, luxury, and diesel power. However, there is nothing like a Ram – period.

If you go through my reviews over the years, you will find that my summations are in line with these observations. This is why one comes out with their own conclusion – most likely favoring the Ram over the competition.

Let me put this to the test to see if it continues to hold true. What I worked with was a new 2019 Ram 2500 with the larger Mega Cab, and four-wheel-drive. The three-quarter-ton pickup rides on a beefier frame, yet it has shed 143 pounds on average from its curb weight. Ram is also touting an improved suspension with better ride quality integrating Frequency Response Damping, progressive spring rates, and re-engineered bushings.

2019 Ram 2500 Big Horn Mega Cab 4X4

Most automotive journalists usually receive a pickup truck that is fully loaded and full of all of the technology options the manufacturer is promoting. Not this time. In fact, I have been blessed to get a variety of trim levels over the years from FCA that help shape my ideas about the pickup truck. From Tradesman to Limited – I covered it all. They also bring back that kernel of time when I was a Truck Transportation merit badge holder some 40-plus years ago.

With that said, my Mega Cab Ram 2500 came in the popular Big Horn trim. The Big Horn represents a happy medium for customers. It is not a luxury trim, with leather and all of the nice things and Easter Eggs found on anything Laramie and above. It is a family-friendly, work-ready trim with durable fabric seats, carpeting, and several options that an average pickup truck customer would want.

The Big Horn trim set the tone for my time with the new Ram Heavy Duty. I wanted to see what the average pickup truck customer wanted out of their heavy-duty rig. This is the kind of pickup truck a foreman or higher-level supervisor on a job site would drive. He or she would drive home from the site to take the family out to a local restaurant and plan on a weekend at the lake to tow their fun boat or power watercraft to the landing.

Before we talk about exterior, interior, and everything else – let me get one specific topic addressed. The 6.7-liter Cummins turbocharged diesel in-line six-cylinder engine is still the best in the business. Consider the balance of an in-line six-cylinder engine for a moment. The reason Cummins continues to provide this engine has been a well-known engineering fact that goes back almost a century – there is nothing like direct and linear crankshaft power to provide performance balance in every situation.

2019 Ram 2500 Big Horn Mega Cab 4X4

On this Ram 2500 tester, I have 850 pound-feet of torque available through my right foot. That’s a lot of power to move a maximum payload of 3,940 pounds and tow up to 19,580 pounds. These numbers are actually in the middle of the heavy-duty universe. If you step up the Ram 3500, you can get the High Output version of the Cummins diesel with 1,000 pound-feet of torque. This is the highest torque rating among full-sized pickup trucks. If you choose to go all the way with the Ram 3500 – dual rear-wheels, fifth-wheel connection, and everything else – you can tow up to 35,100 pounds.

In this case, the Ram 2500 is suitable. Consider what I would do if I had one. If I could tow a track toy to Road America, the configuration I had – the Mega Cab and 6.5-foot box with the 850 pound-foot Cummins – would be right on. An Airstream International Serenity trailer, perhaps?

This is what pickup truck buyers think about: What they want from their vehicle and what it can do for them. I’ve probably said this a few times, but it is important to note that you don’t buy a truck just for the hell of it. You have a purpose. You have a camper to tow. You have to haul materials to a worksite. You have to help repair essential lifelines to communities. And, I’m just scratching the surface.

From what I see in this Big Blue Truck – referencing the beautiful Blue Streak color that came on this tester – is a site foreman's rig. You can see the hard hat, a few tools, his laptop, a couple of mobile phones, and a bunch of paperwork strewn all over the cab. The big advantage of getting the Mega Cab is the extra storage area behind the rear seat. You can fit a soft-sided overnight bag, your backpack (with your laptop), a few tools, and all of the other things you don’t want prying eyes looking at when you’re on an out-of-town job site and have to stay at the nearby two-star (per Priceline) accommodation.

2019 Ram 2500 Big Horn Mega Cab 4X4

Of course, this is a review. Therefore, I have to go over some brass tacks here. Connected to the Cummins diesel is a six-speed automatic transmission that provides the right ratios at the right time. My tester had four-wheel drive, which is perfect for the climate I live in. Firestone provided a strong set of rubber to keep the Ram 2500 on the road – a great combination, if you ask me.

The updated suspension offered a smooth ride overall. This is thanks to the Off-Road Package that was equipped on the Big Blue Truck, including a set of Bilstein shocks set for rougher terrain. On the weather-worn roads of Minnesota, this suspension set-up worked out just fine. This revised suspension also helped in improving the handling and maneuverability of the Ram 2500. The steering system offered superb response from the wheel, as well as assisting in making tight situations a bit less stressful. I also like the brakes with its excellent pedal feel and response. Stopping power is quite good in normal situations.  

The best way I’ll describe my Big Horn tester’s interior is “gray flannel.” The fabric felt durable and comfortable, bringing out a business-like look and feel to the Ram 2500 Big Horn package. You can sit four of your associates comfortably for a meeting inside the cab.

While you can get the new 12-inch UConnect screen on most Ram Heavy Duty models, I prefer the 8.4-inch version. It is quicker for connectivity, less glitchy, and allowing for real honest-to-God switches for the climate control and audio functions. Sound quality is very good from the standard speaker set up. And, yes, you can connect through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for more playback options.

2019 Ram 2500 Big Horn Mega Cab 4X4

As for the updated look, it is exactly what I expected from FCA. You do not mess with the things you do very well with – plain and simple. The new grille, hood, lighting, and badging punctuate the Ram Heavy Duty’s exterior. While it does maintain some continuity with the new Ram 1500, we must remember that a heavy-duty pickup needs its own work-ready, no nonsense personality for the job it has to do.

The best part about my time in the Ram 2500 happens to be the one the Federal government does not require a manufacturer to state on the sticker – fuel economy. I achieved an average of 18.6 MPG with the Cummins diesel. That has got to be a V&R record for full-sized heavy-duty pickup trucks!  

As far as pricing is concerned, the Ram Heavy Duty lineup starts from $33,395. That is just for a 6.4-liter HEMI-powered basic Tradesman regular cab. To get this Cummins diesel-powered Mega Cab with the Big Horn trim and four-wheel drive, the sticker price climbs up to $68,605. If you must get all the bells and whistles and step to the ultimate Ram 2500 – the Limited in the same Mega Cab/Cummins configuration as my tester – that will cost you $83,125.

Putting on my old Boy Scouts uniform for a moment (I know, it probably doesn’t fit me anymore after 40-plus years), the primary point I would make about the new 2019 Ram Heavy Duty pickup truck lineup is based on your needs and wants. If you have a job that you do that requires the capacities provided by this pickup truck or have activities that you need to utilize a heavy-duty for them – the Ram is a good choice, period. Over the competition? That Cummins diesel is a defining factor in making your choice.

2019 Ram 2500 Big Horn Mega Cab 4X4

As for which trim to choose from, think about the following. If you have the wealth, position, and clout to justify your choices in life, then the Longhorn and Limited are right for you. For the rest of us who are hard-working, nail-biting, everyday grinding, humble leader among people who deliver as equally as you do – get the Big Horn. Full stop.

In all, FCA produces a solid lineup of pickup trucks in the business right now. The Ram Heavy Duty should never be overlooked when you want something that can take the weight and use its strength to get the job done.

You do not need a merit badge to prove that point.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

All Photos by Randy Stern

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