2010 Dodge Ram HD

By May 18, 2010
2010 Dodge Ram HD

The 2010 Ram Heavy-Duty line has received a major facelift along with refinements throughout. Cabs are larger on the midsized 2010 models, also. It is one of those cases where mixing proven parts has a synergistic effect and results in what amounts to a new truck.

Ram Heavy-Duty models encompass the 2500 and 3500-series pickups. (And soon, the 2011 commercial-grade cab-and-chassis 4500/5500 series. You can add an aftermarket pickup bed to a 4500/5500-series if you need the maximum towing capacity for a really large fifth-wheel or gooseneck trailer, but the commercial market is specialized and not part of this review.)

As is common in pickups heavy-duty series pickups, the Ram was restyled for 2010 to go with the 2009 Ram 1500 light-duty. The HD is not identical to the light-duty trucks, but many parts are the same. The regular and crew-cab interiors are also very similar. Last year’s Quad Cab model has given way to a new-for-HD Crew Cab and the monstrous Mega Cab returns.

Most of the parts and technology on the 2010 models have been proven in earlier Rams. The new cabin was tested in the 2009 Ram 1500, and the engines, transmissions and brakes were tested in the 2009 heavy-duty models. The standard and only gasoline engine Hemi is the most powerful base engine in big pickups and the Cummins turbodiesel met 2010 emissions requirements years ago. Both Ford and GM’s 2010 diesel pickup engines are new designs for 2010, and both of them require a fuel additive the Dodge diesel pickup does not. Only the Ram offers a choice of transmissions and a standard exhaust brake with the diesel.

Much attention has been devoted to ride comfort and quiet on the 2010 Ram HD, and it is noticeable. The feature lists, both standard and available continue to grow, as pickups become ever-more car-like inside: heated/ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, Sirius Backseat TV and so on. But don’t confuse this with a car because it is substantially larger and will not ride softly even if you load it up.

The most capable Ram HD pickups will carry more than 5,000 pounds or tow more than 17,500 pounds. A new option is an integrated trailer brake controller. Other pickups may better these tow ratings, whether or not they actually tow any better. And trailers that heavy require a different driver’s license in some states. If you need more there are always the 4500 and 5500 versions.

The Ram Heavy Duty models will work for anyone who has work to do, be it hauling construction tools and materials, plowing driveways or dragging around big trailers. They remain a compelling choice for anyone in need of a heavy-duty pickup truck, and on balance are priced very similarly to 2009 models.

Model Lineup

The 2010 Ram heavy-duty pickups come in ST, SLT, TRX, Power Wagon and Laramie trim levels. Three cabs (regular, crew, Mega), two bed lengths (6-foot, 4-inch, 8-foot), four wheelbases, and on 3500 single or dual rear wheels (SRW or DRW) feed the various permutations. The Power Wagon and TRX are 2500, crew cab only; the Power Wagon is 4WD and gasoline only; 3500 regular cab is DRW only; and Mega Cabs come only with the short bed.

The 2500 ($27,215-$44,830) comes standard with the Hemi V8 and five-speed automatic, no manual is offered; the Cummins 6.7-liter Turbo Diesel is optional ($6,445 with discount) with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. On average 4WD adds about $3,000 and a long bed about $200 over a short bed, for most Ram HD.

The Cummins diesel is standard on 3500 trucks so prices ($34,680-$50,645) cross-shopped with gasoline-engine trucks are apples-to-oranges.

For adding your own box or work platform, 3500 Chassis Cab models are still available but use the same bodywork as 2009 models, 2WD and 4WD 3500-series trucks. You can also delete the cargo box on some 2500/3500-series models.

Ram ST models (from $27,215) are commercial-grade or a blank canvas depending on your point of view: gray-painted bumpers, chrome around the grille, black mirrors, crank windows on regular cab (power windows and locks on others), vinyl 40/20/40 seat, steel wheels and a manual-shift transfer case on 4WD. A vinyl floor is standard and can be ordered in place of carpet on all but Laramie models. Not a stripper however, the ST also has an automatic transmission, 34-gallon fuel tank, air conditioning, Class IV hitch (optional in Canada) with 4/7-pin plugs, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo, locking tailgate and tilt steering wheel. Options for Ram ST are plentiful, including a diesel engine (which adds front tow hooks and cruise control), power heated or towing mirrors (but not powered towing mirrors), integrated trailer brake controller, sliding rear window, floor mats, cloth upholstery, DVD/HDD and Sirius audio, limited-slip differential, skid plates, various option groups, and choices for wheels, tires and axle ratios.

Ram SLT (from $30,360) adds chrome, heated power mirrors, remote keyless entry, power windows (includes rear window on four-doors), carpeting, cloth upholstery, cruise control, Sirius radio, electronic-switch transfer case, chrome wheels, and in-dash tire-pressure display (2500 only). Some notable SLT options are the brake controller, fog lamps, heated power towing mirrors, forged aluminum wheels, bucket seats and console, power seats, adjustable pedals and driver memory system, moonroof, navigation, Uconnect phone, remote start, back-up camera, security system, and rear park assist.

The TRX package (from $36,195) roughly parallels the Sport version of the 1500 Ram and is offered on 2500 crew cabs only. The short box-only TRX uses gray-painted bumpers and flares with a body-color grille, forged aluminum wheels, all-terrain tires, a limited-slip differential, skid plates, and tow hooks. Cabin appointments and options essentially mirror the SLT.

The Power Wagon ($44,830) also approximates SLT-grade and 2500 crew cab only but is built with trail use in mind. It gets electric locking front and rear differentials, a front sway bar disconnect, specific suspension with Bilstein shocks, 32-inch BFGoodrich off-road tires, a 12,000-lb Warn winch, skid plates, 4.56:1 gears, trailer brake controller, more lighting and new two-tone paint and graphics. Most of the options are luxury and convenience items such as power seats, moonroof, and navigation.

Top-line Laramie models (from $39,290) add yet more chrome, power adjustable pedals and heated mirrors on driver memory system, dual-zone climate control, 115-VAC outlet, universal door opener, 10-way/6-way power heated leather seats, heated leather steering wheel, nine-speaker DVD/HDD surround-sound audio, rear park sense, and security system. Laramie upgrades are generally limited to chrome packages, towing mirrors, skid plates, brake controller, rear window defroster, heated/ventilated power bucket seats with floor console, moonroof, navigation, backup camera and wheel and axle ratio choices.

Safety features on all HD pickups include dual front multi-stage airbags, side curtain airbags, adjustable height front belts, LATCH child-seat anchors, child-protection rear door locks, anti-lock brakes on all wheels, and tire-pressure monitors (2500 only).


2010 marks the first time Dodge has differentiated the styling between light-duty (1500) and heavy-duty Ram pickups. The changes are moderate and not as substantial as the 2009-to-2010 heavy-duty model was upgraded, and apply essentially from the windshield forward; the Mega Cab and dual-rear-wheel trucks have different appearance but aren't offered in the 1500 line.

With a forward tilt to the grille and an upward, inward point to the headlights, grille and bumper the new heavy-duty nose looks like a stout blunt instrument, rather like the point on an anvil. This is Dodge's in-your-face styling with a bigger face and broader shoulders.

While the style and lights are from the 1500 only the latter are the same parts. The HD's grille is larger to allow more cooling air in, the bumper is reshaped, and the hood has a larger central bulge and faux louver contouring, but the easiest way to distinguish the HD from the 1500 is the gap between the bumper and everything above it; the 1500 has no such gap.

Also new for 2010 is an HD crew cab, the same size that debuted on the Ram 1500 and a closer match to competitor crew cabs. Dodge's crew replaces the Quad Cab, and the ultra-long Mega Cab is back and uses the same rear doors as the crew.

However, the Mega Cab does not get its own bed size, the 6-foot, 4-inch box also offered behind the crew cab. It doesn't look that long behind the imposing Mega Cab but it is; you can not get a Mega Cab long-bed as it would be a bit unwieldy anywhere outside the great plains.

Dual-rear wheel trucks, including the Mega Cab use a single outside panel for the wide rear fenders, to eliminate seams and fasteners that might prove problematic long term. And the bed sides are steel, for easier straightening than fiberglass if you ding one.

The Dodge slots between the GM and Ford HD pickups in terms of sheer mass and sleekness; perceptively bigger and more angular than the GM and smoother than the Super Duty. Very mild fender flares or various colors are used on some trims, and the Power Wagon gets a new graphics package and flat, dark paint for the center of the hood.

Roof clearance lamps, government-mandated for vehicles like dual-rear-wheel pickups that exceed a certain width, now use clear lenses for a better-integrated look. Upper trim level mirrors get puddle lamps, and the flip-up towing mirrors get turn signal repeaters and a separately adjustable, much larger wide-angle element at the bottom (in tow position); in the retraced position the outboard wide-angle element is very useful in traffic and tight parking areas as you can view both rear tires. Worth noting, you can adjust the electric mirrors without having the truck switched on.

A tailgate lock is standard, as is assist so it can be opened and closed with one hand. On trucks with backup cameras, the lens is far enough from the latch so you won't scratch it opening the gate, and it gets decent protection and snow/ice rejection from the tailgate's upper lip. Bed rails are protected from load scuffing, and the bed is contoured for 2x4s and 2x6s to make it dual-level.

On trucks with satellite service for audio or navigation the antenna is on the right rear of the roof. It should be safe from contact with contractor racks or cabover campers but those pieces, or their contents, may well block the antenna's ability to receive signals.

Interior Features

The 2010 Ram heavy-duty adopts the same cabin as the Ram 1500 received for 2009; the five percent that has changed is for features or shifter locations the 1500 does not have. If you recognize anything from previous heavy-duty Rams it'll be a switch or the center seat section with fold-down armrest.

Materials and trim are appropriate by model line, be they the base truck or a Laramie Mega Cab with Ram's head embosses on the seatbacks and console. We found no fit-and-finish issues, a benefit of fine-tuning the interior during a year of half-ton production. The Laramie's fake wood looks just like real wood and gloss surfaces generate no glare to bother the occupants. Although a vinyl floor is standard on only the base ST model you can order it with a more upscale interior if it's only your boots that get filthy.

There is plenty of room in the Regular Cab for two people, three across if you don't mind the floor hump. The biggest guy we could find who claimed to be 325 on a good day had no qualms about space.

He would fit just fine in the back of the new Crew Cab which offers essentially the same head, leg and width space of the front seat. Most crew cabs have a split folding rear seat and a center armrest, and all of them have three complete baby seat anchor sets and three adjustable headrests. Our 6-foot, 3-inch tester was quite comfortable for an hour-long ride with nothing in the bed. Coat hooks are above the rear window, which can be powered open/close or replaced with a defrost-able window on most models.

The Ram Mega Cab is nine inches longer than a Crew Cab. It has an extra five inches of legroom plus space behind the reclining seatback, and with the seats folded flat offers up 72 cubic feet of lockable cargo space, considerably more than behind the front seat in a Chevy Tahoe SUV. But plan on a lot of AC use in warm climes, as the only vents in back are on the floor.

Whether in the 40/20/40 front split bench or the buckets, we found the seats quite comfortable and widely adjustable. The seat cushion and backrest adjust as a unit, unlike the separate component approach that makes you go back-and-forth to get both pieces where you like. Lateral support is notably improved over earlier models without adding any difficulty to entry and exit. Big 4WD trucks are be design tall but side steps are available.

More expensive models may be outfitted with power adjustable pedals which combine with a tilt wheel and power seat adjustments to accommodate most of the population. You can even get a heated steering wheel and ventilated cooling front seats if you don't want to give up luxury to drive a truck.

The instrumentation is complete with oil pressure and battery information, and on diesels all the ancillary gauges are numbered. On any but the ST, the center dash EVIC (Electronic Vehicle Information Display) can call up transmission temperature and tire pressures (2500 only) among the slew of data, adjustments and messages; ours told us to clean rear park sensors rolling down a dry highway so we opted to wait. We were pleased to find EVIC, navigation, audio and brake controller displays were all easily viewed through polarized lenses. The EVIC is run through buttons on the front side steering wheel spokes; the back side of the spokes is reserved for audio system functions.

Switchgear is straightforward, with audio and navigation controls above climate controls in the center stack, plus operating controls for the Tow/Haul mode, Exhaust Brake. The Light Tire Load switch on 2500 models allows you to set the tire pressure in the rear tires on an unloaded 2500 notably lower than the front, for better wear and ride comfort without the low tire pressure warning light coming on. On electric-shift 4WDs the switch is on the left side of the center panel and includes a Neutral position for flat-towing. The trailer brake controller is below the headlight switch to left about knee-high and some drivers reported the steering wheel partially obscured it.

Side pillars are larger than in some cars but you sit far enough back that they don't intimidate. The bodywork is reasonably well defined for close quarter maneuvering, and the rear park sensors and/or camera will get you within inches.

Interior storage is extensive and even better than the half-ton Crew Cab's forty-odd places to put things because the heavy-duty has no shifter and gets an extra space in the console. Upper and lower door pockets are complemented by a variety of shapes from the broad tray on the dash that we emptied on the first corner to the under-floor storage areas behind the front seats; you can't reach these from the driver's seat but the liners are removable for cleaning and locks are available.

The audio and entertainment systems bring new offerings and sonic performance for 2010. Partial credit must go to the noise and vibration tuning that includes liquid-filled body mounts that helps make this the quietest Ram heavy-duty yet without adding much weight.

Driving Impressions

At minimum a Ram HD is more than 19 feet long, six-and-a-half feet wide, six feet tall, needs nearly 3.5 traffic lanes to execute a U-turn and is 5800 pounds of sink-in-hot-pavement truck. If you haven't got a lot of weight to carry or pull a 1500 will probably serve better.

That said and once accustomed to the outside dimensions, the 2010 Ram HD is not hard to drive. You need to allow a bit more space for stopping distance than the average car but that's easy given the visibility from the higher driving position. The steering is reasonably quick, and the 4WD's steering feels almost as good as that on the independently sprung 2WD. You'll be twisting the wheel more than a car to make the same turn, and the Ram changes direction easily and we couldn't overwhelm the steering pump (making it sluggish and heavy) in parking lot maneuvering or threading a 4WD through mud, trees and rock.

There are good reasons why many enthusiast magazines don't do handling tests on HD pickups because handling is a relative term. The Ram changes directions admirably and has predictable characteristics, but start horseplay in a vehicle where the rear axle alone weighs as much as a big Harley and you'll learn the hard way what drop-throttle oversteer is.

Given the engines, transmissions, brakes and basic suspension architecture are little changed from 2009, what stands out the most on the 2010 Ram is the quiet and ride smoothness. We found the Crew Cabs and Mega Cabs quiet, solid and nearly shudder free. (We haven't driven a Regular Cab.) Part of this solid feel is suspension tuning and part of the smoothness is the advanced body mounting system.

With the new seats for 2010 there is now no single aspect of the truck that will wear you out. At 75 mph on moderately good pavement we floored the pedal on a diesel and the engine wasn't heard over the road noise and wind noise wasn't heard above either. We could still converse in regular tones, even with riders in the rear seat. Since it revs higher the Hemi comes across no quieter than the diesel except at cold idle.

The 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is standard and available only on 2500 and with an automatic transmission. The Hemi, redesigned for 2009, develops 383 horsepower at 5600 rpm and, like any good truck engine, it makes more torque than horsepower, with 400 pound-feet at 4000 rpm. We could cruise along at moderate rpm doing Texas highway speeds and although the Hemi has cylinder deactivation for improved mileage it won't happen much in a 4WD pickup that weighs more than three tons. On our drive the trip computer showed an average 12.2 mpg which was frankly a bit better than we thought it would be. The Hemi is a realistic choice for those not towing severe loads, or heavy loads for long distances, where purchase price is a more important consideration than towing performance, fuel economy or maximum engine life.

The Cummins Turbo Diesel option is a proven option, ready for 2010-emissions compliance three years early. Both Ford and GM are introducing new diesel engines in early 2010 for that decree, and both of them will require the use of diesel exhaust fluid (aka urea or trade names such as AdBlue) at regular maintenance intervals. Only the cab-and-chassis diesel Rams will require the additive. Dodge's diesel option costs about $6,500. Since the engine is essentially the same as last year's and does not require the added costs associated with urea, it should remain the best buy in diesel options.

The 2010 HD also continues to offer the choice of manual or automatic six-speed transmissions for diesel buyers, although the manual is rated at 610 lb-ft of torque at 1400 rpm vs 650 lb-ft at 1500 for automatic, and the automatic is available with shorter axle ratios and higher tow ratings. Unless you do a lot of snow plow work, we recommend the automatic. The exhaust brake makes grades and slowing stress free by delivering up to 190 braking horsepower (bhp) to control descent speed, thereby leaving the service brakes cool and free for more immediate stopping.

The Cummins inline six-cylinder is built like a tractor-trailer engine, with exceptional longevity and low-rpm grunt, and frequently used in fire apparatus and motorhomes that carry 2-10 times what a Ram pickup will. Torque is what gets a load in motion, and with the Cummins making nearly as much torque when you let the clutch out as the Hemi does at 4,000 rpm, it is the obvious choice for heavy towing. Many RVers report better fuel mileage towing with their Cummins than a Hemi gets in an empty truck. On essentially the same drive that saw 12.2 mpg in a Hemi 2500, we recorded about 16.5 mpg in a 1000-pounds-heavier, dual-rear-wheel Cummins automatic.

For 2010, Dodge has added an integrated trailer brake controller to match the competition. In our trailer drives, the system worked as it should, as smooth or smoother than the most expensive aftermarket controllers. Like most such systems it does not work with all electric-over-hydraulic trailer brakes becoming more common on upper-end and heavier RV's. A fifth-wheel plug arrangement is available from Mopar and will maintain the warranty when properly installed.

The Power Wagon needs to be considered a separate model based not only on equipment but also performance. Locking differentials and a front anti-sway bar disconnect give low-speed off-highway performance no full-size pickup can match. It's also quite good at speed across a gravel road or dry wash, though not a direct match for Ford's F-150 Raptor, which will cost $41,000 with the 6.2-liter engine, has a smaller cab, and has roughly 60 percent of the payload and towing capacity of a Power Wagon.

Top tow rating with the Hemi is in the 11,350-pounds range, on a 2500 series regular cab, long bed, low trim level. Adding a larger cab, more lux or 4WD will lower the rating, possibly by 1,100 pounds. Maximum payload varies by the same parameters, engine and number of rear wheels, ranging from 1880 on a Mega Cab Laramie 2WD diesel 2500 up to 5130 pounds on a 3500 DRW regular cab 4WD long bed. The maximum tow rating is 17,600 pounds, on a diesel automatic 3500 DRW regular cab ST. Note that virtually all pickup truck tow ratings apply to a truck with a driver and only the mechanical options required; any cargo, people, or aftermarket equipment on board (winch, tool box, fifth-wheel hitch, etc.) will have to be subtracted from the max ratings.


The Dodge Ram HD lineup brings a new level of refinement that is long-term more significant than the sheetmetal it's wrapped up in. Proven drivelines and components, realistic hauling and towing ratings and performance, and a broad-based set of configurations and amenities will provide the right combo for your work truck, horse-hauler or recreational tow vehicle.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent G.R. Whale filed this report from San Antonio, Texas.

Model Line Overview
Model lineup:Ram HD 2500 ST 2WD regular cab long bed ($27,215); 2500 TRX 2WD crew cab short bed ($36,915); 2500 SLT 4WD crew cab short bed ($38,480); 2500 Laramie 2WD crew cab long bed ($39,490); 2500 SLT Mega Cab 4WD short bed ($39,990); Power Wagon ($44,830); 3500 ST 2WD regular cab long bed ($34,680); 3500 SLT 4WD crew cab long bed ($46,630); 3500 Laramie 4WD Mega Cab ($50,645)
Engines:383-hp 5.7-liter ohv 16-valve V8; 350-hp 6.7-liter ohv 24-valve I-6 Cummins turbo diesel
Transmissions:5-speed automatic; 6-speed manual; 6-speed automatic
Safety equipment (standard):dual front multi-stage airbags, side curtain airbags, adjustable height front belts, LATCH child-seat anchors, child-protection rear door locks, anti-lock brakes on all wheels, and tire-pressure monitors (2500 only).
Safety equipment (optional):none
Basic warranty:3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in:Coahuila, Mexico
Specifications As Tested
Model tested (MSPR):Dodge Ram 2500 Crew Cab Laramie ($42,450)
Standard equipment:climate control; power windows/locks/heated mirrors; forged aluminum wheels; Class IV hitch and 4/7-pin plugs; AM/FM/CD/MP3/Sirius stereo; locking tailgate; tilt steering wheel; 34-gallon fuel tank; remote start
Options as tested (MSPR):Leather-Trimmed Bucket seats ($500); Navigation DVD/HDD audio upgrade ($800); rearview camera ($200); anti-spin rear differential ($325); trailer brake control ($230); LT265/70R17 ($200); full-size spare ($180); UConnect Web
Destination charge:$950
Gas guzzler tax:N/A
Price as tested (MSPR):$45435
Layout:four-wheel drive
Engine:5.7-liter ohv V8
Horsepower (lb.-ft @ rpm):383 @ 5600
Torque (lb.-ft @ rpm):400 @ 4000
Transmission:5-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:N/A
Wheelbase:148.9 in.
Length/width/height:237.4/79.1/77.7 in.
Track, f/r:68.3/68.2 in.
Turning circle:43.9 ft.
Seating Capacity:5
Head/hip/leg room, f:41.0/63.6/41.0 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m:N/A
Head/hip/leg room, r:39.9/63.2/39.4 in.
Cargo volume:N/A
Payload:2460 Lbs.
Towing capacity:10,500 Lbs.
Suspension, f:live axle, four-link, Panhard rod, coil springs, antisway bar
Suspension, r:live axle, longitudinal leaf springs
Ground clearance:7.1 in.
Curb weigth:6450 lbs.
Brakes, f/r:vented disc/vented disc with ABS, EBD
Fuel capacity:34.0 gal.
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle. All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSPR) effective as of May 18, 2010.Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable. Manufacturer Info Sources: 800-4A-DODGE - www.dodge.com

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