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First drive: 2014 Ram 2500 pickup truck

First drive: 2014 Ram 2500 pickup truck

After successfully adding a carlike coil-spring rear suspension to the half-ton Ram pickup in 2010 (and updating its features, interior, and powertrain earlier this year), Chrysler is trying a similar strategy with the heavy-duty Ram 2500 for 2014.

We had a chance to drive the truck at our track last week and found it a notable improvement over the last Ram 2500 we tested. Not that that would take much; that 2011 Ram scored far lower than the Ford and Chevrolet heavy-duty beasts of burden we tested in 2011.

The new heavy-duty Rams get a redesigned front suspension, a new 6.2-liter Hemi V8 with cylinder deactivation, and a new six-speed automatic for gasoline and diesel powertrains. Chrysler also added several nice features, including the Uconnect infotainment system, two rearview cameras, predrilled holes for fifth-wheel and gooseneck trailer hitches in the bed, twin 7-pin trailer wiring connectors (again, one in the bed for 5th-wheels, and one under the rear bumper for conventional trailers), and diesel exhaust fluid to clean up emissions in diesel models. An optional air suspension (with automatic load leveling) can replace the coils in 2500 Rams; the 3500 models retain their earlier leaf-spring setup. A welcomed feature, the Ram has an available camera mounted near the third brake light that aims into the bed, making it easier for the driver to line up a fifth-wheel hitch or simply check cargo.

Driving the new 2500 is much more enjoyable and easier than driving the previous truck. The steering isn’t nearly as slow, and the ride is much more comfortable, though it can still be pitchy at times when the bed is empty. The new rear suspension also promises to improve towing stability, a proposition we look forward to verifying. The Cummins diesel proved quick and quiet, and we still loved using the diesel exhaust brake for effect. It now has its own gauge in the instrument cluster to indicate how many horsepower worth of braking it’s producing.

Chrysler is also the first automaker to our knowledge to include a separate gauge showing the level of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) in the tank, giving drivers some warning before it needs to be refilled. The DEF filler is right next to the diesel fuel filler, behind the filler door.

We haven’t fully evaluated the new heavy-duty Ram, but when we tested the new half-ton, we found it to be one of the most pleasant on the market. Based on a brief drive, it feels like the 2500 is tamed enough to lose the “beast” label and–for truck lovers–gracefully move closer to a beauty.

Eric Evarts

Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

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