YPSILANTI, Mich.-It's been a while since Chrysler introduced a new product. But as the dust of bankruptcy and the following merger with Italian automaker Fiat settle, it is apparently time for the automaker to get back to the business of building cars and trucks.
First up is the automakers Dodge brand. We were brought to this suburb just west of Detroit to check out the new Dodge Ram HD (heavy duty) 2500/3500 pickup trucks. Heavy duty pickup trucks are working vehicles. They are tools for the folks, mostly guys, who buy them.
This is a very important segment to Dodge. The heavy duty Ram is the brand's 4th best-selling vehicle and it accounts for one third of Dodge Ram sales. Still, it's evident that personal comforts that would have been unheard of in a heavy duty pickup years ago have filtered their way into the Ram HD.
But first let's talk about what makes a heavy duty truck and that's capability. The Dodge Ram HD 2500 is powered by a new and improved Hemi V8 that makes 383 horsepower and 400 pounds-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic is standard.
The 3500 Ram HD is powered by the Cummins 6.7 liter turbo diesel that makes 350 horsepower and 650 pounds-feet of torque at miniscule 1,500 rpm. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic gearbox is available.
Both pickups are offered in three cab styles: regular, crew and mega. And there are five trim levels: ST, SLT, TRX, Laramie and Power Wagon. There are also short bed, 6'4", and long bed, 8'0", versions of each truck. If you don't know, pickup trucks the variants can be boggling.
Factor in different axle ratios and two-wheel or four-wheel drive and the Ram HD is available in almost 300 variants. Pickup trucks are serious business The Dodge Ram can haul and tow up to 24,000 lbs.
But as with light duty pickups, creature comforts that years ago would never be included in a heavy duty pickup truck have made their way into the 2010 Dodge Ram HD.
On a relatively short drive from here to the Chrysler Proving Ground in Chelsea, it was evident that the Ram HD's suspension had been finessed. Leaf springs were still needed in the back to cope with heavy duty hauling and towing but my 2500 test vehicle still handled pretty well - for a pickup.
Let's not talk about mileage, it just wasn't there. My Hemi powered truck's miles per hour average was in the low teens. However, the truck was meant to earn profit. Still, my crew cab had child protection rear door locks, satellite radio, Bluetooth for hands free phone use and keyless entry. That was just the beginning.
The Dodge Ram HD had equipment that used to be exclusive to luxury sedans. It had a tier pressure monitoring system, side curtain air bags and rear park assist. The Dodge Ram really could be used for personal use but it really is a truck meant for work.
Still, the Dodge Ram HD had heated and cooled front seats as well as heated rear seats. It also had a heated steering wheel, a backseat TV with three channels and a navigation system.
The point is that Dodge wants to increase its share of the heavy duty pickup truck market. And the 2010 Dodge Ram was designed to appeal to all sorts of buyers who want to use their trucks for work, play or to haul the kids.
Starting prices range from $28,165 for regular cab models, $31,415 for crew cab models and $36,865 for mega cab models.