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Regular readers of Newcarpicks.com have probably gathered over the years that I love cars of all kinds, and I also like trucks of a reasonably modest size. The difference between “love” and “like” is not insignificant. We also can reiterate that whether dealing with pickups or SUVs, my theory is that anything bigger than big enough is too big.
We’re still dealing with the idea of cutting back on fossil fuels and as we’re rumbling down the street toward electrification of our vehicles, it never makes good sense to haul around a couple thousand extra pounds and several extra feet of length and a ton of extra weight — unless you need it. Today, let’s immerse ourselves into the mindset of someone who really does need the biggest truck available, the most potent, most capable, and perhaps the best of its ilk. We have a couple examples for scrutiny.
At the same time, we can congratulate Ram pickups for one of the most amazing surges to profitability in the industry.
One subject today is the Ram 3500, and not “just” the 3500. It’s the Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4x4 Long Box, and it is about as huge as you can visualize a truck being, and still being legal to drive on city streets. Power is immense, from its 6.4-liter V8, which has 410 horsepower and 429 foot-pounds of torque, capable of towing 31,210 pounds of trailer, and that is if you don’t use the built-in fifth-wheel deal in the bed. The Ram, equipped with dual-rear wheels (dualies) comes in at $81,190.
The other big boy in this week’s evaluation is the No. 1 target of all pickup makers — the Ford Super-Duty F250, SRW 4x4 Crew Cab Limited Style-Side, without the duels or the longest bed, but with a 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbo-diesel that runs with almost alarming silence — compares to the diesels we know and love — but carries a big stick. Or several of them. How about 32,000 pounds of sticks, or cement blocks, or anything else you can imagine? This potent turbo-diesel puts out 450 horsepower and an unheard of 935 foot-pounds of torque. It is the smallest of the Ford Super-Duty family, which also includes the F350 and F450. But if you give it enough power, the F250 is plenty. This one is priced at $84,105, with the base price of $80,240 including just about all the luxury stuff Ford could think of.
Always the trouper, I drove both of these monsters around downtown Duluth, Minnesota, where the steep avenues were no match for either of these power plants. Because of the construction that dominates downtown Duluth, I had to circle around a couple of one-way streets, and then I remembered that my prized little Panasonic Lumix pocket camera, with the fantastic Leica lens, had stopped working. It’s about eight years old, and I would estimate that I’ve had about 10,000 photos published out of that little gem’s digital heart, and I feared it might be a trick to fix it. But there was a diagonal parking slot right in front of my favorite Duluth camera shop, so I pulled in, making sure to swing wide to make sure my dualists, and the Kardashian-like rear wheel housings would clear, and fit yellow stripe to yellow stripe.
There were no parking meters in sight, so it looked like no problem. I dashed inside, asked if they did camera repairs, and the nice lady told me they used to, but no more, and she gave me the name and number of a fellow who did. I returned to the Ram and noticed I had parked adjacent to a year-old Ram 1500, so I shot a picture of the two of them together. Then I noticed that in the minute and a half I was inside the camera shop, an extremely quick meter monitor had given both Rams a nasty parking ticket — obviously figuring that by the Ram’s license plate, its driver must be from Michigan, so let’s hit ‘em for good tourist treatment. Got to pay for that street repair somehow.
The significance of the old-style Ram parked next to the new-style Ram is that while the 2019 Ram 1500 won everybody’s Truck of the Year competition for its huge upswing in sophistication on top of the already-proven existing Ram, the company would continue to build and sell a couple of versions of the old-style Ram. Both are selling beyond anyone’s hopes.
Here are the facts: Based on Automotive News, which compiles more statistical evidence of everything automotive, there were 2,992,382 new cars sold in the first six months of 2019, which is a -9 percent drop; there were 6,841,952 light trucks, which includes pickups and SUVs, in the same six-month span, which represents a +2.1 percent rise — to say nothing of a total of more than twice the number of cars sold!
Ford’s F150 and the Chevrolet Silverado have run 1-2 in U.S. sales for a couple decades or more, and Ford has maintained its No. 1 status with 448,398 sales through the first six months, but that is a -0.6 percent decrease from a year ago. The Silverado sold 255,463 through the first six months, which is a -12.1 percent drop! That left room for the new Ram — with came out about the same time as the renewed Silverado — to sell 299,480 units in the January through June segment — a whopping +28.2 percent increase.
That also means the Ram has vaulted past the Silverado and into a strong, challenging second place to the F150. For the last month, F-Series sold 79,426, a slight increase, of +0.3 percent over the same month in 2018, while the Ram sold 68,098 — surprisingly close to the F-Series, and representing a quite-astonishing +56.4 percent increase from the same month in 2018. The new Silverado sold 45,455, a decrease of -15 percent compared to the same month in 2018.
For those interested, the top 10 in U.S. vehicle sales shows: 1. F-Series, 2. Ram, 3. Silverado, 4. Toyota RAV4, 5. Honda CR-V, 6. Honda Civic, 7. Toyota Camry, 8. Nissan Rogue, 9. Chevrolet Equinox, and 10. Toyota Corolla. The only three cars among the top 10 for the year to date are the Civic, the Camry and the Corolla. And the Rogue, which stood fourth a year ago, ahead of prime rivals RAV4 and CR-V, has dropped -22.5 percent, but still holds fifth.
Truck-folks rule, it seems. I stopped to get some gas in the Ram, which took some serious maneuvering to avoid knocking over the gas pumps or the building itself, or both, and as I opened the door and stepped with perfect timing to land on the electric-appearing running board, then descended to Earth, a pleasant female voice said, “Nice truck!” There she was, a normal sized woman refilling her Silverado pickup on the other side of the pumps, and she meant it. She has a big truck, but she truly admired that I had a BIG truck.
For those hauling a heavy trailer, or a trailer house, it would seem logical to go up to the huge (huger?) turbo-diesel, a 6.7-liter inline six that climbs to 900 foot-pounds of torque, but there definitely is something to the sound of the 6.4 normally aspirated V8 that sounds almost Viper-like in its throaty roar. And it takes off and hits 60 in about 6.2 seconds, if you believe Motor Trend. Stability and road holding are exemplary in the big Ram, and the spacious room in the rear seat, with all the leather flaps and trim items that make it almost limousine-like, reinforce the image set by the front seat buckets.
The big Ram does handling with surprising agility, which was good, because I had to negotiate about 80 miles of single-lane orange-cone maneuvering for construction on Interstate 35 while driving to Minneapolis and back. And I showed 16.5 miles per gallon, which, as they say, is not bad for such a large truck.
It is a full crew cab with all of the luxury features that have made the Ram the darling of the pickup segment for 2019, with Laramie embossed interior, and that iPad-size center screen that allows more connectivity functions that you and I could have imagined a couple of years ago. And it has the longest bed in the pickup world, fully sprayed with grippy stuff. The combination of the longest occupant compartment and the longest bed make something like its ParkSense front and rear parking assistance electronics seem somehow inadequate. Parking is simple: Just find two parking places end to end and use ‘em both.
The Ram was painted Walnut Brown Metallic, with light mountain brown interior on its premium leather bucket seats.
The Ford Super-Duty keeps Ford atop the segment for now, because along with the 150, the 250 joins the 350 and 450 and also has a new baby brother in the Ranger, which is a modest, medium size pickup we will be reporting on in a few weeks.
The impressive thing about the 6.7 Turbo-diesel is that Ford is making its own diesel these days, and figured out a way to put the new clean-diesel fuel to good use and make the thing run without the mind-numbing thrum of every other diesel in the truck biz. It has a 6-speed automatic, compared to the Ram 3500’s 8-speed, but the overflowing torque doesn’t seem to notice any shortcomings.
The Super-Duty Ford was painted Silver Spruce, which was a modest silvery-green that was very attractive, and countered the Camelback leather interior. Like the Ram, it had running boards that slide out from the body to meet your feet and at least go halfway toward reducing the pole-vault requirement that otherwise would be necessary to enter the vehicle.
I must confess that I didn’t get enough miles on the Super-Duty to require refueling, although when it was full it showed 700-some miles available before refueling would be needed.
Both trucks had the gooseneck trailer towing device, surround view rear camera, keyless entry, and all the connectivity and audio gadgets. If you’re real tall, you could sleep more comfortably in the extra-long Ram bed. If you want to go seriously off the road, you might prefer the Ford Super-Duty, which seems to have more skid-plate protection. If you like fancy interiors, you’ll have to choose for yourself. If you like powerful audio, both have premium units, with the Ram installing a 17-speaker Harmon Kardon upgrade and a power sunroof, while the F250 Super-Duty has a twin-panel moonroof, and a 4G WiFi hotspot. Both of them had heated and cooling ventilated seats, and it had a massage feature on the front buckets.
My wife, Joan, found the Ford controls for the seat massagers. I never looked for them on the Ram. It probably had them too. Tough choice, but the Ram is on a sales rampage and could close the gap more as 2019 progresses.
I haven’t yet become convinced that a gigantic truck that gets southward of 20 miles per gallon is the ideal vehicle, unless you really need it. If you’re hauling a house trailer or a large RV, then get into the same mindset you had when choosing a house. Just be aware that your first house may not have had the amount of room of either the Ram 3500 or the Ford Super-Duty.