Ram showed us its latest 2500/3500 heavy-duty trucks at the 2019 North American International Auto Show, then had us drive the new models earlier this year. But one trim level had been missing from the public eye: the Tradesman trim, the work truck model that will likely form the basis for many fleet and commercial purchases, as well as anyone looking to get into a Ram HD truck for as little coin as possible.
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Ram showed off the new Tradesman HD at The Work Truck Show 2019 in Indianapolis, an industry-only trade show aimed primarily at commercial and fleet businesses, but also increasingly used for new pickup news. The Tradesman model made its show debut here.
The basic Ram 1500 won our Best Pickup Truck of 2019 award, set apart from its competition by a knockout interior. The HD trucks continue that tradition, but the differences between the Ram and its competitors' interiors is less at the bottom end of the market where the Tradesman lives. Ram ups its game with its Limited and Laramie Longhorn trim interiors, but when you go down-market, absent that sumptuous leather and open-pore wood trim, what are we left with? We briefly drove the latest Tradesman regular cab at the truck's launch earlier this year and it felt quite strong, but the Tradesman HD at The Work Truck Show gave us another opportunity to find out.
We felt a little cheated by the Tradesman HD shown at the show. This was not the super-basic, crank-windowed, vinyl-floored entry-level model that we'd hoped would be here. Instead, we found a very comfortable HD crew-cab pickup with thick cloth seats, carpets, solid materials and quality assembly.
The plastic quality is comparable to the HD interiors on the Chevrolet Silverado 2500/3500 and Ford Super Duty F-250/350 — no better, no worse. The design of the interior is equally user-friendly across competitors, but I'd still give the Ram the nod for seat comfort over the oddly short chairs in the Super Duty or the narrower-feeling thrones in the Silverado (we haven't been in a new GMC Sierra 2500/3500 yet, but it's a safe bet that it isn't any different from the Chevy inside). You can still get a Ram Tradesman HD with crank windows and manually locking doors, too, a true base model like you'd see in any number of municipalities' fleets hauling everything from landscaping equipment for public parks to barricades for parades.
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The multimedia system is still basic, however, despite the power windows and locks and leather-wrapped steering wheel on the display model I sat in. The transfer case is still a manually activated lever, too — not the automatic version in most other Ram models — so there are still some nods to the basic work truck nature of this trim level even when optioned up a bit. As soon as we get some seat time in one and can put it to work, we'll let you know how well it holds up for the money.