We Drove a $38,000 2019 Ram 2500: Here's What You Do and Don't Get

6a017ee6664cf9970d0240a461283e200c-800wi.jpeg photos by Dan Carney

"Are you sure you're a homeowner and not a contractor?" demanded the cashier at the dump as he eyed my appliance-white 2019 Ram 2500 pickup truck with a regular cab, steel wheels and an 8-foot-long bed. I was making the second trip to finish the job of removing the kids' 20-year-old playset in a $37,680 (including destination) Ram three-quarter ton.

The main structure filled the bed on the first trip, so while its mass ("freaking heavy!" in technical terms) was probably within the payload capacity of lighter-duty pickups, the spacious bed (98.3 inches long with tailgate closed) spared me spending as many hours deconstructing the swing set as I spent building it in the '90s.


The main swing beam went on the second trip and hung a couple of feet past the open tailgate. There would be no way to haul that, or the replacement 16-foot-long 2-by-8-foot wood I bought for deck repairs, in the bed of any mid-size truck we're regularly told are "all anybody needs."

"All anybody needs" is a better description of the Ram 2500's cab amenities. Yep, rubber mats on the floor — no carpet — and those are indeed hand cranks for the windows. An AM-only radio would have seemed appropriate, taking me back to the days of my high school buddy's '78 Dodge Power Wagon that we rigged with an FM converter for better musical options.

2019 Ram 2500 Tradesman Regular Cab 4×2 Long Box Pricing Breakdown

  • Base price: $33,395
  • Fifth wheel/gooseneck towing prep group: $445
  • Tri-fold tonneau cover: $695
  • 4.10 axle ratio: $145
  • Anti-spin differential rear axle: $445
  • ParkSense rear park assist system: $295
  • Spray-in bedliner: $565
  • Destination charge: $1,695

The tiny 5-inch screen on the AM/FM radio, probably no bigger than your phone's, houses the display for the backup camera, a technology that is a godsend for hitching trailers solo. (Or did you like the ritual of jumping out of the cab to check how close you'd gotten to the hitch?) And the truck includes an array of USB-A and USB-C ports, along with an aux input jack to accommodate any modern music source in place of the old FM radio converter.

The three-abreast bench seat is welcome, but the Ram's execution of this traditional seating layout leaves a lot to be desired. The center seat doubles as a fold-down armrest. But when it's in its seat configuration, the back is uncomfortably upright and the bottom is higher than that of the two outboard seating positions. Anyone in the center spot is perched uncomfortably high and upright, and has no head restraint in case of a rear-end crash. It seems like there might have been some better solutions here.


Similarly, the hand-crank windows are fine in concept but also fall short in Ram's execution. The windows go up and down easily enough that we wonder exactly why this design is virtually extinct, especially in a time when most vehicles have climate control that makes "rolling" the windows down unnecessary. But the Ram's cranks are mounted very low on the door, making it a bit of a reach. Worse, the crank passes between the door and the seat, where there's no space for a hand and arm. Designers have notched the seat enough to create the appearance of adequate space, but it's an illusion. The hand crank needs to be higher on the door for a shorter reach and to avoid interference by the seat.

There is some modern tech in the , including a keyless push-button starter, so leave the key in your pocket. The headlights are automatic. There's air conditioning, which feels remarkable in a truck like the Tradesman — but temperature control is manual, not thermostatic, so you'll feel like you're working when you adjust the temperature. Ram has also adopted one of those dainty rotary dial electronic shifters for its heavy-duty models. I strongly prefer the 2018's column shifter, which can be shifted without taking a hand from the wheel and whose position is readily apparent by sight and touch, but it's 2019 and here we are.

It's easy to appreciate the modern touches in the Tradesman's hardware. The new frame is 98.5 percent high-strength steel, with hydroformed main rails that are wide-spaced in the front for improved roll stiffness and fully boxed in the rear for maximum rigidity. The result is a truck that doesn't shake like a wet dog when its heavy-duty suspension encounters potholes and other road imperfections. That's also due to the suspension, which isn't as stiff as might be expected thanks to frequency response damping shock absorbers and carlike progressive coil springs where the old Conestoga wagon-style rear leaf springs used to be. The 2019 Ram 2500 is still bouncy when unloaded, but it's noticeably much less bouncy than heavy-duty trucks have been until now.

The Ram rolls on real-deal light-truck-spec 245/70R17 tires mounted on silver-painted 17×7.5-inch steel wheels, providing ideal practicality and durability without the price tag or preciousness of aluminum wheels.

No vehicle the size of the Tradesman can be considered agile, but the heavy-duty Ram's accurate, nicely weighted steering and upgraded brake master cylinder, booster and calipers make placing the truck exactly where you want it absolutely effortless.


The 410-horsepower, 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 good for 429 pounds-feet of torque has the muscle to live up to the engine's legendary name, while cylinder deactivation and a TorqueFlite eight-speed transmission are meant to help it avoid the thirst that would be expected from such power. The truck showed an average of 15.6 mpg in mixed driving, while it got 11 mpg in my around-town work trips hauling things. The 32-gallon gas tank should minimize fuel stops even with the less-than-thrifty fuel economy. Skipping the optional 4.10 rear axle on the test truck would be worth a couple of mpg if you don't absolutely need it for towing very heavy loads.

The engine's fuel-saving cylinder deactivation is imperceptible, so it's impossible to tell when the brawny V-8 has downsized itself to four cylinders. The automatic transmission's shifts are nearly undetectable, too.

Out back, the bed is truly immense, which was perfect for hauling the oversized lumber I needed. An optional $565 spray-in bedliner protects the steel from damage, and there are plenty of cleats for attaching tie-downs to ensure the load doesn't shift (or worse, fall out). The $695 tri-fold bed cover is very convenient to use, with a convertible top-style latch on each side of the bed that releases it to flip forward, where it latches down securely, leaving space for most big loads without having to remove it.

There's a pass-through in the bed floor to the reinforced cross-member over the rear axle that serves as the mount for gooseneck and fifth-wheel hitches. There's even a seven-pin trailer wiring plug in the bed for those trailers, along with the combination four/seven-pin plug for tagalong trailers on the hitch receiver beneath the rear bumper.

Above that bumper, there's a tailgate. In a world of that seem to do everything except microwave your lunch, the Tradesman's tailgate folds down. That's it. It is commendably light thanks to aluminum construction and some spring assist. What the truck could use is steps cut into the corners of its bumpers. The fold-down step on the driver's side is a solution, but just cutting those steps into the ends of the rear bumper would be simpler.

The Tradesman gets its name because it looks like something a professional contractor would drive, so the fellow at the dump is forgiven for his skepticism that I was a homeowner. But there are a lot of us who haul boats and race cars and campers who need real trucks for that work and who have smartphones so we don't need a lot of gadgets built into our truck's cabs. For us, there's a lot of appeal for a $38,000 truck that packs professional-grade capability, even if the owner earns paychecks doing other things. Mine would have the same Bright White Clear Coat paint, but it'd have gloss-black steel wheels rather than the silver-painted ones of the test truck — so they'll probably still think I'm a contractor.

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