After reading PickupTrucks.com's 2014 Ultimate Three-Quarter-Ton HD Challenge, I knew I had to get some time behind the wheel of Ram's new-for-2013 heavy duty to see if the new truck was that much different from what I remembered about my last HD truck experience.

When I received the 2014 three-quarter-ton Ram 2500, I incorrectly assumed it wouldn't be much different than I recalled — a rocky ride, worklike interior materials and transmission shifting points skewed drastically toward towing and hauling. What I found was almost the opposite: When unloaded, the ride is smooth and the transmission practically glides from one gear to the next. And our Big Horn trim surrounded us in luxury.

Exterior & Styling


Whether you are a Ram truck fan or not, the truth is Ram is making some good-looking pickups. The 2500/3500 trucks have smooth body lines; curved, muscular front ends; and a powerful-looking stance. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, we liked the design of the Ram 2500.

Our test truck came with the RamBox option, which can be a polarizing topic. On one hand, having the ability to lock up items outside the cab is a great feature. On the other, the bed's cargo capacity shrinks by a significant amount, and the bed width is much narrower.

A big issue for us is bed height. Our test model's bed height measured 59 inches from the ground to the bed floor. At 5 feet 6 inches tall, entering and exiting the truck — or using the RamBox system — was a challenge. In fact, getting in and out of the truck was a major hassle without the factory running boards.

During my week testing the Ram, I spoke with several pickup fans and a local Chrysler salesman. They all had the same thought: Without side steps, the truck is difficult to use if you are an average height.

Many farmers, according to the Chrysler salesman, love the Ram but complain about getting in and out of it. In our experience, it rides high enough to go over fields covered with cornstalks, but grabbing irrigation or fence supplies out of the bed is extremely difficult.

Nick Cappa, Ram communications manager, says the trucks have always been tall and this is an advantage.

"The height advantage helps overall ground clearance, allows for more suspension travel and articulation from a packaging standpoint, and it looks great," Cappa said. "The rear link coil helps us with a taller truck because it keeps the axle positioned during dynamic maneuvers, even when loaded. Leaf springs don't handle lateral load very well. So although our truck rides slightly taller, we still handle better in the turns and ride better on- and off-road."

In comparison to other truckmakers, the Ram 2500 has the tallest bed height among three-quarter-ton pickups. In fact, it's actually 2.5 inches taller than a comparable Ram 3500 dualie.

Interior


The interior of the Ram 2500 (especially our Big Horn trim) is well done. As someone who has driven many Ram trim levels, the Big Horn trim offers many of the best features of the Laramie Longhorn and is a good upgrade from the SLT.

Our Ram had 18-inch forged and polished alloy wheels, a limited-slip rear differential, chrome grille, fog lights, a 115-volt power outlet, a 10-way power driver's seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Our Big Horn added the Luxury Group option package, which comes with heated front seats, a 7-inch multiview instrument cluster, auto-dimming power-folding heated side mirrors, and overhead console with garage door opener. We also appreciated the available Uconnect 8.4-inch touch-screen with satellite radio, navigation, voice-to-text messaging and emergency assistance. The screen information and displays are just about the best in the segment. We especially liked that the screens were easy to read during the day and at night.

The cloth seats were comfortable for long hauls and felt sturdy enough to handle long-term wear and tear. Of course, if you don't opt for the side steps to help with entry and exit, you're likely to get more wear (and possibly tear) on the seats as you slide in and slide out.

We found the control knobs, instrument panels and steering-wheel controls well placed and easy to access.

About the only issue we had with the interior was using the heating/cooling controls. The simple up/down button is relatively slow to respond and forced us to use the screen to figure out temperature changes. It took some getting used to, but after a while it became second nature.

How It Drives


Our 2014 Ram 2500 was equipped with the new 6.4-liter V-8 Hemi gas engine and six-speed automatic transmission with a 4.10:1 rear axle. This powertrain combination delivered quite a bit of power when unloaded, giving us a thrill ride several times. The gas engine is rated at 410 horsepower and 429 pounds-feet of torque. Our truck is also rated to tow 15,500 pounds and carry 3,170 pounds of payload.

Ram offers the 6.4-liter V-8 as a $1,495 upgrade from the 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi. For those who tow a lot, it is a significant savings when compared to the turbo-diesel 6.7-liter six-cylinder Cummins upgrade, which is $8,160 more than the 5.7-liter Hemi. With that price break, it is a good option for many customers and worth a look.

During our test period, I drove the Ram 2500 almost 400 miles over highways, city streets and dirt roads, and through farming fields. On each of these roads, the truck rode well and was much improved from my last experience in a Ram heavy duty thanks to the new coil-spring rear suspension. With changing road and travel conditions, I never encountered a choppy ride or any ride comfort issues.

We did not have a chance to tow during our time with the truck; however, you can check the Davis Dam or Eisenhower Pass payload and towing results from the 2014 Ultimate Three-Quarter-Ton HD Challenge for more details.

Overall, I was able to get 14.2 mpg from my nearly 400 miles of driving the truck.

Value in Its Class


In the end, the Ram 2500 with the 6.4-liter Hemi is a great-looking pickup with lots of capability, and it has one of my favorite interiors on the market. It certainly provides buyers with an efficient, powerful gasoline alternative to the Cummins diesel at a huge cost break.

Cars.com photos by Tim Esterdahl