2015 Ram Tradesman 2500 Review

Sep. 10, 2015 By Scott Rousseau
The Ram Tradesmanís coil-spring front and five-link rear suspension soaked up the bumps quite well once we got off of the pavement.

When we tested Ramís 6.7-liter Cummins diesel-powered Laramie Longhorn Edition 2500 4x4, we praised it as a rugged 3/4-ton beast that was capable of pulling almost anything short of a freight train while pampering its occupants in a luxurious interior with a Pandoraís box of interior technology. At the same time, we realized that its $67,875 asking price was a stumbling block that could put it out of reach of the average truck guy. If only there was a Ram 2500 that integrated that sweet Cummins engine in a more affordable packageÖ

Well, there is, so long as youíre willing to trade some luxury and a little torque for the opportunity to enjoy the Ramís class-leading 17,870-pound towing capacity and 3970-poung cargo capacity. Itís called the Ram 2500 Tradesman (a popular Mopar model name that graced Dodgeís vans for decades), and it can be yours, reasonably equipped, at a price that lops nearly 20 grand off the fully-optioned Longhornís MSRP.

Our Tradesman test unit has an impressively long 149-inch wheelbase thanks to its four-door, long-bed layout, but the powerful 6.7-liter Cummins diesel helped make the truck feel smaller than it actually is.

The basic platforms are the same, although our Tradesman test unitís powertrain did away with the standard six-speed automatic transmission for the optional G56 manual six-speed transmission. Going the clutch-and-stickshift route also necessitates a change to the 6.7-liter (408 cubic-inch), turbocharged, intercooled, direct fuel-injected, 24-valve Cummins inline six-cylinder diesel engine. Both versions of the 6.7 are rated at 370 peak horsepower, but the manual transmission versionís torque is pulled back from its stout 800 lb.-ft. of torque at 1600 rpm to 660 lb.-ft.óstill more than adequate to tow or haul vast quantities of ďstuffĒ while safeguarding the G56 transmission. The G56 is also mated to a manual shift-on-the-fly transfer case rather than the electronically shifted version equipped with the automatic transmission.

The true star of the show for the Tradesman 2500 is the 6.7-liter Cummins diesel engine. Just like the Laramie Longhorn version we tested previously, this 6.7 Cummins produces 370 horsepower, but Ram did tone down the torque output on this version from 800 lb.-ft. to 660 lb.-ft. of torque to better complement the manual transmission.

But thatís about it, as far as the powertrain differences go. Our Tradesman boasted the same Ram Active Air system as the Bighorn, a nifty intake that draws cool air in from the front of the truck instead of from the normal inlet duct located in the inner fender whenever the ECU senses an extremely hot or wet driving environment. It sports the same 11.5-inch rear end, located by the same stout five-link rear suspension system for hard-core towing. The Tradesmanís hydro-formed, ladder-type steel chassis and unique-to-its-class three-link coil spring front suspension system are identical to the Longhornís as well; the front coil springs positioned closer to the outside of the A-arms in order to give the truck a smoother ride, especially when carrying a heavy load in its bed, which measures 8í long in the regular cab version and 6í4Ē in the Crew Cab and Mega Cab versions.

Our Ram Trademsman 2500 is not as handsomely equipped as the Laramie Longhorn Edition we tested recently, but it still offers enough creature comforts to make the interior feel comfortable.

The manual transmission on our Tradesman 2500 was easy to operate, and it reminded us just how enjoyable a stick shift can be in a truck application.

The front coil spring arrangement also facilitates the use of a multi-stage air bag system designed to optimize the ride while carrying hefty loads. Operated with the push of a button inside the cab, it allows the driver to select from two ride height options, Payload and Trailer, and it electronically adjusts the rear suspension to maintain a level stance front to rear. Air for the system is supplied via a frame-mounted compressor, tank and lines.

We were pleased with how comfortable and ergonomically friendly the Tradesman is for the driver.

Just like the Laramie Longhorn Edition, the Tradesman is a heavy-duty truck designed to withstand the rigors of commercial use, only the Tradesmanís interior lacks the bells and whistles of the swankier Longorn. Its spacious interior features incorporates manually adjusted 40/20/40 split bench front and rear seats wrapped in heavy-duty vinyl instead of leather, and the dashboard and door panels are formed out of much more plain-Jane plastic than the stitched-leather panels in the Longhorn. The Tradesman also does away with interior carpeting, making do with a simple rubberized floor mat instead. Our test unit still featured power windows and door locks, but it didnít even have a remote-entry system. That has to be considered primitive by todayís standards, like changing the channels on your television without the remote control, but you get used to it.

There are also far fewer interactive features on the Tradesmanís six-speaker stereo system. Ramís Uconnect 5.0 AM/FM system is still in play, but the display screen is measures 5-inches, much smaller than the Longhornís 8.4-inch screen. The Tradesman still offers a USB port for media connectivity, but there is no Wi-Fi feature. The Tradesman also lacks the Longhornís comprehensive navigation package. Instead, a simple compass gauge lets you know which direction you are headed.

Even though itís a four-door long-bed Ram, the 6.7-liter Cummins still can spin the tires with relative ease Ė itís truly a torque monster!

The less-equals-more-value theme also carries over to the Tradesmanís instrumentation. Between the Tradesmanís large analog speedometer and tachometer, trip computer and fuel economy functions can still be accessed on the LCD screen in the center of the instrument cluster by pressing buttons on the Ramís steering wheel, and the system is easy to use. However, the Tradesman lacks the usual assortment of oil pressure, water temperature and battery monitoring gauges. Beyond a simple fuel level gauge and Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) gauge, you have to rely on good old-fashioned ďidiot lightsĒ to warn you of potential engine issues, although we do appreciate that the Tradesmanís LCD screen still offers a tire pressure monitoring function, which is useful when towing.

The rear bench seat will accommodate three passengers, and when itís not needed it will also lift up to reveal an additional storage bin.

But you still get what you pay for, and in the Tradesmanís case that means the proven 6.7-liter Cummins powertrain, which pulls like a herd of Brahma bulls. Weíve said it before, but after sampling Cummins turbo diesel power, we canít imagine why anyone who would purchase the Ram 2500 for its intended use would opt for the gasoline-powered Hemi. The brawny diesel engine makes torque right off idle, and it really comes alive when the turbo boast ramps up smoothly and quickly at about 1400 rpm and comes on really strong at 2000 rpm. Thatís a good thing, as the fuel cutoff kicks-in at about 3200 rpm, and even with the G56 six-speed manual transmission, thereís no chance of over-revving the engine. No worries there, as the Cumminsí 1800 rpm-wide powerband is more than wide enough to pull heavy loads with ease. While cruising along at 65 mph, the engine still ticks over at just 1500 rpm, leaving the bulk of the engineís massive torque for passing on the highway.

Thereís a massive amount of cargo-hauling space in the 8-foot bed of our Tradesman 2500, which can accommodate a load up to 3,970 pounds.

While driving in the city, we expected the manual-shift Tradesman to be more of a handful, but we were pleasantly surprised by its light clutch pedal and relatively smooth shifting performance. The shift throws are long, but we never had trouble finding our target gear, and unless you are a muscle car type of guy, itís easy to forget how much fun it is to shift! Even our female test drivers noted that the manual clutch and transmission, while not their first choice, was easy to operate. All of us quickly learned that the Cumminsí broad torque makes starting in first gear completely unnecessary. Pull away from a stoplight in second gear and the engine easily takes up the slack, and you can conveniently shift across the bottom of the pattern from second to fourth to sixth while rumbling around on city streetsóno need to waste time with those other gears.

Our Tradesmanís overall fuel economy averaged 16.9 mpg, a little short of the 18.4 mpg that we experienced with the automatic transmission-equipped Longhorn even though both test units featured the same optional 3.42:1 ring and pinion in their anti-spin (limited-slip) differentials rather than the standard 3.73:1. We can live with that since we know that better fuel economy numbers are simply a matter of experimenting with the most efficient way to shift the Tradesman from gear to gear to squeeze a little more fuel economy out of it.

With a 17,870-pound towing capacity, the Ram Tradesman 2500 had no trouble pulling this racecar trailer that tops out at 10,000 lbs. Weíre very impressive with the towing performance of the Ram 2500 when equipped with the 6.7-liter Cummins.

Of course, that economy goes out the window when towing anyway, and towing heavy loads is what the Cummins-powered Ram is all about. In fact, it may be the hardest part of testing the truckís true capability. We borrowed a friendís racecar trailer, which can tow 10,000 lbs. when fully loaded, and just like with the Longhorn, we almost couldnít even tell the truck was pulling a load on uphill grades. The 6.7-liter Cummins-powered Tradesman does features the same exhaust brake function found on the Longhorn as well to improve stopping time for the large 2500.

Fortunately, though, the Tradesman 2500 is still equipped with Ramís powerful four-wheel disc brakes and ABS, and although some of our testers noted that the brakes exhibit a vague feel at the pedal initially, they effortlessly haul the big Ram down from speed safely and consistently.

The instrumentation cluster on the Tradesman 2500 is pretty bare bones, but it offers most crucial information Ė though we did wish it provided oil pressure and water temperature gauges.

For a truck of the Tradesmanís sheer size and weight, its steering effort is extremely light and neutral, and its tracking is amazingly accurate. Whether cruising down the highway or negotiating tight parking lot spaces, the Ramís steering radius is admirable despite its limousine-length 149-inch wheelbase in four-door longbed form, and the while our Tradesman test unit lacked the Ramís ParkView rear back-up camera, it was equipped with the ParkSense parking assist sonar, which emits a beep to warn you of approaching obstacles at the rear of the truck. Up front, the Ramís massive hood makes gauging the space directly in front of the truck a little more difficult, but you get used to it. A front sonar would be a nice improvement, as would split side-view mirrors and a lane-assist warning system.

Weíre still big fans of the Ram 2500ís smooth ride quality on or off the road. We put that ride to the test by bouncing through some rough and rocky fire roads near our Orange County, California, home base. The coil spring front and five-link rear suspension systems were impressive in their ability to control the heavy truck with minimal bouncing. Overall, the ride is plush so long as you donít get overzealous and try to play Ricky Off-Road Racer with the Tradesman. 

The Tradesmanís manual transfer case still offers a convenient shift-on-the-fly feature when going from 2WD to 4WD, although, naturally, you still have to stop to access the 4WD low range feature if the Tradesmanís Firestone Transforce HT LT245/70R17 tires should begin to slipówhich doesnít come easily since the Ram boasts an excellent traction control system. The Tradesmanís tires and plain steel 17-inch wheels really do nothing to enhance its looks, but we certainly canít complain about how they functioned on the highway or on the trail.

The Ram Tradesman 2500 is a great all-around truck. It may be a lacking some of the creature comforts weíre used to seeing on 3/4-ton trucks, but the package does make this diesel much more attainable for buyers since itís under $50,000.

We have continued to be impressed with Ram 2500 series of heavy-duty big trucks, and at the end of the day the Tradesmanís lack of frills didnít equate to less thrills. Its mighty Cummins engine and beefy powertrain are about as authoritative as one could ever expect. Its chassis is rugged and reliable, and its driving manners are pleasant whether rolling down the road empty or laden to the gills with work equipment or a plethora of big recreational toys. Our Tradesman test unit came in at a reasonable $48,945, still a lot of dough but, a fair price for a truck of this caliber. About the only options we would consider adding would be the Ramís keyless Enter Ďn Go option and its Protection Group option, which includes a transfer case skid plate for a little added peace of mind when tackling rocky off-road routes.

Those options certainly push the Tradesman closer to the 6.4-liter Hemi-equipped Longhornís base MSRP of $52,440, but for us thatís like comparing apples to oranges. The coveted 6.7-liter Cummins turbo diesel is the real prize, accounting for $8195 of the Tradesmanís price (the G56 manual transmission tacks on another $600). For our money, thatís precisely the point of owning a Ram 2500 in the first place.


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