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Driving

What is it like to drive?

There was a time, not long ago, when the sole focus of a HD truck was its ability to haul and tow. Nothing else. The cabins were spartan and purely functional, comfort and driving them was more about endurance than pleasure. Those days are well and truly over, as the RAM HD range demonstrates.

With up to 1,000lb ft on tap in the most torque-ful models, the big RAMs can merge, overtake and frankly out-drag most vehicles when unladen. Combine this with reasonably accurate steering and vast brakes and you can throw them around surprisingly easily.

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But where it really shines is when it’s hitched to a suitably vast load – via a tow hitch or fifth wheel gooseneck. Even with an unfeasibly huge payload – we towed an astonishing  35,100lb – the truck is stable, unfussed and reliably powerful at going. And stopping. The latter helped by a big rig-style exhaust brake on the diesel models.

Vision of the road ahead is never less than commanding – but there are a couple of nice new additions to load monitoring. There is now a 360-degree surround view camera, to help hitching and load monitoring.

Plus a sophisticated trailer monitoring system which allows the driver to keep an eye on up to 12 trailer tyre pressures on the central information screen. When it’s not towing house-sized trailers, max payload of the 3500 is 7,680lb.

The big diesel-engined trucks are fitted with a column-mounted shifter connected to the six-speed Aisin box. The Hemi V8-powered versions get a dial shifter connected to the eight-speed ZF box. Both worked perfectly.

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Off-road, the Power Wagon is a genuine star. Presented with some terrain you would think twice about in a fully loaded Jeep, the 2500 made steady and sure-footed progress. The low-range transfer case is still operated by a satisfying manual lever. But the disconnecting sway bars, hill descent control and the axle locks are all push buttons.

Even though the base Tradesman spec 2500 with the ($11k) Power Wagon package is the best-value, least showy version, the Limited with the big 12-inch screen looks like the sweet spot for anyone wanting to trade up from – or not have to pay over sticker for – their Ford Raptor. Especially since the Power Wagon’s high speed off-road handling has been significantly improved with this new model. And it has a winch, with new lighter synthetic rope, as standard.

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