I recently tested the 2010 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty trucks. Here's a summary of features and reviews of most interest to horse haulers.
• Cab/bed. The new models offer a full-size Crew Cab (which replaces the Quad Cab) for long-haul comfort. They also offer an eight-foot bed; it's easier to tow gooseneck and fifth-wheel trailers with an eight-foot bed than with a short bed. (Note that the 3500 Mega Cab, while cushy and aerodynamic, only comes with a short bed.)
• Diesel fluid. The 2500 and 3500 diesel models don't require diesel exhaust fluid (urea) to meet the 2010 emission laws, as the new Ford and General Motors diesels do. This translates into a big price advantage over the competition. (The commercial cab and chassis 3500, 4500, and 5500 models will use urea, as they have different Environmental Protection Agency tests and certification.)
• Ride. Dramatically improving the ride this year is a cab-isolated hydraulic dampener supporting the rear of the cab. You'll especially notice a difference on the Dodge 3500 duallys, which could be rough in previous years.
• Brakes. The Dodge Cummins 6.7L diesel engine, with its built-in exhaust brake, was 2010 EPA compliant when the model was introduced in 2007.5. This means Dodge didn't need to make major diesel changes for the new law, as Ford and GM did. When towing in the mountains, this brake also allows less wear on the brakes, the transmission, and your nerves.
• Transmission. The 68RFE six-speed automatic transmission has Electric Range Select. In manual mode, you use the "plus" and "minus" buttons on the shifter lever to tell the transmission the highest gear that you want to reach, all without over-rapping the engine. It's like having a programmable manual transmission without the work.
Tow/haul mode keeps the engine in maximum torque curve. You can manually shift the automatic. (I let the computer shift the truck, then I did it manually. I won.) A Torque Converter lockup in third, fourth, fifth, and sixth helps the automatic transmission hold gears just like a manual transmission.
• Steering. Dodge is the only pickup truck to have rack-and-pinion steering (offered on the 4x2 only). This is the steering system offered on cars. It gives you tight steering with minimal effort. In my experience, Dodge has the lightest steering of all truck makers, resulting in less fatigue on long drives.
• Interior. The interior on the 2010 Heavy Duty models, which is taken from the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500, is a big improvement over the previous models' plain plastic. The cab is quieter, with triple-sealed doors and a lowered door opening. Storage compartments are everywhere, including in the rear floor and under the rear seat. There are more door pockets than before. There's also a new center console with double layers and a double-door glove box.
Options. Cool options include remote start, a backup camera, a lift assist on the tailgate, a heated steering wheel that quickly radiates to the upper body, heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats, and a SIRIUS backseat television with three channels.
H. Kent Sundling (a.k.a. Mr. Truck; www.mrtruck.com) is a well-known automotive journalist, reviewing trucks, trailers, and accessories for magazines and websites. He travels the country test-driving new trucks, towing trailers, and reviewing horse-trailer manufacturing facilities. His trail mount is a 9-year-old Arabian crossbred mare named Athena.