Before I get into my hard working review of the 2015 Ram 2500 Tradesman with the Cummins Turbo Diesel engine, let me first talk about my use of the phase “budget friend” in the introduction to this piece. My Ram 2500 Tradesman shown here in bright red carried a price-as-tested of $48,945. With a price a touch under $50k, most people probably scoff at the suggestion that this truck is budget friendly in any way, but in the world of hard working, heavy duty pickups with a diesel engine, this Ram 2500 is one of the least expensive in the segment. The least expensive similarly equipped Chevrolet Silverado 2500 and Ford F250 with a diesel engine, four door cab, four wheel drive and a long bed both cost more than $49k and you cannot get a manual transmission in the Chevy or the Ford.
The 2015 Ram 2500 Tradesman with the 6.7L Cummins Turbo Diesel has more power than either of the competitors’ 250/2500 pickups and all of that power makes a properly configured Ram 2500 the most capable truck in the segment with a maximum towing capacity of 17,970lbs, but that includes the heavy duty automatic transmission. With the 6-speed manual transmission, my Ram 2500 Tradesman test truck wasn’t quite at the top of the segment, but with a max towing level of 16,100lbs - it still offers significantly better conventional towing figures than the Ford F250 or Chevy Silverado.
So, while it is hard to call a Ram 2500 with a $48,945 price tag a bargain, when compared to similarly equipped pickups, the Ram is less expensive and more capable so if you are looking for a ¾ ton truck that will be getting its hands dirty on the work site – this truck absolutely must be on your short list. This isn’t one of the new age “work trucks” that have the interior of a luxury sedan and the exterior chrome to match, and that is exactly how the Ram brand is able to offer this class leading beast with a price that makes it more affordable than the competition.
While a great many of the heavy duty trucks on today’s market are sporting chrome, two-tone paint jobs and wheels that measure more than 2 feet in diameter, this Ram 2500 Tradesman departs from all of that, as this is a proper ¾ ton work truck. As you can see in the images here, the Tradesman package includes black bumpers, a black grille, black door handles, black mirrors and 17 inch steel wheels, with the only chrome on the truck being the badges on the grille, tailgate and doors. While this certainly isn’t as flashy as other trucks on the market – or even other trucks in the Ram brand lineup – this big, blacked-out Ram HD looks prepared for the work site from front to back.
Mind you, you still get all of the styling features that make the modern Ram brand trucks so distinct, including the bold, upright front end with huge headlights and the high-riding hood, but in terms of exterior styling – the Ram 2500 Tradesman puts form after function.
When you climb into the 2015 Ram 2500 Tradesman, there is little question that this interior is designed for function, but the Chrysler Group engineers and designers were able to put together a cabin that is both work-ready and comfortable. Rather than the power, heated, leather seats that you find in so many high-dollar heavy duty trucks, the Tradesman package comes with manually-adjustable vinyl seats – although the grey vinyl could easily pass itself off as inexpensive leather to most people. Most importantly, while these seats aren’t fancy, they are very comfortable with similar front seat forms to that found in the more expensive Ram trucks. Even though the company calls this seating configuration a 40/20/40 split bench, you can see here that there is a clear bucket style to the front seats, while still having a large center console/armrest that folds out of the way for an additional seating spot.
The rear seating spaces are far more bench-like – just like the rest of the modern Ram trucks – but these rear seats are still surprisingly comfortable, especially in the outboard positions. The center seating position will definitely cramp things in the back if you have three adults, but there is enough room to realistically seat three adults across the rear row.
Speaking of room, that is one area where the 2015 Ram 2500 Tradesman interior truly shines, as the four main seating positions all provide ample leg, knee, hip, elbow, shoulder and head space for even big, tall adults. This is a cabin that can comfortably have a work crew of four 6’4” guys for a trip to the work site or the hunting cabin and if you don’t need the rear seating space, the back seat bases fold up against the back of the cab to open up a tremendous amount of interior cargo space. There is even an in-floor storage compartment behind the driver’s seat that seems ideal for rarely used items – or a hand gun. There is also a bin under the rear seats that allows you to tuck away to keep small, loose items in place during transport.
In terms of technology, the 2015 Ram 2500 Tradesman certainly isn’t going to blow you away, but it also doesn’t make you suffer with a barebones interior from the 1980s. The Ram 2500 Tradesman has a very easy to use heating and air conditioning system and while this truck doesn’t come with the massive infotainment screen that is present in the higher priced Ram trucks, the Tradesman package does come with a small touchscreen for radio, media and hands-free phone system control.
For those days when you are driving with gloves on (thus making the touchscreen very hard to use), there are a couple basic control knobs and a spread of buttons on the steering wheel for quick access to all of the sound system functions. These steering wheel buttons also work the cruise control and the small driver information display in the middle of the gauge cluster in addition to the sound system and hands free phone system.
My 2015 Ram 2500 Tradesman test truck was equipped with the 6.7L Cummins Turbocharged Diesel, which sends 370 horsepower and 800lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission and a heavy duty four wheel drive system. This drivetrain makes the Ram 2500 the most capable in the segment while also making it pretty much unstoppable in any driving situation.
Before I get into my actual testing, I want to address the manual transmission in the 2015 Ram 2500. Manual transmissions are becoming harder to find every model year, and the Ram brand is the only truck maker to offer a manual transmission in their ¾ ton pickups. It seems that when someone talks about a manual transmission in a heavy duty pickup, it is viewed as a difficult task similar to driving an 18-wheeler and this task is perceived as being far more difficult than driving something like the Dodge Dart with a manual transmission. In reality, the Ram 2500 with the Cummins diesel engine was one of the most user friendly manual transmission vehicles I’ve driven.
While the clutch pedal is stiff and the throw on the shifter is incredibly long, the crucial aspect of perfect clutch-gas timing to prevent stalling or tire spin is gigantic on the diesel 2015 Ram 2500. This truck has so much low end torque that with a little practice, you can literally pull away from a stop without touching the gas. This is the first vehicle I’ve tested where I could let the clutch out without touching the gas pedal, and the truck will ease away from a stop.
While driving the 2015 Ram 2500 Tradesman, I got stuck in Detroit morning rush hour traffic, where it took me about 2 hours to go about 30 miles. The stiff clutch of the big Ram made this a labor intensive process and it proved to be a great workout for the left leg, but when creeping through traffic, I got comfortable enough to roll the truck forward without using the gas. The clutch pedal is stiff, but this is a great vehicle for someone who isn’t comfortable with a manual transmission, as it is an extremely forgiving drivetrain that is surprisingly easy to drive.
When the 2015 Ram 2500 Tradesman first arrived at my house, it was in serious enough snow that I had a chance to test the truck on snow-covered roads. The mix of the work-friendly tires and the manual transmission allowed my Ram 2500 test truck to pull away from a stop in the show without any issue. When I got onto some of the local unpaved roads, where winter had built huge ruts and grooves, the high riding suspension of the Ram Tradesman provided a pleasantly smooth ride for a truck that is rated for such heavy loads. Mind you, the ride is still predictably stiff, but this big Ram handled the rough roads – even in the snow – better than many smaller trucks. On paved roads, the Ram 2500 Tradesman is stiff, but it is only appropriately stiff and it doesn’t beat you up on the highway like the heavy duty trucks of the previous era.
Finally, in terms of everyday daily driving, the Ram 2500 Tradesman does have some shortcomings. For instance, it is so big with the Crew Cab and the 8 foot bed, that many parking lots in Detroit wouldn’t let me park there so if you work in a big city, this probably isn’t an ideal commuter – but we all knew that. This truck is big in a parking lot and it is just as big on the road, so if you are someone who is comfortable driving one of the biggest vehicles on the road, you might have an issue driving the Ram 2500 in this form. That being said, my personal vehicle is a full size pickup with a full four door cab and a smaller bed, so I am perfectly comfortable with a big truck so I had no problems navigating traffic, even when driving in downtown Detroit.
Putting In Work
The 2015 Ram 2500 Tradesman that I tested had a maximum payload capacity of 2,294lbs and a maximum towing capacity of 16,100lbs. As I do with all of my test trucks, I hauled a thousand pound load of bagged horse feed and my 5,000lb horse trailer and realistically, these test loads are nothing for this truck.
The work-ready suspension setup of the 2500 Tradesman barely flinched when a thousand pounds of grain was loaded into the bed and when I got out onto the open road with the extra half ton in the bed, I really couldn’t tell. The handling of the truck in tight turns didn’t change with the extra thousand pounds and as you might expect, the acceleration – both from a stop and at a roll – was not impacted by the payload. With some trucks, a thousand pound load in the bed affects the handling and acceleration enough that most drivers don’t want to ride around with all of that weight out back, but I could drive the Ram 2500 all day long with a thousand pound load in the bed.
While the snow was still on the ground, I hooked up my horse trailer to see how this big Ram handled my test trailer in less than ideal conditions. I began my trailer testing in four wheel drive, but during the laden drive, I found that the Ram 2500 Tradesman had no issues pulling my little trailer in the snow in two-wheel drive mode. The ability to feather the clutch makes traction a little easier when not in four wheel drive and once I got to clear roads, the Tradesman was brilliant in my towing tests. The Tradesman doesn’t have an integrated trailer brake system that you get on some more expensive Ram 2500 pickups, but this big truck had no issues slowing down with my 5,000lb test trailer out back. Also, with the engine brake system, the Ram 2500 Tradesman can be driven with one pedal on the highway. I have tested a handful of trucks with factory engine brake setups, and this one works better than any I’ve tested. When pulling the trailer on the highway, the timing of the engine brake is acute enough that when you need to gradually slow down, you can just let off of the accelerator pedal and the engine brake quickly engages.
Of course, all of that Cummins power allowed my Ram 2500 Tradesman test truck to effortlessly pull away from a stop or accelerate through the midrange without breaking a sweat. I understand that my test trailer was much lighter than what this truck can actually do, so this really isn’t much of a workout, but far more truck owners who tow trailer do so with much lighter loads than what this truck can really do. When hooked to a very average trailer like my little 2-horse unit – the Ram 2500 Tradesman with the Cummins Turbo Diesel could pull it all day without any real effort.
The Final Word
If you are looking for a ¾ ton pickup that will do all of the work as any other truck in the segment, but you aren’t interested in paying for the interior amenities and exterior chrome of the Chrysler 300C – the 2015 Ram 2500 Tradesman is the truck for you.
This big Ram has a big, roomy interior that will very realistically seat five adults, an exterior design that is ideal for the job site and the most powerful engine in the class which brings with it the highest towing and payload capacity in the class. Best of all, unlike the long list of heavy duty “work trucks” that sport $60k+ price tags, this heavy hauler comes in under $49,000, making it a smokin’ deal in today’s high priced heavy duty truck segment that will outwork any of the competition for a fraction of the price.