We put the ever-tough Ram 2500 to work – the way it was intended
2015 Ram 2500
Big, heavy-duty pickup truck
Pros Fabulous suspension, comfortable interior
Cons High fuel consumption, not as powerful as the diesel
Value for money Good
How I would spec it? I'd probably go for the stump-pulling ability of the diesel, with its smart exhaust brake system
Lord knows I really didn’t need a horse. It had been fifteen years since I’d last owned, or even ridden one and the last thing my chaotic life on the road needed was another responsibility – and a rather large one at that. But my sister, a perennially cash-strapped horse trainer whose every last dime went towards rescuing at-risk racehorses, needed a car.
Her bargaining tool was a dark bay mare with the body of an athlete, and the eyes of one who’d been through hell and back, so for the price of a used Toyota Echo I was, once again, a horse owner. With my ridiculous schedule, this entailed little more than paying bills and perhaps a monthly amble around the fields for the first couple of years. Being dormant for so long, the horsebug finally bit again and after a frustrating year of expecting my middle-aged body to do what my 20-year old self took for granted, I decided we’d go to a show.
As every rider knows, the world of horses and trucks is closely entwined. Moving such large and heavy beasts requires a serious rig. Fortunately, I acquired a 2015 Ram 2500 complete with tow package just in time; while my first choice would have been the Cummins diesel with its colossal 800 lb.-ft. of torque, my tester’s 6.4-litre Hemi V8, with 410 horsepower and 429 lb.-ft. of torque, was more than up to the task.
Heavy-duty trucks are currently embroiled in an all-out towing war, which Ram kicked off by raising their max rating to 13,608 kilograms, but Ford upped the ante with an increase to 14,152 kg and a mind-boggling 860 lb.-ft. of torque from the F-Series Super Duty. Ram’s towing specifics make lengthy reading and they vary greatly depending upon engine choice, drivetrain configuration, and axle ratio.
My 6.4-litre Hemi Crew Cab tester had a max tow rating of 5,643 kilograms with the stock 3.73 rear end. Add the optional 4.10 axle for $125 and it jumps to 7,004 – which is still less than the diesel’s 7720 kilograms. In Laramie Limited Trim, this big truck starts at $63,985 with the standard 5.7L Hemi. Adding 4×4 and the 6.4L engine brings the price up to $67,485. Given the huge difference in torque numbers and fuel consumption, it’s easy to assume that most buyers would opt for the Cummins diesel. However, considering that it adds a hefty $11,500 to the price tag, you’d have to be serious about your towing to make that choice.
This particular truck came with the optional auto-level air suspension in the rear. For $1,595, it’s worth every penny for our purpose. Not only does this adaptable rear setup deliver almost sedan-like levels of ride damping, it can also raise and lower to facilitate easier trailer hookup – a brilliant time saver when you’re dealing with large, impatient animals. Compared to the diesel’s stump-pulling low end power, the 6.4L feels fairly slow to move out with approximately 3,000 lb of trailer and 1,200 lb. of horse. My fuel consumption shot up from 14.5L/100 km unladen to 17.5L while towing.
The Tow/Haul mode helped make transmission shifts more efficient, but I really missed having the diesel’s “Smart Exhaust Brake” system, which uses the engine to check downhill speeds rather than the brakes. This saves wear-and-tear on pads and rotors while delivering a smoother ride for nervous cargo. Certainly the air suspension helps level out the surges common with a moving load. The large, elephant ear mirrors are wonderful, and provide a split view of both my trailer and passing traffic.
The Laramie Limited’s cabin is a far cry from the primitive haulers of my youth – replete with fine leather, it offers luxurious seating for up to five people and the rear seats tuck up nicely to provide room for some of my extra gear. A heated steering wheel, full suite of technology including UConnect with GPS navigation and backup camera, adjustable foot pedals and handy running board making it easier for shorter folk to climb in were just some of its notable features.
Our destination was the Orono Fairgrounds for the Ontario Standardbred Show, where the impassioned group of organizers were holding the first in a series of shows dedicated to proving the versatility of these re-purposed race horses. My horse, Colour Me Creek, was a former harness race-horse, a breed trained to trot or pace at high speeds while pulling a cart, or sulky. Although they’re bred for athleticism and durability, standardbred horses have never really been in vogue with the fickle riding set. This group, the Standardbred Showcase Riding Club, are determined to change that mindset. Many of these horses, including my own, had ended up on the meat auction block after their race careers were over.
Pulling in beside dozens of rigs of various sizes and configurations, I gave a great sigh of relief at having arrived in one piece – and at not having to back up this rig to park. Summoning every morsel of relaxation technique gleaned from yoga class, I prayed that my already strung-out steed wouldn’t feed off my show jitters and completely lose her mind.
Most of the day was spent reassuring Colour that I wasn’t returning her to a life at the track. Since standing still wasn’t much of an option, we toured the fairgrounds. Everywhere we looked were smiling faces and beautiful, well-kept horses who had managed to adapt to their new lives very well. Equitation classes featured gleaming mounts with meticulous braids, while the western riders in their cowboy hats and outsize buckles put on an exciting display of barrel racing.
It was a long, exhausting, yet ultimately very rewarding day. But we’d managed to hold it together for her very first show – and my first in almost two decades – and actually ended up in the ribbons. Utterly beat, yet truly content, I loaded up my horse and pointed the Ram’s blunt nose home.