Ram raises luxury bar in 2019 HD pickup

Ram packed its beasts with the latest infotainment gadgets, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with an available Harman Kardon audio system with 17 speakers.

The brand also rolled out a 360-degree camera system that provides a simulated bird’s-eye view. Ram says a reverse guidance camera view shows both sides of a trailer to help drivers with towing maneuvers.

“Ram has done an amazing job at building capable, comfortable trucks that also can have a certain level of luxury,” said Brian Moody, executive editor of Autotrader. “If GMC is not careful, Ram may end up taking their spot as a luxury truck.”

The infusion of more high-end materials and technology is a response to the changing needs of heavy-duty customers who have grown accustomed to these things in other vehicles, says Stephanie Brinley, principal automotive analyst at IHS Markit.

She believes some of the buyers of the loaded trims may turn out to be company bosses who don’t haul as much they used to, but still drive them to work sites.

“Offering the better interior materials and more technology to the heavy-duty buyer simply reflects the fact that people expect more from their interiors than they used to,” Brinley said. “And the heavy-duty buyer, even though he’s using it as a work truck, they’ve gotten used to technology being in the cars, and they want it in their truck, too.”

Don Lee, a Ram dealer in Maine, said the added luxury brings more versatility to the heavy-duty lineup. “I can see a situation where a heavy-duty owner would step up and buy a more luxurious vehicle, a more comfortable vehicle, so he can continue to use his vehicle on his personal time as well as enjoy some of these additional features and luxuries during the workweek,” said Lee, president of Lee Auto Malls.

Competition will continue to be fierce. GMC just revealed the 2020 Sierra 2500HD and 3500HD, which will come with a versatile tailgate, large head-up display and advanced trailering system with an app, among other features. Its 6.6-liter Duramax diesel model falls short of Ram’s 6.7-liter Cummins diesel at 910 pound-feet of torque.

Duncan Aldred, vice president of GMC, told media ahead of the vehicle’s unveiling last week that the Sierra HD is “the crown jewel” of the company’s lineup. And the Chevrolet Silverado HD, expected to debut in February, will enter the segment with a redesign that differentiates it from the smaller 1500 and new trailering technology, the company said.

Michael Wayland contributed to this report.