DODGE ON A ROLL

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Dodge Ram HDs get a makeover for 2010, with features like engine exhaust braking and a first-ever Crew Cab model.

Last year, Dodge debuted an all-new Ram 1500, a stunning makeover that has drawn raves for both styling and engineering excellence. This year, it's the Ram HD line (heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 models) that is getting a similar treatment. Dodge also reinvigorated the legendary Power Wagon pickup, which is built on the HD platform but gets some special tweaks befitting its iconic workhorse status.

The new HD Rams offer a choice of 5.7-liter Hemi V8 gas-fueled or 6.7-liter Cummins turbo-diesel engines. The Hemi delivers 383 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, while the diesel produces 350 hp and 650 pound-feet of torque and meets pending tough new emissions requirements in all 50 states. Maximum towing capability has increased to 17,600 pounds for the HDs, and max payload is now 5,150 pounds. A first-ever Crew Cab is also available for the 2500 and 3500 models, along with Regular and Mega Cab models.

Significant improvements were added to the Ram HDs' towing and hauling capabilities, such as a factory-installed exhaust brake available on the diesel-equipped engines. Exhaust brakes are common on big highway rigs to help slow the engine – and vehicle – when hauling or towing heavy loads, but putting them on light-duty trucks like pickups is a first. Any driver who has ever had to stop a fully loaded truck or trailer on a steep downhill grade can only imagine how helpful this can be. Factory-integrated trailer brake controls that display critical information on the dashboard navigation screen are another innovation offered on the 2010 HDs.

The Power Wagon occupies a special niche in the Ram HD lineup. It's fitted out for both hard work and off-road play, with electric locking front and rear differentials and a unique anti-sway bar setup that improves highway handling but can be disconnected electronically from the cab when you need to negotiate rugged terrain. Underbody skid-plate protection, 32-inch tires, and a custom-built Warn 12,000-pound winch mounted behind the front bumper are all standard equipment on this beauty of a beast.

Little has changed on the recently restyled Ram 1500 or on its junior sibling, the midsize Dakota. Towing capacity for the 1500 has increased to 15,500 pounds. Its ride-smoothing multi-link coil spring rear suspension is still an industry exclusive, as are its handy Ram Box bed-sidewall storage compartments. The 1500 is available with the same 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine tuned to 390 hp and 407 pound-feet of torque, or with a 4.7-liter V8 (310 hp, 330 pound-feet of torque), or a base 3.7-liter V6 engine (215 hp, 235 pound-feet of torque).