Ram’s big Cummins diesel is nothing short of a legend. For 2018, the turbocharged 6.7-liter unit can produce a stratospheric 930 lb-ft of torque when installed in the 3500 model, enough to tow over fifteen tons. In the 2500, torque is rated at a still incredible 800 lb-ft. Unless, of course, buyers opt for the manual transmission. Installed in either truck, the mating of diesel engine and manual transmission produces just 660 lb-ft.
Most enthusiasts, when faced with the news of reduced power due to their preference for a standard transmission, react the same way: “Wait, what? You can buy a new pickup with a standard transmission?” Their eyes immediately glaze over as they imagine the joy of rowing their own new heavy duty hauler hither and yon.
We decided to take a closer look.
Ram does indeed offer a manual transmission as a no-cost option for its 2500 and 3500 pickups, but only when paired to the 6.7-liter Cummins diesel. It is available for the Tradesman, SLT, Bighorn, and Laramie trim grades; not for the Power Wagon, Laramie Longhorn, or top-of-the-line Limited models. It can be selected in either two- or four-wheel drive configurations.
There is some disheartening news for customers who want a standard but also need to tow heavy loads: the manual is down on maximum towing capability compared to the automatic.
In the case of the 2500, the difference is minor enough: 16,890 pounds for the manual and 17,980 for the 68RFE six-speed automatic.
For 3500 customers, the tale is downright depressing. Stepping up to the 3500 unlocks the high-output Cummins/Aisin heavy-duty automatic transmission option, the 930 lb-ft monster that every truck buyer dreams about and perhaps the biggest argument for choosing the 3500 in the first place. So equipped, maximum towing capacity is over 15 tons. However, choosing to shift your own 3500 drops towing capacity to just 18,740 pounds.
So why then, would anyone choose the manual?
Nick Cappa, Ram Truck Communication, likens manual Ram drivers to sports car enthusiasts. “They like to shift,” he said during a phone conversation. “They like being in control, like Class 8 drivers.” Ram automatics do allow selection of the highest gear the truck will shift to, greatly increasing control, but a manual transmission provides the direct, immediate drivetrain management that some drivers prefer.
Just how many drivers seems to be a bit of a gray area. A recent report by Performance Truck Products used data from Cars.com to conclude that just two percent of 2500/3500 buyers combined chose the manual in the 2018 models. When asked about that number, Cappa said that it was low and that the real figure was overall “substantially higher,” but declined to comment further.
Ram is currently the only brand in the U.S. to offer a manual transmission in its heavy duty trucks, though Toyota, GMC, Chevy, and Nissan do offer one for their midsize models
When asked if the manual transmission would become available for the Ram 1500, Cappa said, “Not at this time.”
Here’s hoping anyway.