Slideshow: 2020 Ram Heavy Duty

Big and beefy 2020 Ram HD wins with tech and torque, but not towing

Ram has revitalized its trucks lineup and the heavy-duty models are benefitting from innovations that started with the redesign of the Ram 1500.

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler N.V.

They're strong and sturdy, but don't count out their creature comforts. Heavy-duty trucks have come a long way in the last decade and the latest offering from Ram, Ford, and GM prove that buyers no longer have to sacrifice modern technology when they shop for capability. While Ford's Super Duty has the towing capacity title, Ram's HDs follow closely behind and sports more high-tech features.

This slideshow features the 2020 Ram HD trucks in various trim levels, pointing out their features and equipment.

2020 Ram Power Wagon

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

The Power Wagon is a mid grade 2020 Ram 2500 and 3500 trim level designed specifically for off-roading and job-conquering capability.

Ram Heavy Duty Interior: Limited

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

Each truck trim level has a different design theme, not just different seat cover materials.

2020 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Big Horn Mega Cab

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

This model is powered by a standard 6.4-liter HEMI V8 engine that is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Two different 6.7-liter inline six-cylinder diesel powertrain options are available.

2020 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Limited Crew Cab Dually

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

The Limited is Ram's top-tier trim level.

2020 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Longhorn Mega Cab Dually

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

The Laramie Longhorn trim is Ram's mid-grade model.

2020 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Big Horn Sport Regular Cab

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

Buyers can get the Ram 3500 in a very basic setup allowing for impressive capability which minding tight budgets.

The 2020 Ram 2500 and 3500 are expected to go on sale at dealerships near the beginning of the year.

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The Toyota Tundra is due for a redo, but it still has a lot to like if you're not too picky.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Americans buy millions of trucks every year. Even in the midst of a pandemic, folks are still buying trucks. In 2019, between all the various full-size truck models from Ford, Ram, GM, Nissan, and Toyota, U.S. customers bought nearly 2.5 million pickups — and that doesn't include all the smaller midsize models, which add another 600,000 to the truck total.

Nearly all of those truck sales are dominated by the big three of Ford, RAM, and GM, but there's a not insignificant niche carved out by Toyota as well. The endlessly-popular Tacoma is the best-selling midsize truck, and the full-size Toyota Tundra has a loyal and dedicated following.

2019 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition On the outside, the truck looks strong and capable - it is.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

I know a few Tundra owners who love their trucks just as passionately as Ford and Chevy owners do. I've driven most of the pickups on the market, but I haven't spent much time behind the wheel of Toyota's big truck — and I was curious to see what Toyota was doing to compete.

My test unit was the premium, Western-themed "1794 Edition" that honors the founding of the JLC Ranch in San Antonio, Texas on which Toyota now has a truck assembly plant. Unsurprisingly, it's the same plant that built this truck. 1794 is basically Toyota's version of Ford's King Ranch, only with less-impressive brand awareness.

The model weighed in at $55,199, including option-boxes ticked for the TRD Off-Road Package ($155), running boards ($345), moonroof ($850), and a spray-on bedliner ($579). All in, it's certainly not a cheap truck, but it's not crazy expensive either. The big three all have ultra-luxe truck trims that can run well-north of $70,000, so this was a very reasonable top-line truck.

It's also not nearly as well-appointed as those other trucks, but it's certainly nice enough. Inside, there is "1794" embellishment on the floor mats and the center console, plus wood trim on the steering wheel, dash, and gear shift.

2019 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition There are nods to the 1794 Edition throughout the cabin.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

It's very roomy, and things are laid out logically — which is a good thing considering how old the Tundra is. The interior was last redesigned the better half of a decade ago, and this generation of the truck is nearly old enough to enter high school. So, it's a bit old, but aging gracefully which, perhaps, shows why Tundra owners like it so much. They know what they're going to get.

One thing they'll get is a lot of stops at the pump. The 5.7-liter V8 is extremely thirsty, scoring just 14 mpg combined city and highway, though the engine itself is buttery smooth and capable. Pushing 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, you won't have any complaints as long as fuel prices stay around two dollars per gallon. If prices shoot back up north of $4, it might be another story.

The exterior is pleasing enough, with a giant big chrome grille on the front and special 1794 badging on the doors. The Tundra has aged well and was particularly striking in the brilliant Voodoo Blue coloring that my tester sported.

2019 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition The cabin is straight out of the middle of the last decade.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The interior is solidly dated compared to the competition, but it's all functional enough. The 2020 edition of the Tundra gains Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is enough to get me to ignore the massive "Home/Apps/Audio" buttons that surround the screen.

With the competition launching enormous 12-inch-plus touchscreens, I don't think Toyota will be able to wait too much longer before reworking this interior. In the middle console are numerous cupholders and storage cubbies, surrounding an enormous phallic shifter. There's a massive center storage bin under the armrest, which will come in handy for those using their truck as an office.

The rear seats have tremendous amounts of legroom, and the seats fold up to allow for more interior storage, though I wish the rear floor was totally flat to make loading Costco water bottles a little easier.

2019 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition The rear seats fold up allowing for more versatile cargo space.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

In the back, there's a truck bed. It's for putting stuff in. There's nothing elaborate here with in-bed lighting or fancy tailgates like the GMC Sierra has. It's just a truck bed, with a tailgate, that you can fill with things.

That's perhaps the best way to describe the Toyota Tundra. It's a pickup that allows you to haul things around. No fuss, no muss, nothing crazy. It gets you and your stuff from here to there, while slurping down massive amounts of fuel.

It's a Toyota. You know what you're getting. Enjoy it.

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Production of the Volkswagen ID.4 will mark the automaker's first all-electric SUV launch. The ID.4 will have about 310 miles of range, depending on the drive package.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Volkswagen is investing heavily into electric vehicles (EVs), even in the U.S. where the models make up a smidgeon of the sales each year. The company has already begun expanding its Chattanooga, Tennessee factory to build a North American center for the engineering and assembly of EVs.

That doesn't mean that they're just working on cars. They're working on the design of the "things" that go into cars as well. Much of this will happen at the Engineering and Planning Center (EPC) in Chattanooga. Breaking ground on the center is set to happen soon with the expectation of it being fully operational by spring 2021.

Volkswagen Chattanooga plant Volkswagen is investing $800 million and adding 1,000 jobs at its Tennessee plant. Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The EPC will feature a unique, state-of-the-art high-voltage laboratory that is designed to develop and test electric vehicle cells and battery packs. These cells and packs are slated to be assembled in the U.S. before being inserted into vehicles.

"There are two ways that auto companies approach the development of electric vehicle batteries," said Wolfgang Maluche, Vice President of Engineering at Volkswagen of America. "A lot of them will farm out the development and testing of batteries to another company, and some will actually do the work of developing and testing in-house. We are doing the latter."

The lab will include pressure testers, explosion-rated climate chambers and – perhaps the most unique – a custom multi-axis shaker table (MAST), which is designed to test the integrity of vehicle components in some of the roughest conditions they might face on the road.

According to Volkswagen, most automotive labs have MASTs, "but almost none were designed for electric vehicle batteries". EV batteries present their own set of testing challenges because of their size and weight. They typically weight hundreds of pounds each, making them the heaviest component in an EV.

"The battery is not only shaking; it is going through a series of harsh conditions to test its durability in a variety of possible environments, from the South Pole to the Sahara," said Jason Swager, the Director of Electrical Development. "We needed to build a MAST that could withstand the immense force and frequency that we need to test these batteries."

Volkswagen describes the process:

"To run a MAST at such high frequencies, Volkswagen had to design its own tool rather than using an outside supplier. The supports for the MAST will be buried 12 feet under the lab's floor and buttressed with concrete to help withstand the forces in use. Volkswagen's new lab will be only the second location in the country with a MAST of this size."

Volkswagen is building the lab to LEED standards. "This lab was planned to be as sustainable as possible," said Maluche.

The production version of the Volkswagen ID.4 EV is expected to be revealed soon. It will be produced at the factory. The company recently celebrated the 1 millionth vehicle to roll off the line at the plant.

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