This is a lot of truck. Luckily, the Ram 3500 came equipped tow mirrors that were vertically convex such that the driver could see the edge of the dualie rear wheels. If those mirrors hadn’t been there, I may have had to make a few apologies for flower beds and lawns along the streets of Ann Arbor.
For lunch, the web team took the Ram the A&W drive-in in Dexter, where the parking lot was filled with full-size pickup trucks of varying size. Most of the other drivers looked admiringly at the sage brush pearl Ram 3500, although the woman behind the wheel of a Silverado 2500 HD equipped with a Duramax diesel didn’t even bat an eyelash. The Ram’s large, flat interior surfaces (center armrest and upper dashboard) easily had more surface area than most apartment kitchen counters and worked very well as dining surfaces. Those surfaces are almost more luxuriously trimmed than most homes, with ash wood trim, premium leather swathed across most surfaces, and an intricate stitching design reminiscent of a tribal tattoo that was also repeated on the gauges.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
The numbers say it all: this Ram 3500 is 22 feet long, weighs over three tons, produces 800 lb-ft of torque, and can tow up to 22,750 pounds. Never before have I driven such an enormous, overly capable vehicle. Of course, vehicles of this size are ill-suited for navigating an urban environment like Automobile Magazine’s home of downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan. Just getting out of the parking lot was stressful. An awkward four-point turn allowed me to line up the Ram to squeeze through the exit gate, and I gently crept forward while checking that I wouldn’t scrape the extra-wide rear fenders on any of the yellow concrete bollards. As I waited to pull out into traffic, the Ram blocked the sidewalk and several pedestrians gave me disgusted looks.
Out on the road, the convex towing mirrors are essential for judging whether the truck is between the lane lines. Although the Ram is massive, it’s not as difficult to drive as I expected — so long as you pay attention to the wide dualie rear wheels and large turning circle. The ride bounces and jiggles over almost every road surface, and the horrible blind spots had me worried that I’d run over a cyclist or a Honda Fit at every turn. My overall impression is that the Ram 3500 is too much truck for anything but a construction site. Unless you regularly need to tow giant loads, it just doesn’t make sense to buy such an overbuilt truck.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
I put the Ram 3500 to use towing my team’s 1987 Volkswagen back from a 24 Hours of LeMons race. The car blew a head gasket during my stint (who knew the electric fan wasn’t working?), and I was grateful to have such a capable truck to get it back home. Temperatures shot above 90 degrees over the weekend, but the Ram’s interior remained comfortable thanks to the great air-conditioning and the cooled leather seats. We were especially grateful for that latter feature after pushing our non-running car — with all of our spare parts inside — onto the trailer.
The oversize trailer and race car full of spares probably weighs about 7000 pounds, and that was just enough of a load for the Ram to ride level. When the truck isn’t loaded, the rear bumper is several inches higher than the front and the suspension is too stiff. With a modest trailer in tow, those problems were solved. The truck rode much more smoothly with some weight on the rear suspension and the 7000 extra pounds didn’t tax the powertrain at all. Although Ram now has the power to compete with Ford and GM trucks, I think the GM trucks feel faster with an equivalent trailer. No matter which truck feels faster, all the domestic diesel pickups are more than capable enough to tow anything you can imagine. And now that they’ve all got exhaust brakes and integrated trailer-brake controllers, you can even stop the 20,000-plus-pound loads these trucks are capable of towing.
It’s really incredible how far the Ram 3500 has come in the past few years. The interior has been best-in-class since this generation of truck debuted, but the diesel engine was down on power until this year. Now that there’s the requisite 800 lb-ft of torque, heavy-duty pickup shoppers are out of reasons to head to a Ford dealer. As always, the pickup wars are going strong.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
This LongHorn package is pretty tacky, with a giant belt-buckle-like badge on each fender. The seats’ goofy Western pattern is also questionable, but the leather is quite nice.
I’m always astounded by how quick these one-ton diesel trucks are, no matter the manufacturer. This Cummins really kicks (thanks 800 lb-ft of torque), and the six-speed automatic seems very well matched to the engine. Like Phil, I towed a car with the 3500 and have nothing but good things to report, although my 3000-pound load wasn’t quite enough to smooth out larger bumps.
Every time I drive a truck like this in downtown Ann Arbor, however, my car-control skills are definitely challenged, even though I’ve driven thousands of miles in dualie pickups (almost exclusively Dodges). This long-bed beast was particularly tricky to maneuver through the gate of the parking lot. Regardless, sixty-two grand actually seems pretty reasonable for a tip-top-of-the-line truck like this, which has rear-seat entertainment, ventilated front seats, four heated seats, and many, many other features. The target market for a truck like this is likely very small, but this Ram 3500 notches a direct hit on that tiny bull’s-eye.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Others who used this monster for tasks more appropriate than shuttling two little girls around town can better speak to the impact of coil springs on a heavy duty tow vehicle, or the 800 lb-ft of torque, and the integrated trailer brake controller. I’ll concentrate on what appeals to me about this truck the most — the aesthetics.
Dodge, er, Ram is making the best looking trucks — inside and out — of The Big Three, in my opinion, and it’s not even close. With this 3500 Laramie, Ram did a beautiful job of simply stretching what is already a handsome truck into a crew cab with a massive 8-foot bed that subtly bulges to encompass the dual rear wheels. There are the requisite badges tacked on about the exterior to announce the truck’s prowess, but the stylists didn’t mangle the lines with an over-the-top chromed out and blocky front-end treatment.
You get the full Laramie experience when you climb into the cabin, however. The interior treatment is so Westernized I half expected to find swinging saloon doors to enter the back seat. At first overwhelming, I grew to really admire the length to which Ram took this theme. Adding the tooled leather look to the seats was only the first step. Attention to detail and creativity abound, from the seat pockets with their flared and buckled saddle bag flaps to the barbed wire on the floor mats and the scrollwork in the instrument cluster. This truck is unapologetically ready to hit the ranch and one feels out of place on paved roads and even worse wearing sneakers and a polo shirt. Where’s my Stetson?
Yes, it’s saddled with the same horrible navigation and entertainment interface that curses the rest of Chrysler’s lineup, but other than that, there is nothing to find fault with in this truck. GM would be wise to study up on how to design a truck cabin that combines this level of comfort and style with the rough and tumble durability required in a heavy-duty truck.
Matt Tierney, Art Director
After a weekend with the mighty Cadillac CTS-V, I was very concerned about suffering the devastating effects of torque withdrawal (main symptoms: failing to pass in sixth gear and listlessness at stoplights). Fortunately, I scored another dose of twist — 800 ft-lb worth! — with the Ram 3500. What’s more, I didn’t have to sacrifice much in the way of interior quality. Unlike other gussied up trucks I’ve driven, the Ram’s cabin is nice enough to begin with that the extra trimmings don’t come off as lipstick on a pig. This $57,415 truck really does seem worthy of a gentleman farmer — or rancher.
I’d say gentleman urbanite too, but really, where would he park it? Certainly not in my driveway. Forget our office parking structure too. It may sound paradoxical, but the Ram’s enormity is more troublesome for the fact that it doesn’t feel all that enormous. Puttering around town, it doesn’t feel all that different from the Ram 1500, which itself doesn’t feel all that different from a well-mannered SUV. The steering is nicely weighted, and points you where you’re going with far more precision than you’d expect judging by the relatively skinny front tires. But get into any confined space and you’ll be pulling a full Austin Powers.
I could not help noticing, with both amusement and sadness, that the word “Dodge” still graces the center of the dash. It’s as if even the lower-level designers who would be responsible for effecting such a change realize how silly the Ram brand is. Why Fiat/Chrysler thinks it’s smart to isolate what are likely its best vehicles from a Dodge brand that’s still starved for appealing product is utterly beyond me.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
2011 Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4×4
Base price (with destination): $57,415
Price as tested: $61,930
6.7-liter inline-6 Cummins turbo diesel engine
6-speed automatic transmission
35-gallon fuel tank
Limited-slip differential rear axle
Diesel exhaust brake
Integrated trailer brake controller w/display
Rear backup camera
Remote start system
ABS 4-wheel disc brakes
3.73 rear axle ratio
Power windows & locks
Dual-zone temperature control
Front stabilizer bar
Remote keyless entry
Alpine premium sound system
Garmin navigation system
Heated steering wheel & front seats
Rear power sliding window
17-in. premium aluminum wheels w/all-season tires
Trailer tow wiring w/7-pin connector
Options on this vehicle:
Sagebrush pearl coat exterior paint – $225
Transfer case skid plate – $50
Max tow package – $595
Dual transmission oil cooler
4.10 axle ratio
Power sunroof -$850
Media Center – $400
235/80R17 On/Off-road tires – $200
Cummins diesel – $500
Rear seat video system – $1695
Key options not on vehicle:
6.7-liter I-6 turbo diesel
Horsepower: 350 hp @ rpm
Torque: 800 lb-ft @ rpm
6-speed automatic transmission
Curb weight: 6300 lb (est.)
Wheels/tires: 17-inch premium aluminum wheels
235/80R17 On/Off-road tires