Equipment; 1a : the set of articles or physical resources serving to equip a person or thing, as the implements used in an operation or activity.
Source: Webster’s Dictionary
The Ram 3500 is no mere vehicle, it’s a piece of equipment. It’s the kind of thing that makes you look good not for being stylish, but for what it helps you accomplish. In this case, what we accomplished was 1400 miles with 7000lbs in tow, 1500lbs in the bed, and four adults, a baby and a dog in the cab. That’s no small task, but luckily the Ram 3500 is no small piece of equipment.
We’re typically not big on rattling off specs and stats in reviews, but with a truck like this the stat sheet is 80% of the game. Starting under the hood, we’ve got a 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel making 350hp and 650lb-ft of torque. Said torque runs through a 6-speed automatic transmission to what can only be described as the Mother of All Transfer Cases. Torque runs fore and aft, via driveshafts as big around as I am, to a 10.5″ front axle and 11.5″ limited slip rear, both equipped with 3.73:1 gears. The torque meets pavement via 235/80R17 load range E tires built to cover lots of ground with lots of weight on them, not impress your bros, bro. All that drivetrain beef means you can drop 5,000 lbs in the bed or tow 17,000.
Ours was a crew cab, long bed, Laramie configuration. Eight feet of bed was nice to have, as it held a whole race worth of tools and spares below the edge of the rails. The factory drop-in plastic bedliner had me re-thinking my hatred for the things as I was able to slide the generator and crates of parts around on it with ease. Not so easy? Heaving said generator and parts up to the chest-high tailgate. Such is the drawback of 4×4 trucks for serious hauling duty: their tall ride height makes loading a pain. Between the height and the huge flares covering the dual rear wheels, you can pretty much forget about loading anything over the sides.
Stepping (more like jumping) inside the cab, the impressiveness continues. Our tester came with leather, Chrysler’s MyGig 30GB in-dash touch-screen infotainment system, and “chrome” outlined “wood” trim. The leather would be considered ghastly in a luxury context, but it’s just perfect for a truck like this: durable and easy to clean, and dark so as to hide all the greasy marks we might’ve left on it. While not particularly pretty to look at, the MyGig system delivers your tunes (via radio, Sirius-XM, disc, onboard hardrive, USB, or AUX jack) and nav info without complication. Navigation prompts also show up on the info screen in the gauge cluster, a nice feature for keeping your eyes facing straight ahead. The “wood” trim just reminds me of my stingy grandparents laminate-over-MDF bedroom furniture: cheap, attempting to look expensive. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but to me metal, piano-black, perforated vinyl or good textured plastic are all preferable to plastiwood. The chrome trim on the console looked fine until one 90 minute stretch on I-5 when it blinded me with glare.
Of course, 90 minutes represents a small fraction of the time we spent on the highway in this rig. Our trip took us from Los Angeles to Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, with detours to my folks’ place in Meadow Vista and a quick jaunt to Rancho Cordova for a replacement engine. The journey gave every opportunity for the Ram to get on our nerves, but for the most part it failed. The crew cab has no shortage of room for four adults, even giants like my 6’4″ cousin Ryan. Throw a car seat in the middle of the back row and a boxer on the floor and things get a bit crowded. Most unfortunately, the rear seats don’t recline and there’s no real storage under them. We’d have preferred to lose a little leg room to gain reclining seats with useful storage behind or underneath them.
When you do 30 hours behind the wheel in four days, the driver’s seat matters. Thankfully, the front buckets are appropriate thrones from which to rule as King of the Road. You can get whatever posture you’d like, with lumbar support to boot. I’ll go on record for saying cooled seats are the best thing to happen to automotive interiors since the wind wing. With my back supported and my underside cooled, the most fatiguing part of all this driving was my son’s teething episode. Lucky for you, the cranky baby is an owner-installed option. As it was in the high 90s all weekend, the heated wheel, mirrors and seats didn’t see much use.
Speaking of mirrors, the 3500’s towing mirrors (complete with vertically-oriented fisheyes) were one of a several built-in towing features that made the trip easy. The 7-pin hookup and integrated electronic brake controller will save you a few hundred bucks you’d otherwise spend at your local trailer shop. The tailgate-mounted backup camera allows for one-man trailer hookup. While coasting downhill, transmission downshifts on its own. Lastly two words: exhaust brake. Between the tranny and the exhaust brake (technically not a Jake Brake), I don’t think I even touched the brakes coming down either side the Grapevine.
But what about going up said Grapevine? With almost no effort, we outran everything else in the truck lanes. Ascending into the Santa Susana Mountains at car speeds wasn’t an issue, but with the 95-degree heat outside the temp gauge started to climb so I backed it off a little. Back on flat ground the only limit on comfortable towing speed is your fuel budget. With the cruise set at just under 65, we pulled 11-12mpg. Unloaded and closer to 80mph netted mileage in the high teens. If those numbers sound low, keep in mind a Cummins I-6 takes more miles to properly break in than most press cars see before auction.
Ok. So, the big giant truck tows with aplomb and keeps everyone reasonably comfortable. Probably not a shocking revelation. Was it perfect? No. We already covered the faux luxury and disappointing rear seating. We’d have preferred a front bench, but that and the high-end touch screen system are mutually exclusive on the options sheet. For all big rig features built in on this truck, a CB would’ve been a nice touch.
The humongous capacity offered by a truck of this magnitude is great…provided you need it. Realistically, even regular towers don’t need to drop over 5,000lbs in the bed or tow over 17,000. The good news is, you can get the same drivetrain, minus the dually rear in a 2500 “3/4 ton” package. As such, your payload capacity drops to 2500lbs and towing down to a “mere” 13,500, but we suspect the ride is significantly less brutal. Oddly enough, there’s no extended cab option for the Ram Heavy Duty line. Your options are a short cab, Crew or Mega Cab. Provided you can get by without an 8-foot bed, the Mega Cab is probably worth the extra investment over the crew if you’re planning on taking the whole family along.
No matter how you spec them, these aren’t cheap trucks. Our tester started at $50,145 and totaled $55,880 with options and destination. The Cummins diesel is a $7,600 option over the Hemi V8. My diesel 2500 4×4 Mega Cab with spray-in bedliner stickers at a little over $51,000, Santa. At these kinds of prices the Ram Heavy Duty isn’t a purchase to be made lightly, but if you can swing it, having the right equipment for the job is worth the investment.