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2010 Ram Heavy-Duty 3500 Dually

Tim Odell September 14, 2010 Dodge Reviews, RAM Reviews, Reviews, Road Test Reviews 21 Comments

Dodge Ram Heavy Duty 3500 4x4 dually review

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.

Truck Trailer Cul-du-sac

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

  • joshuman

    I feel like I need to take a road trip and haul something now. The fact that my demo video is not done and I have 28 minutes to finish has absolutely nothing to do with it, I'm sure.

  • My roommate and I have a game: How many cars on the road could keep up with his $3000 LT1 C4? In terms of numbers on the road, it's shockingly few: newer Z-cars, Corvettes and 911s, the occasional M5 or V8 Benz, but these and even 300hp sport sedans are rare sightings. On the other hand, it seems like every third pickup can tow as well or better than my $4500 Powerstroke E350, which is rated at an incredible (to me) 10,000 pounds. Big trucks like the Ram are a logical progression of capability and seat belt laws. The endangered status of "work truck" trim levels is more puzzling to me, in both heavy duty models and the half-tons that have evolved equally impressive abilities.

    • I've long been of the opinion that if you regularly tow in the 3500-5000lb range, you need a 3/4 ton.

      Of course, the 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton, 1-ton designations are totally outdated now, as most "1/2 ton" trucks can take a full ton in the bed, the Ram 2500 can take 2,500lbs in the bed, and the 3500 can take over 5,000lbs.

      And with "1500" spec trucks regularly rated at 10,000lbs towing, with nearly twice the horsepower of the Suburban 2500 I grew up with, I may have to re-think that commitment to heavy-duty-ness. The problem is, the 1500s all still come with half-ton transmissions and axles, leaving my main concern un-addressed.

      • Agreed on the half-tons. "Once in a while" they can shift the earth, but towing 5 tons regularly, I'd expect them to go to pieces like an NSU. As for below, while there are many models that can hold their own with the Vette in the quarter, their numbers on the road are tiny, which makes me worry about the future market for performance.

    • Also, I just spent a bunch of time looking up specs on current sports cars as compared to a 1994 Vette. Based just on a published 0-60 of 5.7 seconds, there are many that are quicker.

      Of course, for tens of thousands of dollars in price difference, it wouldn't be hard to juice up the Vette a bit. C4 and C5 Vettes are rapidly becoming a ridiculous performance bargain. You can get C5 Z06s for distressingly little money.

  • Ryans92L

    Yes, but does it have 800 foot pounds of torque?

    • Maymar

      Well, between the truck and the contents of the trailer, yes.

  • Most reviews of these Heavy-Duty trucks are more focused on the numbers and luxury. Tim here actually used the truck for its intended purpose (mostly). That is why I like it when Hooniverse does reviews: if they got a Raptor, they would be in Baja. If they got a, I dunno, G8 GXP, it would be a family hauler for a week, then drag-star that weekend.

    Excellent review!

  • When I worked at the Ford wind tunnels we did a lot of climate control testing. I remember one of the Visteon engineers telling me that he had just come back from testing in Arizona in a test car with their then-prototype cooled seat system. He said it needed some work, because, while comfortable while travelling across the desert in the middle of summer, it made everyone who drove the car have to pee.

    Oh, and the truck is nice. The torque wars seem to have continued fairly unabated in the face of the economy and two of the three major US carmakers being bailed out. This, if you need to tow a lot of stuff, is a good thing.

  • I loved reading this because, notwithstanding my relocating several thousand miles, I will never get to drive anything remotely like this. They are around but they're few and far between, and owned by people who simply must have the biggest thing on the road short of a Peterbilt.

    You would pity me if you watched me walking around (as I have) in the States, my head spinning and my jaw permanently on the floor in awe at all the Rams and HD F450s. I'm stupidly easily impressed by them, I've been stuck on this cramped little island far too long.

    Great review, Tim.

  • Smells_Homeless

    My only question would be "how the hell do you keep the boxer on the floor for a trip of any length?" Mine would be dangling from the ceiling in a matter of seconds. Especially with all those people AND a baby to worry about.

  • Abe Rodriguez

    I rented a 2010 Dodge Ram 1500 SLT for Burning Man this year and it was the biggest piece of crap. The headlights weren't even working and by the time I got to Sacramento from Oakland (about halfway to Reno) I realized the right passenger side headlights weren't even working. I ended up having to fix the damn car myself, the plugs hadn't even been plugged in and I'm glad it was just that. To replace the headlight bulbs would require ripping apart half of the engine bay to get to the headlight assembly itself. The right passenger side mirror wasn't even the correct one and was shaped entirely differently.

    For a "brand new" truck with only 700 miles on the odometer, it was absolutely garbage.

    • As this is the 400,000th "I had a rental _____ and it was total crap" story I've heard, I'm of the opinion that rental cars do more harm than good to their manufacturers.

      Think about it: they're poverty-spec models handed out to fleets that see ridiculous amounts of abuse and piss-poor maintenance. They're then in the hands of people busy doing something unfamiliar in a vehicle that's unfamiliar…a perfect recipe for stress and blaming the vehicle, no matter what.

      • CJinSD

        I've driven dozens of rental cars. While it is true that many of them are abused, and many are rented by people who may well live in NYC and only drive on vacations, there are cars that can stand up to rental fleet use. They are called Toyotas. I've picked up a Cadillac rental with 37 miles on the odometer and the stitching pulling apart on the red velvet seats, a Buick Century with less than 50 miles that I had to finish installing the door seals on so that the driver's door would close completely and no apparent shock aborber oil, a 300 mile Ford E350 with a non-functioning power window, doors that flapped in the wind, and more rattles than a freight train. I've picked up a brand new Chrysler 300 that was carefully prepped for Chrysler executve transportation while they were in San Diego. It ended my admiration for the 300s with its crummy economy gearing and chintzy interior. I've had plenty of other awful rental cars, but most had been in service long enough that one might assume they weren't representative of their models.

        • CJinSD

          Recently, however, I had a rental car that showed that cars that are terrible as rentals might just be inferior cars. It was a Hertz Toyota Corolla that Hertz should be embarrassed about. The staff at my local Hertz was anything but helpful, and the car itself was filthy and looked abandoned. Every panel was dented and scraped. Wheels were curb damaged. The exterior was covered in bird droppings. The interior was stained and stank. The previous customer had used the passenger seat as an ash tray and nobody had bothered to vacuum it. I made them vacuum the seat, but the interior still festered. The odometer showed well over 30K miles. The key fob had DO NOT RENT!!! written on it and then crossed out. I drove the car for about 3 weeks. It tracked like an arrow. Everything worked. It road quietly and smoothly. The transmission shifted seemlessly. The engine took me 31 miles for every gallon of gas even though I only had it on the freeway once in 3 weeks. There aren't any Toyotas on the market that I want, but that Corolla drove the point home that lousy rental cars are lousy cars.

          • True, the Corolla rental I had was probably the best rental I'd ever been in. Had a Cobalt that was just fine, too.

            • citroen67

              Back in the day(2002) I had to rent a car to get back to Michigan from North Carolina, and I ended up getting a pretty well equipped Chevy Impala, of all things, and it actually was quite a nice driving car. I was so impressed that I considered trading in my 2000 Sierra on a new one…then it snowed, and that reminded me why I bought a 4X4. That was by far the best rental car that I had ever had. The worst one was a Ford Escape…but it is pretty much a carbon-copy of every other rental car nightmare that has already been told, so I won't get into details. 🙂

  • Mechanically Inept

    Chrysler can't even make the rear seats of their minivans comfortable, for God's sake. I had the misfortune of riding in the third row of a 2005-ish Town & Country all the way from Michigan to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee/NC and back, probably about 20-ish hours total. I'm 6 feet tall, and long of leg, and there was just no place for my feet. The cushioning on the seat is sparse, significantly thinner than the rear bench in my '97 short-wheelbase Caravan, and the seat is tilted back at the precise angle to ensure leg cramps. Being in the far back amplifies all the body motions of the vehicle, and removes you from any conversation being had by the other passengers. Somehow, the brilliant Chrysler engineers and designers have managed to make their minivans less comfortable over the years.

  • jez

    bought a 2500 ram back in '03. cummins and a manual quad cab nicely equipped and smooth running. what impressed me the most was the very low sound level coming from the engine. 28k worth of powertrain and running gear and they threw the coachwork in for free. tow a travel trailer and hit 16mpg on the flats. grunts up to the lake in the rockies without complaint. speed costs fuel, how fast can you afford-glad to just get there.