Truck Thursday – Driving the 2014 RAM 3500 Big Horn Crew Cab

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So far, I’ve told you all about the Challenger I drove on my American holiday. In the piece, I mentioned how I had to drive it back to LA from San Francisco, to be swapped for another vehicle. I say “vehicle”, as you cannot really call it a car: instead it’s a truck as big as they come. After leaving the Challenger in the attendant’s hands, I received the keys for a 2014 RAM 3500 Big Horn Crew Cab 4×4 Dually Long Box with the 6.7-litre Cummins turbo diesel. Go ahead, say that really quickly.

Jump into the Challenger from an European-sized everyday car and it feels long and wide and threatening. Step into the RAM from the Challenger and the muscle car is instantaneously dwarfed. Such are the dimensions of the tall, long and wide truck – traveling four-up, we felt like we had to shout at each other to be heard, as everyone sat so far apart. Not that there was much of a racket inside, as the Cummins big six was a relatively civilized affair for a workhorse. I mean elephant.

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Driving the RAM from the switchover location, I felt like Jeff had played a trick on me by choosing the biggest, baddest RAM of them all. “It’s a dually!” I texted him. “I KNOW HAHA” came the reply. But amazingly enough, given a little time to get comfortable in it, parking the RAM never seemed to be a real hassle. Partially that is down to my friend, Nik, tactfully arranging parking so that he would snatch suitable-looking parking spots near his apartment with his Miata, then move the roadster away to his own parking garage when the RAM needed the spot.

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We did a little bit of maneuvering with the two vehicles, especially when there were street cleaning days on the block, but for the time we had the RAM it wasn’t a terrible ordeal. The pickup did its part to help with parking: you get big mirrors with wide-angle sections and the interior rear view mirror incorporates a camera display to see just how close you are of the Camry behind you. I didn’t as much as scrape the white letters off the Nexen tires, thankfully.

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This is as far off road as I went, as for most of the time, I used the RAM 3500 as one would use a commuter car. We went to sightseeing spots like the Griffith Observatory, did Walmart and Target runs, drove up and down Mulholland Drive and Laurel Canyon, and even endured the 405. It has to be said, the carpool lane is a lot smoother than the rest of the freeway, and getting up to merging speed wasn’t really an issue. On the ramp, kick the pedal to the carpet and you get a second to think what you have just done. Then the beast huffs and puffs all the way to 60 mph in 8,5 seconds. For something that weighs more than three metric tons, the acceleration is incredibly effortless. Slowing down you definitely feel the bulk, too.

As for Mulholland, the RAM isn’t commonly seen as a canyon carver, but it climbs hillside roads like nobody’s business. The SCR exhaust gas cleaning system meant it wouldn’t belch black clouds on bicyclists. But you know, it’s green down to the paint shade.

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The secret to the RAM’s wonderful bruteness is the 6.7-litre Cummins unit, producing 385 horsepower and a staggering 850 lb-ft or 1150 Nm of torque. These things move mountains. These things tow Toyotas towing space shuttles. Seeing the publicity photo of a 3500 dually towing two tractors on a trailer at the same time really drove it home: there are actual hills the RAM could bring home to me, with its 30,000 lb tow rating. That’s 13 600 kg and change.

And it doesn’t do that with a lot of noise: the engine ran tidily, the diesel-only Aisin trans shifted smoothly and the Big Horn specced, refreshed-for-2014 interior is a class act compared to the older dash. The navigation on the RAM seemed a touch more honed than the older unit on the Challenger, but was more prone to freezing and lagging. It did play music from my iPhone rather well, while driving through Beverly Hills with the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack blaring from the Alpine sound system.

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As for the measurements, the RAM’s bed comes close to accommodating my Peugeot 205. Width-wise, there’s just an inch to go wrong, and the 205’s wheelbase is comfortably shorter than the bed. With the rear wheels in the rear corners, I’d wager you could drop the gate and fit a 205 sans bumpers on the bed just fine. That would even smoothen the freeway ride, too, and the 205 would work as a dispatchable parking spot reserver.

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What comes to the design, the RAM’s nose stands like a cliff jutting from the sea. It’s amusing to look at the develops from the earlier models, as the bumper’s bulldog-esque maw becomes especially pronounced. Viewed on the Palos Verdes seaside road in sunset, the RAM is a majestic thing. Parked next to a Datsun Z, it’s gargantuan.

If the Challenger is something I would have a hard time justifying here, even on our straight roads, the RAM would be hilariously huge. Surely there are jobs the truck would complete without breaking sweat, but squeezing it into the same parking spot I take with the 205 would be grade A trolling. The first three quarters of the truck would fit in fine, but the dually flares and quad rear wheels would then stick out prominently.

And if I warmed to the Challenger, I definitely did embrace the enormous RAM. The latter half of my CA vacation simply wouldn’t have been the same without it: trolling the LA traffic with something as gigantic as this was an experience I’ll never forget. Realizing I had actually gotten used to the thing was mind-boggling.

[Disclaimer: RAM Trucks kindly loaned me this John Truckasaurus filled to the brim with diesel. I, then, didn’t have to drive around for ages looking for a diesel station, as Lexus claims it’s an unbearable inconvenience.]

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