It’s become apparent that while pickup sales are booming, not everyone in society is a fan of pickup trucks or perhaps the people that drive them. For whatever reason, they (the trucks) can occasionally be a bit polarizing. Sometimes people take issue with the size of the vehicles, or perhaps the load that is or is not being carried. Sometimes the need for the vehicle itself is questioned. Curiously, none of this ever seems to happen with mid-size sedans.
So we decided to try one of the larger truck offerings on the market, or more accurately, RAM decided that we should try one, so one appeared recently at my door for a week’s stay.
If this RAM 3500 looks vaguely familiar, that is because it was briefly featured on these pages a few months ago when I had the opportunity to sample the entire RAM HD line in a controlled environment with prescribed routes and limited time. At that opportunity, I liked what I experienced. Would those impressions hold up over a week’s time?
I decided that while this example is far beyond what I personally would likely ever use or need a truck for, I would use it for all of my driving that week. No matter how long or how short the journey, I’d be using this for it. I’m no tease, so I’ll tell you right now, after my week, that I don’t believe there is anybody sane that either buys or uses a truck like this one just because they want to.
They COULD, but I’d venture in virtually all cases, the drivers of trucks like this one-ton 3500 series (as opposed to the regular 1500 series trucks or even the 3/4 ton 2500 series), especially with the dually rear setup, own it because of a specific need for this or something extremely similar.
No, not every pickup is always full of cargo. But pretty much by definition, that could only be the case half the time, right? One is either taking cargo somewhere (and then has to come back), or is going somewhere without cargo to pick some up and bring it back. Nobody takes a full load of whatever from their home to someplace else and then brings it back (which they do with trailers however, such as a boat or a camper, but one doesn’t just cruise around aimlessly with those attached either).
Mine had a full tonneau cover on it so nobody could see what was in the 8-foot bed. Well, when I lowered the tailgate (either manually or very decadently with a push of a button on the keyfob and/or dashboard), I realized that the bed wasn’t empty. In fact it contained a fifth-wheel hitch apparatus so that I could tow massive amounts of cargo on a trailer or perhaps a house(trailer) itself, up to 35,100 pounds in fact.
In my week the CC effect was strong, I suddenly saw literally dozens of RAM 3500 duallys running around, most of them with trailers of one sort or another; be it a full load of cars, oil drilling equipment, lots of multi-horse trailers, and all kinds of others things. Conversely, I didn’t see too many of them just running to the grocery store or post office like I did.
Lest you think I just loafed around, let me disabuse you of that notion. I drove almost 500 miles this week – I did take two trips of some distance – first a trip to Golden for dinner, some 75 miles each way. Driving down I-25 was a revelation. The truck has tremendous grunt, in fact the 6.7 liter High Output Cummins Turbo Diesel in this one produces 1000 lb-ft of torque, enough to seriously push you back in your seat once the turbo is up to boil, the time to get from 60mph to well over the 75mph speed limit (and further) is startlingly small.
Besides the obvious power, what really stood out about this is how quiet it was. Not just in the truck but also standing beside it. I (and likely everyone) is well aware of how load a Cummins TurboDiesel 6cylinder engine is in an older Ram (or Dodge). Not so here. You can converse normally while standing right next to the running truck. Once inside, at idle it’s almost silent. At speed, you hear more wind noise than engine noise, and on throttle you hear a growl but nothing even remotely objectionable to someone that is for instance not a diesel fan. It is genuinely remarkable and makes me curious just how much sound deadening is in this truck.
The Aisin Heavy Duty 6-speed transmission worked quickly, quietly, and mostly imperceptibly to keep it in its powerband – with a redline at what appeared to be 3200 or so rpm it was shifting a fair amount. (By the way, is that the lowest redline of any current production vehicle?)
While I was supplied with a regular hitch as well I never found a good opportunity to tow anything but have no doubt that this truck would make short work of it. On the other hand, driving this truck while unloaded pointed out some obvious shortcomings that would stop normal people from driving it “just because” – first would be the fuel mileage.
While objectively impressive for such a large and capable vehicle, my 13mpg overall average (about 75 percent highway/freeway) is frightening with diesel at $2.85/gallon (which is relatively cheap here compared to lots of other locations). Second would be the ride. On a good road or even a not so good road, the ride wasn’t bad. Understandably firm maybe, but not bad.
However, hitting expansion joints, especially at the beginning or end of bridges made the while thing just rear up and bounce hard. To be able to haul and tow what it can, obviously the shocks need to be set up to handle the potential weight. When unladen that makes itself known and felt.
My other “big” trip was up to Laramie, also about 70 miles away. I’ve taken this particular trip on Hwy287 in over a dozen different vehicles over the years. This truck, bar none, provided the most pleasurable possible way that I’ve experienced yet.
Going up to 7185 feet of elevation didn’t faze the truck at all, there was constant power, I was able to pass at will, semi’s coming the other way on the 2-lane road weren’t even felt as they passed by mere feet away. All with my seat ventilation on, the stereo literally blasting so loud I was laughing and marveling at the quality of the sound, and being as comfortable as I’ve ever been while lounging in the large front seat of this truck.
Later in the week was a trip of a different sort – I needed to go up into Rist Canyon to attend a home inspection for a house my wife had placed under contract for a client. Heading up the canyon, eventually there was a turnoff onto a private road which turned out to be dirt. Ok, no problem, so I started heading further uphill. A couple of minutes later, rain started falling and the road turned muddy.
One push of the button and we were in 4WD high and any feeling of slippage was gone, all six tires were confidently gripping the dirt and slinging fine mud spray all over the truck (which I washed off later on). Once at the home site, the seller’s eyes got big and he insisted on a personal tour of the truck, which turned out to be a major ice-breaker.
But for much of my time if not mileage, it literally was just an errand-runner. The overwhelming memory is that I got more exercise. I went to the Post Office. And parked at the end of the lot. I went to the grocery store. And parked near the street across the lot. I also went to pick up some fast food. And parked instead of even attempting a drive-thru. I even went to church. And parked as far away as I’ve ever parked.
While pulling into a spot isn’t too difficult and it will even stay within the lines as in the picture above, there was zero confidence that there won’t be someone parked next to it when I returned. And that, my friends, would mean Game Over. Even with the cameras on the back, the front, the bed, and all the sides affording an “overhead” view, this truck needs space to maneuver.
I did actually parallel park it in Golden, albeit two blocks away from where I wanted but I did parallel park. And did well at it, the cameras helped a lot. Parking in a shopping center is not its forte, nor of course is it its reason for being. The average owner of one of these likely owns at least one or more other vehicles to perform more mundane chores in and lives on a spread with a huge parking area. At the final sticker price of $87,810 that this one rang up at (base is $65,250) that owner can likely afford more than just this truck.
Driving on normal roads takes a bit of getting used to, like driving a large U-Haul this thing is obviously wide. Thank goodness for bike lanes… (I’m just kidding, calm down, I did not use the bike lanes). But I did harken back to my first driving instructor lo those many years ago that advised me (in a RWD Corolla) to line myself up in the lane with the mirrors and then pick a spot on the windshield or the wiper or the hood to use to line up visually with the road markings and keep it there.
That trick still works and I used it a lot at first. But after a while it also just becomes second nature but you end up not driving right next to someone else, you kind of stay either in front or behind them just in case either needs to move laterally quickly
Did I mention what this truck contains as part of the price? Well, I did go over it in the earlier piece linked here so won’t regurgitate it again but I have no doubt that RAM is correct when they tell me that the RAM HD line is #1 in HD in all areas to the west of and including Colorado and in second place overall in the US.
They also enjoy the highest resale value of all the HD competitors. That’s not surprising when you look at it. Yes, styling is very subjective, however of the players in this space, I find the RAM to be the most attractive. I absolutely love the rear fenders.
The way they bulge out and then tuck back in looks fantastic in the rear view. A good friend of mine whom I took for a spin said they look like a mega-sized version of his Porsche 944 rear fenders. And he is correct, they do! The front looks like the big rig it really is. But the inside is what makes it. The wood on the dash. The leather on everything.
I’m not particularly one for embroidery myself but my friend, my mother, my neighbors, the gentleman selling his house I mentioned earlier, they all found themselves looking at and verbalizing how much they liked it on the door panels, the center console lid and the seats. These people have nothing in common with each other and hail from all walks of life and really liked it.
Further, the touchscreen game in trucks has been upped with the 12″ display in this one. There are redundant controls (buttons/knobs) for many frequently used items but the screen itself is user customizable, i.e. you can drag and drop your favorite controls into a row so they are always right there (like configuring the app layout on a smart phone). And everything can be voice controlled as well.
There are plugs and outlets and chargers almost everywhere, both inside and outside of the storage compartments. The seats (all of them) and steering wheel can be heated, the front seats can be cooled (ventilated). There are multiple camera options for a trailer and ways to easily toggle between the views.
Tire pressure not just on the truck but also on the trailer (actually, can be programmed to recognize multiple trailers) can be monitored. The truck has a Jake-Brake so that you can sound just like a real trucker on a long downhill (or to actually use engine braking when towing a big load instead of me just acting like a 5-year-old).
I did try it though, it works and even has a gauge in the main cluster that shows how much power it is generating. The rear suspension has an auto-leveling air suspension feature that you can use to drop the rear on demand to perhaps slide backwards under a trailer, and then raise it back up to engage the ball using the camera.
Then you only have to get out to actually fasten it and the chains and plug it in. Big deal? It is when it’s 120 degrees out. Or worse, when it’s minus 20 and snowing. Who wants to keep getting out and back in and out again multiple times when trying to hook up to a multi-ton trailer?
The whole point here is to make life easier for people for whom trucks and what they can perform IS their life. These people are in the cab all day, every day sometimes. I’m the only fool driving this thing to Starbucks, but even I wouldn’t do that if it were mine unless I was using this truck to do something and it was on the way to somewhere I needed to be.
No, don’t get me wrong, and don’t read the foregoing as me saying this truck is anything less than great. But be aware that not everyone in a truck doesn’t need a truck. In fact, conversely, the ones driving the largest trucks that potentially annoy people the most are the ones that actually are able to and need to use all of the capability it offers. As marvelous as the features are on this truck, they are also generally available on other, less expensive (and less capable) versions.
This here is a working man’s (or woman’s, I hasten to add) version, if you see one with a trailer it’s likely as not to have a different state’s plates on it and it’s likely come from far away and going further away still. The luxury and features are there to make things more enjoyable, less fatiguing, and safer.
As I mentioned in the other piece, yes it’s a lot of money, but if that money is being used to make more money (and thus a living) for someone then it’s well spent. And really, if you see one of these looming in your rear-view, just get out of the way; to paraphrase Jerry Reed, the driver’s probably got a long way to go and a short time to get there…