Yesterday’s post about our drive of the new Jeeps was actually only part of our day, the other part was an opportunity to sample some of RAM’s new Heavy Duty truck lineup. I know we sometimes have big debates here about trucks, who uses them, who needs them, and why they are so popular, but let’s just enjoy the fact that we have the freedom to choose what we want to drive or, in some case, need to drive, which is in large part the raison d’etre for these larger (than life?) trucks.
RAM has obviously made an outsize splash in the truck market several times over the last few decades, mostly we remember the bold styling in 1994, then the HEMI marketing masterstroke and now over the last year, the new RAM light duty series has been gaining accolades for their wonderful interior options and variations. Never one to rest on their laurels, RAM has significantly reworked (improved) the Heavy Duty versions for this year. Over the years RAM has become very popular, especially in their 2500/3500 trims – in fact in the entire area of the country west of Colorado they are the #1 marque in HD, and #2 in the U.S. overall as well as boasting the highest residual values in the HD segment overall. Lots of feathers in lots of caps at RAM HQ these days, methinks.
They realize that Heavy Duty buyers are looking for capability and that their trucks help them earn money but also are aware that “work” and “Heavy Duty” doesn’t have to mean “utilitarian”. When someone drives all day (or all week) with a giant load (up to 35,100 pounds when properly equipped if we are talking about the RAM 3500), having a comfortable cabin with easy to use features makes a huge difference in reducing fatigue and enhancing driver endurance, productivity and in the end, safety. They are aiming to provide a way to be comfortable and ensconced in a luxury environment while hauling or towing large loads for long distances. Our own Jason Shafer wrote a little expose on how large HD trucks are used in various parts of the country while writing about the prior generation of the RAM 3500 and the little side post I wrote about a car hauler a while back is another perfect illustration of how one might use one of these trucks to provide a living for themselves and their family. Our own Ed Stembridge himself owns a RAM 2500 for use around the farm that I don’t think he has reviewed (yet).
Some people perhaps get an advanced degree and use it in an office somewhere between 9 and 5, and some other people perhaps use the same money to purchase a mobile office that can tow a house and has 1000lb-ft of torque. Both options are valid, both careers I’m sure have their difficulties and joys, triumphs and heartbreaks, and I’m sure there are some that get both the degree and the truck, such as the computer engineer friend of mine that goes to the office every day in the Bay Area and on his vacations uses his Heavy Duty Dually truck to tow a massive house trailer all over the country to relax.
So anyway, RAM invited us (me) to try their trucks, they are very proud of them and after taking a closer look I can see why. I also understand better that what seems like an enormous sum of money at first really isn’t compared to what lots of people spend on regular cars and SUV’s in more urban environments. Take resale into account and this starts to make a lot of sense (depending on the specific situation of course, I fully realize as do you that the average condo owner in Toronto or San Diego has zero use case for something this large or likely even a 1500 series). But let’s just enjoy these for what they are, another option on the automotive smorgasbord that is the American market that fills a legitimate need for some (or a lot of) folks with a different lifestyle than perhaps your own.
Yeah, that’s right, I tucked into the largest truck I saw first. It was hard to see anything else, frankly, as this Ram 3500 Limited Crew Cab 4×4 with the 6.7liter Cummins inline-6 High Output TurboDiesel can almost block out the sun it’s so large. This one is the version that ups the torque wars again to an even 1000lb-ft, the first 4-digiter. Mated to a special version of the Aisin 6-speed, it can pretty much tow the mountain it’s going over.
The maximum tow rating is 35,100 pounds, which a normal person with a standard driver’s license isn’t even allowed to tow in many states. The frame is 95% high-strength steel, the engine block is made of compacted graphite to save weight that can be put back in the payload, everything just exudes strength and power. And guess what? Zero diesel smell.
Here’s the cabin of that behemoth from the backseat while my seat heater was on Broil. Everything is leather. Except for the parts that are wood, real open-pore wood with some kind of resin stripe layer sandwiched every 1/4″ or so for a beautiful effect. And also except for the parts that are the 12″ touchscreen that you can’t fail to see.
The touch screen is especially neat in that there is so much space on it that almost everything can be reconfigured, i.e. the most commonly used functions can just be dropped and dragged to the lower edge of the screen for example but then many of the functions also have dedicated redundant buttons below. In the end no two will really ever look the same as different users have different preferences/priorities in what they want where on the screen. Of course as with most touch screen systems, many (most) of the functions can also be controlled via your own voice commands.
I sat in the back seat at first while someone else drove and was astounded that I could NOT hear the large diesel engine in front. While riding back there I heard a bit of wind rustle from behind my ear, either it was the corner of the cab or the large fender or the dual wheel itself, it wasn’t a bother and in fact the type of noise that would cause me to fall asleep within ten minutes. RAM’s version of whale-song, perhaps.
Once I got in the front I had to readjust my road standards at first as this was just huge and wide. But a funny thing happened, it shrank around me. It did not take long to get used to it and while I don’t want to attempt the Dairy Queen drive-thru in it, it was fine tootling through town. Once the town was left behind, and the foot went down, it was shocking how fast 50, then 60, then 70 miles per hour came up on the dial, all with zero drama and very low noise.
Turns out I like 1000lb-ft of torque. I like it a lot. You would too. You do hear the engine from the driver’s seat but it’s more or less mostly a murmur and not at all objectionable, I have to wonder how many pounds of sound deadening are on the firewall. If I had to tow my five cars over the Continental Divide or my (non-existent) stable of horses to the Derby, I think I would like this and at the price would find this far preferable to an Audi Q7 or whatever (If I had a use case for it of course, not in my present life.)
That price…Well, this is the Limited, so it is the top dog, even more than the Laramie Longhorn that was also in attendance. Base price is $65,250, this engine adds $11,795 (yes the price of a quite nice used car), and then the Max Tow package that includes a 5th wheel hitch and sundry other towing related items including amusingly to me a couple of red vinyl flags is another $3,695.
The “Limited Level 1” equipment group for another $2,995 adds a 17 speaker Harman Kardon sound system, surround cameras, the large screen and some other niceties including the safety nannies which I appreciate this driver having when he’s behind me coming down the mountain. A couple of other minor frills bring the total up to $87,810. That’s a lot as just a number but looking at what this truck can do and what it’ll still be worth with several hundred thousand miles on it, I don’t think it’s bad.
I will tell you, when I was on the freeway in this, I was ready to keep going and not stop, I didn’t want for anything. Which is the point. Just for grins the least expensive RAM 3500 variant lists at $34,845 but that doesn’t get you the big numbers etc but still an extremely strong truck. Oh, and this Limited isn’t even the biggest one, there is an even larger (longer) cab available called the MegaCab as opposed to the regular Crew Cab.
I didn’t drive the other Dually (the Pearl White one in the group pictures above and in the background immediately above) as while it was also a 3500 but with the aforementioned MegaCab, it was a trim level lower (Laramie Longhorn). I had gotten used to the ultra luxury of the Limited and didn’t want to slum it (not really, I simply ran out of time later in the day).
So I decided to sample the Ram 2500 Limited MegaCab instead. This one courteously extended its running boards for me as I touched the doorhandle, and were helpful in hefting myself up into the captain’s chair. Hooboy, it’s a 2500 but still with all the fixin’s!
You can see the striped wood I mentioned earlier just next to the vent in this shot, it also stretches across the passenger side. The leather covering pretty much everything else is a combination of Indigo and Frost in RAM-speak, to you and me it means glorious blue and cream interior colors, when’s the last time we saw a blue interior (actually my old 2008 Civic Hybrid had blue and cream as well come to think of it but that’s the only thing it has in common with this)?
Colored interiors, bring them on! And it was lovely, RAM clearly has someone on staff that is head and shoulders above their counterparts at Ford and GM when it comes to colors, materials, textures and the relationship between the elements.
Still, it’s not all just pretty-ness. There are oodles of USB ports of various sizes, other types of plugs/ports, some of them are hidden in the consoles so the tech can be put away when parked, room for laptops in the center console, room for hanging files (it’s a work truck, alright), I’m surprised there isn’t a currency counting machine somewhere. But you could plug your own in, I suppose. There’s an outlet for that…
The MegaCab lets you recline the seats in the back and still has extra space behind the seats. The program engineer said he uses the space to hang his dry-cleaned suits back there in his truck while his kids’ seats are mounted on the rear bench. He was fancy, we would toss our muddy boots back there. This one had the “regular” Cummins TurboDiesel with “only” 850lb-ft of torque and also uses a 6-speed Aisin transmission (but not the same one as the 3500).
Again, stepping off was effortless, the power was smooth, the engine was quiet, I was relaxed and since this was the skinny version of the trucks almost felt svelte driving around the countryside’s narrow roads. Surprisingly the 2500 doesn’t cost that much less than the 3500 above, this one (MegaCab, remember) actually based at $65,700 (slightly more!) and ended up at $83,915 (just a skosh less). Again there was a Cummins upgrade for $9,100, the interior package for almost three grand, clearance lights for $95 (I guess it’s an option on this one and not required), and a few other minor bagatelles to get to the big number.
While both were HD RAMs they did feel different, hard to describe but the vibe was different, this one felt a bit more playful and frisky (all in the context of HD trucks of course, it’s not a Mini Cooper). This one could only (only…) tow about 19,000 pounds which would be plenty for me and my two annual bags o’ mulch. But I hear Mr. Shafer is breeding steers on his acreage now so…Anyway if you suspect you are in a market segment heavier than the 1500’s check out both the 2500 and the 3500, who knows which is better for you.
And then there was one left for me to finish up with. This is the red truck so by definition the best one, right? I don’t know…but anyway this was a fun one in that it was a 2500 CrewCab 4×4 in the most basic trim (the Tradesman) which they never show to people who like to write about such things BUT it had the PowerWagon option package.
So while it has a plain dashboard with hard materials (still styled like the others but more durably hose-it-down I suppose, zero blue leather) and only a small 5″ touchscreen and a base price of $39,850 which includes the 6.4liter HEMI gasoline V8, it also had the Power Wagon package for $7,995. Now, to me, Power Wagon is one of the all time great truck names and it doesn’t disappoint here.
That $7,995 gets you a Warn 12,000 pound capacity winch with synthetic rope, the 17×8 wheels with All Terrain tires, front disconnecting sway bar like a Rubicon Wrangler (via onboard button), Bilstein shocks all around, Hill Descent Control, various skid plates as well as Tru-Lok (electronically locking differential) front and rear axles as well as some other minor stuff. In addition this truck had some typical stuff like spray in bedliner, carpet and rear defroster (yeah that’s extra on the Tradesman) etc. The cloth seats use the same cloth that’s in the RAM 1500 Big Horn and if you’ve seen that you know it looks feels very nice without that crappy nylon-ish texture/sheen of many modern cloths.
If the 2500 Limited above was more playful than the 3500 Dually, well, then this one was the rambunctious puppy. With the Hemi churning out 410hp and 429lb-ft of torque, now mated to a Heavy Duty 8speed automatic it didn’t hang around for the mail either. It had plenty of giddy-up and it went, apparently it also has cylinder deactivation but I kept causing myself to see single digit numbers on the instant MPG readout so perhaps I never experienced that feature. Perhaps next time I shall focus on an economy program.
None of these trucks, while all Heavy Duty, felt anything like firmly sprung unloaded U-Haul trucks. Their suspensions, while firm and taut, were not crashy and the ride was generally very composed and confortable. It’d probably be worse on that section of I-80 in Northern Indiana with the frost heaves (you know the one) that almost caused me to lose my fillings a few years ago but here in Colorado on well-paved roads at least, not too shabby.
You all know I’m not the biggest truck expert by a long shot (very long shot) so if I missed something important here, I apologize. However I’m smart enough to know when I need something. Currently I don’t personally have a need for a Heavy Duty truck but should that ever change, this RAM lineup seems like something to seriously look at. Comfort, luxury, power, convenience, and capability, why not? Just be glad it’s available.