Ram 3500 — A massive workhorse

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Usually our time spent researching all aspects of a vehicle including test driving in all sorts of situations from heavy city traffic to winding mountain roads is a rewarding — and revealing — experience. But there are exceptions. One of those exceptions was piloting a 2019 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty dually with an eight-foot bed through crowded city streets and into restaurant and mall parking lots. It was a white knuckle experience.

This is a truck that is at home on a construction site or traversing the thousands of acres of a big ranch in Texas. It's at home hauling big things up to 35,100 pounds and carrying massive loads up to 7,680 pounds. But navigating city traffic in the Ram Big Horn Crew Cab was demanding because of its 260.8-inch length — that's three feet longer than the large Chevrolet Suburban — its 83.5-inch width and its city-block-like turning circle of 53.5 feet.

This year's introduction of the all-new lineup of 2500, 3500 and Power Wagon Heavy Duty trucks follows the mainstream Ram 1500, which has won numerous honors since its introduction last year including North American Truck of the Year. The new Heavy Duty editions have been completely redesigned and are basically new from the ground up. There’s a new frame constructed of 98.5 percent high-strength steel, and numerous suspension upgrades with new and lighter front and rear axles, springs and upgraded bushings.

While the body and cab have been restyled and mimic the look of the Ram 1500 they actually share none of the same body panels; and the fresh Ram HD looks completely different than the truck it replaces from last year.

Inside, Ram designers have essentially “lifted” the award-winning interior from the 1500 pickup and outfitted it into the heavy-duty trucks. There’s a completely new instrument panel, redesigned center console storage capable of concealing a 15.0-inch laptop, numerous USB ports front and back, and a wireless Smartphone charging port. And on up-level models Ram offers upgraded materials with rich leathers, fabrics, real metal switchgear, and upscale trim interlaced with filigree inscriptions.

All the gauges and controls are high class, well placed and intuitive. The thick steering wheel feels great in the hands; seats are exceptionally comfortable even during our extended test-driving.

Both the 2500 and 3500 come standard with a 6.4-liter 410-horsepower Hemi V-8 that produces 429 lb.-ft. of torque delivered through a TorqueFlite-8HP75 eight-speed automatic transmission. The previous 5.7-liter Hemi is no longer available.

Two other engine choices available including the optional ($11,795) and revised Cummins 6.7-liter I-6 High Output Turbo diesel that delivers up to 1,000 lb.-ft. of torque and 400 horsepower and weighs 60 pounds less than the previous-generation engine. The second variant of the Cummins Turbo diesel also gets a performance boost with 370 horsepower and 850 lb.-ft. torque ($9,100). Ram Heavy Duty trucks powered by the standard output Cummins 6.7-liter Turbo Diesel are equipped with a significantly upgraded version of the six-speed-68RFE automatic transmission.

Our Big Horn test truck with rear-wheel drive was equipped with the 6.4-liter Hemi and proved more than ample to pull the unloaded test truck. No problem hustling the big guy down the road and it proved a very comfy and engaging ride in 70 mph traffic with a pleasingly quiet interior. While the towing and payload honors go to the big Cummins diesel engines, the muscular Hemi in 8-foot box configuration has a very useable tow rating of 16,960 pounds with a payload of 4,530 pounds.

There are a total of six trim levels: Tradesman, Big Horn, Power Wagon, Laramie, Laramie longhorn, and Limited. Buyers can configure their heavy-duty with numerous body configurations, including a regular cab with an eight-foot box, a crew cab with either a 6.4- or eight-foot box, and Mega Cab models with more than 120 percent additional storage capacity verses competitors (6.4-foot box only). Plus, the 60/40 split-folding rear seats in the Mega Cab recline 15 degrees for added comfort.

Our Big Horn Crew Cab carried a base price of $45,345 including the rather substantial $1,695 destination charge. The bottom line on our tester was $57,065 after options, the most expensive of which was the $4,195 Level 2 Equipment Group that consists of a variety of items including 18-inch polished aluminum wheels, dampened tailgate, heated front seats and steering wheel, and dual-zone temperature control. The $2,425 Towing Technology Group was also included.

During our time behind the wheel of the massive 3500 we came to the conclusion that Ram's new heavy duty trucks are every bit as outstanding as the award-winning 1500.

Base price: $35,200; as driven: $57,065
Engine: 6.4-liter Hemi V-8
Horsepower: 410 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 429 foot-pounds @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 169 inches
Length: 260.8 inches
Curb weight: 6,566 pounds
Turning circle: 53.7 feet
Towing capacity: 16,960 pounds
Fuel capacity: 31 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: not listed
0-60: 7.5 seconds (Car and Driver
Also consider: Ford F-250 and F-350, Chevy Silverado HD

The Good
• Large towing capacity
• Quiet, plush interior
• Good on-road performance

The Bad
• Mediocre V-8 gas mileage

The Ugly
• Not for city driving