Mountain Wheels: Ram 3500 takes care of business
Does omnipotence sound like your driving aspiration? Hauling horse trailers? Mixing in traffic or hitting drive-thrus with the posture of a Peterbilt tractor-trailer rig? How about hauling up an 8 percent highway grade at 85 MPH, despite carrying the length and mass of a regional airstrip?
If so, Ram’s civilian-grade lineup pretty much tops out with the Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Limited Crew Cab 4×4 Long Box dually – just the name alone lets you know this is no ordinary truck.
Purpose-built for towing, I’ve also seen people who just simply want one of the biggest freaking trucks in the world (I saw a pair of them parked in a Northern Colorado driveway). Whatever you’re into, the 3500 is going to take care of business.
Big trucks are all about stats, so here’s the numbers. A high-output Hemi V-8 is available, but haulers and ballers go for the 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel. It’s an inline six, but you can order it up in three strengths – 350-, 370- or a high-output 385-horsepower setup with an ungodly 900 lb.-ft. of torque.
That allows an unbelievable 31,210 pounds of trailer capacity in its strongest overall variant, and almost 7,400 pounds of payload.
The gigantic (but not absolutely biggest) Crew Cab/Long Box mix gives you a rear cab bigger than the front seat of most full-size passenger cars, an eight-foot box and a 169.5-inch-long wheelbase. I had to relearn driving as my 3500 was 259 inches long and nearly 80 inches high – plus the totally disorienting but relatively easy-to-learn asymmetrical setup of the four-wheel dually configuration.
Fender flares the size of cars themselves stick out pretty seriously at the back and I occasionally found myself taking corners like I was driving one of those ladder fire trucks. Your brain eventually readjusts and I was eventually competent even working the corners in the Poudre Canyon, on a long, long drive from Silverthorne up to Walden and over to the Fort Collins area.
You’d think that the raw mass here (8,200-plus pounds of vehicle) would encourage everyone in anything but a big rig or a Humvee H1 to get the hell out of your way, but even the 3500 didn’t get me carte blanche, amazingly. It sure goes fast for a city block-sized automobile, and during my relatively low-speed cruise back home, it even said it was getting nearly 18 MPG (14, maybe, was the uphill number).
So you just have to revel in your largesse. In this very classy (and very expensive, with a full $20,000 in extra options) Limited package, very high up the eight-model 3500 range, you get more chrome than a 1962 Dodge Polara, a leatherized cabin tweaked with embroidered stitching, ultra-premium carpeted floormats and chrome running boards the length of a tennis court. The seats kind of reminded me of the shoulder-bolstered thrones in the very first SRT-8 Challenger, even.
Simply getting into the 3500 is a big deal, though the grab-handles in the A-pillars (with leather patches, of course) do make it easy. I had to resort to leaning over with the doors open to wash the bug guts off the windshield; a medium-statured friend of mine looked like a nine-year-old when she stood next to the truck’s ginormous bed. Do not ask me how you’d even reach all the stuff you might toss in there.
As mentioned, driving really wasn’t that difficult, once you figured out some of the spatial issues; parking was always a challenge, though the beepers and the backup camera made it marginally easier.
Very high-end gentlemen cattle ranchers are I guess the demographic here, and the truck’s ideal for either a fifth-wheel setup in the bed or a standard hitch, with the truck able use its air suspension to automatically drop the rear for easier couplings. A trailer-brake switch is about the only extra doodad on the center console; super-wide trailering mirrors with wide-view inserts also help you generally stay in your lane, even when you’re not towing cattle, or classic cars, or a mobile home.
It’s also a pretty attractive machine, if you like your trucks huge and shiny. Limited gets you a gigantic chrome grille and chrome body trim; the dually setup drops down to 17-inch wheels all around but the hubs up front are the size of fire hydrants and the deep dish rims in the back look like Weber grills. Again, truck enthusiasts will really dig the over-the-top feel here (even cab lights, for goodness’ sake); I’d just hope that the 3500 does get used for its hauling purposes, and not as a really obscene SUV – 4×4 surely allows some additional, very rugged work, but I promised a fellow journalist with an actual race car trailer to tow I would not damage the truck by taking it off-road. I wish him all the best with the big beast.
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