2013 Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn 4X4 review:

Cowboy-couture Ram boasts truckish tech

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Starting at $52,790
  • Trim levels Laramie Longhorn Edition
  • Available Engine Gas
  • Body style Truck

Roadshow Editors' Rating

6.7 Overall
  • Cabin tech 7
  • Performance tech 6
  • Design 7

The Good An assortment of diesel and emissions technologies helped the 2013 Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn 4X4 achieve better-than-expected fuel economy. The Laramie Longhorn comes fully loaded with Uconnect infotainment, digital audio sources, and premium surround sound. Luxurious cowboy leather seats are too awesome to ignore.

The Bad Inputting addresses with the onscreen keyboard is sluggish and laggy, and searching is even more so. Paying as much as $10 per day for Wi-Fi connectivity seems a bit excessive.

The Bottom Line It may look and ride like a brute, but the 2013 Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn offers luxurious appointments and loads of good dashboard tech for the 21st-century cowboy.

The 3500 Laramie Longhorn is not shy about its modern cowboy aesthetic. Swing open its heavy door and step up on its running boards and you'll be greeted by an interior that is, well, a bit ridiculous.

Premium brown leather trims the Ram's seats with Longhorn-specific accents and contrasting piping meant to evoke the flourishes of a cowboy's boots. The designs, at first, appear to be stitched, but closer inspection reveals that the leather was likely laser-etched, allowing the detailing to sit flush with the smooth leather. On the backs of the seats you'll find saddle bag-inspired storage areas. The floor mats are molded to look like barbed wire.

The chunky shape and flow of the dashboard and steering wheel remind me a great deal of the Chrysler 300, only larger and more spread out for the truck's cabin. Along the top of the dashboard is more brown leather with contrast stitching. Here and there you'll find chrome accents and even a bit of wood trim on the center stack, door panels, and steering wheel.

Leather details
The Laramie Longhorn interior is inspired by saddles and cowboy boots. Josh Miller/CNET

Even if the western theme isn't your cup of iced tea, you sort of have to appreciate the commitment to a theme and the attention to detail that's gone into the 3500 Laramie Longhorn's cabin. Sure, there are a few odd bits here, some ugly hard plastic there, but largely the Longhorn pulls off the look. It's sort of hard not to like it.

Standard Uconnect tech
In addition to having seats that look like cowboy boots and a giant "3500 Laramie Longhorn" belt buckle on its door, the Longhorn is also a luxury trim level that comes loaded with cabin amenities: heated and ventilated seats with power adjustment and multiple memory positions, a heated steering wheel, even heated second-row seats. The steering wheel doesn't telescope, but the pedals are power-adjustable.

Okay, so I'm talking a lot about seats again, but this Ram's dashboard is also packed with some interesting technology, including the newest generation of the Uconnect infotainment and navigation system. Built around an 8.4-inch color touch screen, this system features large icons along the bottom edge of its interface for the seven major functions.

Jumping into the middle of that row, we'll find a button for navigation. Previous generations of the Uconnect system lifted their navigation system wholesale from Garmin and, when you pressed the nav button, the entire interface changed to look like a giant Garmin Nuvi in your dashboard, complete with its own menu system. I'd bet my hat that in this new version of Uconnect the maps and routing algorithms are still provided by Garmin, but the entire system has been reskinned and reorganized to integrate seamlessly with the rest of the infotainment interface. I've used enough navigation devices over the years to recognize the menu structure, but if you weren't looking for it you wouldn't even notice the rebranding.

Navigation menu
The navigation system has been redesigned to better match the rest of the Uconnect interface. Josh Miller/CNET

Routing is quick once a destination is chosen, but I found the points-of-interest search and onscreen keyboard used for address input to both be extremely laggy and sluggish. The most likely culprit is some sort of background search or autocomplete algorithm slowing down the system, but I can't be sure. You're going to want to take your time inputting a destination while you're parked. Actually, you won't have a choice, as the system doesn't accept keyboard input when the vehicle is in motion.

The Uconnect system does include touch-screen controls for the climate control systems for the cabin and seats, but I love that there are easily accessed physical controls beneath the screen as well.

The Uconnect Apps menu is a bit misnamed as the apps available are more like telematics services. We were able to access and add features such as 911 assistance, voice text messaging, remote door unlocking, and Yelp connected search for destinations, all using the Uconnect system's 3G data connection. You can also add Wi-Fi hot-spot connectivity to the vehicle right from the in-dashboard Uconnect App Store for $9.99 per day, $19.99 per week, or $34.99 per month.

Yelp destination search
Right now Uconnect telematics and Yelp destination search are the only apps I could find, but more are coming soon. Josh Miller/CNET

More apps, including Pandora, Aha by Harman, iHeartRadio, and Slacker, will be available from the Uconnect App Store soon through the new Uconnect Access via Mobile service.

Audio sources selectable with the Uconnect system include two USB ports with iPod connectivity, a 3.5mm analog auxiliary input, and an SD card slot located beneath the armrest in a sort of media hub. You also get Sirius XM satellite radio and terrestrial HD Radio. Standard Bluetooth enables voice-commanded hands-free calling and audio streaming from a paired smartphone.

Interestingly, a CD player is not among that list of standard options -- it'll cost you an additional $195 to drop a single-disc slot into the center console. When a pickup truck is too high-tech for a CD player, you know the format is dead.

Media pod
The media hub beneath the arm rest houses the digital-audio connections. Josh Miller/CNET

Audio from whatever source you chose is played through an Alpine-branded premium surround-sound audio system with nine speakers and 506 watts of amplification. I like the sound coming out of those speakers and sub, which is sufficient to overpower the big ol' engine and exhaust that we'll get to later.

Pull the column shifter into reverse and the 8.4-inch screen displays a rear view of the area behind complete with a dynamic trajectory overlay that moves with the steering wheel. There are also audible proximity sensors that beep as you approach obstructions while parking, but I'd love to see the Ram's high-tech dashboard include some sort of around-view camera system like what we saw on the 2013 Range Rover or Nissan Pathfinder.

About the only tech options aside from the CD player are a $995 power sunroof, $395 for automatic high beams and rain-sensing windshield wipers, and $150 for a rear-window defroster. Everything else that I've mentioned so far is standard.

Horsepower for horse people
As the badge on the front fender proclaims, you'll find a 6.7-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel engine beneath the Ram's tall hood. You may assume that a truck this big would be packing a V-8 -- I know I did -- but the hunk of metal that powers this vehicle only has six pistons arranged in an inline configuration. With a per-cylinder displacement of just over 1.1 liters, those have got to be some pretty big pistons.

Engine bay
With its output and transmission upgrades, our 6.7L turbodiesel engine is good for 850 pound-feet of torque. Josh Miller/CNET

Power for that turbo diesel is rated at 370 horsepower and 800 pound-feet of torque, but our example was also equipped with an AISIN HD six-speed automatic transmission, an option that bumps the output to 380 horsepower and 850 pound-feet of torque. You'll pay an additional $2,650 for that transmission, which also includes a 3.42-ratio rear axle that's slightly taller than the standard ratio for better highway fuel economy -- save your hate mail, I know I accidentally called it a lower ratio in the video -- and $7,795 for the extra power.

Along with the power bump, our 6.7-liter upgrade also includes diesel exhaust braking, Urea-DEF Selective Catalytic Reduction, and a beefier 180A alternator. The exhaust braking system allows the truck to be slowed using pressure from the exhaust system, which is good for controlling speed on long mountain descents with a full load. There are two settings: on, which starts the braking when you lift off of the accelerator, and auto, which ties the exhaust braking to the brake pedal.

Diesel Emissions Fluid (DEF) is a nicer way to refer to the Ram's urea-injection system, chosen because it sounds less like a bodily fluid. The truck has a reservoir of this fluid that is used by the Selective Catalytic Reduction system to clean the diesel emissions. Ram recommends that you refill the DEF tank (the filler is behind the fuel cap) when the gauge on the dashboard gets low or about every 15,000 miles.

Instrument cluster
The DEF gauge can be spotted in the lower left corner of the instrument cluster. Josh Miller/CNET

An uprated 180 amp alternator comes with this package, but in our configuration it was replaced by dual 220A alternators for $395.

We've also got Ram's 4X4 system, which has three modes selectable with a knob on the dashboard. The 2WD mode sends power to the rear axle for daily driving with decent fuel economy. The 4WD Lock mode engages the front wheels for better traction, and 4WD Low engages the low-range transfer case for even more torque multiplication for climbing or pulling extremely heavy loads, but only at very low speeds.

Optional capability upgrades include $50 for a skid plate, and $400 for more prep for fifth-wheel or gooseneck towing.

Truckish on- and off-road
Ironically, the week that I have the gigantic pickup truck is the one week of the year that I'm not helping someone move, so I wasn't able to do any towing or hauling. I also wasn't able to play with the trailer brake controls or pull any stumps out of the ground. The $500 trifold tonneau cover didn't come off until it was time to take photographs of it.

Tonneau cover
The optional three-panel tonneau cover is heavy, but one person can remove and replace it without help. Josh Miller/CNET

I was able to go off-road, though. The Ram 3500 didn't so much roll over bumps on our dirt test trail as it crashed through them. The cab bounced all over the place, tossing me to and fro atop those flat, wide leather seats. However, the chassis didn't creak or groan once -- this thing feels like it was machined from a single hunk of obsidian, it's that solid.

The 4X4 system isn't very sophisticated; you'll have to do the shifting from 2WD to 4WD manually with the knob when you come upon that gravel hill too steep to climb with just two wheels. The turning radius, which is not great in 2WD mode, is huge in 4WD mode, so this isn't the best vehicle for tight turns on narrow trails. That the side step reduces the ground clearance slightly also doesn't help.

4X4 selector
The Ram 4X4 system has three user-selectable drive modes. Josh Miller/CNET

But the Ram -- the Laramie Longhorn, in particular -- isn't a trailblazer, it's more at home hopping curbs to cross a construction site, hauling lumber down a highway, or towing a boat to the lake.

On the road, the truck rode, well, like a truck. In the same way that it crashed and bounced over bumps off-road, the suspension sent every crack, pothole, and imperfection in the road up and into the cabin. For the first day or so, I was uncomfortable driving over about 60 mph on the San Francisco Bay Area's rough highways because of the high seating position and amount of bouncing around that I experienced. Eventually, I got used to the massive vehicle and learned to trust its steering. While the unladen leaf-spring rear end seemed to move around quite a bit over bumps, the front end remained planted and predictable, while the steering had a nice weight to it.

Aside from giving a rough ride, all of that bouncing around also made it difficult for me to interact with the Uconnect system. In the Ram 3500's massive cabin, the screen is a long reach from the driver's seat and every jostle made it harder for me to aim my outstretched hand. Thank goodness for Uconnect's voice command system and chunky physical controls.

Showing passengers the big, bold "NA" in the fuel economy field on the Monroney elicited gasps and chuckles, but the Ram 3500 with the Cummins diesel did not disappoint. I averaged about 16.6 mile per gallon of fuel sipped from the 31-gallon tank. My driving largely consisted of highway mileage, but I still I think my average was rather good.

2013 Ram 3500
I averaged an excellent 16.6 mpg over the week. With no hauling and mostly highway driving, this is probably a best-case scenario. Josh Miller/CNET

In sum
The Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn comes well equipped with Uconnect, navigation, and those fancy seats for $52,790. Our example also adds $525 for Monotone True Blue Pearl paint with body-colored fender flares, as well as the options listed above: the uprated transmission and power bump, the CD player, sunroof, towing prep, and so on. Add $995 in destination charges to reach our as-tested price of $67,835.

Tech specs
Model 2013 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty
Trim Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4X4
Power train 6.7-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel, inline 6-cylinder, 6-speed AISIN automatic transmission with 3.42-ratio rear axle, user-selectable 4X4 system with low transfer case
EPA fuel economy n/a
Observed fuel economy 16.6 mpg
Navigation Uconnect solid-state system, traffic, weather
Bluetooth phone support Standard hands-free calling and audio streaming
Disc player Optional single-slot CD
MP3 player support Standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, 2 x USB connection, Bluetooth audio streaming, iPod connection, SD card slot
Other digital audio SiriusXM satellite radio, HD Radio
Audio system 506-watt Alpine surround, 9 speakers with subwoofer
Driver aids Rearview camera with ParkSense proximity detection
Base price $52,790
Price as tested $67,835

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