2019 Ram 3500 review: Driving a dually on the daily
Heavy-duty trucks are specialized vehicles. Every part of them, from the frame to the engine to the axles, is optimized for grueling work towing huge loads.
But that doesn't mean owners are using them for hauling all the time. At some point, these trucks have to go to the bank or the grocery store. With that in mind, I spent a week with the dual-rear-wheel Ram 3500 on a recent trip to Colorado to see how a truck like this handles daily driving duty.
Big truck, big power
There is a Ram Heavy Duty truck to fit almost any need. The 2500 and 3500 models are available in six different trims. The truck can be outfitted in single, Crew Cab or superspacious Mega Cab configurations, with a 6-foot, 4-inch box, or an 8-foot box. Heck, you can even buy a Ram HD Chassis Cab, allowing you to fit an aftermarket bed.
The base engine for both the Ram 2500 and 3500 is a 6.4-liter V8 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, putting out 410 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque. Buyers can step up to the 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel engine, which produces 410 horsepower and 850 pound-feet of torque.
My truck, however, has El Burrito Grande of engines: the 6.7-liter Cummins diesel, but with 400 horsepower and -- no joke -- 1,000 pound-feet of torque. This engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, and can only be had in the Ram 3500.
Earlier this year, I was able to put the Ram 3500 through its paces, towing a 35,100-pound trailer through the rain and snow. If maximum trailering is your main requirement for a HD truck, this is the one to get.
This time around, however, I'm using the 3500's power to quickly accelerate onto the highway and cruise around town. The Ram 3500 is a big beast, but it gets up to speed relatively quickly, the Aisin-sourced transmission working smoothly in the background.
With its huge rear axle and dual-rear-wheel setup, pavement imperfections are translated to the cabin tout suite. The 3500 is especially bouncy over highway expansion joints, but this is par for the course with these big haulers, especially when driven without the extra weight of payload or a trailer.
A 75-mile-per-hour speed limit feels egregiously fast in a vehicle this size, especially when I engage the adaptive cruise control. However, the brakes are firm and easy to modulate, and the available forward collision warning and emergency braking systems are nice to have, even if you never use them. Blind-spot monitoring is standard on my top-trim 3500 Limited, but optional everywhere else. This is a must-have bit of tech in a vehicle this size.
Parking a truck this large is a bit of a chore, but made easier thanks to the available 360-degree camera with a bird's-eye view. The dual-rear-wheel setup adds over a foot of width to the already big Ram, and don't forget, this thing is almost 22 feet long. Pulling into a perpendicular spot takes some recalibration of your normal driving habits, but overall, the Ram 3500 is quite easy to maneuver -- assuming you have plenty of room.
Lots of luxury
The best thing about daily-driving a 3500 is that it's as comfortable and tech-filled as any other new Ram pickup. My Limited tester has standard heated and cooled front seats, and heated rear seats. Supple leather chairs offer equal amounts of support and comfort, and as you can imagine in a truck this big, there is a ton of room inside the cabin.
The 3500's interior largely carries over from the fullsize Ram 1500 truck, and to my eyes, it's the best HD truck interior you can get today. Overall fit and finish are excellent, and wind and road noise are kept at bay. The attention to detail inside is stellar.
There are lots of clever storage solutions inside the 3500, as well. The center console is reconfigurable, and there are deep door pockets. There's even a little side pocket in the footwell area, perfect for work papers or clipboards. The rear cabin features underseat storage areas, as well.
A tiny, 5-inch touchscreen is standard on lower trims, but buyers can opt for a 8.4-inch display running Ram's excellent Uconnect infotainment system. There's also La Enchilada Gorda: the 12-inch, vertically oriented screen, as seen in the Ram 1500, which is standard on the top Laramie Longhorn and Limited trims and optional on the non-Longhorn Laramie.
I love the 12-inch screen. Uconnect is seriously easy to use, and on the larger display, I have giant icons and clear, crisp graphics. The large screen real estate means I can run two applications at once -- for example, navigation on one part, and audio controls on the other.
Of course, I can also bypass the infotainment system if I want and use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, since both come standard. A Wi-Fi hotspot is also standard on my Limited tester, as is wireless smartphone charging. Speaking of charging, the 3500 Limited comes with four USB Type-A and two USB Type-C ports -- two in front, two out back. You also get a 115-volt, three-prong outlet for each row of seats, and a 12-volt outlet on top of the dash.
King of the crop
2019 Ram Heavy Duty pricing starts at $33,395, but in its top-spec 3500 Limited guise with four-wheel drive, you're looking at no less than $65,250. With the higher-output diesel engine and a bunch of other fancy options, my tester tops out at $87,810.
Again, there's a Heavy Duty Ram for all types of buyers. Work-spec 2500s start in the mid-$30,000 range, and the off-road-ready Power Wagon comes in at $53,100. If we're talking 3500s, I'd go with a Laramie and stick with the base, gasoline V8. From there I'd add the $1,195 Safety Group to get blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning. I'd also add the $995 Ram cargo boxes, because it's great to have lockable storage in the bed of a truck. Finally, as much as I love that 12-inch screen, I'll stick with the 8.4-inch display that comes with this trim. All in, a nicely equipped Ram 3500 Laramie like the one I've described costs $57,480, including $1,695 for destination.
The competition in the heavy-duty truck class is fierce. The Ford F-350 Super Duty can tow 35,000 pounds and offers 935 pound-feet of torque from its Power Stroke V8 diesel. The 2020 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra HD pickups will be on the market soon, the latter of which will supposedly offer a "transparent" trailer display, along with some other new tech features.
For now, however, the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty is the king of the big-truck crop. And even if you never use its capabilities, there's still plenty to like.