Back when I was a little kid, I always wanted to drive a semi truck. Ok, fine, I'd still love to drive one around, sound the air horn and ask 'Snowman, you got your ears on?' over the CB radio. Well strip off the air horns, toss on a bed and shrink the big rig down a little bit, and what you have is the all-new 2010 Ram Heavy Duty. Chrysler Group LLC hasn't had much new product to show off in recent years, but the redesigned Ram Trucks line (formerly known as the Dodge Ram) has been a gleaming bright spot for the automaker with one of its best-ever interiors to go with a stunning exterior design and strong powertrain options. I recently had the chance to road test the 2010 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty 4WD with the added luxury of the Laramie package and Mega Cab body, which would be a great vehicle for RV enthusiasts or construction site foremen.
Assembled in Coahuila, Mexico at Chrysler's Satillo Assembly Plant, the Ram HD goes up against other workhorses such as the Chevrolet Silverado HD, GMC Sierra HD and the Ford F-Series Super Duty. For 2010, the Ram Heavy Duty trucks are available in the 2500 and 3500 designations and five varying trim levels ranging from the base ST up to the luxurious Laramie. The Ram HD has a starting MSRP of $36,480, but the 4WD Mega Cab Laramie starts at $50,645 with this model having an as-tested price of $55,865. While this kind of power and luxury definitely isn't cheap, the Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Laramie offers more than enough of both.
2010 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Exterior
Since the introduction of the ground-breaking big-rig styling for the Dodge Ram in 1994, the heavy-duty models always debut a year after the half-ton model, but this new body style marks the biggest distinction between the Ram 1500 and the Ram HD models. Other than the significantly taller stance, the three-quarter ton and one-ton models feature a unique front end treatment that includes a unique front bumper and a taller hood and grille to help offer more space for the increased size of the cooling system needed for the Cummins engine. There are even fake louvers stamped into the hood which subtly add to this truck's menacing design. Although this model has the single-rear wheel (SRW) option, the dual-rear wheel (DRW) version of the Ram 3500 gets one of the biggest improvements over previous models with the one-piece bed and fender extensions which give the truck a cleaner overall appearance.
Another major change to the new Ram HD was the addition of a true Crew Cab model instead of the smaller Quad Cab from the previous generation Ram Trucks. Adding even more length, the Ram 3500 I drove was the Mega Cab model which gave the truck an overall length of almost 21 feet with a height of 6.5 feet. With such a tall stance (and to give it that big rig styling), my test vehicle was equipped with optional ($80) clearance lights mounted on the roof. Speaking of tall, the Ram 3500 HD also has plenty of ground clearance which makes clearing obstacles in the road easier but climbing into the cabin or cargo bed a little more challenging. To make getting into the cab and the cargo bed easier, this truck was equipped with side steps and a deployable rear step. Unlike the step built into the tailgate of the Ford F-Series, the Ram 3500's step is mounted under the driver's side corner of the rear bumper to make it possible to climb into the bed even with a trailer attached. A new option that was just announced last week, all new Ram models are now available with a factory spray-in bedliner for just $450.
2010 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Interior
The top-of-the-line Laramie trim level competes against the luxurious versions of its competitors including the Ford Super Duty King Ranch and the all-new GMC Sierra Denali HD with its abundance of leather, wood grain and chrome, but with the Mega Cab and the optional five-passenger layout, this Ram 3500 HD is like an office on wheels. The Ram 3500 Laramie provides amenities found in some of the nicer luxury SUVs such as heated and ventilated seats, heated outboard rear seats, heated steering wheel, power adjustable pedals, a power operated rear window and a power sunroof. For added entertainment, this test model came with the ($800) navigation system with a 30-gigabyte hard drive for music files and Chrysler's Sirius Backseat TV system ($1,695) that offers a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with the inclusion of three TV channels (Nickelodeon, Disney and Cartoon Network).
Like the rest of the truck, the Ram 3500 HD's cabin is ready for work or play with plenty of passenger space and cargo volume. For passengers, the Ram Mega Cab provides best-in-class legroom and the largest rear door openings, and offers split seatbacks that recline up to 37 degrees for added comfort. At 143.2 cubic feet, the Ram Mega Cab has almost as much interior volume as a Dodge Grand Caravan (163.5). When it comes to cargo, the extra large cabin can accommodate 72.2 cubic feet with the seat folded down and a surprising 7.7 cubic feet with the seat in place. The extra space behind the rear seat also allows for small, plastic-lined storage compartments.
2010 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Performance & Handling
As is the case with heavy-duty Ram trucks dating back to 1989, the heart of the 2010 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty is a Cummins inline-6 turbo diesel engine. The latest version of this engine is the 6.7-liter Cummins I-6 that produces 350 horsepower at 3,000 rpm and 650 lb-ft of torque at just 1,500 rpm. These numbers are significantly lower than the heavy-duty trucks from General Motors and Ford Motor Company, but the Dodge's engine is still capable of just about any task and delivers plenty of low-end grunt for easier towing. Like all big trucks, the EPA does not give official fuel economy estimates for the Ram Heavy Duty lineup, but in mixed driving, this test vehicle averaged close to 12 miles per gallon according to the information display. In the city the display hovered around 9 mpg, and at highway speeds the number increased to around 16 mpg. The newest Ram HD is the only truck among its competitors to offer a manual gearbox, but this test vehicle came with the optional ($1,575) six-speed automatic transmission.
On the road, the Ram 3500 HD is much easier to drive than past models with less bounce in the suspension and more control to the driver. This was one of the biggest problems with the previous heavy-duty Rams, but this has been fixed thanks to the upgraded suspension. Up front, the Ram 3500 HD uses a coil-spring suspension that is beefed up from last year to allow for an increased front Gross Axle Rating which is important for trucks that will be equipped with snowplows. Unlike the Ram 1500's coil-spring rear suspension, the Ram 3500 HD continues to use a multi-leaf spring design for optimal towing capacity.
Like the beefed up suspension, the new Ram HD models also get a new frame that is fully boxed to make it stronger and help deliver increased towing capabilities. Opting for the single-rear wheel (SRW) configuration, the Ram 3500 HD price drops by $995, but the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and the rear Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) also decrease. On models equipped with the standard 3.73 rear axle ratio, the maximum trailer capacity actually increases by 450 pounds up to 13,450 pounds. Further adding to the Ram 3500's towing abilities, this truck also came equipped with the available gooseneck trailer hitch from Mopar that connects directly to the frame rails and is easily removable. For towing big loads, drivers will be happy to know that all 2010 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty models come with an exhaust brake as standard equipment, and it is engaged with the odd-looking button mounted just beneath the stereo next to the tow/haul button. The exhaust brake works best with the transmission's manual shift mode to lessen the wear on the braking system.
2010 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Safety
Just as heavy-duty trucks aren't rated for fuel economy, these big trucks also aren't crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The 2010 Ram 3500 HD Laramie still offers standard safety features such as four airbags, rear-seat child LATCH system, ParkSense rear sonar parking system and four-wheel anti-lock disc brake system. This test truck also came with optional safety and convenience features such as the ($230) integrated trailer brake controller and the ($200) ParkView backup camera.
Building on the success of the redesigned 2009 Ram 1500, the all-new Ram 3500 Heavy Duty features the same proven drivetrain with the addition of more aggressive styling, larger interior space and, of course, increased towing abilities. In the Laramie trim level with the Mega Cab option, the 2010 Ram 3500 HD delivers a cavernous, luxurious cabin displaying one of Chrysler's finest interiors to date. Toss in the powerful Cummins diesel engine and the new Ram 3500 can tow just about anything whether it's an equipment trailer for work or a recreational trailer for fun.