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2017 RAM 3500 Road Test and Review

Scott Oldham
by Scott Oldham
July 9, 2017
5 min. Reading Time
2017 Ram 3500 hero ・  Photo by Ram Trucks

2017 Ram 3500 hero ・ Photo by Ram Trucks

Big, bad pickup trucks don’t come any bigger or badder than the 2017 Ram 3500. It’s a monster. Our diesel-powered test vehicle, a Limited Mega Cab 4x4 dually, was over 20 feet long, packed 900 lb-ft of torque and could tow over 30,000 lbs.

It’s no wonder Americans are buying these massively capable monoliths at record rates and America’s automakers continue to improve the breed, designing, engineering and building bigger, better and more efficient trucks.

Built in Saltillo, Mexico, the 2017 Ram 3500 delivers the power, comfort and capability heavy-duty truck buyers expect. It competes head to head with its domestic cross town rivals, the Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD, GMC Sierra 3500HD and the Ford F-350 Super Duty. The Nissan Titan XD doesn’t play at this level of size and capability, and Toyota doesn’t make a heavy duty version of its Tundra.

Let's take a closer look at the popular 2017 Ram 3500.

Models and Pricing

Ram offers the 3500 in a wide range of configurations. Three body styles are offered: The two-door Regular Cab, without a backseat; the four-door Crew Cab, which offers a large rear seat; and the extra-large Mega Cab like our test vehicle. The Crew Cab and Mega Cab are also available as a dually with four rear wheels and tires for maximum load-carrying and towing capability.

They’re available in six distinct trim levels, Tradesman, SLT, Big Horn, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, and the luxuriously appointed Limited like our test vehicle. Two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive is available across the board and two bed lengths are offered: A six-foot four-inch short bed; and an eight-foot long bed.

Prices start at $34,640, including $1,395 for destination, for a two-wheel-drive Regular Cab Tradesman with a long bed and a 5.7-liter gas-burning Hemi V8 rated at 383 hp. Four-wheel drive adds about $3,000 to the sticker price. A 6.4-liter Hemi V8 making 410 hp is a $500 option.

Base prices max out at $65,270 for a Limited Mega Cab with four-wheel drive and either Hemi V8. Every model gets a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission.

 Photo by Ram Trucks

Photo by Ram Trucks

$81,900 Test Truck

Our test truck, a fully loaded RAM 3500 Mega Cab Limited 4x4 dually with a long list of options, carried an $81,900 sticker price. That puts this truck in the same price category as a BMW 7 Series or a Mercedes Benz SL. It also makes it the second most expensive vehicle sold by Fiat Chrysler automobiles Group (FCA), behind its $84,995 Dodge Demon muscle car. 

Big ticket options on our test truck included the $3,700 Limited Package which added a laundry list of features, including a bed cargo divider/extender. There's also special leather upholstery, heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, cooled front seats, a wood and leather wrapped steering wheel, side steps, and massive chrome grille with RAM letters.

Notable stand-alone options included our truck’s dual rear wheels, which cost $1,295, an auto leveling rear air suspension for $1,595, a $1,095 power sunroof, a 5th wheel/Gooseneck Towing Prep Package for $445 and a $545 Tri-Fold Tonneau Cover.

 Photo by Ram Trucks

Photo by Ram Trucks

Diesel Power and Fuel Economy

The most expensive options on our RAM 3500 test truck, however, are its Cummins diesel engine and its AISIN heavy-duty 6-speed automatic transmission. The Ram’s gasoline-burning Hemi V8s are no lightweights, and both engines run on 87-octane regular grade fuel to keep operating costs down.

However, for an additional $8,700 you can step up to the mack daddy of inline-six-cylinder diesels, Ram’s legendary 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel. This engine is rated 385 hp at 2,800 rpm and its massive 900 lb-ft of torque peaks at just 1,700 rpm. Unlike the competition, Ram will sell you a turbo diesel dually with a manual 6-speed transmission although power drops to 350 hp and 660 lb-ft. The bulletproof AISIN automatic transmission is an additional $2,695.

Out on the highway our test truck, which was also equipped with the optional shorter 4.10 rear-axle ratio, averaged a 14 mpg with just people aboard. In the city, or with a load, expect fuel economy to be significantly lower.

 Photo by Ram Trucks

Photo by Ram Trucks

Easy to Drive

Although our test truck weighed over 8,600 lbs, it had plenty of get-up-and-go. The Ram’s big diesel spools up quickly and delivers its massive torque right off idle. Keeping up with normal-sized traffic is not an issue, and a heavy right foot will dust the gaggle of Camrys and Accords found at any stop light.

Nail it off the line, and 0-60 mph takes about 8.5 seconds. Not bad, although the more powerful Duramax V8-powered Chevy and GMC are much quicker. I was surprised at how responsive and easy-to-drive this big-rig Ram was around town, although you have to be careful not to take out mailboxes and bridge abutments with the dually’s extra wide rear fenders and huge side mirrors. Both stick out perilously.

This is a very comfortable truck. The noise levels of the Cummins are not an issue especially out on the highway. It doesn’t ride quite as well as a RAM 2500, which uses a unique coil spring rear suspension, but the 3500 doesn’t beat you up either. With an empty bed, it’s a bit bouncy and jiggly over rough road, but the air suspension does a remarkable job at keeping the ride livable.

 Photo by Ram Trucks

Photo by Ram Trucks

Big Towing and Payload

A Cummins turbo-diesel-powered crew-cab RAM 3500 dually long-box with 2WD or 4WD is rated to tow an impressive 18,000 lbs on a conventional hitch. And with 2WD, the Ram’s max-payload rating of 6,030 lbs is extraordinary.

Despite the Ram’s big power and high tow rating, it doesn’t offer the same level of towing and safety technology as its arch rival the Ford F-350 Super Duty. The Ram’s towing aids include an integrated trailer brake controller, trailer sway control, and a basic backup camera.

Meanwhile, Ford’s Super Duty offers a trailer tow camera system which uses four cameras that offer a 360-degree bird’s-eye view of the truck, as well as a Trailer Reverse Guidance system that provides visual cues and tips to help you back up a trailer. It’s also the first truck in this class to offer adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support for heavy trailers.

 Photo by Ram Trucks

Photo by Ram Trucks

Voluptuous Lines

With voluptuous lines, massive chrome wheels, and the purposeful presence of a Peterbilt, our blacked-out RAM 3500 dually turned heads like Pam Anderson in her prime.

Some prefer the boxier Ford, while others favor the more in-your-face design of the Chevy or the GMC, but I think this is a great-looking truck. The Ram’s front end is strong and meaningful. It seems to press itself out into the wind. I like its oversized grille and carlike character lines. There’s attitude, plenty of it, but it’s mixed with an understated elegance usually found on expensive sedans. Unlike the Ford F-350 Super Duty, the Ram’s shapely body and bed are made from steel.

I also recommend the Rambox system, which puts large, lockable and drainable bins on each side of the bed.

 Photo by Ram Trucks

Photo by Ram Trucks

Massive Space and Comfort

If you want the most interior room in you heavy duty truck the Ram Mega Cab is your jam. It packs more space than my first apartment. This truck seats five big guys very comfortably, and there’s no inseam that can test its rear seat legroom.

You expect superior materials and impressive fit and finish in a truck costing this much, and the Ram delivers. Its interior has an overall feeling of quality. It’s also soundly ergonomic, and the abundance of chrome trim is pleasingly upscale. Our truck’s gauges were particularly striking with big round gray faced dials and metallic trim. They would be at home in a high-performance luxury sedan.  

The Ram’s seats are large and well-shaped and thanks to our test truck’s height adjustable driver’s seat, power adjustable pedals and tilt steering wheel finding the right seating position is easy. I also appreciated the truck’s large 8.4-inch touch screen, easy to use navigation system and its front and rear parking sensors, which are a must in a truck this big.

 Photo by Ram Trucks

Photo by Ram Trucks

Grunty Competitors

For the most torque and towing it’s still Ford’s show. Its 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V8 packs a class leading 925 lb-ft. And it can tow the most. A crew cab dually can pull 21,000 lbs on a conventional hitch, and its max payload is the king of the class at 7,200 lbs. These numbers beat the Ram’s capabilites.

The new 6.6-liter Duramax diesel in the Chevy and the GMC is also rated for more power than the Ram’s Cummins. The new Duramax V8 makes 445 hp at 2,800 rpm, which is best in class, and its massive 910 lb-ft of torque at just 1,600 rpm also has bragging rights over the Ram’s six-cylinder.

With that additional grunt, the GM twins can tow more than the Ram, 20,000 lbs on a conventional hitch, but their max payload of 5,381 is less than the Ram’s.

 Photo by Ram Trucks

Photo by Ram Trucks

Final Thoughts

If you desire a big, beautiful and luxurious full-size heavy duty pickup with incredible capability the 2017 RAM 3500 is an impressive package. Its gas-burning Hemi V8s make good power, but the Cummins diesel is worth the money if you plan to include towing or hauling large loads.  

For most, the Crew Cab body style will serve you well, but check out the additional expanse inside the Mega Cab. The class leading acreage and storage space will be appreciated when you head out on the road.

 Photo by Ram Trucks

Photo by Ram Trucks


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