Don't let the familiar exterior fool you - the latest Ram 3500 has gained big improvements underneath the sheetmetal that make it one of the most appealing heavy duty pickups on the market.
Ram comprehensively redesigned the 3500's ladder frame with high-strength 50 KSI steel, including eight separate cross-members, hydroformed main rails and fully boxed rear rails. The changes add up to a stronger, more mass-efficient foundation that helps the truck tow a jaw-dropping 30,000 pounds when properly equipped.
Ram also turned its attention to the chassis, which was engineered to provide greater roll stiffness for more confident, planted handling in turns. Further improving driving dynamics is a reciprocating ball steering system that provides better on-center feel.
As if all of those tweaks weren't enough, this year Ram added an optional rear air suspension system for both single- and dual-rear wheel configurations, Unique among heavy duty pickups, the setup makes for an even comfier ride and includes a self-leveling function that adjusts the ride height to compensate for a payload or attached trailer.
Not content to leave engine bay untouched while improving the 3500, Ram has also added a new 6.4-liter HEMI V8 option with 410 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque. It's available for an extra cost over the standard 5.7-liter HEMI, which produces 383 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. Both motors pair with a six-speed automatic and feature a Multiple-Displacement System (MDS) which shuts off four cylinders under light load conditions to conserve fuel.
The 3500's optional Cummins-supplied 6.7-liter turbodiesel inline-six motor can be had in three trims - a 350 horsepower, 650 lb-ft of torque version, a mid-grade 370 horsepower, 800 lb-ft of torque variant, and a range-topping version with 385 horsepower and a stump-pulling 900 lb-ft of twist.
The two more powerful versions pair with a six-speed automatic transmission, while a class-exclusive six-speed manual teams with the base oil-burning motor.
For now, the 3500 can lay claim to class-leading towing capacity - the big truck can lug 31,210 pounds (that's the equivalent of six full-size Chevrolet Suburban SUVs) when configured with a regular cab, long box, two-wheel-drive, the most powerful version of the automaker's 6.7-liter turbodiesel engine, the 4.10 rear differential and either the ST or Tradesman trim level. A number of other configurations are rated to tow at or around 25,000 lbs.
Payload maxes out at 7,390lbs in 6.4L Hemi models (Regular cab, 4x2, DRW) and 6,720lbs with the mid-grade Cummins in the same body configuration (and equipped with the automatic transmission).
Rear-wheel-drive is standard on the 3500, while four-wheel-drive is available as an option.
The 3500 is just one year removed from a significant cabin overhaul. The same basic cabin design remains but some materials were upgraded, while new color themes are present throughout. More soft touch materials are spread throughout the truck's interior, and the HVAC and multimedia controls were redesigned.
Ram's gauge cluster features a 3.5 or 7-inch (depending on trim level) information screen, and a Sprint-powered wireless system is available for buyers who need to remain connected. Those who need extra stowage space can spec Ram Box storage bins capable of being locked and unlocked remotely.
The 3500 is available with Chrysler's Uconnect Access infotainment system (for a complete description of Uconnect Access, check out Leftlane's Spotlight On: Uconnect in-depth article). Generally regarded as one of the more user-friendly infotainment setups on the market, Uconnect Access integrates most of the truck's audio, navigation and climate control functions into one unit.
An 8.4-inch touchscreen mounted on the dashboard is the central component of the system, but redundant buttons and knobs for climate and audio volume and tuning are also included. A newer feature offered on these models is a switchable rear camera display for added user control during trickier towing maneuvers.
Uconnect Access features a voice command system that allows the driver to place phone calls, use the sound system, input navigation destinations and more without taking his or her hands off the wheel. Other notable aspects of the system include the ability to function as a Wi-Fi hotspot over a 3G network - for an additional monthly fee - and downloadable applications such as Bing search.
The Ram 3500 is offered in Regular Cab, Quad Cab and Mega Cab models. The Regular Cab features two doors, the Quad Cab has four doors and the Mega Cab has four doors with expanded rear passenger space. Two box lengths are available: 8-foot (standard on Regular Cab, available on Quad Cab), and 6-foot-4-inches (standard on Mega Cab, available on Quad Cab). All 3500 pickups except the short-bed Crew Cab model feature a duel rear axle configuration.
The Mega Cab combines a sizable 143.3 cubic feet of interior volume with reclining rear seats, built-in trays and a large load floor with the rear seats folded down.
Seven trim levels are available: Tradesman, SLT, Lone Star, Big Horn, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn and Laramie Limited. With these numerous and wildly different trims, the Ram 3500 can be outfitted as a spartan work truck, a leather-lined luxury vehicle with the latest tech features, and almost anything in between.
A recent addition to the 3500 lineup is the Laramie Limited, which boasts one of the most luxurious interiors ever fitted to a pickup. Details include full leather seating with contrasting piping, black burled walnut trim, LED lighting and a soft, French-stitched full leather lid atop the center console. Chrome ringed-gauges with liquid graphite needles, rear flap-closure seatback map pockets and berber carpeting complete the interior treatment.
Exterior touches include a model-specific grille, chrome bumpers, new wheels and a huge block-letter RAM logo on the tailgate.
Standard features on the Laramie Limited trim include a navigational radio, remote start, back-up camera, power adjustable pedals with memory, heated steering wheel, front ventilated and heated seats and rear heated seats.
All 3500 pickups come equipped with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.