2010 Dodge Ram 3500 HD - First Look
Truckin' Road Trip
We'd had a chance to try out the newest Ram HDs at their pre-launch media event in Texas, but to be honest, driving the Power Wagon through the off-road course seemed a lot more fun than towing a 10,000-pound trailer. So, with a homeward flight looming in the afternoon and limited drive time, we picked the muddy off-road course to spend most of our time. Can you blame us? However, the new Ram's towing capability wasn't far from our thoughts, and when we had a monumental towing task in mind that involved our 'bagged and custom painted '09 Ram, we knew what the perfect tow vehicle would be. There was one slight hitch in our plan, the trailer we planned on towing was a fifth wheel. (Sorry for the pun). It just so happened that there was a Ram in the press fleet that was already equipped with a Mopar accessory fifth wheel, so with a few phone calls we were good to go.
The plan was for Editor Dan Ward, freelance editor Harley Camilleri, and myself, to tow our trailer to the Tex Mex show in Somerville, Texas, 1,500 miles from our office in Irvine, California, to display our '09 Ram project and set up shop to dispense magazines and sell swag. Loading up on Tuesday, it was apparent that our trailer was never intended to fit a vehicle as wide as a fullsize truck. With just an inch to spare on each side between the trailer's inner wheelwells, the Ram was a tight squeeze. Let's just say that Dan had an interesting time climbing out of the Ram and exiting the trailer once the Ram was securely strapped down.
We started before dawn on Wednesday, and after finding a truck stop with the right air chuck to get to the Ram's dual rear tire valves, we were on our way. Through California, the Ram and trailer were relegated to 55 mph and the slow lane. The 6.7L Cummins had no problem cranking the trailer up to speed, with tow/haul mode engaged the six-speed transmission held each gear a bit longer than normal to ensure that the engine would still be making serious horsepower even after downshifting. Don't get me wrong, it's not like we didn't notice the trailer was there, we weighed in at a CAT scale and we were pushing the trailer's 14,000-pound axle ratings, with just over 13,000 pounds on the trailer's axles, and over a ton on the tongue, so there was never any doubt that we were pulling a load. We did enjoy a relatively smooth ride despite some nasty highway paving, and we appreciated the factory exhaust brake on the downhill side of the numerous hills on Highway 10.
Once we crossed into Arizona, the 55-mph cap gave way to 65 and even 70 mph speed limits and the Ram seemed to like those speeds better, as the cruising rpm increased into the Cummins' powerband. Fuel economy did take a hit, as single-digit mpg numbers became the norm. We used the refueling stops to swap drivers and stretch our legs. New Mexico came and went in no time, and as we crossed into Texas we, or at least I, being a Highway 10 rookie, got a false sense of accomplishment. We were in Texas, but we were really only half way there. Curse you Texas and your hugeness! We crossed the vast expanse of western Texas during the night, taking turns napping on the back seat of the crew cab, and rolled into the show on Thursday morning. The trailer was left at the show, and we were off to our hotel for some much-needed rest. The Ram felt like an entirely different animal without an eight-ton anchor behind it, and for the next four days we used it as a shuttle between the show, photo locations, and our hotel.
We hitched the Ram up on Monday for the drive back with a little extra cargo, including a couple dozen boxes of magazines, a hundred or so shirts, and a nearly full tank of gas in the '09 Ram. Those few additions might have proved to be the downfall of the off-brand tires mounted to our tandem-axle trailer. Just west of Los Cruces, New Mexico, I awoke from my nap to see Dan pulling the truck to the shoulder of Highway 10 with a blowout. After getting out and surveying the damage, we noticed that the tire tread, after coming apart, had bent the wheelwell of the trailer. No amount of hammering with our 21-ounce hammer was doing anything, so the Ram's screw jack was called into service to show the bent steel who's boss. Using our only spare tire, we were back on the road, this time with me behind the wheel, which meant that I was awake for the next blowout. Yep, that made two off-brand tire blow-outs, this time it was midway between Buckeye and Quartzite, Arizona, which officially made it the Middle of Nowhere. With few options, we unloaded our '09 Ram and Dan headed into the nearest town, which thankfully had a tire shop. After a fair to mild amount of price gouging, he was back in time to find Harley and I with the trailer already pulled up on blocks with the offending wheel and tire dismounted. We drove both trucks back separately for the remaining 300 miles, by now realizing that the trailer's el cheapo tires were being taxed beyond their limit by the high speeds and nearly maxed-out weight. Add to that the wicked potholes we'd encountered and it was no surprise they'd failed. The two blowouts had set us back about two hours total, but we made it to our office at about 2:00 a.m. Wednesday.
The trip was over, and we all had nothing but good things to say about the '10 Dodge Ram 3500 HD. While our '09 long-term Ram has heated and cooled leather seats that would have been a nice addition, and a nice way to annoy a sleeping road trip companion with constant temperature fluctuations, the cloth seats were supportive for long-distance spans and kept us from feeling fatigued behind the wheel. The new suspension tuning also contributed to smooth driving that made the miles roll by. But, while the long trip was fun, I can't say we'd all be ready to volunteer for another 4,000-miles-in-a-week trailering session any time soon. That is unless we get another diesel dualie-it's the only way to go.