Ram 3500 Heavy-Duty Laramie Longhorn
By Rory Jurnecka

WE LIKE: Massive towing and hauling capacity, bold exterior styling, quiet turbodiesel engine.

WE DON'T LIKE: Choppy ride and the gaudy Longhorn interior theme.

Back when we voted the Ram HD our 2010 Truck of the Year, we had plenty of good things to say. We were impressed with the Ram's improved interior quality, massive payload and towing capacity, and perhaps most of all, its new 6.7-liter inline-six turbodiesel engine that cranks out 350 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque. That's impressive, but for 2012, Ram has upped its game, introducing the new upscale Laramie Longhorn trim package and a new high-output engine package that brings torque up to a simply staggering 800 lb-ft and includes an uprated torque converter. Our truck also featured the Max Tow package, bumping the maximum trailer weight rating to 22,700 pounds.

Those facts and figures all sound mighty impressive, but do they really make the Ram a barnstormer when the rubber meets the road? When it came to our standard performance testing, the answer was a resounding "no." With the heaviest curb weight of the group by nearly a ton, the 8020-pound Ram recorded the slowest acceleration run, with a 9.1-second 0-60-mph sprint and a 17-second quarter-mile run.

Per Febbo, "Even with all this torque, it doesn't feel that powerful. When you are talking about ginormous numbers like this, if you aren't feeling big acceleration and earth-mantle-shearing force, you should still be feeling the structure of the truck loading up. There should be strain somewhere. The torque just kind of disappears, and evaporates."

Where that torque does come in handy is in hauling and towing. The Ram made fairly easy work of the substantial 3200-pound payload strapped in its bed. That number, of course, represents 75 percent of the maximum-rated 4330-pound payload. While there was no mistaking that the Ram was hauling the weight equivalent of our Toyota Tacoma tester, as Kiino noted, it did so without struggling. "The Ram made it known it was hauling thousands of pounds but basically said, 'I'm gonna be a little slower but I'll get there and I won't be sweating,'" said Kiino.

Kiino, and most of the other judges, also liked the Ram's steering feel and cornering stability, both excellent for such huge truck. Like the NV, the Ram makes it easy to forget just how much mass is being shuttled around.

"Handles surprisingly well for a huge dually. I suppose this is partly due to all that rear grip coming from four rear tires," Kiino noted.

What we were completely unimpressed with was the Ram's ride comfort, with complaints coming from every judge. As a dually with very high payload and towing capacities, it's expected that the ride will be somewhat compromised for normal, unloaded driving duty. A truck suspension must be set up for heavy loads or light loads, and the presumption Chrysler appears to make with this package is that the truck will be used mostly for hauling or towing heavy loads. As such, constant up-and-down, jarring ride quality was standard behavior.

Unfortunately, the Ram's ride didn't seem to improve much with the bed loaded, like we noticed with the Fords. With a 12,000-pounds trailer locked to the hitch (the maximum allowed for our setup -- full towing capacity is only available with a gooseneck or fifth-wheel), the Ram did settle down some, but even then, it still fell short of the other contenders. Simply put, loaded or unloaded, riding in the Ram was akin to a entering a rodeo with plenty of bucking, jumping, and jittering, even on relatively smooth pavement.

"The ride is very firm, as is to be expected in a truck that's built to carry over 4000 pounds of stuff in the bed," said Harwood. "However, I'm not sure the ride was as improved by adding payload as I'd hoped (it may have even been a little worse!). According to Scott, the ride smoothed out when the trailer was hooked up, and the truck was clearly capable of handling more weight."

And about that upmarket Laramie Longhorn trim package? Well, "over the top" was the way most described it. It is apparent Chrysler tried hard, with comfortable leather front seats, plenty of rear-seat room, and all the modern amenities expected of a $61,000 truck. But the Western Longhorn motif was a bit tacky for most of us.

Lieberman says it best: "I can't get past the silly interior. Fake rubber barbed-wire on the floormats, tribal tats on the gauges and above the glovebox. Big, horrible badges and belt buckle-looking clasps are just pandering. I know they're optional, but who spends this much money on a pickup and wants to be surrounded by that sort of schlock?"

Still, the exterior certainly looks the part. "Badass," "menacing," and "gargantuan," were some of the adjectives used, usually with exclamation points immediately following. Those huge rear box fenders covering dually wheels, the stout, big-rig-style front end, and row of roof-mounted clearance marker lights all make for huge intimidation factor. Who wouldn't move out of the fast lane for one of these moving up quick from behind?

In the end, the Ram seemed to demand too much compromise in day-to-day use for its massive capability as a hauler of, well, nearly anything. And let's face it, day-to-day driving is what most trucks are used for, especially a leather-lined "gentleman's truck" such as this one.

2012 Ram Laramie Longhorn
MODEL TESTED Laramie Longhorn DRW
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck
BASE PRICE $37,145
ENGINE 6.7L/350-hp/800-lb-ft turbodiesel OHV 24-valve I-6
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 8020 lb (60/40%)
0-60 MPH 9.1, 11.0*, 22.1** sec
QUARTER MILE 17.0 sec @ 80.3 mph, 17.9 sec @ 76.3 mph*, 23.4 sec @ 61.9 mph**
30-70 MPH 7.7*, 13.3** sec
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 150, 156* ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 30.0 sec @ 0.52 g (avg)
ENERGY CONs, CITY/HWY 314 kW-hrs/100 mi (MT obs)
CO2 EMISSIONS 1.82 lb/mi (MT obs)
TOWING KEY *With 3248-lb payload, **With 12,000-lb trailer