Operating the new Ram 3500 reminds us of driving a half-ton pickup truck from one or two generations ago. It's still a little harsh with nothing in the bed, especially the Cummins 3500 on lumpy roads, but this one-ton feels almost like a personal-use half-ton, steers more like a full-size SUV, and is strikingly quiet. This new Ram is an example of how far the science of suspension design and interior soundproofing have advanced in the automotive industry. One-ton pickups once required a strong left leg, a light throttle foot, and a pillow on the front bench. You could sprain your neck rolling over a dime on the roadway, and in the rain, the truck could get sideways just easing out from a stoplight. And yet, we drove on highways and country roads in Texas for two days while it rained four inches, with nothing in the bed, wipers slapping all day long-without even thinking about it. We felt secure, kept up with the cowboys, and even had some fun on the 90-degree turns between cattle pastures. This, in a one-ton "work truck."

And it's a truck that puts down enough torque to ripple the roadway. The standard Hemi is rated at 400 pound-feet of torque, the Cummins, at 650. Combine that with gear ratios as low as 4.10:1 and axles strong enough to carry 5000 pounds apiece, and you get a big, strong truck that moves out readily at part throttle.

It's hard to tax a truck with these kinds of ratings, but people do it all the time. Think of 40-foot trailers; hauling a backhoe to a construction site; plowing wet, heavy snow; or picking up a couple pallets of bricks or stone. Think about a walk-in cab-over camper, with all your gear in it. That's what this truck is for, and it's built to handle it all day long.

We spent time driving a Ram 2500 4x4 with single rear wheels, a 3500 4x4 with the 6.7-liter Cummins, and the Ram Power Wagon, the off-road-going heavy duty. Capacity ratings aside, the new Ram has gone from being the least accommodating of the one-ton trucks to being one of the best.