Many of us have a friend named Dave who swears by his Dodge Ram pickup. He loves how strong the thing is, and bites his tongue whenever he fills the fuel tank. Your Dave is probably as happy as Larry if he has the third-generation Ram in three-quarter-ton 2500 or one-ton 3500 Heavy Duty guise. As a work truck or recreational hauler pulling a family's-worth of Jet Skis behind it, the imposingly handsome 2003-2009 Ram enjoys a pretty good reputation.

Both versions have a 5.7-liter V-8 as their basic engine, making 345 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. And then buyers can either go crazy with an 8.0-liter V-10 (310 hp/450 lb-ft in the 2003 model) or choose a sensible yet muscular 6.7-liter Cummins straight-six turbodiesel (350 hp/650 lb-ft, 2007-2009 models). These drivetrains are seriously competitive within their class.

One reason for that aforementioned strength (well, two) was the retention of live axles front and rear, although ride quality and general on-road manners are deemed an appreciable improvement over generation two. You've probably heard Dave go on about how comfort is actually enhanced when this full-size truck is fully laden or towing a hefty trailer. The weight keeps the springs from traveling so much.

Speaking of weight, the 2500 can tow up to 15,650 pounds, while the 3500 has the enviable ability to pull 16,350. Each model can also accommodate up to six occupants, with cab size ranging from two-door regular to four-door Quad and Mega (the latter available from 2006 on). Rear doors on the bigger cabs are hinged to open just like the fronts, unlike the less satisfactory "suicide door" rear-hinged arrangement of the previous generation.

Regular Cabs come with the long bed, Mega Cabs with just the short bed, and the Quad comes with either. The 3500 offers dual rear wheels, except for the short bed/Quad Cab iteration. Rear-drive models have rack-and-pinion steering; four-wheel-drive versions have the recirculating-ball setup.

Trims are ST, SXT, SLT, and Laramie, each piling on greater levels of equipment and accessories. The TRX4 softer off-road package could apply to both versions, but the more extreme Power Wagon (including 32-inch off-road tires and a Warn winch) was for the 2500 only. The 3500 became diesel-only for the 2009 model year, and sported a limited-slip differential as standard.

Recalls have been many and varied, although a major one involved steering defects in 32,782 2008 and 2009 examples. Dave might be like other Ram users, having had problems with drivetrain, suspension, HVAC, or lighting. It's worth emphasizing yet again: Always be sure any potential purchase has a comprehensive maintenance history.

A four-wheel-drive 2005 2500 SLT Regular Cab in good condition is valued at $16,125. A comparable Ford F-250 Super Duty might garner $12,894; a similar Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD could fetch $14,453. To the Daves of the world, though, the Dodge Ram is worth its considerable weight in gold.


2003-2009 Dodge Ram 2500/3500 Heavy Duty
Body type Two- or four-door pickup
Drivetrain Front engine, RWD/4WD
Airbags Dual front
Engine 5.7L/345-388-hp OHV V-8; 8.0L/310-hp OHV V-10 (2003); 5.9L/250-325-hp OHV turbodiesel I-6 (2003-2007); 6.7L/350-hp OHV turbodiesel I-6 (2007.5-2009)
Brakes, f/r Disc/disc, ABS
Price range, whsl/retail (KBB) $5961/$7811 (2003 RWD 2500 Regular Cab ST 5.7L V-8); $33,594/$37,189 (2009 4WD 3500 Mega Cab Laramie 6.7L I-6)
Recalls Too many to list; see motortrend.com
NHTSA frontal impact rating, driver/frNot rated