2013 Ram 3500 HD First Drive
Where 0-60 in 36 Seconds Flat is a Good Thing
That's right. The Ram Heavy Duty takes 36 seconds to hit 60 mph, but that's a good thing. Imagine you're towing 15 tons, on a nice summer day with the AC on, and after three successive runs with only braking in between, the fluid temperatures are still only a few degrees over what it was when the truck was cruising on the highway. An empty Mega Cab Laramie Longhorn took 26-27 seconds less.
Ram's Texas "big-numbers" announcement sounded so familiar we all yawned. Then actual numbers arrived, and now we've driven it -- a one-ton that will tow 30,000 pounds. And gets better fuel economy, too.
For perspective, a regular-cab, rear-drive Ram 3500 can tow an F-350 and its max trailer weight, or just 500 pounds less than a Silverado's top combined rating. And this is no one-off longshot number: A 4WD Mega Cab dualie Laramie Longhorn boasts a tow rating that's 4180 pounds higher than that of an F-450 Crew Cab.
How did Ram do it? Just like Bugatti made power: with lots of heat exchangers. Diesels now get dual radiators, dual ATF coolers, a dual-intake air filter, and a thick charge air cooler mounted below the radiator, whether or not you get the Max Tow high-output Cummins. The drive in some small CVTs would barely handle the ancillary loads on this Cummins' fan belt.
The Cummins automatic is rated 370 hp and 800 lb-ft, the same as last year's big gun, but it's heavily revised so the torque arrives earlier on a broader plateau. The new high-output engine produces 385 hp and 850 lb-ft (325 and 750 in cab-and-chassis vehicles), matched to an Aisin automatic with shorter first-through-third gears and an 11.8-inch ring gear out back. At full torque in first gear, the Max Tow package puts more than 13,000 lb-ft to the axle shafts.
To keep that from twisting the engine out or the bed off, the frame is now 50 ksi (50,000-psi) steel, is boxed full-length, and carries eight crossmembers that include a plate ready for fifth-wheel/gooseneck upfitting. The brakes are such we dialed off the trailer brakes and still stopped without smoking; the 230-bhp exhaust brake's new auto mode will maintain set speed, or will automatically pull down gear-to-gear through second with the brake pedal triggered.
The 3500-series front suspension is the last major mechanical upgrade, aimed at roll stiffness without an unwieldy three-inch diameter bar. Two large radius rods with widely spaced axle mounts and a conventional Panhard rod locate the front axle, with coil springs and a manageable antiroll bar. Two-wheel drives get a straight-tube version of the 4WD axle and the 2500s continue with the five-link arrangement.
The sheetmetal is carryover, with external cosmetic changes limited to more aerodynamic side steps and lighting units from the 1500. Mopar has a gooseneck/fifth-wheel hitch and anchor points kit your dealer can install with warranty coverage.
Most of the interior improvements recently lavished on the 1500 have been applied to the HD, with only detail changes: the HD floorpan differs, it has no console shifter, and rear cameras include a conventional one with an image in the rear-view mirror, and a CHMSL unit displayed on dash for easier kingpin sighting.
The instruments received minor changes, too. The base diesel gauges show speed, rpm, fuel, and DEF level; the central digital display offers temperatures and pressures. Higher trims add analog oil pressure and coolant temp, plus many configurations for data display and content.
The Laramie Longhorn is aptly named, swathed in upholstery resembling boots, saddle-bag pouches for map pockets, and a wood-top wheel that's slightly more slender than a fence post. The ornate instrument pack isn't an easy read like the base truck, but you'll have plenty to choose from -- anything from exhaust braking horsepower to voice-to-text if you set it up before driving. The Uconnect system works as well here as in other Chrysler products.
The sole sample 2WD 3500 was the tow-master crank-window regular cab, but the switch to a solid axle has not negatively affected steering feel or precision. With three-plus tons on the pin, you feel the trailer, but it's quite stable and would push the truck only if you did something stupid like take a decreasing-radius turn hard on the brakes with trailer brakes that are too conservative. Ride quality wasn't bad either, and with the longer wheelbase and as many body mounts as the four-doors have, they're noticeably quieter and smoother.
Engine note varies by model and age. The ST we drove had 37,000 miles on it, and a less gravelly top end -- all 2900 rpm of it -- than the new Laramie Longhorns did. Turbo whine is faint at best, there's none of that planetary surround sound emanating from below, and driveline vibration is well controlled, even at WOT in first gear. From what we could tell with our relatively limited mileage information (trucks this size aren't under EPA guidelines for fuel economy), we can only observe the 370/800 engine in the 2500s were showing close to 20 percent better economy than we get with similar 2012s, suggesting Ram's claimed 15-22 percent improvement is accurate. Even including DEF, fuel costs could easily be cut by more than 10 percent.
Of course the new-found goodness does cost. First, the 3500 weight is up a bit from heavier hardware, plus whatever's in the 8-gallon DEF tank. Second, while Ram didn't have any base prices, that full-tilt 4WD Mega Cab dualie carried an as-tested MSRP of $70,285; the crank-window work truck was $25,000 less.
|2013 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Laramie Longhorn 4WD Mega Cab Dualie|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$70,285|
|LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door pickup|
|ENGINE||6.7L/370-385-hp/800-850-lb-ft OHV turbodiesel 24-valve I-6|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||248.4 x 79.1 x 79.0 in|
|CURB WEIGHT||8450 lb (mfr)|
|MAX GVWR||14,000 lb|
|PAYLOAD CAPACITY||5550 lb|
|TOWING CAPACITY||28,880 lb|
|0-60 MPH||36.0 sec (TT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||Not rated|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Currently|