Big Red. Take one look at the massive red monster above and you'll understand why it picked up that nickname moments after arriving at our door. Cliched name aside, we wanted to find out exactly what one can or can't do with a truck like the 2010 Dodge Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Mega Cab. After all, a four-wheel-drive, diesel-powered behemoth doesn't come cheap, and there has to be ample justification for its existence if you're going to try and make room for one in your jumbo-sized garage. To that end, we used the beast as our daily driver for a week, and while we never once came close to reaching anything near its prodigious capabilities, we did find out what it's like to live with.
Oh, and when we sat down to put our thoughts into words, we also decided to see how many ways we could describe how large this truck really is. Read on to see how we fared.
Photos copyright ©2010 Jeremy Korzeniewski / AOL
Let's focus in on the truck's size for a moment. It's over 20 feet long, and seven of those feet extend past the 160.5-inch wheelbase. In other words, parking can sometimes be something of a chore. Perhaps the most imposing stat of all, though, is the 3500 Mega Cab's weight: 7,920 pounds, unloaded. That's just under four tons. In this guise, the bed is six feet, three inches long, which means the average size man can lay down rather comfortably back there.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but we never actually laid eyes on the truck's roof. It could have been a mangled mess up there and we'd have no idea... so we're going to assume all was just fine and dandy atop our tester as all the sheetmetal within eyesight is attractive and nicely finished. Dodge – or rather, Ram, though referring to the former model name as a brand still sounds odd – is still sticking with the downsized big rig style that it invented way back in 1994. It's been an unqualified success story, so we see no need to reinvent the styling wheel.
That said, we're thinking the Ram, especially in Heavy Duty guise, offers some of the best styling in the full-size truck market. It manages to look current without being overly in-your-face (like the Ford Super Duty) or flying too under-the-radar (like the General Motors twins). We were surprised, however, that many of the truck's most prominent styling features were actually made of plastic. It seems odd on such an imposing and colossal truck that seemingly couldn't care less how much it weighs to see a big old chromed-out grille made of... flimsy molded plastic. Sadly, that's not just a knock on the Ram – the same can be said of the offerings from Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Nissan. What would Flava Flav say?
In the case of a full-size pickup, bigger almost always equals better. To that end, the badges that adorn the fascia, fenders and tailgate are simply gigantic. Everyone within a hundred-foot radius will know what you're driving, and that it's powered by a Cummins diesel with enough torque to uproot the Titanic from its heretofore final resting place. And, as if the grandiose gaps between the wheels and the fenders weren't enough to clue in the casual observer, there's a liberally sized '4x4' badge out back to finish things off.
As you might expect, that four-wheel-drive chassis with 7.5-inches of ground clearance means entering and exiting this vehicle can be a bit of a chore. Thankfully, our Ram HD test truck was fitted with a helpful set of chrome steps and side mirror-mounted lights to make nighttime ingress and egress slightly less intimidating. Still, it's a serious clamber up into the Ram's cabin.
Thankfully, once we were in, our Ram HD tester encased us in a nicely appointed interior. Options abound, including leather seating surfaces, dual-mode automatic climate control, adjustable pedals, navigation, Bluetooth, trailer brake controls and heated and cooled seats. This is easily one of the most luxuriously appointed trucks available on the market, with the soft-touch hide and higher grade plastic covering every surface of our tester's interior. We also couldn't help but notice the attractive double-stitching on the dash and center console, which exudes an unexpected aura of quality and class.
Passenger room was also rather extravagant, with front seat room more than ample for schlepping two or even three passengers up front with the optional bench seat. But it's the limo-like rear quarters that truly impress. How? There's 45.3 inches of rear leg room. That's nearly four feet of muscle-stretching space. Four. Feet. And to make matters even more luxurious, rear passengers are also treated to seats that both recline and heat the heiny. So, if you're a billionaire rancher who doesn't like to drive, this may be the heavy duty pickup version of that Maybach you've been dreaming about.
Having such a nice interior in a work truck may not seem to make a ton of sense initially, but after spending time on the road, we came to appreciate the luxury car feel of its cabin. But the real question is whether or not this truck can work. The answer? Why yes... yes it can.
Though the 350 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque seems down on paper to its heavy duty rivals from Ford and General Motors, we don't think many prospective buyers are going to feel that the 6.7-liter Cummins turbo diesel engine (a $7,615 option over the base Hemi V8) is underpowered. According to Chrysler, the Ram HD can tow up to 17,000 pounds when properly equipped, and the truck feels as if it could pull the moon out of its rotational orbit with Earth. We couldn't locate any 10-ton trailers in order to really put the Ram through its paces, so we're just going to take Chrysler's word on its maximum capabilities and start shopping for that mega-yacht we've had our eyes on. Max payload rating comes in at 5,130 pounds.
What we were able to test was the usefulness of its truck bed. Not long ago, we reviewed the 2010 MV Agusta Brulate 990R, and that motorcycle needed to be picked up about two hours south of our office. Over the course of the four-hour round trip, the Ram averaged a fairly decent 16.7 miles per gallon (slightly higher unloaded, slightly lower loaded, naturally) and as you'd expect, the bike's 400 or so pounds went completely unnoticed by the abundantly powerful diesel engine. No sweat, right?
Not so fast. It may be difficult to tell just how tall this truck is in pictures... but suffice it to say that loading a motorcycle into the bed is no easy task. You're going to need a very long ramp to avoid grounding out the bottom of a low-slung motorcycle like the Brutale. Granted, dirtbikes wouldn't present such a problem and we'd imagine that the majority of drivers won't be purchasing heavy duty pickups to haul around a couple motorcycles, but the height of the Ram 3500's chassis is still a factor worth considering if you plan on doing lots of hauling in the bed.
Even if you don't plan on doing any real work (though seriously, what would be the point of that?), you'll enjoy a compliant ride considering everything the Ram HD is capable of moving. We also noted that the cabin was surprisingly quiet under most conditions, though the unending din from the immense diesel workhorse living under the hood would occasionally make itself known to occupants. The recirculating ball steering seemed appropriately weighted for the uneasy task of keeping four tons of pickup going straight down the highway. Nobody is buying a truck like this for its handling capabilities, which is good, since the absolute limits are predictably low. In normal driving scenarios, the truck handles like a... big heavy truck.
All in all, it's impossible not to be impressed with the latest heavy hauler from the Ram Truck boys. Today's crop of HD pickups, with their impossibly stout oil-burning powerplants, are basically unstoppable. Nothing available to consumers trumps this level of capability. And, in the case of the Ram 3500 Laramie Mega Cab, you're graced with an extraordinarily luxurious interior. Sure, it could be used as a daily driver, but that would be completely missing the point. If you fall into the admittedly small group that actually needs a truck of this size and talent, the Ram is a choice you won't regret. The only real qualm we have is the price. Our tester rang up at just over $56,000... which gives us one last opportunity to pull out or handy thesaurus. How about, exorbitant?
Photos copyright ©2010 Jeremy Korzeniewski / AOL