2011 Ram 3500 New Car Test Drive
The 2011 Ram Heavy Duty models, the Ram 2500 and Ram 3500, are comfortable and highly capable, ready for serious towing or heavy-duty hauling. Thoroughly revised for 2010, the 2011 Rams boast proven technology while benefiting from some minor updates. A new Ram Outdoorsman model expands the 2011 Ram 2500 and 2011 Ram 3500 lineup.
Ram Heavy Duty models received a major overhaul for the 2010 model year along with refinements throughout. The Crew Cab got larger, giving Ram a unique cab lineup in the segment. The Ram Heavy Duty was restyled for 2010 to go with the new 2009 Ram 1500 light-duty. The Ram Heavy Duty is not identical to the light-duty trucks, but many interior and some sheetmetal parts are the same. The regular and crew cab interiors are also very similar.
For 2011, the biggest change is the introduction of the new Outdoorsman, a Ram packaged for use by hunters, fisherman, campers, and boaters. The Ram Outdoorsman replaces the TRX and is available in many Ram 2500 and Ram 3500 configurations.
Other updates for 2011 include making the in-dash vehicle information center standard on all models, and an integrated brake controller comes standard on all but the base model, a great feature. The navigation system has been updated for 2011. A factory spray-in bedliner is available, along with new colors and new wheel designs.
Most of the parts and technology on the 2011 models have been proven in earlier Rams. The cabin was launched in the 2009 Ram 1500, and the engines, transmissions and brakes are evolutionary versions of the 2009 heavy-duty models. The gasoline engine that comes standard is the most powerful base engine in big pickups. The optional Cummins turbodiesel met current emissions requirements years ago. The diesel engines from both Ford and GM are new, and both of them require a fuel additive the Ram diesel pickup does not. Only the Ram offers a choice of transmissions with the diesel. With Ford and GM you get the automatic. Some drivers who pull heavy trailers say you get better reliability on steep hills with a manual. We prefer the automatic, however.
Much attention has been devoted to ride comfort and quiet on the 2011 Ram HD, and it is noticeable. The feature lists, both standard and available continue to grow, as pickups become ever-more car-like inside: heated/ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, Sirius Backseat TV and so on. But don't confuse this with a car because it is substantially larger and will not ride softly even if you load it up. That said, we found a 2011 Ram 3500 rode very nicely while towing a 6,000-pound trailer.
The most capable Ram HD pickups will carry more than 5,000 pounds or tow more than 17,500 pounds. Other pickups may better those tow ratings, but whether they actually tow any better is another story. Also, trailers heavy trailers require a different driver's license in some states.
The Ram Heavy Duty models will work for anyone who has work to do, be it hauling construction tools and materials, plowing driveways or dragging around big trailers. They remain a compelling choice for anyone in need of a heavy-duty pickup truck, and on balance are priced similarly to 2010 models.
Officially, Chrysler no longer refers to its full-size pickup as the Dodge Ram. It's now just the Ram. We may still refer to the Ram as a Dodge because we haven't figured out how to change a model name to a brand name, but Chrysler does not.
The 2011 Ram 2500 and 3500 Heavy Duty models compete with the Chevrolet Silverado HD, Ford Super Duty and GMC's Sierra HD lineups.
The 2011 Ram 2500 and 3500 Heavy Duty pickups come in ST, SLT, Outdoorsman, Power Wagon, and Laramie trim levels. In addition, there are Big Horn and regional editions. Three cab configurations are available: Regular, Crew Cab, Mega Cab. Two bed lengths (6-foot, 4-inch and 8-foot) are available, along with a choice of four wheelbases. Ram 3500 models are available with single or dual rear wheels (SRW or DRW). The Power Wagon is 2500 4WD, Crew Cab, gasoline only; Ram 3500 regular cab is DRW only; Mega Cabs come only with the short bed.
Ram 2500 comes standard with the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 and 5-speed automatic, no manual is offered; the Cummins 6.7-liter Turbo Diesel is optional with a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. On average 4WD adds about $3,000 and a long bed about $200 over a short bed, for most Ram HD.
Ram 3500 models come standard with the Cummins diesel, so prices appear high relative the competition which come standard with a gasoline engine. For rough comparisons add $7000 to a competitive gas truck for diesel pricing.
For adding your own box or work platform, 3500 Chassis Cab models are available, as are commercial-grade medium-duty Ram 4500 and 5500 trucks. You can also delete the cargo box on some 2500 and 3500 models.
Ram ST models are commercial-grade or a blank canvas depending on your point of view: gray-painted bumpers, chrome around the grille, black mirrors, crank windows on regular cab (power windows and locks on others), vinyl 40/20/40 seat, steel wheels and a manual-shift transfer case on 4WD. Vinyl floor covering is standard and can be ordered in place of carpet on all but Laramie models. Not a stripper however, the ST also has an automatic transmission, 34-gallon fuel tank, air conditioning, Class IV hitch (optional in Canada) with 4/7-pin plugs, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo, locking tailgate and tilt steering wheel. Options for Ram ST are plentiful, including a diesel engine (which adds front tow hooks and cruise control), power heated or towing mirrors (but not powered towing mirrors), integrated trailer brake controller, sliding rear window, floor mats, cloth upholstery, DVD/HDD and Sirius audio, limited-slip differential, skid plates, various option groups, and choices for wheels, tires and axle ratios.
Ram SLT adds chrome, heated power mirrors, remote keyless entry, power windows (includes rear window on four-doors), carpeting, cloth upholstery, cruise control, Sirius radio, electric-switched transfer case, chrome wheels, in-dash tire-pressure display (2500 only) and the integrated trailer brake controller. Some notable SLT options are fog lamps, heated power towing mirrors, forged aluminum wheels, bucket seats and console, power seats, adjustable pedals and driver memory system, moonroof, navigation, Uconnect phone, remote start, back-up camera, security system, and rear park assist.
Ram Outdoorsman is a package based on an SLT luxury package with some additional extras. Standards include gray painted bumpers and fender flares, two-tone paint, body-color grille/black insert, fog lights, power folding/heated mirrors with signals, HomeLink, mud/slush floor mats, 115-VAC outlet, power split-bench seat, leather-wrapped wheel, LT265/70R17E on/off-road tires on forged aluminum wheels, security system, limited-slip differential, tow hooks, and remote start. Primary options are a moonroof and electronics: navigation, rear camera and/or park sensors, UConnect.
Ram Big Horn and Ram Lone Star editions are also available, essentially packages based on a Ram SLT.
Power Wagon ($44,980) comes in 2500 Crew Cab only and approximates SLT grade but is built with trail use in mind. It gets electric locking front and rear differentials, a front antisway bar disconnect, specific suspension with Bilstein shocks, 32-inch BFGoodrich off-road tires, a 12,000-lb Warn winch, skid plates, 4.56:1 gears, more lighting and two-tone paint and graphics. Options include luxury and convenience items such as power seats, moonroof, and navigation.
Ram Laramie adds more chrome, power adjustable pedals and heated mirrors on driver memory system, dual-zone climate control, 115-VAC outlet, universal door opener, 10-way/6-way power heated leather seats, heated leather steering wheel, nine-speaker DVD/HDD surround-sound audio, rear park sense, and security system. Laramie upgrades are generally limited to chrome packages, towing mirrors, skid plates, rear window defroster, heated/ventilated power bucket seats with floor console, moonroof, navigation, backup camera and wheel and axle ratio choices.
Safety features on all HD Rams include dual front multi-stage airbags, side curtain airbags, adjustable height front belts, LATCH child-seat anchors, child-protection rear door locks, anti-lock brakes on all wheels, and tire-pressure monitors (2500 only).