8.04.2013

New Car Review: Ram 3500 Laramie Crew Cab

Front 3/4 view of 2013 Ram 3500 Laramie Crew Cab

There are trucks...and then there are TRUCKS.

A Ram (the truck formerly known as Dodge) is a big truck even in 1500 (half-ton) form.  Step up to the 2500 (three-quarter ton) model and "huge" is more the word.

Friends, this is no mere 2500 (a vehicle a 2500 owner referred to as "a baby" while looking over our tester)....no, this is the 3500.  It'll hold 6,080 pounds in its rear bed. It'll tow 29,260 pounds. That is just shy of 15 tons.  It has SIX wheels.

What's it for, you ask?  Towing stuff.  Like a really big horse trailer. The surprise is that, as much as the laws of physics allow, the Ram folks have made this truck surprisingly livable in everyday use.



Rear 3/4 view of 2013 Ram 3500 Laramie Crew Cab

Ours was the 3500 Laramie Crew Cab 4X2.  Base price $44,500, which is not unreasonable for a nicely equipped pickup truck these days, and the Laramie is nicely equipped.  Security alarm, speed control, power locks, seats (heated and ventilated) and windows, automatic headlamps, LED taillamps, power trailer towing mirrors, a rear-view camera, dual-zone climate control, UConnect, voice recognition, Bluetooth, SiriusXM in a 506-watt Alpine audio system with 9 speakers, surround sound and an 8.4-inch touchscreen....all standard.

We could stop right there and go home.  But you know the saying "Go Big or Go Home"?  The other choice is to Go Big.  And that's what the Ram press fleet folks did.

Nothing says big like $17,000 worth of options.

To be fair, the biggest chunk of that goes for the powertrain.  The 6.7 liter Cummins Turbo Diesel engine makes 370 horsepower and a staggering 850 pounds per foot of torque (in case what you want to tow is bolted into the ground).  It comes with a 180-amp alternator, diesel exhaust brake and Selective Catalytic Reduction, so the whole engine package costs $7,795. There is no way to describe the sheer pulling power this machine exhibits. Every hackneyed locomotive reference is disqualified not so much by reason of being a cliche as by reason of being inadequate.

The big turbodiesel requires a rugged transmission, so Ram upped ours from the standard six-speed automatic to the AISIN Heavy-Duty six-speed automatic...another $2,650. The dual rear wheels are extra cost, too...at $1,200. And the 4.10 rear axle ratio....hey, what's 50 bucks? So, about 12 grand of the 17 thousand worth of options is all in stuff that makes the machine go.

There were other fairly practical options, too...$200 for a tire upgrade (size LT235/80R17E), $250 for rear parking assist, $200 for a remote starting system $395 for dual alternators, $750 for a rear window defroster and $475 for a spray-in bedliner.

And while not necessities, the $525 for side steps and $150 for power adjustable pedals with memory was money well spent in our book.  Beats a rope ladder and a phone book.

Interior view of 2013 Ram 3500 Laramie

The rest was spent on gussying the beast up to full luxo-truck standards...$995 for a sunroof, $500 for an audio system upgrade.  Bottom line of the sticker, with $995 destination charge: $62,520.

Inside?  Hey, I've had smaller apartments.  I'm not sure the room I'm writing this in has the square footage that the inside of the Laramie Crew Cab has.  It certainly doesn't have the leather.  Or the stereo.

What's it like to drive?  Well, you park very carefully.  You make a couple of circles of the parking lot before choosing a likely landing space.  You learn to pass on spaces next to sidewalks and curbs because the dual rear wheels make the tail very wide.  Beyond that, it's remarkably normal.  The fear of hitting other vehicles subsides a bit as you realize they're more worried than you are and are giving you a wide berth.  This thing inspires lane discipline in other drivers like you can't believe.

How's it on fuel, you ask, stifling a laugh but snorting a bit involuntarily?  Well, the government doesn't require the EPA to make mileage estimates of heavy duty vehicles, but the trip computer revealed an average of 13.4 miles per gallon of diesel for the week I drove it.  Which makes it thriftier than the Infiniti QX56, which only got 12.9.  And cost $13,000 more.  And is arguably less useful and only slightly easier to park.

If we were to agree that economy is subjective and where you find it, we could argue that the Ram 3500 Laramie Crew Cab is the more economical of the two.  But that's really saying more about the Infiniti.

All kidding aside, the Ram 3500 is a vehicle for a purpose.  You need another car to go get groceries in (Do I tell the story of having to back out of the Taco Bell drive-thru? No.  I just kind of did tell it anyway, parenthetically).  But it's hard to imagine a better vehicle if you need this kind of towing capability...and it's much better than anyone could have expected at daily driving if you have to use it that way.

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