PRESCOTT, Ark. -- First, understand that the descriptive label "Heavy Duty" applies to a series of big and powerful work trucks developed by Dodge for the upward expansion of the Ram line.
These one-ton Ram 3500 behemoths, built upon a massive platform that's modular to allow multiple configurations for cabin size and box length, bulge from fresh sheetmetal styling and ripple with enthused strength due to a pair of powertrains which muscle up to the top of the heavy class in terms of raw horsepower, engine torque and efficiency for towing and toting hefty loads.
Ram H.D. trucks also provide uncommonly comfortable passenger compartments in cabs equipped with two or four doors, and they can perform tricks rarely seen among work trucks: They're smooth in suspension ride, quiet in the cab and downright easy to operate.
The Ram 3500 series for 2011 configure in four wheelbase lengths with single rear wheels (SRW) or dual rear wheels (DRW) as a two-door Regular Cab or a four-door in Crew Cab design and extended-length Mega Cab, with a truck box in back which measures 76 or 96 inches long, and either rear-wheel two-wheel-drive (2WD) or four-wheel-drive (4WD) traction format.
And the line-topper Ram 3500 stocking DRW, a huge-torque Cummins turbo diesel engine, six-speed automatic transmission and the rear axle ratio of 4.10:1 earns an increased GCWR (gross combined weight rating) which tallies to 25400 pounds.
Payloads for Ram 3500 Regular Cab rise to 5130 pounds and the GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) climbs as high as 12200 pounds. Ram 3500 Crew Cab shows payloads to 4760 pounds and the GVWR bumps to 12200 pounds. Ram 3500 Mega Cab handles payloads to 3130 pounds with GVWR up to 10500 pounds. Tow capacity for Ram 3500 Regular Cab caps at 17600 pounds, while Ram 3500 Crew Cab tops the tow load at 17150 pounds and Ram 3500 Mega Cab can pull 17000 pounds.
The structural system for all 3500 Ram trucks amounts to a ladder-type chassis with boxed rail sections shaped through hydroforming, a process which creates a strong and rigid platform.
A coil-spring suspension system is employed in front, followed by a longitudinal multi-leaf spring design in the rear for heavy-duty capability. Further, the shocks and springs in front and rear tune up for a refined ride quality.
Huge disc brake rotors (14.17 inches front and 14.09 inches rear) link electronically to a computerized anti-lock brake system (ABS). And an optional integrated trailer brake controller helps to stabilize a tow rig when braking.
Park a Ram 3500 next to the conventional Ram 1500 (half-ton) and you'll get the big picture: The heavy-duty Ram 3500 truck towers over the 1500 -- it's so tall that the full-size 1500 Ram seems like a compact-class rendition of the H.D. 3500.
Yet the family resemblance is obvious.
Dressed in rippling sheetmetal, the heavy-duty Rams look strong and assertive. A massive chin-forward face dominates the design with the stair-step hood of a big-rig Peterbilt and a forward-tipped horse-collar grille scored in cross-hair chrome bars and horizontal chrome fins.
More chrome coats the fat-lip lower fascia which holds foglamps at both ends.
Flanks are relatively flat but on Ram 3500 with DRW the back fenders bulge to cover the extra rubber rollers.
On top of the high cab, five roof clearance lamps with clear lenses add a menacing touch that actually works for safe motoring to enhance the truck's visibility on the road at night.
Cabs begin with a two-door Regular Cab containing a bench seat split 40/20/40 with room for two or three riders.
The four-door Quad Cab provides two rows of seats for as many as six passengers with lots of interior room plus clever arrangements for utility stow space as well as luxurious appointments.
And the stretched four-door Mega Cab creates so much space inside that backs of the rear seats can recline from 22 to 37 degrees for extra comfort. Beds in back extend in lengths of long and longer.
Passive safety equipment on Ram 3500 trucks extend beyond two frontal air bags to three-point safety belts for all seats, including three sets in the Regular Cab and six in the Quad Cab, plus sets of tether anchors in the rear of the four-door for installing a child's safety seat. Also, side curtain-style air bags in installed in every cabin.
As to powertrains, the Ram 3500 trucks offer two powerful engine options. The gasoline engine choice is a heavy-duty V8 rendition of the fabled HEMI engine design.
The HEMI Magnum 5.7-liter V8 with VVT (variable valve timing) develops 383 hp at 5600 rpm and 400 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. That muscle is managed through an electronically controlled automatic five-speed transmission, the 545RFE.
Yet the standard plant for Ram 3500 trucks drinks diesel fuel. The 6.7-liter in-line-six Cummins turbo diesel engine musters up to 350 hp at 3000 rpm and 650 lb-ft of torque at only 1500 rpm to soar in the hefty league.
The turbo diesel connects to a six-speed manual transmission (G56) with ultra-low first-gear ratio, or a six-speed automatic (68RFE) that's suited for towing.
Three levels of trim work for Ram 3500 trucks with a base ST, upgraded SLT and deluxe Laramie edition.
Preferred equipment standard in all includes items like air conditioning, two 12-volt DC power points, a tilting steering wheel and an audio kit with AM/FM/CD/MP3. The Quad Cab version adds storage bays located below the floor and under the flip-forward rear seat.
Ram 3500 Laramie carries premium gear such as leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and power controls for windows, outside mirrors and front seats.
Equipment packages are also available for special functions, such as trailer-towing or 4WD off-road protection (skid plates and two hooks).