New Car Review
2017 RAM 3500 HD: New Car Review
The 2017 RAM 3500 HD would be the first to tell you: It's hard being a heavy-duty truck these days. Thanks to the full-fledged arms race between RAM, Ford and GM, it seems like a new "most capable full-size truck" comes out every month. This is especially apparent in the world of turbodiesel pickups, where automakers are increasing power and torque at an absurd rate. Just when we thought the RAM HD's 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel and its ridiculous 900 lb-ft of torque were un-toppable, both Ford and GM have done just that for 2017.
Of course, the differences aren't that great. And there's more to the RAM than just its spec sheet. There's its coil-spring rear suspension that provides a class-leading ride and excellent trailer-control, especially on winding roads. You can also upgrade it with a rear air suspension that automatically levels itself under heavy loads. No other truck offers that, nor can they match the 3500's Mega Cab and its limo-like back seat space.
In the end, though, coming up with real demerits for heavy-duty trucks is like criticizing 18-wheelers. The fact is that they're all exceptionally capable and almost certainly up to any task, whether it's towing a huge trailer or hauling a heavy load. We suspect your decision will ultimately come down to brand loyalty and personal preference more than any other factor. Still, the RAM 3500 HD has so many distinctive elements that we think it deserves equal consideration with its competitors.
What's New for 2017?
The RAM 3500 HD is largely unchanged for 2017.
What We Like
Comfortable ride and tow-friendly handling, courtesy the rear coil spring suspension; unique air suspension option; uniquely huge Mega Cab; brawny styling; manual transmission option
What We Don't
Showing its age in a few areas
The 2017 RAM 3500 HD offers three engines. Standard is a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 rated at 383 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. A 6.4-liter V8 that boasts 410 hp and 429 lb-ft is optional. And for the most taxing jobs, there's a 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel inline 6-cylinder, which cranks out up to 370 hp and 900 lb-ft of torque with a 6-speed automatic or 350 hp and 660 lb-ft with a 6-speed manual.
The Environmental Protection Agency doesn't test heavy-duty trucks for fuel economy, but don't get your hopes up as far as fuel costs go: We'd expect around 11 miles per gallon in the city with any engine or 17 mpg on the highway when unloaded.
Standard Features & Options
The RAM 3500 HD offers six trim levels: Tradesman, SLT, Big Horn/Lone Star, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn and Limited. There are also three cab styles, two bed lengths and either single- or dual-rear wheel configurations.
The RAM 3500 Tradesman ($33,300) is a commercial-oriented workhorse that doesn't include much. Standard features range from 17-in steel wheels, crank windows and manual door locks to vinyl floor covering and vinyl upholstery. The truck does, however, include air conditioning, cruise control and a USB port and auxiliary jack for music. Power windows and locks are included on crew cab versions.
Next up is the SLT ($37,500), which adds 18-in steel wheels, chrome exterior trim, a trailer brake controller, power windows and locks regardless of cab, a sliding rear window, keyless entry, cloth upholstery, a 5-in Uconnect touchscreen, Bluetooth and satellite radio.
Next up is the Big Horn ($42,000), or Lone Star should you live in Texas. It gains 18-in alloy wheels, extra chrome, foglights, a limited-slip differential, remote start, an 8-way power driver seat, upgraded cloth upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
From there, drivers can upgrade to the Laramie ($48,800), which is only offered as a crew cab or an even longer Mega Cab. The limited-slip diff reverts to an option, but added features include dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, even more chrome trim, upgraded headlights, heated and ventilated front seats, leather upholstery, driver memory functions, a 6-way power passenger seat, a heated steering wheel, the 8.4-in Uconnect touchscreen and a 10-speaker sound system.
Then there's the Laramie Longhorn ($55,500), which adds running boards, a bedliner, better leather, power-adjustable pedals, heated rear seats, a navigation system and HD radio.
The Limited ($55,700) gets a different grille plus 20-in wheels, automatic high beams and wipers, keyless ignition and entry and RamBox cargo storage boxes that are available on other trims.
Most of the upgrades included on upper trims are available as options, be it alone or within packages, on lower trims. Other optional add-ons include a load-leveling suspension, a sunroof, a bed camera and a CD player.
The 2017 RAM 2500 comes with 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, stability control, front seat side and full-length side curtain airbags. It also boasts optional safety features such as park assist and a rearview camera. Unfortunately, it isn't offered with many of today's latest safety gadgets such as forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist or a blind spot monitoring system.
While heavy-duty trucks don't get crash-tested by third parties, we suspect you'll be on the safer side of most collisions.
Behind the Wheel
There are those who say the RAM 3500 HD's rear coil spring suspension puts it at a disadvantage in the toughness department. Hogwash, we say. Whether you're towing up to 31,000 pounds of a massive trailer or filling the bed up with a boulder or three, there's little holding the RAM 2500 back. Importantly, that suspension lends it a more comfortable ride than its GM and Ford rivals along with impressive trailer-control, especially on winding roads. The available air suspension improves that capability even further. And although the RAM has gone a long time without a complete redesign, it doesn't feel that dated when behind the wheel compared to other heavy-duty trucks.
Inside, you'll find the same stylish design and user-friendly tech features as in the 1500 pickup. Some elements are starting to show their age such as the tilt-only steering wheel, but in general, the RAM doesn't give up much (if anything) to newer Ford and GM heavy-duty rivals. One unique element is the available Mega Cab option, which swells back-seat space and comfort to limo-like proportions. Yes, it does limit bed length, but if you're looking for a family tow vehicle, it's a fantastic choice.
Other Cars to Consider
2017 Ford F-350 -- The F-350 Super Duty is all-new for 2017. It gets a stronger frame, more powerful engines, an upgraded cabin and more available features. It's also available in a wider variety of models and trim levels.
2017 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD -- Now available with an upgraded diesel engine good for more than 900 lb-ft of torque, the 2017 Silverado 3500 HD continues to be a capable heavy-duty workhorse.
2017 GMC Sierra 3500HD -- The Sierra is virtually the same truck as the Silverado and gets the same new Duramax diesel engine for 2017. The Sierra's available in the popular, luxurious Denali trim that's comparable to the RAM Limited.
Used RAM 3500 HD -- If you desire one of the RAM 3500 HD's higher trim levels but find them to be prohibitively expensive, consider a used model. Even a 2-year-old RAM 3500 HD includes much of the same capability you'll get with today's model at a substantial discount.
Unless you're a fleet manager looking for a truck with no frills and big capability (and should therefore get the Tradesman), we think the Big Horn/Lone Star represents the sweet spot in terms of included features, price and looks. Though, if you are considering one of the high-lux versions, note that the top-of-the-line Limited is the same price as the Laramie Longhorn despite boasting extra equipment.