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2018 RAM 3500 HD: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader March 2018

The 2018 RAM 3500 HD has gone an awful long time without a complete redesign, and although its competitor heavy-duty trucks are fresher, that doesn't mean you should ignore it. Quite the opposite, actually, as RAM continues to offer compelling capability and distinctive elements that help it stand out from the crowd.

First, capability. If you're looking for torque, the 3500's Cummins turbodiesel can crank out as much as 930 lb-ft of torque for 2018. Plus, if you don't really need all that much (and people certainly got by with much less), there are lesser-tuned versions available for less dough. Towing capacity tops out at 31,210 pounds, while payload is as much as 7,390 pounds.

As for those distinctive elements, 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 limolike back-seat space. We're also quite fond of its 8.4-inch touchscreen, which was upgraded for 2018 to include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto among other improvements.

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. In any event, we would definitely give the biggest RAM a chance.

What's New for 2018?

Yet another trim variation debuts: the range-topping Limited Tungsten edition. A backup camera is now standard, there's a new Sport appearance package and the 8.4-in touchscreen option has been upgraded with improved resolution, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and 4G LTE Wi-Fi.

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; no accident-avoidance tech

How Much?

$33,600-$60,300

Fuel Economy

The 2018 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 is optional. It boasts 410 hp and 429 lb-ft in the Regular and Crew Cabs, but with the Mega Cab, it's downgraded to 370 hp.

For the most taxing jobs, there's a 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel inline 6-cylinder, which has three different outputs. Paired to the RAM's unique 6-speed manual, it's good for 350 hp and 660 lb-ft of torque. It jumps to 370 hp and 800 lb-ft with the "68RFE" 6-speed automatic and then further up to 385 hp and 930 lb-ft of torque with the "AS69RC" 6-speed automatic.

The Environmental Protection Agency doesn't test heavy-duty trucks for fuel economy, but one can expect the diesel engines to be a bit thriftier.

Standard Features & Options

The Ram 3500 HD is offered in a complex array of trim levels, engine sizes and drivetrains and cab styles (Regular, Crew and Mega). We've summarized the trims here, but note that there may be some variation in features and pricing depending on the truck you choose.

The Ram 3500 Tradesman ($33,600) 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, a backup camera, cruise control, a USB port and an auxiliary jack for music. Power windows and locks are included on Crew Cab versions. The Mega Cab is not available on the Tradesman.

Next up is the SLT ($37,800), 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. The SLT is the only trim level available with all three cab styles, and specifically, this is the last trim available with the Regular Cab.

Next up is the Big Horn ($42,500), which is known as the Lone Star in Texas. It gains 18-in alloy wheels, extra chrome trim, fog lights, a limited-slip differential, remote ignition, 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). The limited-slip diff reverts to an option, but added features include dual-zone automatic climate control, fancier exterior trim, upgraded headlights, heated and ventilated front seats, leather upholstery, driver-memory functions, a 6-way power passenger seat, a heated steering wheel, a 10-speaker sound system and the 8.4-in Uconnect touchscreen (includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, HD Radio and an additional USB port).

Then there's the Laramie Longhorn ($55,500), which adds running boards, a bedliner, better leather, ranch-inspired interior details, power-adjustable pedals, heated rear seats and an integrated navigation system.

The Limited ($55,700) gets a different grille plus 20-in wheels, automatic high beams and wipers, proximity entry and push-button start, and the RamBox cargo storage boxes that are available on other trims. The Limited Tungsten is technically a package, which ups the interior's game with a unique Frost/Indigo interior color scheme, a suedecloth headliner, brushed metal interior accents and real wood trim.

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, a CD player and special appearance packages.

Safety

The 2018 Ram 2500 comes with 4-wheel antilock 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 31,210 pounds of a massive trailer or filling the bed up with a boulder or three, there's little holding the Ram 3500 back. Importantly, that suspension lends it a more comfortable ride than its GM and Ford rivals, along with superior 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 outgoing 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. The addition of an improved 8.4-in touchscreen for 2018 complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto helps keep it up to date. One other unique element is the available Mega Cab option, which swells back-seat space and comfort to limolike 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

2018 Ford F-350 -- The F-350 Super Duty was completely redesigned for 2018. It got 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.

2018 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD -- Now available with an upgraded diesel engine good for more than 900 lb-ft of torque, the 2018 Silverado 3500 HD continues to be a capable heavy-duty workhorse.

2018 GMC Sierra 3500HD -- The Sierra is virtually the same truck as the Silverado and gets the same new Duramax diesel engine for 2018. 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.

Autotrader's Advice

The more luxurious trim levels tend to be volume sellers in this segment, but even if you are looking to spend big dollars on your heavy-duty truck, we'd still start with the Laramie. It's available with virtually all the same equipment as upper trims, but without some of the fancier frills.

Find a RAM 3500 HD for sale

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New 2018 RAM 3500 Tradesman
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New 2018 RAM 3500 Tradesman
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 RAM 3500 HD: New Car Review - Autotrader