2013 Ram 2500/3500 pickups, moving like Fred Astaire: Motoramic Drives

Alex Lloyd

You don’t have to travel far from Chrysler’s proving grounds in Chelsea, Mich., to happen upon some surprisingly curvy roads. And when the morning sunshine glistens off the blooming dogwoods, it’s easy to forget you’re driving a Ram 3500, loaded with weighty slabs of concrete, and take the sumptuous bends with more vigor than a kid jacked up on Mountain Dew.

And that’s a problem. Well, it should be. But when the tarmac twists and turns, the Ram displays better poise than Fred Astaire.

When designing the latest version of the brand’s 2500/3500 heavy-duty trucks, the phrase in play was “don’t mess it up.” After 36 consecutive months of sales increases, Ram remains on the move. It’s quick to point out, however, that despite other automakers showcasing similar growth as the industry recovers, Ram has been slowly clawing market share from its rivals: “We’ve got the power, we’ve got the performance, and we’ve got the efficiency,” they say.

All that aforementioned power derives from a 6.7-liter Cummins turbo-diesel inline six. Now available in three versions, the top dog, mated to a new Aisin six-speed automatic transmission, boasts 385 hp and a best-in-class 850 lb. ft. of torque. Additionally, the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 debuts as standard on the single rear wheel Ram 3500.

With diesel engines having a tendency to lose power in order to protect themselves in times of high heat and stress, Ram focused healthy effort on cooling. By utilizing dual radiators and improved ventilation, Ram assures that, no matter the conditions faced, its engine will not de-rate, ensuring optimum power all of the time.

Effort was also spent on improving rear roll stiffness. But in order to accomplish this, the front suspension needed serious work. Ram, therefore, added a three-link front suspension, delivering massive roll stiffness without the need of a roll bar, allowing the engineers to work their magic on the rear, creating that Fred Astaire stability under load.

Talking of load, Ram set us up with a 30,000-lb. lump off the back of a Ram 3500 Longhorn, and told us to venture around the private roads of Chrysler's proving grounds. The lump in question was a flatbed loaded with two Case tractors. The reason we had to stay within the confines of the grounds? A load this large requires a commercial driver's license to tow on public roads.

There’s a lengthy delay when applying throttle before significant forward propulsion prevails — not uncommon amongst trucks — but once rolling, it’s easy to relax with the massive load in tow. You can certainly feel the 30-foot trailer, and the ride clatters like an angry caveman throwing boulders, but that's all to be expected. What impresses, again, is the truck's stability under cornering.

The interior in the Longhorn variant is surprisingly luxurious. In fact, it’s easy to ponder why anyone would pay $68,000 to simply haul loads. According to the folks at Ram, there are more wealthy horse lovers than you might think: “If you’re spending $200,000 on a horse trailer, not to mention the price of multiple thoroughbreds, the cost of a loaded diesel 3500 Laramie Longhorn is nothing.”

They have a point. Fortunately, you can grab a rear-wheel drive Tradesman for around $30,215, so those without the equestrian background can still play trucker.

Taking to the public roads in both the Ram 2500 and 3500, the quietness in the cabin deserves praise, as wind and engine noise remain barely detectable. There are areas that need improvement, however. The brakes, despite having a shelf life of 2-3 times that of its competition, lack bite. The acceleration lag feels unnecessarily long; it’s a solid five count, whereas two would be sufficient. The exhaust brake doesn’t provide the aggressive engine braking promised, and the new “smart” exhaust brake, automatically adjusting engine braking based on circumstances, barely presents itself.

These complaints, however, feel like nitpicks, as Ram delivered an exceptionally capable truck. Although fuel numbers aren't available, Ram claims to have increased efficiency by over 10 percent, in part due to the addition of a front axle disconnect for all-wheel drive models and a new diesel exhaust treatment – the latter of which delivers a best-in-class oil change interval of 15,000 miles.

With the economy improving, truck sales are rising. Adorning new LED headlights, the Ram 2500/3500 certainly looks the part. And as we found out, from behind the wheel, it packs a potent punch. Whether you’re hauling two Case tractors, or simply lugging a couple of hay bales, these trucks spar with the best. And if you happen to find yourself amped on Dew, fear not. Ram’s got you covered.

View Comments (6)

Recommended for You

  • 100-Year-Old Car Salesman Still Knows How to Close a Deal

    Derrell Alexander started selling Chevys when Harry Truman was president — and still comes to work six days a week.

  • 2016 Dodge Caravan Confirmed By Spy Shots

    Chrysler plans to launch a new version of its iconic minivan next year — and today spy shots confirmed the Dodge Caravan would live on as well.

  • 2015 Saleen Mustang S302 Black Label Arrives as a 750-hp Hellcat Killer

    Leave it to tuner Steve Saleen to put the Mustang head-to-head with the Dodge Challenger's supercharged kitty

  • How to Win America's Longest, Toughest Endurance Race

    They call it the world’s toughest car endurance race for a reason. Despite a performance advantage over those chasing us, our transmission seemed sure to fail. We were just nine hours into this 25-hour marathon and already we were limited to running just fourth and fifth gear.

  • Old Lady Gets a Scare From a McLaren F1 GTR Longtail

    Picture this. You’re an old lady, just going about your day. Maybe picking up some groceries from the local shops and heading back to your unassuming little Fiesta. You hear a sort of buzzing, but aren’t quite sure what it is. Then all of a sudden, a loud, sharp noise pierces the silence. It sounds…

  • Aston Martin Suing Fisker Over Thunderbolt Concept

    Coachbuilding has been around for over 100 years, and over that time, many a car has been transformed with a truly luxurious, custom treatment. But where does customization end and copyright infringement begin? That’s the question ex-Aston Martin designer Henrik Fisker will be grappling with in the…

  • 1975 Mercedes-Benz Unimog is Adorable and Headed to Auction

    First, you had your G.I. Joes. Then you made couch forts. Then you played paintball and spent hours with your friends doing Call of Duty online co-op. It’s time to upgrade and take the next step in your life-long interest in the military by buying an authentic Mercedes-Benz Unimog. This gorgeous…

  • This BMW i8 is Gray and Yellow Because Abu Dhabi

    Leave it to the people of the United Arab Emirates to try to jazz up one of the jazziest cars on the market. After photos of a lime green BMW i8 surfaced earlier this year, photos of this dark gray version with bright yellow accents recently popped up from the same Abu Dhabi Motors dealership. The…

  • RV consumers aren't who you think they are

    RV sales and attendance at retail shows are up this year, indicating growth in the economy as a younger, more active consumer goes to buy RV's.

  • Top 5 Coolest Small CUVs, According to You

    The fastest growing automotive segment in America is the small CUV, and that got us thinking, since so many people are buying in, “Which of today’s small CUVs is considered the ‘coolest’?” We posed that question to readers a few days ago, and while some of you rather humorously likened it to…

  • Mercedes F 015 Car of the Future (CNET On Cars, Ep. 62)

    Mercedes asks what shall we do when driving ends, the new safety tech that must be on your new-car shopping list, and the Top 5 affordable cars according to CNET ratings.

  • These Star Wars Drones are Out of this World

    Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s an Imperial Star Destroyer… sort of. French drone enthusiast Olivier C has taken his love of all things Star Wars, and has given it flight. His creation takes the form of the Imperial Fleet’s sinister battle cruiser, and utilizes lightweight foam body panels…

  • 7 eBay Cars that Look Fast and Furious

    Unless you’ve been living underneath a rock for the past decade and a half, you’ll undoubtedly have heard about the Fast and Furious movies. The original 2001 blockbuster has since spawned numerous sequels with the seventh – Furious 7 – slated to hit theaters on April 3.  To celebrate the…

  • The one time when being married may cost you less

    Being married could actually help consumers pay less in auto insurance, an study found.

  • Could This Be The Apple Car?

    There’s been plenty written about the potential Apple car. Now, though, we have an interesting guess as to what it might look like when it hits the road. This version is quintessentially Apple with smooth lines, tons of technology, and that iconic Apple logo prominently featured. These Apple car…

  • Watch Tyga’s $3 Million Supercar Fleet in His ’40 Mill’ Music Video

    Tyga doesn’t want to be famous. He just wants to be rich. I’m gonna call bull on that first part, but regardless, a good way to achieve either one is by making Kanye West-produced bangers like “40 Mill,” one of his best singles to date. If nothing else, he certainly wants to get everybody’s…

  • ‘Top Gear’ Working to Get Back on TV by 2016

    It seems the ‘fracas’ has come to its inevitable close. In a statement released Wednesday by BBC director general Tony Hall, Jeremy Clarkson will not have his Top Gear contract renewed, effectively ending his uninterrupted 13-year run on the show.  The move casts doubt on whether the popular…