What's New for 2006
For the 2006 Ram 3500, Dodge adds a new body style called Mega Cab. It features a 20-inch-longer cabin than the Quad Cab to provide best-in-class interior room. All Ram 3500s also feature a new dash, center console, seats and radios. A navigation system and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system are newly optional. Wrapping things up for the 2006 Ram is freshened front-end styling.
Although Dodge has been producing heavy-duty utility trucks since 1917, it wasn't until 1994 that Americans started paying close attention. It was then that the all-new Dodge Ram was introduced. This full-size truck was an immediate hit thanks to its combination of big-rig styling, powerful engine lineup and carlike interior. The heavy-duty Ram 2500 and 3500 were particularly popular with contractors who appreciated the truck's rugged nature. A completely redesigned Ram 1500 debuted for 2002, followed in 2003 by the Ram 2500 and Ram 3500 series trucks that saw similar changes.
For the redesign, Dodge figured that most folks don't often fill up their truck's bed to full capacity and subsequently took 3 inches from the standard bed length (previously 6 feet 6 inches) and added it to the passenger compartment. For heavy-duty users with more serious needs, there's an 8-foot bed option. Because Ram 3500 series trucks carry much heavier loads than their light-duty siblings, their frames are noticeably more robust. Extensive use of hydroforming construction technology offers outstanding frame stiffness. Dodge says this improves ride and handling characteristics as well as payload ratings. As you would expect, two-wheel- and four-wheel-drive configurations are offered. The 4WD system is manually or electronically controlled, depending on trim level. Four-wheel-drive Ram 3500 trucks have a solid front axle, while two-wheel-drive trucks get an independent front suspension. Additionally, the 2WD trucks have a rack and pinion steering system, while 4WD trucks utilize a recirculating ball setup.
The heavy-duty Ram 3500 interiors are essentially identical to their half- and three-quarter-ton counterparts, a trait that we would consider a good thing. There's plenty of room in every direction, simple controls that are easy to master at a glance and solid construction. Though not as roomy as its competitors, Quad Cab 3500 models have enough room to seat a few extra passengers as well as carry sensitive cargo if the need arises thanks to a flat load floor. Need more room? Go for the huge Mega Cab model, which adds 20 inches to the Quad Cab's cabin. To make it Mega, Dodge takes the extended 160.5-inch wheelbase frame and adds a short bed to allow 20 more inches for the oversized cabin. This makes for a lot of "biggest" and "first" claims for the Mega Cab: The largest, longest cab in its class, at 142.2 cubic feet and 111.1 inches, respectively. Largest interior cargo volume of any full-size pickup, largest second-row legroom, largest rear-door open angle, at 85 degrees; and the first ever reclining rear seats, which go from a 22-degree seatback angle to 37 degrees.
Overall, the Ram 3500 is an excellent all-around heavy-duty truck. Particularly this year, with the introduction of the Mega Cab model, it would be our choice for a heavy-duty truck over Ford and General Motors' offerings.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
Ram 3500s are available in three cab styles: regular, Quad Cab (crew cab) and Mega (really big crew cab). The regular and Quad Cab models come with either a short or long cargo bed. The Mega Cab rides on the same wheelbase as the Quad Cab long bed but pairs an even bigger cabin with the short bed. The regular cab and Quad Cab come in ST, SLT or Laramie trim; the Mega Cab is SLT or Laramie only. The Ram ST is pretty bare-bones, offering 17-inch wheels, vinyl seating, air conditioning and a CD player. Go with the SLT for alloy wheels, cruise control, cloth seating, keyless entry and power windows, locks and mirrors. The luxurious Laramie comes with standard upgrades like dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating, a power driver seat, a six-CD changer and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. The selection of available options depends on model and trim but highlights include a navigation system, a rear-seat DVD-based entertainment system, upgraded audio, a Sport package and a TRX4 off-road package.
Powertrains and Performance
Dodge's 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is the standard engine for the 3500. Rated at 345 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque, it out-muscles both of GM's and Ford's standard offerings. A Cummins diesel engine is also offered: a 5.9-liter inline six with 325 hp and a towering 610 lb-ft of torque. Both engines come with a standard six-speed manual transmission. A five-speed automatic is optional for the V8, and the diesel can be equipped with a four-speed overdrive automatic. The dual-wheel rear axle is standard on regular cabs and optional on Quad Cabs. A Ram 3500 regular cab with dual rear wheels and the Cummins has a 16,250-pound tow rating.
Side curtain airbags are optional on all Rams. All center seats have three-point seatbelts. Optional on the SLT and standard on the Laramie are power-adjustable pedals, which allow shorter folk to find a comfortable driving position without having to sit too close to the steering wheel. The trucks also feature ABS and four-wheel disc brakes. Although heavy-duty versions of the Ram have not been crash tested, the Ram 1500 received a "Good" rating (the highest possible) from the IIHS.
Interior Design and Special Features
Interior room is generous, and the overall design is very functional with comfortable seats and simple controls. If you've got more cargo than passengers, you can fold up the rear seats in Quad Cabs. The rear seats also recline in Mega Cab models, or you can fold them to reveal an expansive load area and numerous utility bins and hooks.
Although it's built to take on the most demanding tasks, the Ram 3500 is still a surprisingly comfortable truck for daily use. Between its quick steering and supple ride, it's nearly as comfortable as most half-tons. The Hemi engine is a competent all-around engine, but for serious towing and hauling, the turbodiesel engine is essential.