What's New for 2008
The SLT Mega Cab trim level is now known as the SXT. There is a 1,000-pound increase in the gross vehicle weight rating for 2008 Dodge Ram 3500s with the Cummins turbodiesel and six-speed automatic.
You'd have to be a little nutty to buy a 1-ton dually pickup truck and not really need one. Sure, those double tires and wide truck bed look tough, but the stiff-legged ride created by its beefed-up suspension can make highway cruising a jittery affair. Plus, driving a dually around suburbia is only one step removed from piloting a Norwegian Cruise liner down the Erie Canal. The 2008 Dodge Ram 3500 exists for truck buyers who need serious towing capacity, whether they're lugging around Secretariat's relatives or their own relatives in a 30-foot Fleetwood trailer. In other words, posers need not apply.
Only three automakers offer heavy-duty pickup trucks, and the Dodge is the elder statesman of the group, having been introduced in 2003. An interior redesign a few years ago maintained the truck's freshness, while a new 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel debuted last year that seriously upped the Ram 3500's towing and hauling potential. Packing 350 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque, the big diesel six-cylinder helps this biggest Ram tow up to 16,350 pounds.
The Ram 3500 features a dual-wheel rear axle (except for short-bed Quad Cabs) and is available in two-wheel- and four-wheel-drive configurations, with the latter being controlled electronically on all but the lowest trim level. The four-wheel-drive 3500 has a solid front axle and recirculating-ball steering setup, while the two-wheel-drive model gets an independent front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering.
The 2008 Dodge Ram 3500 competes against the Ford F-350 and the impressive new 1-ton trucks from GM: the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra 3500s. The Ram trails the GM trucks in terms of interior quality, but is much more competitive where it really matters. When equipped for maximum towing, the Ram trails the big GMs by only 150 pounds. The F-350 offers significantly less, though Ford offers a more capable F-450 model.
One aspect that sets the Ram apart from its competitors is the Mega Cab, which stretches the regular crew cab by 20 inches. This provides rear occupants with nearly a foot more legroom, plus it creates storage space behind the reclining rear seatback. This is perfect for those with passenger-hauling priorities, but the Mega Cab can only be had with a short-bed design.
Unless you need the 3500's maximum hauling and towing capabilities, the smoother-riding, less unwieldy half-ton Ram 2500 is a better choice. It is equipped almost identically and can be had with the same choice of engines, while its maximum towing capacity is only 3,000 pounds less than the big dually. Still, for those not-so-nutty people with a legitimate 1-ton need, the 2008 Ram 3500 will certainly serve them well.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Dodge Ram 3500 heavy-duty pickup is available in three cab styles: regular, Quad Cab (crew cab) and Mega Cab (a jumbo crew cab). The regular cabs come with a long bed only, while the Quad Cab has 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 comes in ST or SLT trims; the Quad Cab in ST, SLT or Laramie trims; and the Mega Cab is SXT or Laramie only. With the exception of Quad Cab short beds, all Ram 3500s have a dual-rear-wheel axle.
The Ram ST is pretty bare-bones, offering little more than 17-inch wheels, vinyl upholstery, 40/20/40-split front bench seat, air-conditioning and a CD player. The SLT adds alloy wheels, cruise control, cloth upholstery, carpet, power accessories and keyless entry. The SXT is equipped similarly, but comes only with the Mega Cab. The luxurious Laramie comes with standard upgrades like dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating, a power driver seat, upgraded speakers and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. Options on the upper trims include niceties like a sunroof, power-adjustable pedals, front bucket seats, Bluetooth, navigation system, satellite radio, an upgraded stereo and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
The Ram 3500 dually is available with rear-wheel or four-wheel drive and comes standard with a 5.7-liter V8 engine. It makes 345 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. For the V8, a six-speed manual transmission is standard and a five-speed automatic is optional. The latter comes standard with the Laramie trim. Most buyers go for the optional 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel inline-6 that produces 350 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. This big mill can be paired to a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. For the diesel, Dodge also includes an exhaust brake. This is an unusual feature for a from-the-factory pickup, and is designed to provide additional stability and braking power when towing very heavy loads. The Cummins is also the first diesel engine in the truck market to meet the more stringent 2010 federal emissions requirements.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard on the 2008 Dodge Ram 3500, and side curtain airbags are optional. Optional on the SLT and standard on the Laramie are power-adjustable pedals. No crash tests have been performed on the Ram 3500, but in government crash tests, the lighter Ram 1500 earned five out of five stars for its protection of front occupants in head-on collisions. Frontal-offset collision testing performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety similarly resulted in a top rating of "Good."
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2008 Ram's cabin features white-faced gauges, simple twist-knob climate controls and a huge center armrest/bin. Although it is a straightforward, user-friendly design, materials quality trails that of the new GM 1-ton pickups. Crew cabs can seat up to six people and the rear seats fold up to reveal a flat load floor for carrying large items inside. Unfortunately, rear seating in Quad Cabs is noticeably more cramped than in competitors' crew cab trucks. The Mega Cab more than compensates by expanding legroom by nearly a foot and offering a comfy, reclining backseat. If carrying passengers in comfort is a priority equal to pickup utility, it's hard to do better than a Ram 2500 Mega Cab model.
Although it's built to take on the most demanding tasks, the 2008 Dodge Ram 3500 is still a surprisingly comfortable truck. Its steering is light and its turning circle is smaller than that of other heavy-duty pickup trucks. Ride quality is also respectably supple and is nearly as comfortable as most half-tons. The V8 is a competent all-around engine, but for serious towing and hauling (plus decent fuel economy), the 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel is essential.