What's New for 2011
For 2011, the Ram 3500 (it's no longer a "Dodge") gains a new "Outdoorsman" package and a number of standard features. Among the latter are an electronic brake controller (for all but the base ST trim) and an electronic display of vehicle information. Also, the navigation system has been updated and a spray-in bedliner is now optional. Midway through the model year, the 6.7-liter turbodiesel engine gains a power boost for a total of 800 pound-feet of torque.
The battle among Detroit's automakers for heavy-duty pickup supremacy is so fierce one might expect them to display tattoos on their fenders in a vehicular version of an Ultimate Fighting Championship promotion. All three contenders are brawny, rugged rigs that are capable of moving most anything from one place to another. The 2011 Ram 3500 has a few important features that keep it in the thick of the fight, although perhaps not enough to crush its formidable foes altogether.
Last year's complete redesign brought a much-improved cabin with an attractive design and high quality, making the Ram the segment leader in this area. The Ram's ride is firm but still comfortable enough, thanks to a relatively forgiving suspension, hydraulic cab-to-frame mounts and low levels of road and wind noise.
When one considers the Ram 3500's impressive work abilities, there's good reason they call these trucks "heavy duty." Properly equipped, maximum towing capacity is as high as 22,750 pounds (depending on body style and powertrain choice), while maximum payload capacity is equally astounding at 5,130 pounds. Providing the necessary muscle is the standard 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel, an inline-6 that cranks out 350 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque. Midway through the model year, Dodge will upgrade this engine to provide 800 lb-ft of torque on those models with an automatic transmission.
In a heavy-duty truck comparison test we conducted, the Ram 3500 finished behind its GMC Sierra 3500 (a twin to the Chevy Silverado 3500) and Ford F-350 rivals in terms of towing, mostly because of its comparative lack of power. However, that was before it got bumped up to 800 lb-ft of torque, so the result could be different today. Either way, the Ram has the advantage when it comes to bold styling and a spacious interior with uncommonly upscale trappings. All things considered, the 2011 Ram 3500 should easily satisfy anyone in need of a heavy-duty workhorse.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Ram 3500 heavy-duty pickup is available in three cab styles: regular, Crew Cab and Mega Cab (a jumbo crew cab).
The regular cabs come with a long bed only, while the Crew Cab has either a short or long cargo bed. The Mega Cab rides on the same wheelbase as the Crew Cab long bed but pairs an even bigger cabin with the short bed. The regular cab comes in ST or SLT trims; the Crew Cab in ST, SLT or Laramie trims; and the Mega Cab is SLT or Laramie only. With the exception of Crew Cab short beds, all Ram 3500s have a dual-rear-wheel axle.
The Ram ST is the bare-bones trim level that comes with 17-inch steel wheels, vinyl upholstery and flooring, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat, air-conditioning, an electronic vehicle information display, a tire-pressure monitor, a tilt steering wheel and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player and auxiliary audio jack. Power windows and door locks are standard on Crew Cab models, while regular cabs have manual controls.
The SLT adds chrome exterior trim, chrome-clad wheels, electronic trailer brake control, power folding/heated side mirrors, a sliding rear window, cloth upholstery, full power accessories, keyless entry, cruise control and satellite radio. SLT Crew Cab and Mega Cab Rams are eligible to upgrade to the Big Horn package (sold as the Lone Star package in Texas). This includes a chrome grille, foglights, brighter quad headlights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel (with audio controls), an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a universal garage door opener.
There is also the Outdoorsman package for the SLT that adds a limited-slip rear differential, tow hooks, polished alloy wheels (with white-letter tires), two-tone paint, wheel flares, a body-color grille frame, foglights, remote starting, auto-dimming mirrors, an overhead console, a 115-volt power point, illuminated vanity mirrors, power driver (10-way) and passenger (six-way) seats (with power lumbar supports) and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.
On the other end of the spectrum is the luxurious Laramie, which features polished alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating, a power driver seat with memory, power-adjustable pedals, auto-dimming mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth and an upgraded nine-speaker surround-sound audio system with digital music storage and iPod integration.
A spray-in bedliner is available across the board and many of the features found in the premium trims levels (such as Bluetooth) can be had on the lower trims. Additional luxuries available for the upper trims include a sunroof, remote start, power-adjustable pedals, front bucket seats, a navigation system, heated and ventilated front seats, satellite radio, an upgraded stereo and a rear-seat entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Ram 3500 is available in either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. Dual rear wheels are standard, but buyers may choose a single rear wheel as an option.
The only available engine is a 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel inline-6. With the standard six-speed manual, it produces 350 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. With the optional six-speed automatic, torque went to 800 lb-ft (midway through the model year). The Cummins comes with a big-rig-like exhaust brake, an unusual feature for a factory pickup that provides additional stability and braking power when towing very heavy loads. Properly equipped, the Ram 3500 can tow up to 14,050 pounds with the manual transmission and an enormous 22,750 with the automatic.
Standard safety equipment for the 2011 Ram 3500 includes antilock disc brakes and side curtain airbags. Optional on the SLT and standard on the Laramie are power-adjustable pedals.
In Edmunds brake testing, a 3500 with a single-wheel rear axle came to a stop from 60 mph in 154 feet -- very long, but typical for this type of truck.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2011 Ram 3500 takes a page out of the Ram 1500's playbook by offering the best interior among all pickups. On the higher trim levels, soft-touch materials and tasteful stitching are abundant throughout the cabin, while the plush seats and metallic accents in higher-trimmed Rams are almost too nice for work truck status. Interior storage is generous, with plenty of bins and pockets to supplement the dual gloveboxes. Should you opt for the Mega Cab, the 3500 has the largest back seat of any heavy duty pickup, making it a great choice as a family camper tow truck.
The controls are within easy reach and user-friendly, except for the audio system when paired with the optional navigation. In this configuration, the absence of hard buttons and knobs needlessly complicates some of the most basic functions. Fortunately, the steering-wheel-mounted controls help to alleviate this problem.
Even though the 2011 Ram 3500 was built to tackle the most demanding of pickup duties, it remains comfortably composed in most situations. The steering is responsive and the truck tracks through turns in a composed manner. Though not harsh, the Ram's ride isn't quite as compliant over the bumps as its Ford and GM competitors.
On the highway, road and wind noise are nicely quelled, with only a muted diesel clatter at full throttle. Compared to its diesel-powered heavy-duty rivals, however, the Ram with the less potent of its turbodiesel engines isn't quite as strong when accelerating on flat land or when trying to maintain speed on long uphill grades with a heavy trailer in tow.