Ram wades back into the heavy-duty (HD) truck fray with its redesigned 2019 Ram 3500. It’s a one-ton truck geared toward buyers looking for maximum hauling and towing capabilities. To that end, it offers a big Hemi V8 and two versions of its Cummins turbodiesel engine. Its Mega Cab provides more in-cab storage than any other pickup truck. Despite being engineered as a work truck, the 3500 still offers a top-tier ride and standout luxury and technology in the HD segment.
As is common in the heavy-duty segment, Ram HDs come as a 2500 three-quarter ton or a 3500 one-ton truck. The 3500 can haul and tow a bit more than the 2500. Trim-level availability depends on cab configuration, length of the cargo box, and the state where you buy your truck. There are five 3500 trim levels in all: Tradesman, Big Horn (Lone Star in Texas), Laramie, Laramie Longhorn and Limited. The Tradesman is a basic work truck, and the top-of-the-line Limited delivers luxury sedan-like opulence. The base engine in all models, whether front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, is the V8 paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Because Ram completely redesigned its HD trucks for 2019, nearly everything is new, changed or improved. This includes elements such as a high-strength steel boxed frame to its thoroughly redesigned interior. Telegraphing the degree of change is the front grille now sporting a bold “RAM” logo in place of the familiar cross-hair grille that identified Ram trucks for nearly 20 years.
The 2019 Ram 3500 comes in a Regular Cab version that seats three. There also are a Crew Cab and a Mega Cab, both with seating for five or six. Regular Cab models provide an 8-foot cargo box and are available in the Tradesman and Big Horn (Lone Star) trim. Regardless of the box length, the Crew Cab comes in all five trim levels. Opting for the Mega Cab restricts you to the shorter cargo box and eliminates the Tradesman from your trim choices.
Every Ram HD is huge. It sports what Ram calls a chest-out “superhero front end.” No matter whether chrome or black, the grille, bumper and headlight surround are intended to appear as one cohesive element dominating the front end. Standard grille shutters contribute to an 8 percent improvement in aerodynamics. Because of the differences in cabs and cargo-box lengths, wheelbase lengths vary from 140.2 inches to 169 inches. Overall length ranges from 232 inches to 260.8 inches. At its longest, the Ram 3500 is more than 5 feet longer than a Toyota Camry.
Every Ram 3500 comes with automatic headlamps, a seven-pin wiring harness for towing, a locking tailgate, and a front air dam. Moving up through the trim levels expands the standard features list to include power-folding mirrors with integrated turn signals, power tailgate release, LED lights in the front and rear, and power running boards. Some standard features on upper grades are available as options on lower trim levels. A power sunroof is available for Laramie and higher models with the larger cabs. The Ram Box cargo box storage bins feature is optional on some grades. A tonneau cover and spray-in bed liner are options across the board. Wheel size ranges from 17-inch steel wheels on the Tradesman to 18-inch chrome wheels on the Big Horn, Laramie and Laramie Longhorn to 20-inch chrome wheels on the Limited.
No matter the trim level or cab type, interior materials and craftsmanship are top notch. Materials reflect a specific trim’s price point, but the attention to detail is noticeable in even the entry-level Tradesman. By the time you get to the Laramie Longhorn and Limited, you are immersed in luxury. All three cab configurations are roomy, with, of course, the Crew Cab and Mega Cab providing the most passenger and interior storage space. Up to the Laramie Longhorn grade, Crew Cab and Mega Cab versions come with a front 40/20/40-split bench seat that can fit three occupants, or two when the center section is folded down as an armrest with cupholders. Larger-cab trucks in the Laramie Longhorn or Limited trim come with heated and ventilated leather front captain’s chairs. A rear 60/40-split bench seat (leather and heated in Laramie Long Horn and Limited trims) provides accommodations for up to three.
Interior styling reinforces the idea that this is a very big rig. While the Ram 3500 cab is a big space, we found everything within reach. Elements jut out at you. Knobs and switchgear are ample enough to operate while wearing gloves. The rotary gear selector in gas-engine models takes some getting used to, but it is conveniently positioned between the driver and center stack.
Granted, the Tradesman with its vinyl seats is fairly spartan in its convenience features. Surprising is the absence of a telescoping function on the tilt steering column, although the multi-adjustable driver’s seat allows you to find a comfortable driving position. Moving up to the Laramie adds power windows and door locks, along with cloth seats. By the time you arrive at Limited, you have heated and ventilated leather front captain’s chairs.
In the three-quarter ton and one-ton segment, it’s more about the powertrains and capability than anything else. Fuel economy? The government doesn’t offer estimates for heavy-duty trucks. Sure, much of the excitement and a good deal of the hype about the latest Ram 3500 centers on the towing and torque numbers for the high-output turbodiesel, but there is a lot more going on here.
Ram drastically improved the suspension for better handling and ride comfort. This 3500 requires less distance to stop. The new 98.5-percent high-strength-steel boxed frame increases load-and-tow capacities, in addition to reducing weight and flex.
We’ve driven 3500 models armed with both of the Cummins turbodiesels and the Hemi V8. Our most recent weeklong tour was with a 3500 Big Horn Crew Cab 4×2 Long Box Dually (two wheels on each side of the rear axle) with the V8. This was a lot of truck to park and wrangle around town, but on the road, it was surefooted, comfortable and easy to handle.
Standard propulsion for every Ram 3500 is a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 that generates 392 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque. It pairs with the same eight-speed automatic transmission found in the Ram 1500. Even when tasked with motivating the 3500 dually, the V8 accelerated briskly and stopped smartly.
The less volatile of the Cummins turbodiesels is the 6.7-liter standard output. It turns out 370 horsepower and 850 pound-feet of torque. The high-output Cummins is the 6.7-liter delivering 400 horsepower and a ground-breaking 1,000 pound-feet of torque. Both turbodiesels work with a six-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel drive is optional on all Ram 3500s.
The 6.4-liter Hemi V8 4×2 can tow up to 17,580 pounds. The standard output turbodiesel can pull up to 22,220 pounds. Finally, the more robust high-output Cummins can tow up to 35,100 pounds.
When discussing standard technology in the Ram 3500, you must remember that the entry-level Tradesman is a no-frills, bare-bones work truck. Even the Tradesman, however, comes with Bluetooth connectivity, a six-speaker audio system with 5-inch screen, hill start assist, backup camera with grid lines and push-button start. It isn’t until you move up to the Laramie that standard features, such as Chrysler’s Uconnect 8.4, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and satellite radio capability, come into the mix. Continuing on through the upper trim levels adds wireless smartphone charging, Uconnect 4C NAV with a 12-inch touchscreen and blind spot monitor. Upper grades qualify for the optional 17-speaker, 750-watt Harman Kardon audio system.
Available on all grades is the optional Safety Group with adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Available on all grades but the Tradesman is the optional Tow Tech package with a surround-view camera, cargo-view camera, rear cross-traffic alert and trailer reverse guidance.
Larger pickup trucks in general and heavy-duty trucks, in particular, are pricey no matter the trim. Having said that, Ram HD trucks are priced competitively. You can get into a 3500 Tradesman Regular Cab for $34,845, before the $1,695 factory destination charge. Ford offers its similarly configured entry-level one-ton truck for $34,320 before the destination charge. Chevrolet doesn’t offer its Silverado 3500HD in a regular cab. Be prepared, though, that opting for one of the Ram 3500’s top trim levels and adding an option or two can rapidly push you above the $90,000 mark.
There are a dizzying array of combinations available. The Ram 3500 Big Horn Crew Cab 4×2 Long Box we recently cruised around in for a week has a base price of $43,650. A staggering $11,720 in options swelled the bottom line to $57,065 with the destination charge. Options included the Dually package, the Tow Tech package and other assorted packages and stand-alone options, such as a tri-fold tonneau cover, LED bed lighting and Uconnect 4 with navigation.
Trying to tell you where the value sweet spot is among all the Ram HD possibilities is utterly impossible. Making a pick depends on what you need it to do. We think that once you decide on an engine, box length and cab type to fit your specific needs, the Big Horn, or Lone Star, if you’re in Texas, with a couple of option packages, such as the Safety Group and an equipment group with power-adjustable pedals and remote tailgate release, is the way to go.
When Ram split off from Dodge a few years ago, it signaled a new seriousness about competing in the truck market. Since then, Ram has steadily improved its products in performance, capability and value. Truth be told, 99 percent of us simply don’t need a heavy-duty truck. But, if you do, the 2019 Ram 3500 is a strong choice.
By Russ Heaps (Last Updated 6/14/2019)
Russ Heaps is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. He has been covering the automotive industry for more than 30 years. His greatest disappointment is the inevitable passing of the manual transmission.
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The price range for the 2019 Ram 3500 is $47,900 - $66,878.
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