First Impressions of the Dodge Ram 3500 Turbo Diesel Pickup Truck
The Ram's paint finish and chrome trim are as good as you'll see on any mid to upscale car. And talking about chrome, there's plenty of it, on the massive grille, the aluminum wheels, body side mouldings and multiple emblems.
Walk to the front of the truck and you'll see a pair of heavy duty tow rings that'll come in handy for pulling (or being pulled). A look at the back of the Dodge Ram reveals the rigid factory bedliner that protects the bed from scratches and dings, and under the tailgate is a towing package with a Class IV receiver hitch and wiring plug.
The truck's oversized power side mirrors with convex inserts are worth a look. Leave them horizontal for normal driving, but flip them up for better visibility when you're towing. Climb in and close the door -- it snaps into place with a solid thump that leaves no doubt that it's shut. Make a mental note to order a set of running boards -- the one accessory this Ram truck needs to help us older folks climb in and out of the cab. My body was sore after hoisting myself into the truck for a week.
In the Dodge Ram Truck Driver's Seat
The truck is loaded with options. Controls are easy to reach from the driver's seat and a quick read through the manual is all you'll need to understand how things work, even the navigation unit.
Put the kids in the back and keep them content by slipping a DVD into the roof-mounted player -- then hand them the wireless headphones that come with the setup so that you can listen to the audio unit in the front, an AM/FM radio with Sirus satellite and 6-disc CD player.
Leather seats are stiff but comfortable and both front seats are heated. Gauges are easy to see and read. The large console is split into upper and lower storage areas and the cup holders in front of it are within reach. Zoned heat and A/C helps keep your passengers content.
Flip the key in the ignition and the first thing you'll notice is how quiet it is inside the cab. There are a couple of reasons; newer diesels are more quiet than older versions, but the Ram's insulation does a real good job of buffering exterior sounds. My wife was sitting inside the truck, on the passenger side, trying to get my attention as I stood outside the shut driver's door. I couldn't hear a thing, even though the truck wasn't running yet.
On the Road in the Dodge Ram 3500 Turbo Diesel Pickup Truck
The Ram's optional 4-speed automatic transmission shifted with a good, positive feel. Push a button on the column-mounted shifter to switch the truck from regular driving mode to overdrive or to accommodate either a trailer or heavy load. When you're in trailer mode a computer changes the transmission's shift points to minimize rapid up and down shifting. You'll hear the whirring sound of the turbo on acceleration, but it's not loud or offensive, compliments of the well-insulated cab I mentioned earlier.
The ride on smooth roads and major highways is surprisingly comfortable, considering the Ram's stiff, heavy duty suspension. You'll find that the ride gets rougher -- more truck-like -- on secondary roads with a more uneven surface.
Kids and adults who don't have long legs can ride comfortably in the rear seat during long trips. At 6'1" I'd be pretty comfortable for a few hours, but on longer trips the second row's tighter leg space would probably make me feel somewhat cramped.
With a towing ability of 15,850 pounds and a max payload of 23,000, the Ram 3500 is more than capable of handling any type of job I could throw at it.
Final Thoughts on the 2006 Ram 3500 Turbo Diesel Truck
If you need even more diesel power, wait around for Dodge's engine replacement. The 3500 Ram trucks that arrive on dealer lots starting in January 2007 will be fitted with a 6.7-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel. The optional 4-speed automatic transmission will be replaced by an all-new 6-speed automatic.
If you're accustomed to driving a smaller truck you'll have to adjust to the larger turning radius on this big Ram. Its curb-to-curb rating is about 49 feet, compared to 39 feet for the Ram 1500 4WD Regular Cab.
I drive a pickup truck every day. I don't need a truck as powerful as the Ram 3500, but if I did it would definitely be one of the vehicles on my comparison list. Considering the truck's massive size and load capacity it is surprisingly quiet, gives a decent ride, handles well and has all the interior features most people want and need.
The Ram base price is $42,210; the truck tested had plenty of options, including the popular Laramie package, upping that figure to $52,395. Heavy trucks aren't rated for fuel usage, but during a one week test drive I averaged 15 mpg in combined city and highway driving.