Part 2 - First Drive Review: 2010 Dodge Ram 3500 Dually Unloaded

First Drive Review: 2010 Dodge Ram 3500 Dually Unloaded

Part 1: Introduction and Specs
Part 2: 2010 Dodge Ram 3500 4x4 Crew Cab Dually Unloaded
Part 3: 2010 Dodge Ram 3500 4x4 Crew Cab Dually Towing 16,500 pounds
Part 4: 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 Power Wagon Off-Road
Part 5: 2010 Dodge Ram 3500 4x2 Regular Cab Dually Hauling 1,500 pounds
Part 6: Summary and Conclusions

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One of the biggest changes for 2010 is the introduction of a new Ram Crew Cab model that replaces the previous, smaller Quad Cab configuration. The Quad Cab was more like an extended cab with two forward opening rear doors.

The Ram HD Crew shares all four doors with the light-duty Ram 1500 pickup and the larger Mega Cab model.

The Ram Crew Cab’s proportions and interior space are just about ideal for a four-door pickup. Not only does the truck look muscular and powerful, like an HD pickup should, but there’s plenty of leg, hip, shoulder and head room for the driver and passengers. The only part of the truck that feels slightly cramped is the front passenger footwell, where the hump of the truck’s 68RFE six-speed automatic transmission intrudes.

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Dodge has done an exceptional job styling its HD pickups, particularly the dually trucks. The Ram’s big rig looks have evolved for the fourth time since Dodge designers rewrote the rules of full-size trucks in 1994, when the Ram 1500 was introduced that year. There’s a bit more distinction also from the 2009-10 half-ton Ram.

We think the Ram HDs are the best looking pickups in the segment. From front to back, there’s a design cohesion that’s missing from the new 2011 Ford Super Duty, which has a powerful new front end but decade-old looks from the A-pillar back. Compared to the GM trucks, the Ram emanates a tough can-do attitude that seems more eager to communicate its work ethic than the Chevy and GMC pickups.

Dodge is now using stamped sheetmetal for the cargo box sides over the rear wheels, like GM’s HD pickups, instead of clip-on plastic covers, like Ford’s Super Duty. It’s a solution that provides superior fit and finish but can be more difficult to repair in the event the box sides are damaged.

Dodge says it depends. "We've actually found our steel fenders are less costly to fix than the plastic, pop-on variety," said Rick Deneau, director of product and brand communications. "In most cases, owners would be able to have the small section of the damaged fender repaired, versus replaced, and would therefore be more likely to do so."

While GM stuck with conservative, square styled dually box sides, the Ram pushes the envelope with sculpted macho box sides that take full advantage of the stamping process.

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Though the three-quarter and one-ton Rams share the aerodynamic styling first seen in the 2009 Ram 1500, all the heavy-duty trucks have taller, more-prominent front ends. It’s a case of form following their primary function of towing big loads. The grille is 1.5-inches taller, for improved airflow, and the hood is 3-inches higher, to fit the large cooling module required for the Cummins diesel engine. The giant hood sports a subtle power dome that you might miss – except on the purpose-built Power Wagon off-road model, which highlights the power dome with a massive vinyl sticker (more on the Power Wagon later in this story). The hood also features a stamped louver pattern for both the gas and diesel version that reinforces the feeling of authority from this big truck.

Inside, all Ram HD models share their interior with the half-ton pickups. This area needed some of the biggest improvements and Dodge has delivered, much to our delight.

Having a nice interior in a heavy-duty pickup is critical because a well-executed cockpit can make all the difference, making for a driver who’s relaxed and comfortable and able to pay attention to the road while towing a heavy trailer versus a driver who’s distracted or fatigued pulling a trailer because there’s something uncomfortable about the inside of the truck they’re driving. Even the entry-level truck interiors are superbly done.

The high-end Laramie model doesn’t have quite the same level of over-luxury as a King Ranch Super Duty – the benchmark in the segment – but it’s near perfect for 99% of the folks buying these trucks. Almost every surface the driver and passengers touch is soft and forgiving. Gone are the acres of hard shiny plastic that we griped about in the old truck. The front seats can be optioned with a heater for winter weather and ventilation for hot summer days.

There’s plenty of storage in traditional places like the doors, center console and dash area but the Ram HD also features in-floor storage behind the rear seats, so you can easily hide valuables. There are also upper and lower gloveboxes for additional secure cubby space.

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Most of the interior ergonomics make sense, with the exception of the shift lever position when the truck is in drive. It blocks the driver’s view of the transfer case dial, that’s used to shift into four-wheel drive.

Our Laramie test model came with optional goodies, like an in-dash media center that included navigation, rear backup sensors and a rear backup camera mounted in the tailgate.

We drove the unloaded crew cab dually through urban, suburban, freeway and in rural conditions.

Normally, an empty truck like this would be a tough beast to drive because its super stiff rear leaf-spring suspensions only settle down when there’s a heavy load in the cargo box or hanging behind the truck on a trailer.

Dodge hasn’t quite tamed this truck but it’s definitely improved its on-road manners by fitting new hydraulic body mounts directly under the C-pillar corners at the rear of the cab, between the cab and frame. This area is the truck’s natural pivot point as it rolls down the road. On rough roads, trucks like this will hop and skip even though you’d think they’d stay planted because of the four patches of rubber that are in contact with the road in back.

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The hydraulic body mounts noticeably dampen the pivoting motion compared to the old rubber “hockey” puck-style isolators that they replace. It’s amazing that such a small component change can make such a big difference in ride comfort. It’s not perfect but it’s very welcome. For now, Dodge is the only HD pickup with this feature, although GM offers similar hydraulic mounts in its light duty pickups and we expect to see it in the 2011 GM HD pickups as well.

Complementing the Ram’s improved ride quality is a quieter cab. The top door cuts have been moved down from the roofline to the sides of the cab. That, combined with triple seals, dramatically quiets wind intrusion at higher speeds. Even the giant redesigned tow mirrors seem to be a bit quieter than we remember the old ones being. Traveling down the road, it’s easy to have a conversation with the front passenger over the still noticeable clatter of the Cummins I6. Off-throttle cruising was exceptionally quiet.

One feature that continues as a segment exclusive for 2010 is the Ram’s excellent integrated diesel exhaust brake on the Cummins engine. It’s similar to the engine brakes that commercial big rigs have. Activated with the push of a button, this feature saves on foot brake and transmission wear by closing down the engine’s turbo vanes to restrict airflow to engine brake the truck. It also reduces the potential for brake fade during long descents, increasing downhill safety while towing.

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We tried the exhaust brake in the unloaded truck when we unexpectedly hit a downhill section of two-lane country road that was about a mile long and about a 7% or 8% grade. Immediately, the rapid ‘brap-brap-brap’ sound of the exhaust brake penetrated the cabin after hitting the button but it wasn’t obnoxiously loud or alarming. In fact, it’s quite cool and welcoming to hear and we’d swear that the Dodge engineers have tuned it up a bit from the 2007-09 pickup.

With the exhaust brake on, we could feel the truck immediately shed speed. But we also tapped on the transmission’s tow/haul mode, which typically helps the truck hold a gear climbing or descending hills when it’s towing and hauling. Our speed dropped from about 60 mph to about 45 at the bottom of the grade without ever tapping the foot brake. Amazing for a truck that weighs about 7,600 pounds empty.

According to the Ram’s electronic vehicle information center, the digital display in the center of the instrument cluster, we averaged about 16 mpg during our 90-mile drive.

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Part 1: Introduction and Specs
Part 2: 2010 Dodge Ram 3500 4x4 Crew Cab Dually Unloaded
Part 3: 2010 Dodge Ram 3500 4x4 Crew Cab Dually Towing 16,500 pounds
Part 4: 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 Power Wagon Off-Road
Part 5: 2010 Dodge Ram 3500 4x2 Regular Cab Dually Hauling 1,500 pounds
Part 6: Summary and Conclusions

Comments

mike does the view blockage of the transfer case dial while in drive really matter?...i wudnt switch to 4WD while going at a high speed id completly stop so it wudnt be a problem to take an extra second to look at it

If you needed 4wd, you wouldn't be going at a "high" speed. I don't know anyone who comes to a complete stop to go into 4wd. If Mike says the view of the 4wd lever is blocked, it is blocked. This is a valid complaint.

i do and i didnt say it wasnt blocked either did i? sry i dont worship mike and everything he says

I have driven one and though it was a half ton its basically the same and didnt have a problem. Maybe its was the seat position or maybe Mike is short. Not really a valid complaint because its quite simple to operate the dial just turn it. If you cant do that without looking at it then you shouldnt be driving. Do you look at the door knob every time you open the door? I didnt think so.

I've always loved Ram trucks with the mighty Cummins. The picture of the interior is from a Mega Cab, not the Crew Cab tested here...

thank you jeff..and pecas i thot thats a mega cab interior too

If you need to stop the truck to put it in 4wd you've got problems.

Thats one nice rig! especially the white and tan dually! Makes me wanna trade in my 08 superduty!

i havnt driven any new 4wds...and i dont drive em that much only a cuple times...and the ones i did the 4wd was switched with a stick and no one showed me so i just stopped bc it seemed reasonable...calm down

This truck looks awesome, I saw one that was red and grey at the OC autoshow.
One thing I do wonder is, the mpg on this, is it really only about 16? They told me at the autoshow that its supposed to be closer to 30.

Simple. All of the new Dodge trucks come equipped with Truck Meatballz.

Well Mike was probably having a little fun with the new truck maybe showing off a little bit.

Come on, somebody please give me an un biased opinion on what the fuel mileage is on a 2010 3500 unloaded crew cab or mega cab. (Preferably city and highway)

I'm on the verge of buying one for a lot of money but I'm worried about the lousy fuel mileage reports I'm being given. Perhaps that accounts for there being so many used ones for sale vs the number of GMC's and Fords?



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