This $56,000 Ram 3500 Tradesman Simply Laughed at What We Towed

2019 Ram 3500 Tradesman Towing Trailer

Cars.com photos by G.R. Whale

By G.R. Whale

Plain white paint and steel wheels identify many a commercial freight vehicle, and this 2019 Ram 3500 Tradesman clearly fits that appellation. However, we're calling it the "commercial" vehicle because trucks configured like this one are the ones that deliver most of the huge towing and payload numbers tossed about on commercials and advertisements touting maximum capabilities. In this case, it's a regular-cab, dual-rear wheel, rear-wheel-drive Ram 3500 with a Cummins high-output engine that puts out 400 horsepower, 1,000 pounds-feet of torque and can tow 35,100 pounds.

2019 Ram 3500 High-Output Diesel Engine

Related: 2019 Ram 3500 MPG: What to Expect With 1,000 Torques Towing 16,000 Pounds

Astute observers will note it does not carry the "big" payload number of 7,680 pounds, and that's because of the other big numbers. As with competitors, Ram's highest payload rating and tow rating never apply to the same truck because the optional diesel engine and hardware required for towing 17-plus tons weighs considerably more than the standard gas engine, and that extra weight comes directly off the payload number.

This sample, carrying a 30,000-pound-rated fifth-wheel hitch, hardware for replacing that with a gooseneck hitch, bed cover, emergency kit and a few minor options weighed 7,960 pounds with full tanks of fuel, leaving 6,040 pounds of payload capacity and a maximum trailer weight of about 34,900 pounds with driver.

We'd already driven this same truck towing a gooseneck with a backhoe on it, and logged miles in a crew cab pulling a 28,000-pound load, so we knew it could pull heavy. How heavy depends on your state and driver's license, as much of what these trucks can do requires a commercial license, health certificate, endorsement or some combination.

Find a Ram 3500 for Sale Near You

So did we learn anything more using it for a few days more like a commercial vehicle and running some tradesman friends through our Tradesman?

2019 Ram 3500 Tradesman Front Seat

Yes. First and foremost, tradesman like quiet and comfortable as much as anyone, though despite no fancy leather, initial comments oft suggested they'd "ruin the seat" in a year or two. There was positive input about storage room behind the seats, though those who employ the rear seat for most secure stowage would still go for a larger cab. And the biggest surprise to us was how many liked the sleek bed style for a dually.

2019 Ram 3500 Tradesman Dashboard Controls

Park a 10-year-old diesel next to this and you won't hear the 2019 running; it's quiet inside and out (it even has a noise emissions sticker) and at cruising speeds you won't hear the engine. It lacks a steering telescope but even beer bellies could get comfortable and the seat has good support. Controls are easy to reach, and the dash-top phone nest works well if you navigate that way. This truck's Tradesman Level 2 Equipment Group is well worth the $995 (four-way front head restraints, active noise cancellation, cloth 40/20/40 bench seat, floor-covering carpet, remote keyless entry and more).

Related: 2019 Ram 2500/3500 First Drive: Going for the Beef

Any vehicle that carries 75 percent of its own weight and has a half-ton of unsprung mass (wheels, tires, brakes, axle) in back does not like bad roads empty. The ride on good roads was not bad at all, but a good bump or pothole gets things moving and makes little things come loose — one rear clearance light kept wanting out of the fender. The simple solution to improving ride quality is adding weight.

2019 Ram 3500 Tradesman With Concrete Blocks In Bed

So I hooked a 2-ton tandem-axle trailer, put 5,100 pounds of concrete block in it, and dropped two 1,700-pound blocks in the bed ... and the rear suspension moved! Then I switched it on, the auxiliary air springs leveled the load, and I pointed the nearly 20,500-pound combo up California's Grapevine.

Yawn. At less than half it's rated total weight the Ram just laughed this off ... and it rode much better. Despite grades, temperatures pushing 100 degrees and some full-throttle acceleration from 40-65 mph for passing slow-moving trucks (and it took only three to four trucks to gain that speed), the fan clutch never engaged, temperature indicators never wavered, and air conditioning and stability kept me relaxed. Because the towing speed limit is 10 mph less than a single vehicle, the added weight only dropped mileage from 14.4 empty to 13.2 mpg, but you'll be near single-digits towing 10 tons or more. The exhaust brake kept this load at 60 mph in 6th gear descending but would slow the combo to 15 mph when asked. On a closed road, for giggles, I switched off the trailer brakes and the truck stopped without complaint. Yes, it needed more space, but no smoke and no fade.

While not a contractor, I'm a regular at building supply stores and I had only three minor complaints. One, the silver gauge surrounds cause noticeable glare, mildly exacerbated by the greenhouse glass effect. Second, I'd skip the side steps ($495) because the pad on top isn't full length, and it's otherwise useful for cleaning front and rear windows and securing items at front of the bed. Last, the receiver hitch is plenty stout but tight quarters; my locking hitch pin and safety chain hooks required some persuasion to all fit comfortably.

2019 Ram 3500 Tradesman Side steps

If buying the Ram strictly for payload and miles doesn't merit the diesel, stick with the gas engine in a $35,000 Ram 3500. The high-output diesel, dual rear wheels and Max Tow Package add $16,785, with chrome trim, rear park sensors, aforementioned options and destination charge adding up to $56,800, a number that garnered a few "not bad" comments. The most-similar Ford F-350 is $3,000 less and tows 3,000 pounds less, 2019 GM pickups can't compare on tow ratings, and the redesigned 2020 regular cab and dually pricing aren't set yet. Also, consider this: In this price range you can get a used Freightliner M2 for more towing and hauling, though less convenience and comfort.

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2019 Ram 3500 Tradesman Front Angle

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