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Best Bets get average or better mpg, have average or better reliability, good crash-test ratings, and our experts' recommendations.
Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Richard Truett
May 23, 1996
I can think of a better name for the 10-cylinder Dodge Ram 3500 4X4. How about Godzilla? This Dodge is a monster truck. If you want the biggest, baddest, toughest truck on your block, you need look no further than your local Dodge dealer.
Ford and Chevrolet have nothing that can touch the Ram 3500 4X4's brute power. The 3500 is a brawny, stump-pulling machine designed for heavy-duty hauling. It sits high off the ground and comes with a kidney-bruising suspension system. This is
not the kind of truck you would want to drive to work every day - unless, of course, you transport mobile homes across the country or tow locomotives. PERFORMANCE, HANDLING Dodge equips the 3500 with a version of the 10-cylinder engine used in the
Viper sports car. It's a 488-cubic-inch (that's 8.0-liter) fuel-injected V-10 that cranks out 300 horsepower. But torque is the true measure of pulling power, and with 450 foot-pounds of torque, the V-10 has no peer. I have not tested the powerful
Dodge Ram with the turbocharged Cummins diesel engine, but I have heard it run: It is extremely loud and coarse-sounding. If you need a truck with ample pulling power but don't want the noise, the V-10 seems to be the alternative to the chattering diesel.
Our bright red Ram was very smooth and quiet. Despite having 10 cylinders, the Ram 3500 doesn't feel particularly fast. It's geared more for pulling heavy loads. Dodge says you can put more than 5,100 pounds in the cargo bed alone. The 3500 can haul a
weight total of 19,000 pounds - that's roughly seven Dodge Neons. The bulky five-speed manual transmission gives the 3500 something of an industrial or agricultural feel. For instance, first gear, called low on the gearshift lever, is used to get the
Ram rolling at 3 or 4 mph when pulling a heavy load. Normally, you start off in second gear. Fifth gear is called drive. At highway speeds in drive, the V-10 lopes along at about 2,500 rpm. The engine has so much power you need not bother downshifting
to pass slower traffic. I spent two hours or more behind the wheel several times during my week with the Ram 3500, and I found the clutch and shifter fairly heavy. In city driving, the Ram is a tiring vehicle to drive. The constant shifting wore me
out. (An automatic transmission is optional.) Our tester was a four-wheel-drive model that had dual rear wheels. Because the engine makes so much torque, it was very easy to spin all four rear tires - even on dry pavement. To shift into four-wheel
drive, you must move a lever next to the regular shifter. Ford's 1997 F-150 has a better system. It's electronic, and all you do to engage it is turn a knob. But in four-wheel drive, the Ram feels unstoppable. The drivetrain makes a bit more noise and
performance drops slightly when four-wheel drive is engaged. But the re is probably no terrain around here the Ram 3500 couldn't slog through. The
Ram's suspension system is stiff and firm. When the truck rolls over a large bump, you have to hang on to the steering wheel as it bounces and bucks like a wild bronco. All Ram trucks come with power-assisted steering and brakes. The 3500 can turn a
complete circle in a commendable 45.2 feet - excellent for such a large truck. The heavy duty front disc/rear drum anti-lock brakes are industrial strength. The pedal is somewhat stiff, but the brakes bite hard and the vehicle stops quickly. FIT AND
FINISH The sturdy Ram pickup must be one of the highest-quality vehicles Chrysler builds. Despite some hard driving, our test truck did not squeak or rattle, and it felt as if it were put together very tightly. Getting in and out of the Ram is a
bit of a chore. The body sits high off the chassis; in fact, the wheels are not even in the wheel wells. You have to grab the steering wheel and pull yourself into the cab. Passengers can use a handle to pull themsel
es up with. The Ram's squarish dash seems somewhat dated when compared withthe curving dash in the new Ford F-150. But all the buttons and switches in the Ram are easy to reach and use. Two rotary knobs in the center of the dash control the air
conditioner. You can make an adjustment without having to take your eyes off the road for more than a second or two. Our test truck came with a power seat, electric windows and door locks, cruise control and a powerful radio. It had the optional
behind-the-seat storage system, which consists of a series of trays and a full set of analog gauges. Yet I feel that it was a bit under-equipped considering its $29,000 price tag. I would have liked radio-controlled electric door locks and a CD player for
that price. One minor gripe: When driving on the highway, the outside mirror on the driver's side made loud whistling noise at 55 mph and higher. I love the Ram's big-rig styling, but the V-10 3500 is just too much truck for civilian use.
Length Overall 224.1 Front Compartment Headroom 40.2 Legroom 41.1 Rear
Compartment Headroom N/A Legroom N/A Warranty Three-Year, 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper; six-year, 100,000-mile rust protection; 24-hour roadside assistance.
Mechanical Drivetrain Layout: Front-mounted engine, transmission and transfer case, four-wheel drive. Brakes: Power-assisted front disc/rear drum. Engine: 300-horsepower 8.0-liter V-10 with 20
valves and electronic fuel injection. Transmission: Five-speed manual transmission. Other Models 14 models ranging in price from $13,995 to $22,995. Truett's tip: The Dodge Ram
3500 is a six-wheeled beast. It is not a vehicle that you would want to use as everyday transportation. It's a hauler designed for hard work.