Ram diesel cranks out big torque

November 28, 2004|by TIM SPELL/Motor Matters

A freshly delivered 2005 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty 3500 with the Cummins Turbo Diesel is awaiting a test drive.

I generally enjoy getting into a dually heavyweight, but I'm apprehensive because this truck's first destination is narrow urban streets. It's rush hour, and an awkward Ram-in-a-china-shop experience is anticipated.

En route to drive away the new Quad Cab test truck, I'm dreading the hassle of guiding the big Ram through jammed-packed streets and squeezing it into parking spots barely wide enough for a sedan.

I try thinking through the impending city-driving turmoil, on to the time when the Ram can be set free on the open highway. The highway, too, can be a problem if that stretch of construction hasn't cleared. I'll have to merge into a narrow single lane and duel with those pesky, smaller and quicker compacts.


Arriving at the parking garage, there is a Ram Heavy Duty pickup, but it isn't what I expect. This is a trim, but still formidable-looking 3500 Single Rear Wheel short-box model. These SRW heavy-duty Rams were introduced for the 2003 model year, but it's my first meeting with one.

The SRW 3500, which only is available on Quad Cab models, can be a more practical choice than the Dual Rear Wheel, it depends on the type of work to which the truck is subjected.

While the stable dually is superior for extra-heavy payload applications - heavy farm, ranch or construction work - this SRW model boasts serious workhorse credentials, but is a lot more driver-friendly.

A dually is 8 feet wide and its rear wheel track is about 6 feet 4 inches. On some roads it appears the twin wheels fit in the lane with only inches to spare. By comparison, the SRW Ram is about 6 feet 8 inches wide and its rear wheel track is 5 feet 8 inches.

Along with the width that causes a dually's tires to graze painted parking lot dividers, its near 21-foot length usually makes it jut further than neighboring vehicles. The long body also makes backing into tight parking lots a nerve-testing maneuver. This length is attributed to an 8-foot long bed, the dually's only offering.

With the availability of a 6.25-foot short-box on SRW 3500s, consumers only have to deal with a length of about 19 feet. Fitted with a long bed, the SRW Ram stretches to the dually's length.

Duallys also are longer on price. A mid-line SLT two-wheel-drive DRW

model with the Cummins Turbo Diesel has a $36,865 starting price. The SLT two-wheel drive with single rear wheels is base priced at $35,280. Both SRW and DRW Rams come with a standard 5.7-liter gas Hemi - rated at 300 horsepower and 375 lbs.-ft. of torque - but the 5.9-liter inline six-cylinder Cummins Turbo Diesel is the choice for demanding work.

At the beginning of this year, Dodge announced it was upping its powertrain Torque War arsenal with a new Turbo Diesel brute - the Cummins "600," which achieved the 600 lbs.-ft. of torque milestone.

By summer's end this number grew to 610. The monster 610 cranks out 610 lbs.-ft. of torque at 1,600 rpm and 325 horsepower at 2,900 rpm. Under the hood of a two-wheel-drive 3500 Quad Cab SRW, equipped with a six-speed manual transmission and 4.10 axle ratio, the H.O. engine's maximum towing capacity is 16,200 pounds. In the same pickup, the maximum payload capacity is 3,230 pounds. Swapping out the manual for a four-speed automatic transmission ups trailer-towing capacity to 16,350 and payload rating to 3,380 pounds.

A two-wheel-drive dually 3500 Quad Cab, mated with a six-speed manual transmission and 4.10 axle ratio, has a 15,800 maximum towing rating. It's when taking on big payloads that twin rear wheels make the difference. The pickup boasts a 4,430-pound payload rating. Opting for an automatic transmission boosts towing to 15,900 pounds and payload capacity to 4,560 pounds.

The sound of the tester's big diesel being awakened in the parking garage doesn't, as in the old days, echo within its walls. A less boisterous diesel also makes conversions within the giant cab easier to comprehend, and it doesn't make you feel like you're as obnoxious to those Matchbox cars humming at the stoplight below.

Seats are comfortable, and even the ride quality is respectable. The hospitable interior, good ride and single rear wheels team to make the mammoth Ram rather unintimidating for a 1-ton beast. Of course, to competing manufacturers, that 610 torque number is quite intimidating.

(Tim Spell is the automotive writer for the Houston Chronicle Cars & Trucks section.)

Copyright Motor Matters, 2004

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