Test Drive: 2010 Ram 3500 HD Mega Cab

The big trucks may have lost some of the appeal for some shoppers, but for people who need them to pull, haul or carry large items there is no option.

Trucks have also been a big profit center for the U.S. automakers and Chrysler, General Motors and Ford have all been working hard to build better trucks in hopes of retaining market share in that very competitive and lucrative market.

Chrysler was the first to market with their latest iteration of the Dodge Ram heavy-duty trucks, dropping the Dodge moniker and simply calling them Ram trucks.

As we?ve often said, we are not truck people, but we certainly appreciate the ability to haul things from time to time.? We lucked out recently when our need to haul eight trees and top soil coincided with our test of the Ram 3500 Heavy Duty with dual rear wheels and the Cummins turbo diesel engine.? Our cargo was no challenge for the Ram 3500, which has a base weight of nearly four tons, a payload capacity of 2,680 pounds and maximum towing weight of 16,450 pounds.

Comparing notes on the big Ram truck, while cruising down the highway in route to the nearest Home Depot, we both came to the realization that this is no ordinary truck.? It was roomy, comfortable, quiet and luxurious. If it wasn?t so big and bulky, these are the characteristics we like for our personal vehicle.

The Laramie Mega Cab version we drove included an impressive array of equipment like heated front and rear leather seating, ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, Alpine audio system, navigation, Sirius backseat television, sunroof, 30 GB music hard drive, backup camera, and numerous other luxury features.

The Ram has traditional truck underpinnings including a coil-spring system in front and multi-leaf springs in the rear to maintain the heavy-duty capabilities.

Standard power for the 2500 HD Ram is the 5.7-liter Hemi gasoline V-8 engine rated at 383-hp and 400-lb.ft of torque, while the 3500 HD models, like the one we drove, comes with the 6.7-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel engine.? The Cummins diesel is rated at 350-hp and 650 lb.ft. of torque. Both engines have a standard six-speed manual transmission, with a six-speed automatic option ($1,575).

Ram is the only pickup to offer a standard exhaust brake, also called a Jake Brake, on the diesel-powered models. It not only reduces brake fade, increases brake life and improves braking, it also enhances the big truck feeling.

The new Ram comes in five distinctive trim levels — ST, SLT, TRX, Power Wagon and Laramie — and each has a unique look and equipment offerings.? The trucks are available with a regular cab, crew-size cab or the Mega Cab along with two cargo box sizes (6 feet 4 inches and 8 feet) as well as single-and dual-rear-wheel configurations.

Heavy Duty Ram pricing starts at $28,165 for the 2500 Regular Cab ST and peaks at $51,595 for the 3500 Mega Cab 4X4, which with all the options can go to about $59,000.

After a week in the Mega Cab 3500, we were almost sad to see it go.? It was so comfortable and quiet it was a pleasure to drive.? The negatives are the massive size, which requires extra caution in city traffic and the difficulty getting up into the cab.? We can certainly see why Motor Trend magazine rated the Ram HD the 2010 ?Truck of the Year.?

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