Test Drive: 2017 Ram 3500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4

Pickup trucks that get relegated to the press fleet generally lead a pretty cushy existence. They’ll spend a few months being driven around by a bunch of city slicker journalists who complain about fuel economy, price, how hard they are to park, and ask, “Why do they have to be so big?”

That’s all ya got, kid?

With a major house renovation in the cards, I thought this would be a great time to put a 2017 Ram 3500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4 Long Box through its paces. Ha. Who was I kidding? The 4,020 kg (8,862 lb) black behemoth was kitted out to haul your cottage to the boat, never mind the other way around, and the best I could throw at it was one particular dump load of plaster and debris that weighted in at 575 kg (1,267 lb). For me, said load amounted to several hours of crowbarring, sledge-swinging, Sawzall-wielding and blue-streak-cursing. For this Ram 3500 with a payload capacity of 2,576 kg (5,690 lb), it was like a flea on a sasquatch’s back. That’s all ya got, kid?

Welcome to the world of heavy-duty pickup trucks where no torque figure, tow rating or payload capacity is too extreme, and where the one-upmanship game between major players Ram, Ford and GM is reaching titanic proportions.

Hard to believe that this $86,910 Ram 3500 Laramie 4x4 Long Box (optioned up from a base price of $65,995) with its 900 lb-ft of torque and 13,753 kg (30,320 lb) tow rating recently got knocked off its perch by both the GM Duramax 6.6L diesel with 910 lb-ft and the new Ford Super Duty bragging 925 lb-ft and a 32,500 max tow rating.

Kinda makes the Mercedes-AMG, BMW M and Audi RS horsepower war seem like child’s play.

So what does it take to turn the Ram 3500 4x4 into a tow monster? The first box to be checked is the top spec 6.7L Cummins Turbo Diesel High-Output inline-six ($9,345) that bypasses the base 5.7L Hemi V8, 6.4L Hemi and two other 6.7L Cummins in slightly lesser states of tune. The high-output version generates 385 horsepower and 900 lb-ft of torque at 1,700 rpm and goes hand-in-hand with the heavy-duty Aisin six-speed auto costing $4,155.

Other must-haves are the $1,200 dual rear wheels and the $1595 self-leveling rear air suspension. And you’ll need the Fifth Wheel/Gooseneck towing group (the ultimate trailer hitch) that sits like a metallic alien in the middle of the eight-foot bed. This proved to be a $1,775 pain in the butt for me, as it used up valuable load space.

With the Cummins diesel there are three axle ratios to choose from. Picking the most extreme 4:10 ($125) begets the biggest tow numbers, and likely the worst fuel economy. We lay folk equate diesel power with parsimonious fuel sippage. No so in the world of H-D diesel pickups. This beast of burden with a curb weight of 4,020 kg guzzled to the tune of 16.6 L/100 km, and it was barely breaking a sweat.

Despite its formidable capabilities, this Laramie Crew Cab Long Box is not hurting for amenities. And with nearly a 90-grand as-tested sticker, so it should be. Standard kit includes leather, 10-way power driver’s seat with memory, heated/leather steering wheel, cruise, front and rear park assist, 8.4-inch touchscreen, SiriusXM and an impressive nine-speaker Alpine audio system. Optional goodies here included ventilated front buckets, heated rear seats, navigation, proximity key with push-button start, and remote start.

On cold morning start-ups you’ll wait a few seconds after pressing the starter button before the big diesel lump fires up and rattles to life, announcing to all within earshot that this is, indeed, a serious tool for serious work. Between stints of demolition hell and loading up the bed, I looked forward to my dump-running sojourns wherein I could plunked my weary derrière into the heated leather bucket seat, feel the warmth of the heated steering wheel soothe my battered hands, and crank up the tunes on the fine Alpine audio. Heavy metal, of course.

FCA’s Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen system may have been with us for a while, but it’s still one of the best of its ilk, providing a clear and logical interface. Navigation is a $700 option here.

With the bed full, nothing felt significantly different from the driver’s seat. The rear air suspension kept ’er at an even keel and the 900 lb-ft of torque, like the hand of God on the tailgate, sluffed off the burden as if it wasn’t there. Ride quality actually improved, suggesting the 3500 was happy to be doing a bit of honest work.

I took the Ram on a wintry road trip to friend/drummer extraordinaire Mark Inneo’s farm to pick up some 19th century hand-hewn barn beams. Mark is a Ford truck man. As are most of his neighbours. Half-joking, he said, “Don’t get me in any pictures. They’ll think I’m a traitor.”

And therein lies essence of the whole pickup truck game. Brand loyalty. You think a Ram-man is going to jump to a GM Duramax because it has 10 more lb-ft of torque? Or will Mr. GM bail on his ride for the new Ford Super Duty? Not likely. This 2017 Ram 3500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4 will haul a horse trailer, yacht or construction equipment with the best of them. It’s all about which flavour you prefer.

2017 Ram 3500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4 Long Box
Engine Displacement: 6.7L
Engine Cylinders: I6
Peak Horsepower: 385 hp @ 1,700 rpm
Peak Torque: 900 lb-ft @ 1,700 rpm
Fuel Economy: 16.6 L/100 km observed
Cargo Space: Bed: 8 ft
2017 Ram 3500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4 Long Box
Base Price $65,995
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,275
Price as Tested $89,460
Optional Equipment $22,090 – Brilliant Black Crystal Pearl $225; ventilated buckets and rear seat heat $1,400; 5th wheel towing prep group $500; 25k direct mouth 5th wheel hitch $1,275; 6-speed Aisin $4,155; 4:10 rear axle $125; 6.7L Cummins Turbo Diesel High-Output $9,345; proximity key with push button start $300; centre high-mount stop lamp with bed camera $325; navigation $700; rear auto-leveling air suspension $1,595; dual rear wheels $1,200; remote start $395; spray in bed liner $550
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.5
7 Styling
8 Powertrain
8 Quality
7 Comfort
9 Practicality
7 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
6 Fuel Economy
8 Features
7 Value