2011 Dodge Ram 3500 Review
Proven powertrains, ongoing refinement, new name.
The Ram Heavy Duty models got revised styling for 2010 so there are no major changes for 2011. 2010 marked the first time Ram differentiated the styling between light-duty (1500) and heavy-duty Ram pickups. The Outdoorsman package is fairly low-impact with minimal chrome.
With a forward tilt to the grille and an upward, inward point to the headlights, grille and bumper the heavy-duty nose looks like a stout blunt instrument, rather like the point on an anvil.
While the style and lights are from the 1500 only the latter are the same parts. The HD's grille is larger to allow more cooling air in, the bumper is reshaped, and the hood has a larger central bulge and faux louver contouring, but the easiest way to distinguish the HD from the 1500 is the gap in the bumper; the 1500 has no such gap.
The HD Crew Cab is the same size that debuted on the Ram 1500 and has four forward-hinged doors, a closer match to competitor Crew Cabs. Ram's Crew Cab replaces the Quad Cab. The ultra-long Mega Cab uses the same rear doors as the crew but adds inches behind the doors.
Crew Cab and Mega Cab both come with a 6-foot, 4-inch box. It doesn't look that long behind the imposing Mega Cab but it is; you can not get a Mega Cab long-bed as it would be a unwieldy anywhere outside the great plains.
Dual rear wheel trucks (DRW), including the Mega Cab, use a single outside panel for the wide rear fenders to eliminate seams and fasteners that might prove problematic long term. And the bed sides are steel, for easier straightening than fiberglass if you ding one.
In terms of sleekness, the Ram slots between the GM and Ford HD pickups: perceptively bigger and more angular than the GM yet smoother than the Super Duty. Very mild fender flares of various colors are used on some trims, and the Power Wagon gets a graphics package and flat, dark paint for the center of the hood.
Roof clearance lamps, government-mandated for vehicles like dual-rear-wheel pickups that exceed a certain width, now use clear lenses for a better-integrated look. Upper trim level mirrors get puddle lamps, and the towing mirrors get turn signal repeaters and a separately adjustable, much larger wide-angle element at the bottom (in tow position); in the retraced position the outboard wide-angle element is very useful in traffic and tight parking areas as you can view both rear tires. Worth noting, you can adjust the electric mirrors without having the truck switched on. The towing mirrors are superb, providing an excellent view rearward.
A tailgate lock is standard. However, the tailgate is not damped, so it'll slam down if you don't ease it down. On trucks with rearview cameras, the lens is far enough from the latch so you won't scratch it opening the gate, and it gets decent protection and snow/ice rejection from the tailgate's upper lip. Bed rails are protected from load scuffing, and the bed is contoured for 2x4s and 2x6s to make it dual-level. A spray-in bedliner is now a factory option.
On trucks with satellite service for audio or navigation the antenna is on the right rear of the roof. It should be safe from contact with contractor racks or cabover campers (though those pieces may block the antenna's ability to receive signals).
The 2011 Ram Heavy Duty uses the same cabin as the Ram 1500; the few differences are for features or shifter locations the 1500 does not have.
Materials and trim are appropriate by model line, be they the base truck or a Laramie Mega Cab with Ram's head embosses on the seatbacks and console. We found no fit-and-finish issues. The Laramie's fake wood looks just like real wood and gloss surfaces generate no glare to bother the occupants. Although a vinyl floor is standard on only the base ST model you can order it with a more upscale interior if it's only your boots that get filthy. Thick mats designed for muck and slush are standard on the Outdoorsman but you can get similar pieces through Mopar accessories.
The Regular Cab has plenty of room for two people, three across if you don't mind the floor hump. The biggest guy we could find who claimed to be 325 on a good day had no qualms about space.
The Crew Cab offers essentially the same space in the front seat as the Regular Cab but provides a roomy back seat. Most Crew Cabs have a split folding rear seat and a center armrest, and all of them have three complete baby seat anchor sets and three adjustable headrests. The back seats flip up for cargo space. If you like to remove the rear seats for cargo storage you're left with a stepped floor. Coat hooks are above the rear window. The rear window can be powered open/close or replaced with a defrost-able window on most models.
The Mega Cab is nine inches longer than the Crew Cab. It has an extra five inches of legroom plus space behind the reclining seatback, and with the seats folded flat offers up 72 cubic feet of lockable cargo space, considerably more than behind the middle row in a Chevy Tahoe SUV. But plan on a lot of AC use in warm climes, as the only vents in back are on the floor.
We found the seats quite comfortable and widely adjustable, whether in the buckets or the front bench split 40/20/40. The seat cushion and backrest adjust as a unit, unlike the separate component approach that makes you go back-and-forth to get both pieces where you like. Lateral support is notably improved over earlier models without adding any difficulty to entry and exit. Big 4WD trucks are by design tall but side steps are available.
Power adjustable pedals are available that combine with a tilt wheel and power seat adjustments to accommodate most of the population. You can even get a heated steering wheel and ventilated cooling front seats to maximize driver comfort.
The instrumentation is complete with oil pressure and battery information. On diesels all the ancillary gauges are numbered. The center dash Electronic Vehicle Information Display can call up transmission temperature and tire pressures (2500 only) among the slew of data, adjustments and messages; ours told us to clean already-dusty rear park sensors rolling down a dry highway so we opted to wait. We were pleased to find EVIC, navigation, audio and brake controller displays were all easily viewed through polarized lenses. The EVIC is run through buttons on the front side steering wheel spokes; the back side of the spokes is reserved for audio system functions.
Switchgear is straightforward, with audio and navigation controls above climate controls in the center stack, plus operating controls for the Tow/Haul mode, exhaust brake and so on. The Light Tire Load switch on 2500 models allows you to set the tire pressure in the rear tires on an unloaded 2500 notably lower than the front, for better wear and ride comfort without the low tire pressure warning light coming on. On electric-shift 4WDs the switch is on the left side of the center panel and includes a Neutral position for being flat-towed. The trailer brake controller is below the headlight switch to the left about knee-high, and some drivers reported the steering wheel partially obscured it.
Side pillars are larger than in some cars but you sit far enough back that they don't intimidate. The bodywork is reasonably well defined for close quarter maneuvering by new-truck standards, and the rear park sensors and/or camera will get you within inches.
Interior storage is extensive and even better than the half-ton Crew Cab's forty-odd places to put things because the heavy-duty has no shifter and gets an extra space in the console. Upper and lower door pockets are complemented by a variety of shapes from the broad tray on the dash that we emptied on the first corner to the under-floor storage areas behind the front seats; you can't reach these from the driver's seat but the liners are removable for cleaning and locks are available.
The audio and entertainment systems bring plenty of options and sonic performance that benefits from a relatively quiet interior. Partial credit must go to the noise and vibration tuning that includes liquid-filled body mounts that helps make this the quietest Ram heavy-duty yet without adding much weight.
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