Tooling around in a Ram

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It’s been an interesting week, test driving a 2011 model Ram 3500 Laramie crew cab, decked out with a Dakota contractor body on the back – and the kids were decidedly sad when “Big Blue,” as they’d dubbed it, had to return home.

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[And, as an impertinent editorial aside, I am no doubt CERTAIN that my good friend Steve Myers at Moser Motor Sales in Berne, IN, with have PLENTY to say in terms of how Ford’s SuperDuty truck measures up to the likes of “Big Blue.” We’ll make time for that debate down the road, Sir Steve!]

In terms of mileage, I didn’t go all that far – racking up only 130 miles along rural roads and highways in and around Northern Virginia. Yet I wasn’t after miles during my test drive; rather, I wanted to see how the truck would perform in wide variety of conditions.

Fuel economy wise, I got about eight to 10 mpg on average with the Ram 3500, without much in the way of payload. Loaded down with tools and supplies, or pulling a trailer, and those numbers will surely drop.

That being said, the Ram delivered a very nice ride with minimal exterior noise, especially from the engine. At highway speeds (in this case 65 to 70 mph), the 383 horsepower 5.7 liter V8 gasoline-powered engine hummed along at 1,800 rpms.

On-ramp acceleration only pegged the tachometer at 2,200 to 2,500 rpms at most (again, without any significant payload) with a nice firm response from the engine when extra oomph was required.

Ride and handling proved exceptional on rural roads, giving the Ram 3500 a very “car-like” feel. The responsive steering also made maneuvering in tight corners (especially when I dropped off a load of donated clothes at the Salvation Army) a breeze as well, making the truck perform far more nimbly than its girth would suggest.

Spending a lot of time in the cab gave me an appreciation for several small but important details worked into the Ram’s design.

Of course, with a Laramie trim package, there were a lot of extra goodies (such as the heated steering wheel) that most work fleets won’t spec.

But one nice feature proved to the be the electrical outlet plug built into the dash – one that could be activated and deactivated at the touch of a button so the outlet wouldn’t remain “hot” when not in use.

Another nice feature: the “bi-focal” side view mirrors, which provided me with two distinct side views of the truck. This proved really helpful when backing up and when maneuvering in tight corners, as well as in traffic – and it’s a feature I think will be really appreciated by fleets.

In my view, it’s this kind of attention to detail that makes a truck a more effective work tool in a variety of fleet operations.

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