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THE WORK KING

06 Dodge Ram 3500 Dually 4x4—when bigger really is better

by Bruce W. Smith - Special to GCN

There’s nothing quite like having a diesel under the hood, four-wheel-drive, four-doors and dual-rear wheels when it comes to moving a heavy load. Add leather and the amenities one would expect to find in a luxury SUV and a great tow vehicle transcends to the ultimate.

That’s a pretty good description of the 2006 Cummins-powered Dodge Ram 3500 Laramie Quad Cab 4x4.

The moment you pull yourself up into the Quad Cab Laramie’s leather seats you realize this model Dodge Ram pickup is a lot more than just a massive work truck. The Laramie Edition’s rich leather interior and premium creature comforts rival any luxury-level pickup or SUV on the market.

The 2006 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty features a number of new features. The conolse is fresh and an all-new, wide center stack contains a new audio system and new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning controls. The seats are also new, including optional bucket seats with available leather trim, provide substantial bolstering and generous support.

 Of course, comfort comes in other forms, such as the heated front seats, dual-zone AC, power sliding rear window, adjustable pedals and the steering wheel-mounted audio controls. 

There’s a navigation unit built-into the console to help find you way around unfamiliar territory, and a high-end Bose six-disc CD sound system to keep you company on long trips if  you can’t find music you like on the 125 or so stations available on the Sirius satellite radio that’s also part of the Laramie option ($2,295).

CROSS-COUNTRY DESIGN

  Such driver and passenger comforts would make the Laramie ideal for full-time RVers towing cross-country, a boat family towing the family pleasure craft on a vacation, or a company CEO taking business partners between boardroom and job site.

“The interior of the 2006 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty features the durability and functionality required for everyday use, yet it’s designed with comfort and richness,” says Trevor Creed, Senior Vice President—Design.

 “The combination of plush materials and the latest technology, such as Maple Pommele accents surrounding the radio and navigation system and chrome rings encompassing the control knobs, all add up to a commanding and comfortable atmosphere.”

And, there’s no other competitor in the heavy duty four-door pickup market that has as much interior room as the Quad Cab Ram—save for the Mega Cab Ram.

The Quad Cab Ram 3500, which weighs 7,200 pounds, boasts some 65 cubic feet on interior volume. Fold up the rear 60/40 split-bench seat and there’s flat floor storage space to handle a wide variety of secure cargo carrying needs.  

DECEIVINGLY NICE RIDE

Being comfortable in the 3500 Quad Cab 4x4 extends to the on- and off-pavement ride, which is the biggest surprise. You’d think by just looking at the size and stance of the 4x4 Dually the ride would be teeth-rattling.

In years past, that’d be about right. But the ride is far smoother and the interior quietness far more refined than the previous model thanks in no small part to the 4x4’s new chassis and refined five-link, coil-spring suspension supporting the solid axles.

On all Dodge Ram 3500 series trucks, the rear suspension includes separate auxiliary leaves as part of the spring package for even greater load-carrying capability.

We found the Dually ride on open road and around construction sites to be firm, but not jarring. To test ride quality with a load, we dropped a 4,300-pound Trophy Walkaround on the hitch to see how it would ride with a moderate load in tow.

The Dually hardly flinched with the 400-pounds of weight on the tongue, and as expected, the ride improved. This shows the harder you work the 3500 Series, the better the ride.

In fact, with a 15,000-plus-pound towing capacity, you hardy notice anything less than 7,500 pounds is anchored to the hitch.

A lot of the towing stability is related to the wide track provided by the dual wheels and the wheelbase of the long-bed chassis.

Towing and hauling ability are the very reasons buyers favor Heavy Duty Ram pickups. Dodge says 90-percent of Heavy Duty Ram buyers tow with their trucks. For that the new Dually 3500 is a well-suited—be it towing for work or play.

STRONG, SILENT TYPE

Inside the big Quad Cab it’s surprisingly quiet. In fact, we took digital sound readings at 65mph and found the diesel-powered 3500 Quad Cab 4x4 is just as quiet as the Quad Cab 1500 4x4 Hemi.

 Another element we liked on the Ram 3500 Dually is its nimble feel. A huge 4x4 Dually, nimble? It’s all in perspective. But, yes, nimble.

On the 2006 model four-wheel drive Dodge Ram Heavy Duty trucks is a recirculating ball steering system with a quick (for pickups) 13.4:1 steering ratio and 2.75 turns lock-to-lock. This setup provides precise response and on-center steering feel , which you quickly appreciate in a heavy-duty truck when making tight turns or maneuvering a trailer in close quarters.

The Ram 3500 Dually really is at home on the road; it’s easy for anyone to drive with the adjustable pedals. You just have to get used to peeking around those big wide fenders to see what or who is beyond the tailgate.

Should the pavement end and the mud and snow begin, the four-wheel-drive Dually delivers a lot o traction.

First off the truck weighs more than 7,000 pounds, so the tires—all six of them—are being planted heavily into the ground. Then you add in the manual shift-on-the-fly transfer case with high- and low-ranges, and you have a versatile, powerful 4x4 system to utilize.

The standard LT235/80R17E “all-season” tires work great on slippery boat ramps and ok for light off-pavement use. But anyone who really finds a use for four-wheel-drive at the work site will probably find more aggressively treaded “all-terrain” tires a better choice.

DIESEL POWER

Dodge offers the Dually 4x4 with the popular 345hp 5.7L Hemi as the standard engine in the 2006 models. But the small-block gas V8, although quite healthy, just doesn’t cut it economically for moving around a 7,000-pound truck, let alone towing big loads for sustained periods of time.

That is why the majority of Dually buyers will get the optional ($5,555) Cummins diesel, 4-speed automatic ($1,095), and 4.10 axle ratio ($50.) This is by far and away the best combination for a Ram 3500 that is going to be used to move heavy loads.

 The 2006 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty Cummins Turbo Diesel leads the heavy-duty segment with a class-dominating 610 lb.-ft. of torque (830 N•m) at 1,600 rpm and 325 horsepower (242 kW) at 2,900 rpm.

“The Cummins Turbo Diesel engine has positioned the Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 as the top contenders to beat in the heavy-duty pickup segment,” said Mike Donoughe, Vice President—Body-on-Frame Product Team, Chrysler Group.

“The Cummins Turbo Diesel’s significant power and capability combined with its outstanding durability and ease of maintenance make it an obvious choice for heavy-duty pickup customers.”

The combination is literally award winning: A best-in-class rating for the Cummins-powered Dodge Ram Heavy Duty was awarded by the J.D. Power & Associates’ 2004 Initial Quality Survey, surpassing both Ford PowerStroke and Chevrolet Duramax.

In addition to the most torque available in a production heavy-duty pickup, the Dodge Ram Heavy Duty boasts towing capability of 16,400 lbs., a payload of 5,020 lbs. and Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) and Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 23,000 lbs.and 12,200 lbs., respectively.

The Cummins Turbo Diesel is also as durable as it is powerful. It has a life-to-major overhaul interval of 350,000 miles, providing more than a 100,000-mile advantage over the competition.

The Cummins Turbo Diesel also delivers best-in-class standard duty oil change intervals of 15,000 miles (versus 7,500 for the competition).

REAL-WORLD FIGURES

Fuel economy performance is what we expected in a diesel-powered, heavy-duty four-wheel-drive—a miserly 18 miles-per-gallon cruising empty on the interstates. Those numbers drop to 9.5mpg while towing a big trailer.

What we saw during more than 300 miles of testing is the Ram 3500 Quad Cab 4x4 should deliver a cruising range of more than 600 miles on its 35-gallon fuel tank running empty to 300 or so miles towing a light- to medium-sized trailer.

The Cummins-powered Dually is a strong performer for a heavy duty pickup. Unladen, the nicely split gearing in the smooth-shifting 4-speed automatic is able to pull the 3500 4x4 to 60mph in 10.9 seconds.

Sixty comes in 18.7 seconds and the quarter-mile in three more at a speed of 64.5mph. Bringing the nearly 12,000 pounds of boat and truck to a full stop from 60mph is done in a little more than 211 feet.

Not barn-burning numbers by any means, but still quite respectable for a truck that weighs nearly as much as three Dodge Neons.

PRICE OF POWER

What’s nice about the Cummins-powered 3500 Dually 4x4 is it has no trouble at all maneuvering in and around freeway traffic—even towing. Once the load is moving, the Cummins’ massive torque continues to respond when you need to make any speed adjustments.

Like we said early on, there’s nothing better for towing than a diesel-powered dually. From our tests it is safe to say there’s nothing better for towing in the Dodge Truck line than the dual-rear-wheel Cummins-powered Quad Cab Laramie 4x4.

This big Dodge delivers a lot, which is what is expected of a top-of-the-line four-wheel-drive pickup that retails around the $50K mark.—Bruce W. Smith

BASIC SPECIFICATIONS

'06 Dodge Ram 3500 Laramie Quad Cab 4x4 Diesel         

Base MSRP: $37,500     

Price As Tested: $52,305        

Engine: 5.9L H.O. Cummins Turbo Diesel I-6

Max. HP @ RPM:       325 @ 2900

Torque @ RPM (lbs.- ft.):        610 @ 1600

Transmission: 5spd Automatic

Axle Ratio:       4.10

Transfer Case: NV273 Part-Time (Electric)

Length/Width/Height: 249.7”/96”/79.1”

Wheelbase: 160.5”

Seating Capacity, Front / Rear:  3,3

Interior Volume: 65.2 cu.ft.

Ground Clearance: 7.6”

Track, Front/Rear: 69.5 / 75.8

Suspension, Front/Rear Solid axle w/ coils / solid axle w/ overload leaf springs

Brakes, Front/Rear       ABS; 13.9 " discs, twin-piston

Curb Weight: 7,204 lbs

Gross Vehicle Weight: 9,900 lbs.

Fuel Capacity:  35 gals

Cargo Bed:       98.3”x66.4”x20.2”

Payload Capacity:         2700 lbs

Weight-Distribution Towing Capacity: 15,650 lbs

Weight-Carrying Towing Capacity:       5000 lbs