After much research and a lot of waiting for the right deal to come along we finally took the plunge on a new (for us) 2010 3500 Ram Mega Cab. We loved our old truck, a 2000 Tundra, but after towing out to the west coast and back from Calgary (and burning through a complete set of new brakes in the process!
) it was clear that we needed to upgrade to a more capable vehicle for improved safety, confidence and piece of mind.
We looked at the options for a new half ton, and there were certainly many excellent new offerings to choose from but our minimum requirements called for 2200 lbs of payload, 4WD and a large extended cab which pretty much put us exclusively into 3/4 ton territory. Understand that our trailer may be on the small side at 19", but we like to travel with LOTS of gear - typically 2 or 3 full-sized sea kayaks plus racks plus a hundred pounds or so of paddling equipment, bikes, climbing gear, hiking gear, a cooler of extra food/beverages, solar panels, luggage... it really adds up fast! Ya sure, we could leave all that crap at home, but why? Now we can just keep loading instead of worrying about every gram we add
In terms of brand loyalty, I'd say we pretty much had zero, and certainly not to any of the domestic brands. What really tipped the scales for us in favour of the Ram was the Cummins engine. I have a few trustworthy friends and neighbours that all have lifetimes of experience working with heavy machinery and they all swore that for reliability, endurance and lower cost maintenance the Cummins was the one. Not to say that the other brands weren't great, they just had a few more unknowns and since we like to keep our trucks for at least 10 years, it seemed like less of a gamble.
Long story short, after months of waiting a great deal came up on a pre-owned unit (5000 km on it) and after test driving and having it checked out by a mechanic, we came home with a bigger truck than I ever imagined owning! Certainly, it was more truck than we were looking for and it's definitely overkill for our trailer, but it was just too good a deal to pass on.
Anyway, my plan is to add a Class 5 Air Safe hitch in the spring. This will be in addition to our existing Reese WD/Dual Cam system with 600 lb bars.
I've had a few conversations with the folks at Air Safe and am pretty confident that the addition of the airbag on the hitch will compensate for the stiffer suspension of the truck. Worst case, I suppose I could have one of the leafs pulled too but I'd rather not. I'd be happy to hear what others think in this regard. At any rate, I think Bender is going to look just awesome when we finally pair it up with Thor in the spring!:
The last addition to the truck which just came in last friday is a new Leer 100XQ canopy:
We had a Leer with our last truck and hands down the quality of this product is the best, imo. The fit and finish are perfect and having the added security for our payload is critical. The only downside is that Leers are HEAVY, which was a huge problem on our last truck. Now, I'm just happy to have the extra payload to keep my wheels biting in the snow and ice!
Gas mileage: There's always lots of discussion about this topic on the forum, and frankly in a month or so we've only made 4 fill ups which is not a large sample size to go off. However, I hand calculated that we've gotten an average of 14.7L/100km which is around 16mpg. Given that 100% of that driving has been in harsh winter highway conditions, high winds, through snow of varying depths, ice, lots of 4WD use, steep grades, high altitudes, etc. etc. I'm pretty darn happy with it! It's actually a km or two better than what our Tundra was getting after 11 years and I expect it will get better as the temps climb and the roads improve. Time will tell. What I will say is that I LOVE having a huge fuel tank which will be great for towing this summer (assuming it arrives in 5 months). Also, fyi, the hand calc is pretty close to what the electronic gas mileage calculator was telling us.
Towing: No experience to report on yet, but I did pull a Ford SUV out of the ditch this weekend. What was funny is that I put it in reverse and slowly took up the slack on the chains and the SUV actually started to pull out of the deep snow before I even put my foot to the throttle. The engine didn't even notice the load, pretty amazing power.
Cold Starts: I was very nervous of how a diesel would perform on cold starts, especially way up in the mountains after being left unplugged all day and unfortunately I've had lots of opportunity recently to test that! After consulting with the "pros" who operate their diesels up in Ft. McMurray where they frequently get -40 temps, I switched to 0W40 winter rated synthetic oil.
The coldest "unplugged" start we've had was -25 and at those temps the manual recommends cycling the manifold heaters twice with 5 second intervals in between. One click of the fancy RFID key fob later and the Cummins kicked over without any complaint. I was also astonished to see almost no white smoke coming out of the tail pipe - must be all the EGR gear hanging off the engine. Plugged in I've started it as cold as -36 one morning in Canmore and it caught immediately. With the engine brake and high-idle on the engine and tranny get up to a "drivable" temperature after about 3-4 minutes of idling, although it takes a good 10-15 minutes at residential speeds to get it up to full operating temp. I truly hope that most of you folks from way down south will ever have to worry about those kind of temps, but for our Canadian winters it's a huge comfort to know that your vehicle will start when you need it, especially by yourself in the middle of nowhere!
Lastly, the 4WD system engages and disengages smoothly. It seems to allow very little slip so you have to be sure that you're not on dry pavement in tight turns or you will drag your wheels and probably shorten the life of the system.
A few ticks on the "CON" side I've noticed, the steering feels just the slightest bit loose. I've heard from other Ram owners that this is not uncommon. I wouldn't say it's serious enough to cause a control problem but I am going to have it inspected on the next service.
In terms of control layout, for me at 6'4", the shifter control obstructs the 4WD knob. Likewise, the headlight control is way down on the lower left of the dash which is not in convenient reach at all. These are big issues but things could've been better layed out imo. There are a few other niggly issues in terms of fit and finish that coming from a Toyota background (at least the older ones) bug me. The engine wiring, for example, is really sloppy in spots and I plan to clean some of that up once the temps go above frostbite levels again.
Otherwise, it's a great truck so far and we are really enjoying our time in it. Oh, and it really is true about the sound the Cummins makes, there's just something about it that brings a smile and a nod.
Sorry if this has all been a bit rambling, just thought I'd share some impressions and observations. Stay warm!