StaffAllpar HomeMore NewsCarsTrucksUpcomingRepairsTest drives

2019 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty First Drive

by Patrick Rall on

I recently traveled to Las Vegas to drive the all-new 2019 Ram Heavy Duty lineup and it proved to be one of my most unusual trips to Nevada, along with being one of the most treacherous drive events Ive attended. You see, Ram had a wide variety of 3500 trucks powered by the new high output Cummins Turbo Diesel hooked to trailers of varying sizes and weights, allowing us to experience the brute strength of the new HD lineup. Unfortunately, Vegas was hit with their worst snowstorm in 15 years, so what should have been a nice drive across sunny Nevada turned into a tricky task of navigating snow-covered roads in huge trucks and even bigger trailers.

Ram 3500

Basically, we started on the Las Vegas Strip with a fleet of Ram Heavy Duty pickups, several of which were pulling large, heavy trailers on streets that were slick with cold rain and light snow. As we drove to our midday destination in the hills outside of Vegas, the roads got steeper, the snow got heavier and surfaces went from being wet and slick to icy and very slick, but the 2019 Ram 3500 never batted an eyelash at the hard work in harsh winter conditions.

Leaving Las Vegas

My drive time in the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty lineup began in the two-tone Laramie Longhorn shown above. This truck features the Mega Cab layout, dual rear wheels, four wheel drive and the high output Cummins Turbo Diesel engine with 400 horsepower and 1,000 lb-ft of torque.

Ram 3500 Rear

Knowing that I run a horse stable and have a great deal of experience pulling a large horse trailer, the folks from the Ram brand asked me to use this gorgeous luxury truck to pull a 40-foot horse trailer to our midday stop in the hills outside of Vegas. This trailer was loaded with ballast to 11,000 pounds, which is a good, average number for a horse trailer of this size, and while that is well below what this truck is capable of towing, this is a load that many Ram owners around the country pull on a regular basis. Really, the trick with a trailer of this size isn’t managing the weight but rather, making sure to carefully navigate through any tight areas with a combination that is around 60-feet long. A trailer of this length can create a world of problems in tight quarters for an inexperienced driver, so I was tasked with taking this big rig from the Mandalay Bay hotel, down the Las Vegas Strip during the morning rush, onto the highways leading out of America’s gambling headquarters and into the hills outside of town.

Ram 3500 Front

In normal circumstances, this truck-and-trailer combo would be a tough one to take from the Vegas Strip to the hills outside of town with the insane amount of traffic around the thriving tourist trap, but making the drive that much tougher was the unusual weather. The night before our drive, snow blanketed the area and while the snow had melted off of the local roads by morning, the streets were still wet and slick, with icy conditions in some areas. That is no problem for me, spending my life living in areas that receive heavy snowfall, but a little snow causes a long list of problems for local drivers, many of whom have never driven in the snow.

Ram 3500 !2 inch

As I left the Mandalay Bay and headed north on the Las Vegas Strip, traffic was crazier than usual, with the desert-dwellers driving as though the world was on fire. Although the conditions were not far from a rainy day, there were fender-benders all over Vegas that created problems with the traffic patterns and that forced me to make a great many odd turns and lane changes as I made my way away from the heart of Las Vegas. On several occasions, I was forced to brake suddenly when someone cut in front of me and with the help of the integrated trailer brake controller, I had no issue getting the 3500 with the 11,000-pound horse trailer stopped in a hurry. Also, when the situation arose where I had to hurry to get over lane with my 60-foot combo, the high output Cummins diesel engine provides stout enough acceleration with the horse trailer hooked up that it wouldn’t be safe if we actually had horses loaded up. In other words, the 2019 Ram 3500 with the HO diesel accelerates harder than any horse owner will want to, but it shows how easily the big engine pulls the heavy load.

After weaving through the crowds of cabs, buses and confused Las Vegas drivers who were crippled by an inch of snow, I finally made my way to the highway leading from Las Vegas to the mountainous area an hour or so southwest. As elevation rose, temperature dropped and the snowfall increased, leading to roads that were covered with a few inches of ice and slush. As the going got tougher and slipperier, I switched the Ram 3500 into four-wheel-drive for better traction on the twisty mountain roads. Making this portion even tougher was the scores of locals who had never seen real snowfall before, so they headed to the hills with their kids to build snowmen and have snowball fights with their friends.

The problem with all of this wintry fun was that these people all parked their vehicles on both sides of an already-narrow road, and with much of the area being unequipped for large crowds of people, many of the cars were barely off of the road. That made wiggling through the hilly roads a bit tougher and in several occasions, I had to pull out from a stop on a steep grade after someone looking to play in the snow had stopped to park in front of me. In a few cases, I was stopped on a steep uphill incline with a fair amount of snow coverage on the road, but in every case, the high output Cummins Ram 3500 easily got the load moving.

Even on the steepest hills during the first part of the drive, the 2019 Ram 3500 pulled out from a stop with the 11,000-pound horse trailer and up to speed without much throttle input. It is an old cliché, but the new Ram Heavy Duty pulled this big horse trailer like it wasn’t even there. That also applied to the periods when we were cruising up the hills on a long pull, as there was truly no condition in which the high output Cummins Turbo Diesel engine in the Ram 3500 had to work hard with the 40-foot, 11,000-pound horse trailer. In fact, the hardest part was not using too much throttle when pulling out from a stop, as even in areas where the road was almost dry, 400 horsepower and 1,000 lb-ft of torque will allow the new Ram to smoke all four of the rear tires.

Smoky diesel burnouts aside, the 2019 Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn Mega Cab with dual rear wheels and the high output Cummins engine works just as well as you might expect, creating a work truck that will go faster than anyone with a loaded horse trailer will want to go while also easily handling that weight when braking and cornering in tight quarters.

Best of all, with my first test truck being a Laramie Longhorn model, our morning drive was made in the lap of modern luxury. The Longhorn package adds western-themed trim throughout the cabin, but more importantly, it adds plush two-tone leather seats front and rear, all of which are heated – serving as a nice feature in snowy Las Vegas. I was fortunate enough to have Ram Trucks boss Jim Morrison riding with me and talking trucks all morning, and he enjoyed the reclining, heated rear seats during our cold morning drive. Of course, we made good use of the 12-inch infotainment screen while making our way to the afternoon towing exercises in the hills south of Vegas, using both the simple navigation system and the industry-leading sound system.

Tackling the Industry’s Heaviest Load

Our midday exercises were held around Eldorado Canyon Mines, perched high in the hills above the Colorado River. While there, we had a chance to check out the new Ram 2500 Power Wagon, but the key focus of this portion was more towing. Ram had an array of 3500 trucks with differing layouts and trailers, with loads ranging from a 10,000-pound camper to a 14,000-pound dump trailer to the big dog – an open trailer carrying a massive frontloader and stacks of concrete blocks that combine with the trailer to weigh 35,100 pounds.

No other truck in the class can pull that much weight, so the 2019 Ram 3500 regular cab Tradesman model with rear-drive, dual rear wheels and the high output Cummins engine offered us a rare chance to tow more weight than the average commercial tractor trailer. We started at our “base” at the top of the hill, starting the exercise with a 4-mile drive down the winding road which has an average of 6-degrees of declination. There were a few points on this first leg of the drive where we had to give the truck some throttle to maintain the 35mph speed limit, but for the most part, this was an exercise in coasting down a hill with a heavy load out back.

That doesn’t sound very hard, but keep in mind that we are talking about a rear-wheel-drive truck with all-season tires pulling a trailer that weighs 35,100 pounds. While I didn’t need to use the engine brake with the horse trailer in the morning, that feature was a must on the long downhill cruise with the maximum load. The engine brake allowed me to carefully keep speeds at or near the posted limit, making sure to keep all of the weight under control when carving through some of the tighter turns of the route with only mild input from the integrated trailer brakes and the class-leading braking system that comes with the Max Tow package. I did find that I could stop the load relatively quickly without the engine brake, but for the long, downhill drive, the engine brake was key to keeping speeds manageable.

Once I got to the turnaround point along the banks of the Colorado River, I began the long, uphill climb with the 35,100-pound trailer. Again, the drive from the bottom of the hill to our base was about 4 miles, with an average inclination of 6 degrees along the way. My goal was to maintain the 35mph speed limit on this long grueling climb, of course excluding those few spots where I had to slow down to safely navigate a tight turn.

At the bottom of the hill, it was a bit warmer and raining, so the roads weren’t as slick as they were near our base further up the hill. This allowed me to use all of the available power when I began my climb without a concern of traction issues, so I had no issue getting up to the posted speed limit. From there, I kept the truck right at 35 for the duration of the climb, with only one area where I did some climbing below the posted speed limit. There was a point in the drive where I had to slow to weave through a narrow bridge which was covered with snow, and when coming off of that bridge, I hit a steep uphill climb. Leaving the truck in Drive, letting the systems do all of the work, I was able to get up to 33mph on the next climb, quickly hitting 35 as soon as the hill smoothed out a bit.

In all reality, had the road been wider and a bit friendlier to a huge truck and trailer, I have no doubt that the 2019 Ram 3500 Tradesman with the Max Tow Package could have pulled this 35,100-pound trailer up the hill with more speed, but with the roads being narrow, twisty and covered with snow in some places, I kept the speeds at the posted limit. I also could have enhanced the performance of this pulling test by manually selecting gears and getting a run at steeper sections, but I did not and the truck still performed flawlessly.

The bottom line here is that the 2019 Ram 3500 can handles a 35,100-pound heavy equipment trailer in some of the worst conditions, up and down a steep hill in the snow, just as smoothly as it pulls the 11,000-pound horse trailer along the flat Las Vegas Strip. Most Ram buyers will never pull a trailer that weighs this much, but the fact that it will comfortably handle a load this heavy shows that it will make short work of whatever trailer buyers around the country pull on a regular basis.

The Final Word

The 2019 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty got loads of attention when it debuted at the 2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit with 400 horsepower, 1,000 lb-ft of torque and the ability to tow 35,100 pounds, but my time spent behind the wheel proves that those figures are not just marketing tools.

Ram 3500 Longhorn

The new Ram Heavy Duty pulls all of these big trailers without breaking a sweat, whether you are driving up a big hill, down a big hill or weaving through tight, winter traffic and with the available premium features, the hardest-working truck in America also has an interior that offers as much luxury as Europe’s top sedans.

Patrick Rall was raised a Mopar boy, spending years racing a Dodge Mirada while working his way through college. After spending a few years post-college in the tax accounting field, Patrick made the jump to the world of journalism and his work has been published in magazines and websites around the world.

Hey Charger! cover
Chrysler historian Gary Bridger

Surprisingly small 2019 Ram 1500 recall

Dakota to be dropped in favor of ChangAn?

More Mopar Car
and Truck News

Some popular Allpar pages





Dodge Demon

2018 Wrangler JL



Staff details/contactsTerms of ServiceInformation is presented to the best of our knowledge. Plans change and sometimes mistakes are made. Decisions or purchases made based on this site's verbiage or images are done at the reader's own risk. Also see the Allpar News archives, 1997-2008 • Copyright © VerticalScope Inc. All rights reserved. • Mopar, Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, HEMI, and certain other names are trademarks of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.