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Torque Uncorked: Towing with the new 2016 Ram 3500 that has 900 lb-ft Cummins

Posted in Features on November 16, 2015
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Nine hundred: That’s the amount of torque, in pound-feet, that is generated by Ram’s most powerful 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel available in the ’16 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty. This new figure puts Ram on top, for now, at the time of this writing, in the never-ending power race for light trucks. This engine helps the 3500 achieve a darn impressive 31,210-pound maximum tow rating (regular cab, 4x2, dualie, based on SAE J2807 criteria).

Now before we go any further, let’s be clear that the high-output Cummins is available only in the ’16 Ram 3500. It’s also important to note that the engine is mated to an Aisin AS69RC six-speed automatic transmission. If you want a manual trans mated to a diesel, you’ll need to check the box for the 350hp/660–lb-ft Cummins. Wait, there’s more than one turbodiesel available? Yes. Just like the ’15 Ram 3500, there are three available versions of the Cummins 6.7L turbodiesel. In addition to the two already mentioned, there’s another version that puts out 370 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a 68RFE six-speed automatic transmission. Talk about choices. Oh, and there is also 5.7L and 6.4L Hemi gasoline engines available, depending on vehicle configuration, and these engines are mated to a 66RFE six-speed automatic transmission.

We’re told that Ram engineering and Cummins developed a new fuel delivery and turbo boost calibration for the high-output Cummins, which helps uncork the additional 35 lb-ft of torque for the ‘16 Ram (horsepower remains the same as the ‘15 Ram at 385). The stout Aisin AS69RC transmission is carryover from the previous-generation truck. Ram engineers beefed up the rear AAM 11.8-inch axle by increasing the ring gear hardware from 12 to 16 bolts. Ram says the additional hardened bolts and stronger material are used in the differential case to assure long-term durability.

But wait, there’s more. You see, the Ram 3500 is packed with features designed to improve towing power and control. For example, there’s an exhaust brake on the Cummins, Ram Active Air (this system can draw air from either the front of the vehicle or from an underhood inlet, depending on temperatures and conditions), and an available supplemental Active-Level rear air suspension (works in conjunction with the 3500’s Hotchkiss leaf-spring rear suspension, and it allowed Ram engineers to soften the leaf springs, which allows for more suspension movement when the vehicle is unloaded).

We were recently invited to Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Grounds to tow with the new 900 lb-ft Cummins in a Ram 3500. We spent most of our time in a SLT regular cab 4x2 longbox dualie pulling a triple-axle gooseneck trailer that weighed in at 31,135 pounds, which is just a hair under the truck’s maximum towing capacity. Aside from the 900–lb-ft Cummins engine, the Bright White 3500’s option list included 4.10:1 gearing, 5th- Wheel/Gooseneck Towing Prep Group, and 17-inch aluminum wheels. The total price including options and destination charge was $51,185.

The story here is torque, and the high-output Cummins didn’t disappoint. As we accelerated to highway speed (tow/haul mode activated), the pull of the Cummins was impressive. The turbodiesel makes its max torque at only 1,700 rpm, so it felt like a brute off the line. While clearly feeling powerful, said power came on smooth, which is important when safely towing or hauling loads. At speed, the truck handled very well and the engine settled into a low growl as it easily sustained the truck and trailer at 70 mph. Handling was very good even through sweeping turns at speed (full disclosure: the weight on the trailer was almost all at deck level, so it was a low center of gravity). Our big concern was stopping: The 3500 is fit with big four-wheel disc brakes (14.17x1.54-inch rotors up front and 14.09x1.34-inch rotors out back, both with twin-piston calipers), but over 15 tons is a lot of weight, and as we sailed along at speed, we wondered how decreasing our velocity was going to go. As it turned out, we needn’t have worried. The wide-ratio Aisin transmission and engine exhaust brake worked to help slow the rig, which significantly reduced the amount of brake pedal pressure we needed to apply. The result was a smooth, controlled reduction of forward momentum. We were glad that we got to tow the maximum load because if the high-output Cummins-equipped Ram 3500 can confidently pull, control, and stop that much weight, it stands to reason it can handle anything under that weight with ease.

In the end, we left the Chelsea Proving Grounds impressed by the performance of the new high-output Cummins and the truck it’s in. We’re looking to get more towing and hauling time with the new King of Torque, so stay tuned.

We spent most of our time in a Ram 3500 regular cab 4x2 dualie powered by the 900 lb-ft Cummins turbodiesel. We were towing a triple-axle gooseneck trailer that had a total weight of 31,135 pounds. This weight is only 75 pounds shy of the maximum towing weight for the truck we were piloting.

The 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel comes in three versions for the ’16 Ram 3500. The first generates 350 hp and 660 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a G56 six-speed manual transmission (shown here). The second makes 370 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a 68RFE six-speed automatic transmission. And of course, the third version is the most powerful that produces 385 hp and 900 lb-ft of torque.

The interior of the Ram Heavy Duty places the tow/haul and Active-Level rear air suspension switches in the center stack, while the manual shift control for automatic transmission–equipped trucks is on the shift lever.

Towing Central
In addition to the Ram 3500 with Cummins high-output engine towing 31,135 pounds, we also had the opportunity to tow and haul with several other Ram trucks, including the 1500 EcoDiesel, Ram 2500, and Ram 5500. Some of the trucks were equipped with trailers, some were hauling cargo, one had a dump box, some were single rear wheel, and some were dualies. Trailer weights ranged from 5,800 pounds (Ram 1500) to 27,675 pounds (Ram 3500). Cargo weights included 2,500 pounds (Ram 2500) and 6,000 pounds (Ram 3500). In each case we were impressed at the power and manners of the trucks. There’s no doubt they’re designed to be work-ready. We also found that we really liked the Active-Level rear air suspension. We’re fans of aftermarket setups like this, and some of us have ’em in our own trucks. The ability to get this functional setup installed and plumbed from the factory is a cool deal. Head over to fourwheeler.com to see video of some of these rigs recorded at the Ram Truck Heavy Hauler Program.

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