How Much Can a 2019 Ram 3500 Dually Tow?
6.7L Cummins Turbo Diesel Real World Test #ua2019
By now you know that the 20th anniversary of Ultimate Adventure took place in Alaska. The 49th state is truly an amazing place, full of pristine wilderness, epic vistas, and plenty of off-road challenges. It's also far away from the lower 48. Like really, really, really far away. You even have to drive through another country to get there. 3,800 miles seems like a big number, but unless you're an over-the-road trucker and drive for a living, it's difficult to wrap your head around just how far that really is until you've driven that number of miles consecutively. And that's only one way. Trekking to Alaska from the lower 48 is a pretty big road trip by just about any measure, so just getting to the 2019 Ultimate Adventure was an adventure in itself. This is one of the many stories behind the story of this year's UA, and it involves two buddies, two vehicles, a big trailer, and a 2019 Ram 3500 with a beast of an engine under the hood.
The 20th anniversary of Ultimate Adventure was special for many reasons. Aside from the destination, the 20th marked only the second time that participating in the UA meant leaving the country. It was also the first time the official vehicle would be an International Harvester, and it would feature the largest number of official UA vehicles built specifically to participate in the event (it was five: The Ultimate International, the Deranged Rover, the Tug Truck, the CJ-17, and the double-ended JK). It also tacked on an extra thousand miles over the previous year's UA start in Maine from Tech Editor Verne Simon's and the author's homes in Phoenix, Arizona. Because the official vehicle was once again powered by a Cummins R2.8, it seemed fitting that a Cummins-powered tow rig should be called upon to get the Ultimate International to Alaska. Even better, Ram announced that the 6.7L Cummins in the Ram had cracked the 1,000 lb-ft barrier. Having used a similar Ram 3500 in 2018 to haul two vehicles from Phoenix to Maine, we were curious about what kind of difference the new torque numbers would make. We reached out to Ram and pitched the Ultimate tow test for our Alternate Adventure, and a few weeks later, a Longhorn four-wheel-drive dually arrived just in time to head north. What follows is part tow test, part adventure story, and part travelogue as we racked up 8,700 miles on our borrowed Ram in just 30 days.
It all started with this thing, a Cummins R2.8-powered 1964 Scout 80 dubbed the Ultimate International, also known as the official vehicle of the 2019 UA. We thrashed on this truck from May through mid-August to get it ready for the event. We pretty much ate, slept, and breathed the Scout, which managed to come together where it could be driven for about a week before we needed to head for Alaska. We considered driving the Scout but shelved the idea early on. It was a fresh build that needed to travel nearly 4,000 miles to the start of Ultimate Adventure, and being late or not showing up due to breakdowns was not an option.
Planning Ultimate Adventure is a huge undertaking that, among other things, requires extensive exploring and pre-running potential routes. We had done some scouting the previous October in a rental Jeep, but the second pre-run in June required something quite a bit more capable than a stock vehicle. We also needed to get several staff vehicles up to Alaska. Logistically it made the most sense for me to drive up to Alaska in Verne Simon's Derange Rover to do the final pre-run, then leave it up there with some friends until the main event. This photo was taken during the pre-run at the Knik glacier where we were racking up thousands of miles on Verne's Rover while he was back in Phoenix thrashing on the Scout. Crazy how life works sometimes.
With a Cummins under the hood of the Ultimate International it only made sense to use a Cummins-powered vehicle to haul it up to Alaska. Our trip to Maine the previous year was made possible with a loaner four-wheel drive dually from Ram (check out Verne & Trent's Excellent Towventure for the full story), and Ram generously offered us the use of one of their newest Ram duallys for the trip to the 49th state. The 6.7L Cummins makes 400 horsepower at 2,800 rpm and a jaw-dropping 1,000 lb-ft of torque at 1,800 rpm. The engine came wrapped in a four-wheel drive Longhorn Edition dually with every single options box that we knew of checked. We weren't crazy about the color, but everything else about the truck was 100-percent legit and tailor-made for long-distance towing duty.
Did we mention that the logistics behind putting on an Ultimate Adventure in Alaska are complicated? Verne's Rover was already in Alaska but needed a way to get home after UA, which meant bringing our two-car bumper-pull trailer. It also meant there was an open spot for a vehicle, so we offered to haul Rick P w 's CJ-17 up to Wasilla. He flew up to Alaska and drove the Jeep home after UA was over. Confusing for sure, but somehow it all worked out. Check out what we did to prep our trailer for the long trip here: Outfitting Our Two-Car Trailer for Long Trips
We were quick to transform the interior of the Ram into equal parts dorm room, office, and pantry full of only healthy snack foods (as far as our wives knew). We found the seats extremely comfortable and the various controls for the truck logically placed and intuitive for the most part. We especially liked the trailer brake controller. The rear seat spent the majority of the trip folded up, and both the back of the cab and the eight-foot bed were chock full of our stuff as well as the belongings of several others that were flying up and didn't have room for things like camping gear.
Hands down, Ram has the best towing mirrors of any truck manufacturer. No motors to fail, they simply flip out and are rock solid in either the extended or retracted position. We're not sure why the other OEs haven't gone with similar designs; the newest Chevy HD mirrors are particularly awful by comparison. Thanks to the excellent overall visibility of the Ram and the flatbed trailer, we were able to see fine with the mirrors retracted.
We made some excellent time in the first couple of days, even with stops in Jacob Lake for cookies and this enormous army-navy surplus store in Idaho Falls, Idaho. We scored some ammo cans for the Scout, some boots for Verne, and real surplus collapsible shovels for both of us. This store was actually a stop on a previous Ultimate Adventure, and it's definitely worth checking out if you're ever passing through the area.
After an uneventful border crossing we were in Canada toward the beginning of our third day on the road. We purposely bypassed Calgary and Edmonton, opting for a much more scenic route through Banff and Jasper National Parks. Canadian National Parks are every bit as beautiful as their American equivalents.
There was a loose plan to meet up with a few cronies and readers at Lake Louise, and despite people coming from several different points in the country and even leaving on different days, the plan mostly worked! We were able to connect with readers Rick and Nicole Prater, cronies Tom Boyd, Keith Bailey, and Chris Durham, and Skyjacker's Lonnie McCurry Jr. and Dillard DeLasalle. Unfortunately the lake itself was packed to the gills with tourists, so we ended up in an overflow lot. If the cool 4x4s weren't a dead giveaway that this was a gathering of Ultimate Adventure participants, the large number of tent cots most certainly were.
By the time we reached the Columbia Ice Fields in Banff we had a small convoy consisting of a pair of Cummins-powered Rams hauling two vehicles apiece, a Cummins-powered motorhome hauling a single, and a Super Duty hauling a single. All three trucks had remarkably similar ranges, while the motorhome only lagged behind a little on the bigger grades.
To reduce potential roadside problems we equipped the trailer with a brand new set of Milestar SteelPro tires with a load rating of 4,400 lbs each and even carried two spares with us. This turned out to be very handy. The tires were flawless, but we cracked two wheels on the way up to Alaska and one more on the way back. We suspect the trailer manufacturer equipped it with wheels that weren't up to the trailer's 14,000lb GVW. We were able to pick up two heavier-rated wheels in Dawson Creek, B.C. We're thankful to have equipped the trailer with TireMinder TPMS sensors, which alerted us to the cracked wheels losing air pressure before we destroyed a tire. The cost of three replacement tires would have been far more than the cost of the TireMinder kit.
Unfortunately the cracked wheels weren't the only mechanical failure we would experience. The radiator in Keith Bailey's Ram split. Thanks to the cold weather (note the white stuff in the background), we were able to patch the radiator enough to limp into Yellowknife for more permanent repairs.
Even with a range of about 260 miles there were a lot of fuel stops. We didn't keep meticulous fuel records but the truck averaged about 10.5 mpg throughout the trip, which was notably better than we had gotten the previous year going to Maine. We also went through much less DEF. We attribute most of the improved fuel economy and DEF consumption to the lower speed limits in Canada and Alaska, but we also noted that the truck didn't seem to be working as hard. This could be the improved torque output, but we suspect it's also due to the excellent tuning of the eight-speed transmission. Note the fuel jug; we may or may not have had to borrow some fuel from Keith Bailey when we ran out 15 miles short of a gas stop.
After five long days on the road, including three in Canada and some sketchy accommodations, we reached the border of Alaska! Even more amazing, after months of building a vehicle together and being cooped up in a truck for days, we were even still speaking to one another. The five audio books and steering clear of energy drinks may have helped. We were so stoked, we went ahead and pushed on for the eight hours to make it into Wasilla. Just so we could stop moving for a while.
Though we arrived a couple of days before UA started, there was still plenty to do. We had to swap a fresh set of tires on the Rover and there was a punch list of things to do to both vehicles. Several UA participants ended up using the Wininger's farm for last-minute prep and truck and trailer storage throughout the week, the Ram and our trailer included. Thanks again for your hospitality, Wininger crew!
If you haven't already, check out the coverage of the 2019 Ultimate Adventure, which was a whole separate adventure that we experienced after getting to Alaska. There are multiple articles on fourwheeler.com, print issues of 4Wheel & Off-Road that are now collector items, and search #ua2019 on Facebook and Instagram for thousands of other photos and videos from the event!
Verne hopped on a plane following UA to spend some time with his wife and young children after being gone for two and a half weeks, while my wife flew up to check out Alaska and keep me company on the drive home. We stayed in Alaska another five days checking out places that hadn't been seen on Ultimate Adventure and generally relaxing after a hectic summer. The Ram served as a great rod trip vehicle even unloaded. We saw places like Denali National Park and Whittier, Alaska (pictured here), which is only accessible by road via a 13,300-foot railroad tunnel that is open to car traffic at certain times of the day.
After nearly three weeks, it was finally time to point the Ram Southeast for the long trip home. Views like this are downright common in Alaska, making the place truly special. If you haven't seen Alaska yet, put it on your bucket list.
Exactly four weeks after leaving home, we made it back to Phoenix. Total mileage included the trip up and back as well as exploring Alaska after UA was over. Mileage shown isn't accurate for the whole trip but is instead the last few hundred miles, which were both steep and fast. As stated, average mileage over the entire trip was right around 10.5. The Ram was absolutely flawless mechanically; we didn't have to spin a single wrench or top off a single fluid. Quite possibly the ultimate long-distance hauler, it couldn't have performed better through conditions that ranged from 100-degree heat to snow, and roads that varied from smooth to pothole laden to gravel.
After spending over a month basically living out of this truck we have three small suggestions to improve a few things. First, there was only one 12-volt outlet inside the truck oddly positioned on top of the dash. This made plugging in our 12-volt fridge unnecessarily awkward when it would have been easy to put one in or near the center console like just about every other late-model vehicle. (Note to Ram: Not everything uses a USB port these days.) Second, the navigation system is pretty terrible (this is nothing new), but the Apple Car Play often didn't want to play nice with XM and other audio inputs. It was frequently confused, playing multiple things at once, and at times was completely unresponsive. And thirdly, we're not huge fans of the center console. Though it boasts an impressive amount of storage space, in practice the sliding cup holders often get jammed against junk underneath, and it seems to swallow even average-sized items to the deepest recesses where they can never be found again.