The mightiest Ram on the block returns unchanged for 2021. The lineup grows ever-so-slightly with the new Limited Night Edition, which decorates the Ram with black trim and badging and 20-inch black wheels.
2021 RAM 3500
Unlike other websites and magazines, our ratings are not based solely on a singular road test, but rather a more encompassing batch of criteria: quality, safety, comfort, performance, fuel economy, reliability history and value. When comparing vehicles using our Rating System, it's important to note that the rating earned by each vehicle correlates only to the models within its class. For example, a compact car cannot be compared to a SUV—They are different vehicles altogether.
You can interpret our ratings in the following way:
5-Star: Outstanding vehicle. Only the most exceptional vehicles achieve this rating.
4-Star: Very Good vehicle. Very good and close to being the best vehicle in its class.
3-Star: Good vehicle. Decent, but not quite the best. Often affordable, but lacking key features found in vehicles of the same class.
2-Star: Below average vehicle. Not recommended, and lacking attributes a car buyer would come to expect for the price.
1-Star: Poor vehicle. Simply does not deserve to be on the road.
2021 RAM 3500 Overview
Choosing Your RAM 3500
Heavy-duty pickup trucks are known for their overwhelming array of options and build qualities, and the Ram 3500 is no exception. Two bed lengths, three cab configurations, and a choice of single- or dual-rear wheels are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ordering the perfect 3500. Prices reflect this customization: base trucks begin around $37,000, but fully-loaded examples will easily crest $85,000.
The Ram 3500 comes with the choice of two engines: the base 6.4-liter gas V-8 and a Cummins turbodiesel inline-six. The latter is available in two states of tune, with the high-output variant hitting an impressive 1,000 lb-ft of torque.
|Engine Type||Horsepower||Torque||Max Towing|
|6.4L V8||410 hp||429 lb-ft||18,210 pounds|
|6.7L Turbodiesel V8||370 hp||850 lb-ft||22,670 pounds|
|6.7L Turbodiesel V8||400 hp||1,000 lb-ft||35,100 pounds|
Expect to pay up for the diesel. The standard version of the Cummins costs a healthy $9,100; the high-output variant commands $11,795. Anyone towing big loads with any frequency will find the pricey upcharges well worth it, however. These miracle engines manage to make even 15 tons of trailer feel nearly effortless.
The diesels are paired up with a stout six-speed automatic transmission that's beefed up considerably for the high-output Cummins. The gas 6.4-liter works with an eight-speed automatic.
None of these engines are rated by the EPA, as the Ram 3500's curb weight exempts the truck from government fuel-economy testing.
Passenger and Cargo Capacity
Depending on the cab design, the Ram 3500 can carry anywhere between three and six passengers. Most trucks come with a front bench seat, though buckets are available. The Crew Cab is a bit tight for rear-seat space, but the Mega Cab is true to its name, with ample room for rear passengers.
The two beds make cargo capacity a non-issue. The eight-foot bed is the one to get for sheer cargo volume - 75 cubic feet of it - and also unlocks the max 7,680-pound payload rating. The smaller six-foot-four-inch box holds 58 cubic feet of cargo.
Heavy-duty trucks are light on the active-safety features that have become commonplace on light-duty vehicles. As such, the Ram 3500 only comes standard with old-school safety features: airbags, anti-lock braking, stability control, and a rearview camera.
On the options front, however, shoppers will find most modern safety equipment. Features like blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, a surround-view camera, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control are all available. Some of these features become standard on the top-shelf Limited trim. The Laramie gets standard front and rear parking sensors.
Ram has made much ado about its 12.0-inch touchscreen, but what they don't say is that it only comes standard on the Limited trim. The base Tradesman and Big Horn trucks use a 5.0-inch touchscreen that only has Bluetooth compatibility. The Laramie and Laramie Longhorn use a much more robust 8.4-inch touchscreen with the corporate Uconnect 4 software that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The 12.0-inch screen is available with the Laramie and Laramie Longhorn, but expect to pay anywhere from $1,995 to $3,595 for it. Navigation can be had with both of the bigger screens.
The base Ram 3500 is a work truck through and through. Features like vinyl flooring, manual windows and locks, and a vinyl bench seat should endear it to fleet buyers and contractors. The basic amenities include manual climate control with air conditioning, cruise control, and push-button start. 18-inch wheels and flat-black exterior trim distinguish it from the fancier members of the lineup.
Most buyers will likely opt for the $895 Tradesman Level 1 Equipment Group that adds power windows and locks, keyless entry, power heated side mirrors, and a few other small upgrades. The $1,595 Level 2 Equipment Group includes those aforementioned features along with cloth upholstery, carpeted floors, a sliding rear window, SiriusXM radio, and active noise cancellation.
The Max Towing Package costs $3,695 and readies the 3500 for trailering with a 4.10 gear ratio, trailer brake control, an air suspension, fifth-wheel prep, and a 30K fifth-wheel hitch.
The Big Horn is likely where most private shoppers will begin their shopping. It makes all the equipment of the Tradesman's Level 2 Equipment Group standard, and further adds chrome exterior trim and remote keyless entry.
The Big Horn's Level 1 Equipment Group ($2,095) comes with the 8.4-inch touchscreen with UConnect 4, upgraded cloth upholstery, power-adjustable pedals, a 3.5-inch color information display, a universal garage door opener, power-folding side mirrors, and a leather-wrapped steering wheels with audio controls.
The $4,980 Level 2 Equipment Group bundles Level 1 equipment with a 7-inch driver information display, remote start, parking sensors, tailgate dampeners, and an alarm.
Things begin to get fancy with the Laramie, which comes standard with the Big Horn's Level 2 Equipment Group. It also gets leather upholstery, 10-way power seats, and an upgraded chrome grille.
Again the pair of equipment groups remain the two major option packages. The Level 1 costs $1,800 and includes automatic high-beams, ventilated front seats, a driver's memory seat, blind-spot monitors, and a remote-release tailgate.The $4,095 Level 2 tacks on heated rear seats, two additional USB ports, navigation, and a 17-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
The Laramie trim unlocks the option to order a $1,095 sunroof.
The Longhorn flavor of the Laramie ups the ante by making standard most features found in the Laramie's Level 2 Equipment Group. The Longhorn is notable for its southwestern motif that includes available two-tone paint, standard full-leather seating surfaces featuring cowboy-style embroidery, and real wood trim. Bucket seats and a full-length console class up the front row, while more chrome and polished aluminum wheels enhance the exterior styling.
The $3,595 Longhorn Level 1 Equipment Group contains the bulk of all remaining options at this point, including the 12.0-inch touchscreen, wireless device charging, power-deploying running boards, and blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
At nearly $65,000, the fully-loaded Ram 3500 Limited is a formidable machine. It gets a significant portion of the Longhorn's Level 1 equipment as standard, and also sports 20-inch wheels, a unique grille, and an interior featuring additional leather and real wood trim.
The Limited Level 1 Equipment Group costs $3,440 and bundles the Harmon Kardon audio system, adaptive cruise control, and a surround-view camera.
The Ram 3500 is infinitely customizable, so we would start shopping in the middle of the trim lineup with the Laramie. Tick the right boxes and you'll have a truck nearly as luxurious as the Limited for thousands less. As for engines? Don't be afraid to pony up for the diesel. It's pricey, sure, but it makes towing any size trailer a non-issue, which is what these trucks are built to do.