Cowboy-couture Ram boasts truckish tech

Cowboy-couture Ram boasts truckish techThe good: An assortment of diesel and emissions technologies helped the 2013 Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn 4X4 achieve better-than-expected fuel economy. The Laramie Longhorn comes fully loaded with Uconnect infotainment, digital audio sources, and premium surround sound. Luxurious cowboy leather seats are too awesome to ignore.

The bad: Inputting addresses with the onscreen keyboard is sluggish and laggy, and searching is even more so. Paying as much as $10 per day for Wi-Fi connectivity seems a bit excessive.

The bottom line: It may look and ride like a brute, but the 2013 Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn offers luxurious appointments and loads of good dashboard tech for the 21st-century cowboy.

The 3500 Laramie Longhorn is not shy about its modern cowboy aesthetic. Swing open its heavy door and step up on its running boards and you’ll be greeted by an interior that is, well, a bit ridiculous.

Premium brown leather trims the Ram’s seats with Longhorn-specific accents and contrasting piping meant to evoke the flourishes of a cowboy’s boots. The designs, at first, appear to be stitched, but closer inspection reveals that the leather was likely laser-etched, allowing the detailing to sit flush with the smooth leather. On the backs of the seats you’ll find saddle bag-inspired storage areas. The floor mats are molded to look like barbed wire.

The chunky shape and flow of the dashboard and steering wheel remind me a great deal of the Chrysler 300, only larger and more spread out for the truck’s cabin. Along the top of the dashboard is more brown leather with contrast stitching. Here and there you’ll find chrome accents and even a bit of wood trim on the center stack, door panels, and steering wheel.


Even if the western theme isn’t your cup of iced tea, you sort of have to appreciate the commitment to a theme and the attention to detail that’s gone into the 3500 Laramie Longhorn’s cabin. Sure, there are a few odd bits here, some ugly hard plastic there, but largely the Longhorn pulls off the look. It’s sort of hard not to like it.

Standard Uconnect tech
In addition to having seats that look like cowboy boots and a giant “3500 Laramie Longhorn” belt buckle on its door, the Longhorn is also a luxury trim level that comes loaded with cabin amenities: heated and ventilated seats with power adjustment and multiple memory positions, a heated steering wheel, even heated second-row seats. The steering wheel doesn’t telescope, but the pedals are power-adjustable.

Okay, so I’m talking a lot about seats again, but this Ram’s dashboard is also packed with some interesting technology, including the newest generation of the Uconnect infotainment and navigation system. Built around an 8.4-inch color touch screen, this system features large icons along the bottom edge of its interface for the seven major functions.

Jumping into the middle of that row, we’ll find a button for navigation. Previous generations of the Uconnect system lifted their navigation system wholesale from Garmin and, when you pressed the nav button, the entire interface changed to look like a giant Garmin Nuvi in your dashboard, complete with its own menu system. I’d bet my hat that in this new version of Uconnect the maps and routing algorithms are still provided by Garmin, but the entire system has been reskinned and reorganized to integrate seamlessly with the rest of the infotainment interface. I’ve used enough navigation devices over the years to recognize the menu structure, but if you weren’t looking for it you wouldn’t even notice the rebranding.


Routing is quick once a destination is chosen, but I found the points-of-interest search and onscreen keyboard used for address input to both be extremely laggy and sluggish. The most likely culprit is some sort of background search or autocomplete algorithm slowing down the system, but I can’t be sure. You’re going to want to take your time inputting a destination while you’re parked. Actually, you won’t have a choice, as the system doesn’t accept keyboard input when the vehicle is in motion.

The Uconnect system does include touch-screen controls for the climate control systems for the cabin and seats, but I love that there are easily accessed physical controls beneath the screen as well.

The Uconnect Apps menu is a bit misnamed as the apps available are more like telematics services. We were able to access and add features such as 911 assistance, voice text messaging, remote door unlocking, and Yelp connected search for destinations, all using the Uconnect system’s 3G data connection. You can also add Wi-Fi hot-spot connectivity to the vehicle right from the in-dashboard Uconnect App Store for $9.99 per day, $19.99 per week, or $34.99 per month.

More apps, including Pandora, Aha by Harman, iHeartRadio, and Slacker, will be available from the Uconnect App Store soon through the new Uconnect Access via Mobile service.

Audio sources selectable with the Uconnect system include two USB ports with iPod connectivity, a 3.5mm analog auxiliary input, and an SD card slot located beneath the armrest in a sort of media hub. You also get Sirius XM satellite radio and terrestrial HD Radio. Standard Bluetooth enables voice-commanded hands-free calling and audio streaming from a paired smartphone.

Interestingly, a CD player is not among that list of standard options — it’ll cost you an additional $195 to drop a single-disc slot into the center console. When a pickup truck is too high-tech for a CD player, you know the format is dead.


Audio from whatever source you chose is played through an Alpine-branded premium surround-sound audio system with nine speakers and 506 watts of amplification. I like the sound coming out of those speakers and sub, which is sufficient to overpower the big ol’ engine and exhaust that we’ll get to later.

Pull the column shifter into reverse and the 8.4-inch screen displays a rear view of the area behind complete with a dynamic trajectory overlay that moves with the steering wheel. There are also audible proximity sensors that beep as you approach obstructions while parking, but I’d love to see the Ram’s high-tech dashboard include some sort of around-view camera system like what we saw on the 2013 Range Rover or Nissan Pathfinder.

About the only tech options aside from the CD player are a $995 power sunroof, $395 for automatic high beams and rain-sensing windshield wipers, and $150 for a rear-window defroster. Everything else that I’ve mentioned so far is standard.

Horsepower for horse people
As the badge on the front fender proclaims, you’ll find a 6.7-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel engine beneath the Ram’s tall hood. You may assume that a truck this big would be packing a V-8 — I know I did — but the hunk of metal that powers this vehicle only has six pistons arranged in an inline configuration. With a per-cylinder displacement of just over 1.1 liters, those have got to be some pretty big pistons.

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