J.C. Newman launched the Brick House cigar in 1937 to honor his family and heritage. Whereas once this cigar was rolled in Cuba using Cuban tobacco, it is now proudly rolled in Nicaragua featuring an exclusive Havana Subido wrapper and Nicaraguan filler which gives it its robust and complex flavor. What has this got to do with a review of the 2014 RAM 3500 Laramie, you ask? Well, the Brick House is a brand devoted to staying power, solidity, and flexibility. It is favored by down-to-earth cigar buffs who demand consistency, punch, and value for their dollar, all characteristics synonymous with the RAM brand and, by-and-large, with RAM owners.
I climbed into the cab of a brand new 2014 RAM 3500 Laramie Crew Cab on a mucky rain-speckled afternoon, put it into 4-wheel drive low and churned my way through a veritable mud-bog so I could get onto the pavement and start my trip home from the dealership. Mud chips were flying in every direction, but the 20" "black" aluminum wheels surely and steadily picked a path through the muck and firmly deposited the truck on terra firma. From that point on I felt very confident that this vehicle would do anything I required of it - and truly, I wasn't ever disappointed in its performance!
Like the Brick House cigar, the RAM 3500 is robust (850lb-ft of torque!) and down-to-earth while at the same time technologically sophisticated and complex. The 6.7L Cummins Turbo Diesel (6-speed automatic) engine hums along effortlessly and engaging the electric instrument panel - mounted transfer case to put the vehicle into 2H, 4H, or 4LO is a snap. An electric Part-Time-Shift-on-the-Fly option is also available on the 3500 allowing you to make the appropriate selection in real time. Segment-Exclusive RAM Active Air Technology also works in the background so that the diesel engine can always provide optimal performance.
Air is pulled in either via the fender or the front grille and this operation switches from one to the other automatically as the ambient conditions dictate. Another innovative design feature is Front Axle Disconnect (standard on 4x4 models) that automatically disengages the front drive axle when the 4x4 system is turned off. This, of course, results in better gas mileage.
On a Saturday that was off and on sunny and then threatening rain, 3 of us were able to make our way to a golf tournament comfortably with 3 sets of golf clubs and other golfing paraphernalia safely stowed in the cabin with us as we drove. (There's so much room in the Crew Cab that even with the front seats as far back as they can go, the rear passengers can still stretch out and never feel cramped.) A versatile two-tiered storage compartment that can house one of today's thin laptops or notebooks and lots of other cargo besides punctuates the space between the front seats. This is where the CD player resides and where media outlets can be located. Plenty of other cargo storage options abound too (on the door panels, glove box (x2), and in the rear of the cabin). At the base of the two rear seats is an amazingly deep cargo bin that can double as coolers for your favorite beverages or 'nibbles' and could easily be the talk of the next tailgate party you go to.
Having significant expertise in the world of cigars, a friend of mine is sometimes asked the question, "What is the best cigar?" Chris is fond of replying that the best cigar is the one you enjoy smoking the most. This truism is equally applicable to the world of vehicles and I certainly found this to be true when driving my two buddies to the golf tournament. One of them absolutely loved the ride in the 3500 and kept saying that he could see himself driving one of these bad boys on a regular basis. He could see the advantages of pulling his long 5th wheel RV with this powerful truck and certainly I could see also that his 6'4" frame was very comfortable in the airy freedom of the Crew Cab.
My other friend, used to sleeker, lower-profile sports cars, found the ride rather bumpy and didn't like the great height to be negotiated getting into and out of the vehicle. At one point he commented that you needed to be as flexible as Spiderman to crawl in and out of the cab. He wasn't so sure that he liked riding so high. Personally, I do like riding high and this is about as high as it gets in a conventional vehicle. However, I did find the suspension a bit rough as per my buddy's assessment, although I know that's only the case when the vehicle is empty and not hauling any kind of payload. The all-new Active-Level rear air suspension automatically detects a load on the rear suspension and increases air pressure, leveling the truck and improving stability. The greater the payload, the more comfortable the ride - rather funky I'd say!
I could go on talking about the many creature comforts of the 2014 RAM 3500 Laramie, its sophisticated, but clean instrumentation (including UConnect technology) and its rocking Alpine stereo system (w Navigation); but, when it really comes down to it, this vehicle is all about ruggedness and pulling prowess. These attributes it has in spades. Contemporary styling aside, the 2014 RAM 3500 is built like a *? Brick House (pardon the pun) and I'd want to have it in my corner when the going gets tough. Both this vehicle and the aforementioned cigar are true to their respective heritages. The Brick House is a great addition to the J.C. Newman cigar family and the RAM 3500 is a feather in the family cap.