The 2012 Ram 1500 is a top pick in the full-size pickup truck segment thanks to its winning combination of strong performance, smooth ride and a classy cabin.
For 2012, the Ram gets a new six-speed automatic transmission and as a result, a fuel economy increase.Read more
Best-in-class ride quality; well-made interior; clever storage spaces; powerful V8; lots of interior space.
There are certainly basic requirements that you'd expect a pickup truck to meet. A truck has to be tough, both in practice and preferably in appearance as well. It has to tow and haul things that nothing else can. It has to have a robust V8 engine available along with four-wheel drive. The 2012 Ram 1500 satisfies all that, but then so do its competitors. Sure, one may be able to tow a little more or have a slightly tougher frame, but for the vast majority of jobs, any full-size pickup will get it done.
In order to stand out, trucks are built these days with unique conveniences and little luxuries, and in this respect the Ram definitely succeeds. The Ram features a unique rear suspension design for its tough solid axle that features coil springs, delivering a more carlike ride without compromising hauling or towing. The Ram also stands out with useful features like watertight storage compartments in the floor of the cabin and the lockable compartments that straddle the cargo bed.
The 2012 Ram 1500 stands out because it makes an owner's life easier, and this means that the higher trim levels of this truck that incorporate such features are probably more appealing relative to the Chevy Silverado, Ford F-150 and Toyota Tundra. This is especially true when you consider that the standard V6 and midgrade V8 do no better in fuel economy than the top-dog 390-horsepower V8. Really, it's hard to go wrong with any full-size truck these days, but if you want a really nice one, we think the Ram 1500 is a little nicer than the rest.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Ram 1500 is a full-size pickup available in multiple cab styles and bed lengths. The regular cab seats a maximum of three people on its standard 40/20/40 bench seat, and it can be had with either a 6-foot-4 bed or an 8-foot version. The extended cab ("Quad Cab") can seat up to six in two bench rows and comes only with the 6-foot-4 bed. The crew cab model expands rear-seat legroom even farther, but is only available with a 5-foot-7 bed. There are four trim levels.
The base ST model (available in regular and extended cabs) comes standard with 17-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, a locking tailgate, vinyl floor covering, air-conditioning, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat, vinyl upholstery, a folding rear bench seat (extended-cab only), a tilt-only steering wheel and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player with an auxiliary audio jack. The Power and Remote Entry Group adds keyless entry and power locks, mirrors and windows. The ST Popular Equipment Group adds cruise control, carpeted flooring, cloth upholstery and satellite radio.
Both of these equipment groups are standard on the SLT (available in all cab styles), which also adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a standard V8, chrome exterior trim, a power-sliding rear window and a trip computer. The Power Equipment Group adds 20-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, a rear stabilizer bar and an eight-way power driver seat with power lumbar adjustment. The Media Center 430 package adds a touchscreen interface, digital music storage, an iPod/USB audio interface, Bluetooth and an auto-dimming mirror. Also optional are a leather-wrapped steering wheel and power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors.
The Sport (available in all cab styles) adds the above optional equipment along with a body-colored grille, 22-inch chrome wheels, unique bucket seats and console, and a floor-mounted shifter lever.
The top-of-the-line Laramie trim level (available in extended and crew cabs only) comes standard with virtually all of the Sport's features, with a few differences (such as 20-inch wheels, a front split bench seat and two-tone paint) and added luxuries in the form of rear parking sensors, additional exterior chrome trim, remote ignition, fender flares, power-adjustable pedals, driver memory functions, leather upholstery, a six-way power passenger seat, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, wood-grain/chrome interior trim and an upgraded sound system with a subwoofer.
Many of the above features can be had on the SLT and Sport. Other notable options (depending on trim level) include an integrated trailer brake controller, a spray-in bedliner, a sunroof, "RamBox" storage bins mounted on the sides of the bed, a rear parking camera and a navigation system with real-time traffic. A rear-seat entertainment system is also available on Crew Cab models.
There are also a variety of packages available as well. The Outdoorsman (only available on four-wheel-drive trucks) includes highlights such as the 5.7-liter V8 (already standard on the Sport), all-terrain tires, underbody skid plates, limited-slip rear differential, bucket seats with console, two-tone paint and fender flares. The Lone Star (available in Texas only) and Big Horn (available everywhere but Texas) are similar in that they bundle together a bunch of the SLT's optional equipment along with special badging and trim.
Powertrains and Performance
The standard engine for the rear-wheel-drive Ram 1500 ST regular and quad cabs is a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 215 hp and 235 pound-feet of torque. A four-speed automatic is standard. Fuel economy is underwhelming for a V6, 14 mpg city/20 highway and 16 mpg combined.
The standard engine on the four-wheel-drive Ram ST and all SLT and Laramie models is a 4.7-liter V8 good for 310 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. Fuel economy with RWD is 14/20/16 mpg and 4WD drops the highway estimate to 19 mpg.
Standard on the Sport and optional on the SLT and Laramie trims is a 5.7-liter V8 good for 390 hp and 407 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed auto is standard. In Edmunds performance testing, a Crew Cab Sport went from zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds. Fuel economy with 2WD is also 14/20/16 mpg, but 4WD is 13/19/15.
Maximum towing capacity when properly equipped is 10,450 pounds -- this is less than its competitors, but not by much.
Standard safety equipment on the 2012 Ram 1500 includes four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control, hill-start assist, trailer-sway control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
In government crash testing, the Ram 1500 received an overall rating of three stars (out of five), with two stars for overall frontal crash protection. The Crew and Quad cabs received an overall side crash rating of five stars. Oddly, the results were different in crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Here the Ram received the top score of "Good" in the institute's frontal-offset test, but the second-worst score of "Marginal" in the side-impact and roof strength tests.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Ram 1500 Laramie compared favorably with competing trucks, requiring 130 feet to come to a stop from 60 mph. However, a lesser-equipped Sport did it in a short 122 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Ram 1500's interior is as good as it gets in the pickup segment. The range-topping Laramie, with its wood-grain trim and leather upholstery, makes for a very posh pickup, but even the lower trim levels have an attractive design, well-textured materials and intuitively placed controls. The front seats, while rather soft, strike an adequate balance between support and comfort. The crew cab's rear seat is very comfortable, offering loads of legroom and an agreeable seatback angle. If there is an interior quibble, it's that the available touchscreen audio interface isn't as user-friendly as the higher-tech electronics systems found in the Ford F-150.
The Ram provides plenty of standard and optional storage spaces. The center console bin is quite large, while the crew cab features watertight storage compartments under the rear floor as well as shallow bins under the flip-up backseat. Unique to this pickup is the optional RamBox feature, which places a pair of lockable compartments over the rear fenders inside the truck bed. It's a neat feature, though we've found the durability of the compartments isn't as sturdy as one might expect.
With its body-on-frame construction, the 2012 Ram 1500 exhibits the sort of ride quality you expect from a truck designed to carry a payload of a half ton, but the coil springs in the rear suspension do much to maintain a comfortable ride on the highway when the cargo bed is empty.
We would steer potential owners away from the Ram's base V6, which is not only underpowered for the pickup's heft, but also offers no advantage in fuel economy. The 4.7-liter V8 is adequately powerful, but given that it also gets the same gas mileage as the 5.7-liter V8, it seems like a no-brainer to step up to the biggest engine available -- if you have the extra money, that is.
The new six-speed automatic found in the V8 models helps optimize both fuel economy and towing ability, allowing the Ram to better compete with the Ford, GM and Toyota pickups. Still, one of the several optional axle ratios might be in order if you need to tow something, but keep in mind that this will come at the cost of fuel economy. The Ram's light-effort steering also lacks any sort of feel, which can be unnerving on a narrow country road.