- Best-looking of the big trucks
- Powerful, relatively efficient HEMI V-8
- Ride and roadholding
- Innovative storage systems
- Serious hauling capability
- Coarse, weak base V-6
- Blemished safety scores
The 2012 Ram 1500 is big and burly yet very detail-oriented; and for those who want a good ride and refined interior, it's one of the best bets.
Ram truck models like the 1500 now no longer carry the Dodge badge; instead Ram is its own brand. While that might have seemed confusing at first, especially as Chrysler phased that in last year, it makes sense--leaving Dodge more freedom in its car designs, while Ram trucks can continue in the bold direction that truck buyers want to see.
In its latest generation, introduced for 2009, the Dodge Ram 1500 became more capable, and even bolder than before, while finally getting a stylish new interior that quite simply, catapulted them up the head of the class in refinement and materials. Altogether, it's one of the toughest, most composed pickups on the market.Provided you go with one of the V-8 engines, performance is a strong suit for the 2012 Ram 1500. The exception is the base 3.7-liter V-6 and four-speed automatic, a combination that deserves to be called anemic; its mileage isn't much better in the real world, either. The 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 and six-speed automatic, on the other hand, really brings the capable chassis to life--and it hits an EPA-rated 20 mpg on the highway. The Ram 1500 is the best-riding pickup and one of the best-handling models, thanks to a stiff chassis, compliant tuning, and rear coil suspension. Steering is quick and light, as it is in most full-size trucks, but what's surprising is how quiet and composed the cabin stays as you cruise at fast Interstate speeds.
In any of the Ram versions, front seats are generously sized and offer a great view forward. Leg and head room are abundant in back as well in Crew Cab models, though not so much in Quad Cab models. Under-floor storage bins supplement the optional, lockable Ram Box integrated into the fenders, and in general, there's plenty of storage space. Meanwhile, the Ram's wide cabin makes space for real three-across seating on the standard bench. Models with the adjustable bucket seats are divided by a huge center console. Many of these models also include "store in the floor" storage bins--good for beverages and ice.
To cater to whatever your specific truck need, the Ram is offered in a bewildering array of combinations. Basic models skimp on the details but keep the core macho look, while top-end variants have all the luxury and style of a high-end sedan. Three cab types are available: Regular, Quad, and Crew. Regular-cab Rams can be had with 6.4-foot and 8-foot beds, while the Crew Cab models come with a 5.7-foot bed, and Quad Cabs offer a 6.4-foot bed. The Quad cab is the equivalent of "extended" cabs from other truckmakers, while the Crew Cab is the longer four-door model. A total of eleven trim levels--Tradesman, Express, ST, SLT, Outdoorsman, Sport, Sport R/T, Lone Star, Big Horn, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn--cover a vast span of equipment and intended uses. Special-edition models, packages, and dealer-installed accessories further broaden these trucks' appeal, and a factory spray-in bedliner is now also available on all models.While the 2012 Ram 1500 does come with plenty of safety equipment, including an optional rear-view camera system and large side mirrors that help with highway lane changes or when towing, its safety ratings leave a lot to be desired. Overall federal ratings of three out of five stars, and a couple of 'marginal' scores from the IIHS, could be cause for concern for the most safety-minded.
Just as the Ram's Ford, Chevy, Toyota, and GMC rivals, the Ram ranges from barely over $20k for a base model all the way to near $45k for decked-out Longhorn and Laramie models. Go for one of the Ram ST models, and you'll get a stripped-down work truck with traditional truck appeal (think roll-down windows), but upgrade to a top Laramie or Laramie Longhorn and you'll get a loaded luxury truck that you could take out to a fancy dinner, in a suit. On upper trims you get USB and Bluetooth, a hard-drive-based music system, and voice-activated navigation. Other available options include a DVD player for both front and rear seat passengers; heated rear seats; and heated-and-ventilated front seats. An available R/T package adds 22-inch wheels and tires and a restyled front air dam, and can get to 60 in just 6.1 seconds. Also, a new Mossy Oak Edition brings a special camo look.