2012 Ram 1500 Performance

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Performance

The Ram 1500 may come with a choice of three different drivetrains, but if price isn't as much of an object, throw out the base and mid-line versions and Chrysler's HEMI engine will never let you down.

The base V-6 is a 3.7-liter, an old design, wheezy on the go, and not very fuel-efficient. It's coarse enough to relegate itself to stripped-down workhorse duty, leaving Chrysler's solid 4.7-liter V-8 to take its place as the Ram's real base engine. Standard on Outdoorsman and SLT trucks, it's a familiar powerplant that's pegged at 310 horsepower, and acceleration is strong enough to justify its existence.

HEMI power makes the Ram 1500 our favorite full-size truck to drive, and its ride quality is tops.

It's just that, on any given day, we'd prefer and pay for Chrysler's splendid 5.7-liter HEMI V-8. Good for 390 horsepower, the HEMI not only is standard in Sport, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn models, it's the top fuel-economy choice in the lineup, since its cylinder-deactivation technology boosts gas mileage to the top of the lineup at 14/20 mpg (or 13/18 mpg with four-wheel drive), and its HEMI charm ripples through every time you goose the accelerator pedal. Coupled to the same transmission as last year--but recalibrated to select a previously available but unused gear when downshifting in manual-shift mode--the HEMI trucks can reach 60 mph from a dead stop in 6.1 seconds, Chrysler says.

It's not just HEMI grunt that makes the Ram a joy to drive. Hauling and driving are more strong suits of the Ram. Its stiff chassis and rear coil suspension provide a better, more controlled ride than its competitors--and better than any previous Dodge truck. Steering is quick, but numb and devoid of feedback--to be expected in a full-size pickup, but somehow less than the chassis deserves.

A 11,500-pound tow rating puts the Ram Tradesman right near the front of the class, though new models from Ford and Chevy have taken things slightly farther.

 

 

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