2012 Dodge Ram 1500 Review and Prices

Last Updated: Oct 4, 2011

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2012 Dodge Ram 1500 Buying Advice

The 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 is the best pickup for you if you want a boldly styled half-ton that can tackle the toughest jobs on the work site yet remain remarkably civilized around town.

The 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 treats its V-8 engines to a six-speed automatic transmission upgrade over a five-speed to gain a little fuel economy. It also expands availability of the RamBox storage system from just the 5-foot-7-inch cargo bed to the 6-foot-4-inch box. Every model gets a new steering wheel design, and there are six fresh exterior color choices. The 2012 Ram 1500 still doesn’t match the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 or 2012 Ford F-150 for powertrain variety. But it’s a handsome and versatile pickup available with a long list of novel features, and it furnishes the best ride and handling in the class. With the midsize Dakota discontinued for model-year 2012, Ram is the automaker’s only pickup. (Note that this pickup’s manufacturer, Chrysler Group, now markets Ram as a separate brand, though many buyers continue to identify it with the Dodge division.)

Should you buy a 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 or wait for the 2013 Dodge Ram 1500? Wait for the 2013 Ram 1500 if you think a six-cylinder engine can meet your full-size pickup needs: an upgrade to Chrysler’s Pentastar V-6 is reportedly a model-year 2013 change. The Pentastar would be more powerful and more fuel-efficient than the 2012 Ram 1500’s V-6. The 2013 Ram 1500 will probably also get some styling tweaks. Buy a 2012 Ram 1500 if you’re quite satisfied by the boldness of the current styling and are interested in either available V-8 engine, particularly the superior 5.7-liter Hemi. The V-8s are not apt to change for model-year 2013.

2012 Dodge Ram 1500 Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Dodge Ram 1500’s styling is unaltered, though Black Clear Coat, Deep Cherry Red, Deep Molten Red, Sagebrush, True Blue Pearl, and Tequila Sunrise are new to the exterior color palette. Inside, the new steering wheel design incorporates cruise-control buttons.

Otherwise, the 2012 Ram 1500 retains its trademark cross-hairs chrome grille and broad-shouldered fenders for an aggressive overall character.

The 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 is offered in three cab styles. The two-door regular cab seats two with front bucket seats or three with a front bench. It offers a choice of 6-foot-4-inch- and 8-foot-long cargo beds. It uses a 120.5-inch wheelbase with the short bed and 140.5-inch wheelbase with the long-bed. Wheelbase is the distance between front and rear axles.

The extended-cab 2012 Ram 1500 Quad Cab has small clamshell-opening rear access doors and a rear bench seat; it seats five or six passengers. The 2012 Ram 1500 Crew Cab has four conventional doors and seats up to six with a full rear bench large enough to hold three adults in comfort. Both the Ram 1500 Quad and Crew Cab models have a 140.5-inch wheelbase. The Quad Cab uses the 6-foot-4-inch cargo box and the Crew Cab has a 5-foot-7-inch box.

All Ram 1500 cargo beds are wide enough to accommodate 4x8-foot sheets of building materials, though such sheets would overhang onto or beyond the tailgate of all the but the 8-foot bed.

The 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 is offered in myriad trim levels intended to suit most truck buyers’ needs. These include the basic, work-truck-oriented ST and Tradesman models, the up-market SLT, the more-aggressive Sport version, and the luxury Laramie lines. Other variations include the Outdoorsman, Big Horn and Lone Star models, plus the muscle-truck R/T Package for Sport regular-cab models.

A Laramie Longhorn Edition continues as the ultimate expression of 2012 Ram 1500 opulence, with specific leather treatments and added amenities to help it compete with luxury rivals such as the 2012 Ford F-150 King Ranch and 2012 GMC Sierra Denali.

Appearance differences between the various 2012 Ram 1500 models include chromed instead of painted bumpers on upper-trim models. Outdoorsman and the Laramie versions have a two-tone exterior color treatment. Wheel and tire diameters start at17 inches; 20s are standard on Sport and Laramie versions and 22s are part of the R/T Package.  

This review covers only the Ram 1500, which is considered a half-ton pickup based loosely on its payload ratings – that is, the maximum combined weight it can carry in its bed and passenger compartment. Half-tons form the most popular pickup category and include the F-150, Silverado 1500 and Sierra 1500, plus the Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan. Only the domestic brands offer heavier-duty three-quarter and one-ton pickups. In the Ram family, those are labeled the Ram 2500 and Ram 3500, respectively.

Mechanical: In the only mechanical change of note, the new six-speed automatic transmission replaces a five-speed automatic as the sole transmission for V-8 versions of the 2012 Ram 1500.

Otherwise, the Ram 1500 continues to offer a V-6 and a choice of two V-8s. The V-6 is a dated 3.7-liter with a lackluster 215 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. That’s barely enough to get this large vehicle up to speed and is sufficient for a meek 3,750-pound maximum towing capacity. Fortunately, availability the V-6 is limited to Ram 1500s with two-wheel drive (2wd) and to regular-cab and Quad Cab configurations. It mates exclusively to an equally undistinguished four-speed automatic transmission.

A better choice in the 2012 Ram 1500 is the 4.7-liter V-8. It generates 310 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. (Think of torque as an engine’s pulling power – particularly important in a work-oriented vehicle – and horsepower as the energy that sustains momentum.) With this V-8 and the proper trailering equipment, a Ram 1500 can tow up to 7,600 pounds.

At the top of the engine range is the popular and powerful 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. It generates 390 horsepower and 407 pound-feet of torque and a maximum 10,250-pound tow rating in the Ram 1500 Tradesman. With this engine, a 2wd 2012 Ram 1500 R/T regular-cab short-bed can accelerate 0-60 mph in a muscle-car-like 6.1 seconds.

The Hemi includes a function that saves gas by automatically shutting down half its cylinders while idling and at cruising speeds, then restores all eight when power is again required.

Both 2012 Ram 1500 V-8s now come with the six-speed automatic transmission; the extra gear ratio provides slightly improved fuel economy over the previous five-speed automatic used with these engines.  

With either V-8, the 2012 Ram 1500 offers a choice of rear-wheel drive (2wd) or four-wheel drive (4wd). Two 4wd systems are available, depending on the model. The basic system is “part-time” 4wd intended for use only slippery surfaces.

A more sophisticated full-time 4wd system that can be left engaged on dry pavement is available on 2012 Ram 1500 SLT, Sport, and Laramie models. Chrysler calls it the Active Transfer Case and Front-axle Disconnect system and it can automatically transition between 2wd and 4wd as sensors determine which will maintain maximum traction. The system is designed to save gas by automatically disconnecting the front axle when 4wd isn’t engaged. Both Ram 1500 4wd systems include low-range gearing for getting out of deep mud ruts or low-speed off-roading.

Ride and handling continues to be a 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 highlight. The reason? While all rivals use rear leaf springs, the Ram 1500 is the only full-size pickup to employ coil springs in conjunction with its durable solid rear axle. The coil springs prove more forgiving over bumps and Ram’s stout engineering means there’s little difference in payload capacity between it and the leaf-spring competition.

The coil-spring rear suspension also helps the 2012 Ram 1500 remain arguably the most well mannered full-size pickup, with responsive steering and a firm ride that resists getting unnerved over bumps or broken pavement.

Every 2012 Ram 1500 comes with four-wheel disc brakes with antilock technology for maximum control in emergency stops. Also standard is antiskid electronic stability control (now federally required) to help prevent this large truck from sliding sideways in emergency maneuvers or if the driver is negotiating a curve or exit ramp too quickly. A trailer-sway control function for more secure towing also is standard.

Features: The 2012 Ram 1500 offers an impressive array of standard and optional amenities, including a few exclusive offerings that help set it apart from the competition. One is the RamBox -- optional storage bins built into the sides of the cargo bed that are lined, drainable, and lockable. For 2012, RamBox availability expands from just the Crew Cab model and its 5-7 foot bed to also include Ram 1500 regular-cab and Quad Cabs with the 6-foot-4-inch bed.

Carried over is an available DVD rear-seat entertainment system for Quad- and Crew-Cab models that includes a 1-year subscription to the Sirius Backseat TV service. A dealer accessory allows the 2012 Ram 1500 to operate as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot for connecting portable computers and other devices to the Internet (an extra-cost data plan is required).

Storage cubbies, pockets, and cup holders appear throughout the 2012 Dodge Ram 1500’s spacious and nicely designed cabin. Additionally, the Ram 1500 Crew Cab comes with storage bins in the rear cabin floor that feature removable liners and can be used as either hidden storage or as beverage coolers.

Standard equipment on every 2012 Ram 1500 includes head-protecting curtain side airbags for all outboard seating positions; they’re designed to deploy both in side collisions and when sensors detect an impending rollover. Air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, and a CD audio system also are standard across the board.

Available equipment, depending on model, runs the gamut from a rear parking proximity warning system to heated front and rear seats and steering wheel, remote engine start, power-adjustable pedals, and leather upholstery. An optional voice-activated navigation system comes with iPhone/iPod connectivity and a hard drive for storing digital music files.

Among specialty trim levels, the 2012 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman bundles trailer-towing equipment, lighting enhancements, skid plates, and off-road tires for adventuresome use. It can also be fitted with a dealer-installed rack that can store six fishing rods or two rifles or shotguns. The R/T Package includes a unique torque converter with an acceleration-enhancing 4.10:1 axle ratio and limited-slip differential, the 22-inch tires on polished forged alloy wheels, and a special sport performance hood.

2012 Dodge Ram 1500 Prices back to top

Base-price range for the 2012 Ram 1500 is $22,270-$44,120. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Dodge’s fee for the 2012 Ram 1500 is $995.)

The 2012 Dodge Ram 1500’s prices generally hold the line from 2011 levels to help this truck remain competitive in a market that’s been hit hard in recent years by the economic downturn, fluctuating gas prices, and changing consumer tastes. As before, prices vary by trim level and cab configuration, cargo bed size, and powertrain.

Base prices for the 2012 Ram 1500 ST and Tradesman models are equivalent and range from $22,270 for a regular-cab version to $26,595 for a Quad Cab and $30,640 for a Crew Cab.

The 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 SLT and Outdoorsman versions also have matching base prices that range from $26,990 for the regular cab, $30,865 for the Quad Cab, and $33,220 for the Crew Cab. The same prices apply to the Lone Star and Big Horn versions in Quad and Crew Cab models.

The 2012 Ram 1500 Sport starts at $32,335 with a regular cab, $35,830 with a Quad Cab, and $37,865 with a Crew Cab. Base prices for the Laramie are $39,410 for the Quad Cab and $40,870 for the Crew Cab. The line-topping Laramie Longhorn Edition, available only in Crew Cab form, starts at $44,120.

Adding 4wd to the above models costs between $3,145 and $4,015 depending on the version.

Among key options for the 2012 Ram 1500, it costs $2,295 to add the Hemi to ST and SLT models (this V-8 is standard on all Tradesman, Express, Big Horn, Lone Star, Sport, Laramie and Laramie Longhorn models).

The RamBox storage system is priced at $1,295. A backup camera costs $200, the navigation system with Bluetooth interface is $1,200, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system runs $1,695. A factory spray-on bedliner sells for $475.

2012 Dodge Ram 1500 Fuel Economy back to top

No big pickup is particularly fuel-efficient, though Ford has garnered headlines and lots of sales by offering its twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 that provides V-8 power with V-6 fuel economy; it could prove a game-changer.

No rival quite matches the EcoBoost’s impact, but the 2012 Ram 1500 is fully competitive with the competition when it comes to conventional six- and eight-cylinder engines.

EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2012 Ram 1500 with the 3.7-liter V-6 – which comes only with 2wd --are 14/20 mpg city/highway, 16 mpg combined city/highway.

Introduction of the six-speed automatic has a marginal affect on EPA fuel-economy ratings. It doesn’t alter the Hemi V-8’s ratings but does increase the 4.7-liter V-8’s by 1 mpg in highway driving with 2wd and 4wd and by 1 mpg in city driving with 4wd.

With the 4.7-liter V-8, the 2012 Ram 1500 rates 14/20 mpg city/highway, 16 mpg combined with 2wd and 14/19/16 with 4wd. As these ratings show, the economic advantage of the V-6 over the 4.7 V-8 is primarily a lower initial purchase price, not savings at the gas pump.

With the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, the 2012 Ram 1500 rates 14/20/16 mpg with 2wd and 13/19/15 with 4wd.
Dodge recommends mid-grade 89-octane gas for best performance with the Hemi V-8. Ram’s other engines use less expensive regular 87-octane. The 4.7 V-8 can also run on E85 ethanol, but fuel economy declines by some 30 percent, which translates into 10/12/11 mpg with either 2wd or 4wd.

2012 Dodge Ram 1500 Release Date back to top

The 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 went on sale in September 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 back to top

With its last major design change coming in model-year 2009, the Dodge Ram 1500 will likely receive a midcycle freshening for model year 2013. Chrysler and its corporate overseers at Italy’s Fiat are revamping all the Chrysler Group lines, some of which are more in need of serious work than the steady-selling Ram.

So model-year 2013 changes to the Ram 1500 won’t constitute a complete overhaul. Exterior styling should remain familiar, though there may be a few tweaks in the works. More work may go into revamping the Ram 1500’s interior, with perhaps an updated instrument panel and some upgraded surface materials throughout the cabin.

We anticipate a version of Chrysler’s Pentastar V-6 engine to be offered in the 2013 Ram 1500 lineup. It would replace the 3.7-liter V-6 and could even supplant the 310-horepower 4.7-liter V-8.

Expect output of the 3.6-liter Pentastar in the 2013 Ram 1500 to be similar to its ratings in the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee: 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Ram planners could, however, consider the 4.7-liter V-8’s 330 pound-feet of torque and allow it to survive, since torque matters more to truck buyers than horsepower. Sources indicate a Pentastar V-6 in the Ram 1500 could eventually come mated to a version of the eight-speed automatic transmission that debuted in the 2012 Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans.

Also expect future Ram 1500s to add high-tech connectivity features that should include Chrysler’s new Uconnect Touch multimedia control center. Introduced in the 2011 Dodge Journey, Unconnect Touch is similar to Ford’s MyTouch system. It features customizable touch screens to control various systems and offers full integration with smartphones and other portable devices. Ram also could offer a system similar to the Ford F-150’s dashboard Internet access or its Tool Link option, which can inventory and track tools and other jobsite gear stored onboard using small radio frequency identification (RDF) tags.

Otherwise don’t expect the Dodge Ram 1500 to get a wholesale makeover until at least model-year 2015 or even 2016. By then, new fuel-economy regulations will have phased in requiring automakers to boost corporate fuel economy from 27.3 mpg to a 28.8-mpg fleet-wide average.

Granted, automakers will be allowed to leverage sales of more fuel-efficient crossover SUVs -- which the government classifies as trucks for fuel-economy purposes -- to help meet this mandate. But big pickups like the Ram 1500 will nonetheless need to become a bit smaller and lighter and come packed with more fuel-efficient engines in future generations.

Stronger V-6 engines like the Pentastar and Ford’s turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 will, for many buyers, replace V-8s. In the Ford F-150, the EcoBoost V-6 is rated to tow as much as 11,300 pounds. V-8s won’t disappear from the big-pickup field, but they’re likely to shrink in displacement and employ advanced technology such as direct fuel injection to help boost power.

Look also for more aggressive versions of displacement management that will essentially allow them to run as four-cylinder powerplants for greater periods of time, with the extra cylinders kicking in only when necessary. Also quite possible is stop-start technology that automatically shuts them off and turns them on to save gas at stop lights and the like.  

A diesel engine would certainly be possible in a future Ram 1500. Diesels offer a combination of strong low-end power and admirable fuel economy well-suited to pickup trucks. A fuel-saving gas/electric hybrid-powered version, once planned and subsequently postponed, is another possibility.

2012 Dodge Ram 1500 Competition back to top

Chevrolet Silverado 1500/GMC Sierra 1500: Rapidly aging, these underskin twins haven’t received a full redesign since model-year 2007. They’ll continue in their current form until model-year 2013 or 2014. Fortunately brand-loyal buyers keep the factories running and these General Motors pickups continue to hold up well thanks to their admirable overall design and performance, full range of V-6- and V-8-powered models, and competitive pricing. A gas-electric hybrid model exists mostly for “green” bragging rights as it registers only minor fuel economy savings over the standard versions. Base prices range from $22,940 to $43,435 for gas-powered versions and $40,260-$50,190 for the hybrid.

Ford F-150: Even with big-pickup sales depressed in recent years, the F-150 has remained the auto industry’s top selling model, car or truck. As with the Dodge Ram 1500 it last received a full  redesign for model-year 2009, though it added new powertrains for model year 2011 that included a stronger base V-6, fresh V-8s, and Ford’s twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6, which boasts the top maximum tow rating in the line. The Ford’s ride and handling qualities aren’t as refined as with the Ram 1500, but the F-150 can go toe-to-tow with it in terms of available high-tech features, which include an in-dash computer with Internet connectivity. While they weren’t announced in time for this review, expect base prices to run from about $24,000-$53,000.

Toyota Tundra: Never much of a player in what remains an intensively domestic brand-centric model segment, the full-size Tundra nevertheless remains a capable and comfortable pickup that’s offered in the usual configurations with a plethora of available equipment. It’s not as easygoing as the Big Three brands, however, and trails Ford and Dodge in terms of available technology. Still, it offers a choice of smooth and powerful V-8 engines and features a nicely styled and comfortable passenger cabin for those who want something different in a big pickup. We probably won’t see a major revision before model year 2014 at the earliest.  Base prices start at $28,090 and run as high as $44,320.