First Look: 2012 Ram 1500

By Mark Williams

The Ram 1500 is largely unchanged for 2012 with one exception that should make a significant difference in seat-of-the-pants performance feel: The 545RFE five-speed automatic transmission has been modified so the driver has access to all six pre-existing gears.

As many know, in 2nd gear the 545RFE transmission uses two separate cogs that upshift or downshift differently depending on load and speed. Most of the Chrysler engineers we’ve spoken to have been careful to call the 545RFE a “multigear” transmission rather than a six-speed that lets you access only five gears at a time.

Ram engineers seem to want to put all that behind them. As we reported in June, the new six-speed transmission, called 65RFE, will be mated to the 4.7- and 5.7-liter V-8s, and it will allow the driver to manually access all six gears through a feature called Electronic Range Select mode. The driver can control the gears by tapping the center console shifter to the right (for upshifts) or the left (for downshifts). So there is no confusion, this is not the same transmission that exists in the 2500 and 3500 HD models. That six-speed is called the 66RFE and has completely different gear ratios. Likewise, the tap-up/tap-down capability is only functional through the column shifter.


The transmission will certainly make it easier to drive the truck more spiritedly around town, and it’s also likely to be appreciated by truck owners who want more engine braking or the ability to hold a gear a touch longer. The gearing, casing and resulting weight will remain identical to the 545RFE.

Before you get too happy, though, we should note that when the transmission is set to normal Drive, a mapping profile similar to the 545RFE transmission will be used to upshift and downshift the gears. That’s right — the transmission’s computer will use just five of the six gears for smoother and more controlled shifts, depending on how it interprets road conditions and vehicle sensor inputs. Electronic Range Select will be standard equipment on all 2012 Ram 1500s.

Working in tandem with the recalibrated transmission is a new torque converter designed to give the transmission better profiling for both high-mileage highway cruising and smoother shifting during heavy-load situations.

All 2012 Ram 1500s also will have a new steering wheel that incorporates cruise-control buttons on the front and radio controls on the back. Six new colors will be available: Black Clear Coat, Deep Cherry Red, Deep Molten Red, Sagebrush, True Blue Pearl and Tequila Sunrise.

The Ram 1500 will be offered in two wheelbases (120.5 inches and 140.5 inches), three bed lengths (5 foot 7 inches, 6 feet 4 inches, and 8 feet), three cab configurations (regular, Quad and crew), three engine choices (3.7-liter V-6, 4.7-liter V-8 and 5.7-liter V-8), the segment’s only coil/link rear suspension on a half-ton and four different ring-and-pinion axle choices (3.21:1, 3.55:1, 3.92:1, and 4.10:1).

The 2012 Ram 1500 will be offered in 12 different models, rivaling the Ford F-150 for the largest truck wardrobe. The models are the Tradesman, Tradesman HD, Express, Outdoorsman, ST, SLT, Sport, Sport R/T, Lone Star, Big Horn, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn.


No word yet on when the 280-horsepower, 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 will slot into the Ram half-ton, but we’re hoping for a midyear announcement. Until then, the 215-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 with a four-speed automatic will be the only V-6 option.

There have been no announcements about when or if Chrysler’s highly anticipated eight-speed transmissions will be able to handle the torque output from the 4.7- or 5.7-liter Hemi. In the meantime, expect another report from us when we get our hands on a new Ram with the 65RFE. You can find all 2012 Ram pricing here.



ZzZzZzZzZ............ NEXT!

HOLY! 12 Different models?.... Whats next, Laramie longhorn sport cummins tiger pony rocket edition? JEESH!

And it still cant outsell the chevy. Sad... Sad.

hell yeah go dodge!!!

@smellycheeze - at the rate Ram is gaining market share - it won't be too long and it will outsell Silverado. They already outsell Sierra in the USA. Dodge Ram is #3 USA and #2 in Canada.
12 different models?
How about a 1/2 ton PowerWagon?

Well, if you are superstitious that would make 13 models. Add a factory RamRunner to make it an even 14.

Just get a damn manual tranny!!!

Nice plastic front bumper...

I just can't imagine how the tiny ratio change between 2nd and "3rd" makes for a useful manual shift. Oh well. I have to believe the 4.7 V8's days are numbered. The Hemi costs less to build, and the Pentastar/8speed will be almost as strong. And since the Dakota and Grand Cherokee don't use it anymore... A small displacement Hemi has been on the table for a while now, but production problems were in the way.

I have a 2000 GMC Sierra. I test drove a 2011 GMC Sierra with my family--it's time to replace my truck. The first comment my wife made was "It's just like your truck"; my response "Yes and it's sad since my truck is 11 years old. Nothing has changed".

It's great to see Ram making progress. It won't be long before they push GM out of the way.

The biggest downfall of the whole series of Ram trucks the trannies. (or is it trannYs) Not the biggest step to have the before unused 6th accessed only manually. But the 66rfe in the HD's is much more news worthy. Just wait when the Rams get teh ZF its all over for the competition.

o and oxi thats plastic b/c I believe thats the tradesmen if its anything like my 3rd gen Ram its metal w/ a plastic exterior. IMHO better that way so if you ding it up, scratch it real bad etc. you can just replace the plastic cover alot cheaper. Yet the metal underneath means the whole bumper wont crack when you bounce it off a tree or something.

RAM is the #1 selling diesel truck in Canada. FACT.

I was hoping they would have the 4.0 deisel in the 1/2 ton this year, like I thought was mentioned here earlier this year???/

Dodge RAM is also the longest lasting truck in Canada !!

It is the second best selling vehicle in Canada ,cars included !! It's gaining up on the f-150 every month !!

It's sales are increasing in Canada and the U.S every month !!

Now with more models/options and Hemi V-8 that gets better or the same gas mileage from a 6 cyl from Ford /GM ect.....who wants a 6cyl gas engine in a full size truck ?

@ OXI,

What bumper are you talking about ?

The first truck pictured is a Tradesmen and its a non painted,non chromed STEEL BUMPER !!!!!!!

The Sport and R/T have the plastic,body color bumper cover on the front,none of that model is pictured !!!

The white truck has a grey STEEL bumper,it's a work truck and a way to cut costs,no is a steel bumper oxi !!!

Toyota has plastic bumpers and rusty frames,so the bumper is useless one hit and the bumper falls off and the frame crumbles and the welds crack as per toyota truck/minivan issues for the last 15 years !!!! Plus sludged engines random excelleration proved to be mechanical,they just cleared the electrical and said it wasnt electrical but it is mechanical !!!!!

"The driver can control the gears by tapping the center console shifter to the right (for upshifts) or the left (for downshifts). "

I've never understood this ridiculous feature on newer vehicles... I mean, I realize it's a sop to enthusiasts who really want a actual manual transmission, I just don't understand what situation you'd use it in.

The point (to me anyway) of a manual transmission (in a "performance" situation) isn't just selecting the gear, it's also controlling the TRANSITION between the gears by modulating the gas pedal and feathering the clutch according to the traction available.

With one of these "you decide which gear" auto transmissions, you're basically just making the suggestion and the computer decides when/how to to modulate the accelerator and controls the gear transition (so it can override you if you do something stupid).

So you're not really controlling much of anything. The computer is just allowing you a little input on the shift points so that the transmission can operate in a sub-optimal manner at your behest.

I'm sure the computer probably would've done a better job on its own had you just left the damned thing in Drive.


To the guy who said that he test drove a 2011 GMC Sierra and it wasn't any different than his 2000 GMC Sierra, your an idiot. The 2011 GMC Sierra and the 2000 GMC Sierra are completely different from the frame up. Nothing is the same and if you didn't let you wife influence your opinion because they may resemble eachother somewhat, there is nothing the same about these two trucks. Frame, track width, box size and height, rake of the windshield, six speed automatic transmission with Range Selection Mode and of course Active Fuel Management. The 2000 model had NONE OF THESE FEATURES AND EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT. Now slap yourself in the face and WAKE UP!

The fact of the matter is the half ton trucks from GM are the second oldest platform on the road today behind the Nissan Titan. Ford, Dodge, Toyota all have redesigned and Newer platforms than GM. The Silverado and the Sierra are in their 5th year of production and the All New Silverado and Sierra will be available next year as a 2013 model.

I just have to respond when someone makes a complete false or STUPID statment. and here's another example of a manufacture bringing out a feature, "Range Selection Mode" that the GM trucks ALREADY HAVE!!!!! I fully acknowledge Dodge has come a long way for their trucks and the public is noticing.

oxi is confused.

It's the Tacoma that uses the plastic car fascia on all of its trucks.

GM was the first to use Hydroforming of frame rails on it's vehicles, here's the proof that ford and dodge followed the leader, GM.

How Hydroforming, or Water-Molded Metal, is Reshaping the Structure of Today's Vehicles.

Hydroforming has been around for about a century, being used by metalworkers who crafted items such as doorknobs, plumbing fixtures and musical instruments. Only recently has it been tapped for automotive uses.

Today, hydroforming offers automakers an alternative to conventional stamp-and-weld processes for body and structural components. Depending on the application, it can save weight, improve fuel economy, minimize waste, and result in stronger, stiffer components that require less welding. It also provides vast improvement in dimensional accuracy in certain applications. In addition, hydroforming is suitable for both low and high volume production.

GM is the first North American automaker to develop in-house hydroforming design, engineering and manufacturing capabilities. GM has pioneered much of the hydroforming technology it is using today, and has earned some 25 hydroforming patents in the process. It has a 3.6 million-square-foot metal fabricating plant in Pontiac that produces a variety of hydroformed parts, including frame rails for the Corvette. It also uses various suppliers for other applications.

"No automaker uses or manufacturers more hydroformed components than GM," said Charles Bruggemann, engineer and chief hydroforming expert with GM's body engineering center in Pontiac, Mich. "GM was the first OEM with hydroformed frame rails for cars, trucks and SUVs, and it has the most applications on the road today." While drivers can't see hydroforming's advantages, they most certainly can feel them. Hydroformed frame rails increase a vehicle's strength and stiffness, resulting in better structural integrity, ride and handling.

"Just about anything that's not really flat or really chunky offers potential for hydroforming. Anything that has curves, contours or shapely angles is a worthy candidate," said Bruggemann.

Engineers are finding new ways to use hydroforming, including in assemblies or with alternative metals such as aluminum. Over the next decade, the technology will likely find its way into dozens of new uses.

In 1997, the fifth-generation Corvette represented the first true breakthrough in automotive hydroforming technology with industry-first twin seamless hydroformed frame rails. Each rail began as a piece of 18-foot-long six-inch diameter tubing, and replaced the previous model's 14-piece stamped and spot-welded rails. The frame rails gave the Corvette unprecedented stiffness - a 450 percent improvement - and dramatically improved ride and handling while reducing weight and improving step-in height. It also saved GM some $25 million in tooling costs.

Hydroforming is a slower, more expensive process that doesn't work for every application. GM has overcome some of these obstacles because it's been at the forefront of hydroforming development. For example, it runs the Corvette frame rails two-at-a-time to pick up speed and save on cost. GM has the in-house equipment, and has worked independently as well as with suppliers to develop unique manufacturing techniques. In addition, judicious use of hydroforming, when the engineering and business case is strong, has helped GM make the most of the innovative technology.

Despite the advantages of hydroforming, traditional stamp-and-weld processes still remains the smartest method for making straight parts with minimal scrap around the edges. However, hydroformed components are a lot more common than one might expect. GM began with the instrument panel beam on the 1994 Buick Regal and Oldsmobile Cutlass, and engine cradles for the 1995 Oldsmobile Aurora and Buick Riviera soon followed.

Since then, hydroforming has been used on an assortment of GM vehicles including Buick Park Avenue, LeSabre and Rendezvous, Cadillac CTS, Seville and DeVille, Oldsmobile Alero, Aurora and Bravada, Pontiac Grand Am, Bonneville and Aztek, Chevy Suburban, TrailBlazer, Tahoe, Silverado, Malibu, Corvette and SSR, GMC Envoy, Sierra, and HUMMER H2. Some of the components include frame rails, radiator supports, roof rails, roof bows and other under-the-hood components and assemblies.

Here's a closer look at how GM is using hydroforming in some of its vehicles:

Hydroforming produced an extremely strong foundation in the full-size pickup truck lineup. It offers a strong, stable skeleton for the body, powertrain and suspension. The modular, three-section, ladder frame features hydroformed front rails. Hydroforming eliminates approximately 300 inches of weld from the front section for increased rigidity and frame strength, more precise fit and finish, as well as 44 lbs. of steel scrap per frame. Suspension mounting points are also more precise, significantly improving factory front-end alignment consistency and precision.

During the 2002 model year, mid-size SUVs introduced the first front-to-rear fully formed hydroformed SUV rail in the industry. The two piece hydroformed steel frame side rails, with eight cross-members, provide a rigid structural backbone for the body. This strong foundation improves the truck's overall strength and ride quality, and significantly decreases road vibrations and noise. Dramatic increases in torsional stiffness - to best-in-class levels at 23-Hertz - improve the performance of suspension components.

The Chevy SSR features a uniquely tailored frame with fully hydroformed steel side rails. It offers great strength and stiffness, relatively low weight and precise quality, great torsional rigidity and dimensional control. A traditional stamped frame with this amount of strength and rigidity would weigh roughly 20 percent more. The holes for the suspension attachments are laser-cut, providing great dimensional accuracy measured to meet minute standards. This gives engineers maximum control of suspension components, enabling them to tune the suspension to a more precise degree.

The hydroforming process varies slightly depending on the component, but here's a general look at the overall procedure:

In the hydroforming process, operators feed precut hollow, round steel tubes, called blanks, into a bender, where they are shaped into the general form of the final part. Robots place the bent tube into the lower half of a hydroforming die where the ends are sealed. A combination of water, mixed with a touch of oil and corrosion inhibitor, is fed through the seals into the blank and then highly pressurized to shape the steel into the desired configuration (conformed to the die walls). Depending on the part, the water pressure may range anywhere from 5000 psi to 30,000 psi - and in special cases, may even near 100,000 psi.At the same time, the machine compresses the ends of the blank, which eliminates thin spots on the outer wall of the blank, and prevents wrinkling on the inner wall, as well. Often, any required holes or slots can be pierced into the part while it is in the hydroforming die. The component is then removed from the hydroforming press, the ends are trimmed and mounting holes are pierced with lasers and cutting torches. The result is a finished part that may require only trimming before heading off to the assembly line.

Initial use of hydroforming created a uniform thickness across the whole piece of metal. GM has discovered a new way of hydro-forming for the C6 that will allow metal thickness to be controlled over the whole length of the piece. This way, extra metal (and weight) is removed.

And, you can expect to see hydroformed aluminum frame rails in Corvette's future.

Ram truck are no good they all look the same just like the chevy face people there's only 1 truck that run the show its call built ford tough

Now we need a new SRT RAM 1500 !!
A Diesel in the 1500,not sure about,high cost of Diesel,higher maint.costs with a Diesel and strict emissions that is the problem with a Diesel these days,and thats why they dont have one yet ! The Hemi gets real good gas mileage,the extra price of a diesel would be several years of driving a Hemi Ram around.

the base model Ram has a grey steel bumper,like they did since the 1940's,cheaper model had painted bumpers,nothing new and not plastic (lol).

Twelve different models sure does not cut down on manufacturing costs. Sounds confusing for the consumer! Not good marketing!

@ Ian

Where did you get that Dodge was the number #1 selling truck in Canada. I checked at least 6 truck sales sources and they all clearly put Dodge #2. See link below.

@Greg- they're all that way now- the idea is that they can build them in runs this way, and have fewer options. Some of it was supposed to be regional (bighorn NE, longhorn SW, both almost identical). I miss the days of cheap, midgrade, and fancy.

This great news about the 65RFE function. Every little bit helps. I just wish that someone would come up with a way to reprogram the 545RFE in older trucks. It would be nice to be able to tap into all 6-gears whenever and however I wanted.

Sad to see that the 3.7L V-6 is still hanging around for another year instead of replacing it with the 3.6L V-6 Pentastar.

Good job Ram for the continuous updates!

Sorry Ian couldn't find number for the Diesels but the Ram site says it is. I own a 97 cummins myself still kicking hard I just wish it was a manual. My auto has been nothing but trouble.

@Michigan Bob

Wow, I don't know what's more impressive... GM's extensive use of hydroforming or that you figured out how to copy & paste! Either way I'm speechless!!!

@Michigan Bob
I'm an idiot? Do you ever read your posts? Posts like yours are what degrade this site. You sound like a jealous little punk, really. You need to get a life and stop living in your 18 year old k1500 1/2 ton Z71.

They may say 12 models, but it's really only 3, ST, SLT, and Laramie. Everything else is a result of bundling certain options into a value package and calling it another trim level.
Think of the Tradesman and Express as being packages on ST; Big Horn/Lone Star, Sport, and Outdoorsman are packages on SLT, and Longhorn is just a Laramie with an extra badge and a revised interior.

Serious, the punk is an idiot!

This RAM TRUCK kick ass!!!


Nice truck, just needs to get the leg room of the F-150 and I'd buy one.

@ nate the dog
I'm from the great white north and Dodge advertises that the HD Ram DIESEL is the # 1 selling diesel truck in Canada. You didn't read Ian's post, he said diesel truck. They are everywhere up here. No diesel fluid injection yet. That's why they are selling so well. That diesel fluid freezes at only -11 C. Nothing but problems for all makes.
It's good to see Ram making a different model for every use and pocket book. Go Ram. I have 172000 miles on my 05 Ram 2500 diesel and no transmission problems. You have to change trans. oil often. That's the secret.

@Bob - your comment aimed at LJC "and if you didn't let you wife influence your opinion because they may resemble eachother somewhat,"
You obviously don't get laid much.
Explains all of the hostility.

@Michigan Bob:

"To the guy who said that he test drove a 2011 GMC Sierra and it wasn't any different than his 2000 GMC Sierra, your an idiot."

MY an idiot?

...or is it HIS an idiot?

GM is out selling RAM because RAM cant compete with the proven design of GMC and Chevy! GM put their trucks years ahead of competition! RAM just got a six speed transmission after GM already did before them! GM also pioneered coil rear suspension! Most importantly GMC or Chevy didn't have to change their name to try and hide their embarrassment!
The 5.3 V8 gets better fuel economy than their HEMI that has cylinder shutoff, which was another GM design too!
Watch the RAM cheerleaders make excuses about their truck like the Ford cheerleaders, its not just numbers, its real world performance! GM wins again! The most dependable, longest lasting trucks on the road!

"The most dependable, longest lasting trucks on the road."

Sorry, Bobbeh! That is the old GM slogan, now that the new GM is here, they can not say that any longer. LMAO!

Did you notice how many 2009 Impala owners are suing GM for not fixing their rear end issue.

GM is pathetic!!!

GM is pathetic!! But for some reason i seem to like them.

Please excuse my nonsense on the comment i made earlier.


Hey buddy, Make up your mind already. Which is it?

Totally worthless 'upgrade'. No mechanical changes were needed to implement an upshift/downshift from 2nd to 2nd-prime.
They are so close together, that the best you can get, if you go from 1.5:1 (with locked up torque converter) to 1.667:1 (with unlocked torque converter).
So if you were at 2000rpm in 3rd (1:1), you drop to 1.5:1, revs rise to 3000rpm, and if you 'downshift' again, to 1.667:1 (and torque converter unlocks), the engine speed would go to maybe 3500rpm.

When does the 8 speed come?

That's why I bought a 2011 since there was really no change in the transmission. I was a bit let down when they announced that it was basically a reprogrammed version of the 5 speed. Woiuld have been nice to put the real 6 speed that they are using in the heavy duty models in the half ton. I haven't had any issues with the 5 speed in 170000+ miles on my 2003 so I was ok with getting the 5 speed again. Been really happy with it thus far.

I am also very happy with 545RFE in my Dodge Durango. 262000kms without any problem and counting.
The new 65RFE has the same gearing and possibility to use a split second gear manually, but also a new torque converter which holds more under heavy load to increase mileage. So it's not exactly the same as 545RFE.

Typical fan boy excuses bringing up the 'bailout'. Ford took bailout money too and they talk about how they are bailout free! Hypocrites! What about Ford's faulty transmissions or those gas tanks that fall off? Ford is Junk! GM has won!

@ James

Ya I saw that and corrected it. I got 390000 KM on my cummins but I'm on tranny #4 and 4 sets of ball joints and that is expensive.

Im in Alberta so I know there's alot of Dodges most of my friends also have similar trucks (97-00) and the same issues I've had.

Do you tow alot? I assume our trans are different maybe. I bought an 06 F-350 6.0 because of my Dodge issues but now the 6.0 is expensive to fix and warrenty is over (300000). To complicated for my skills any way. I like 12v simple lol.

@ Nate the dog
Just put in my first set of ball joints, new updated tie rod and u-joints in the front for the first time at 275000 km. Not cheap. I was running on luck for quite awhile. Put several sets of u-joints in though. 95% highway driving with some light towing from 4000 lbs. to 8000 lb loads. I'm pretty easy on my truck. Will keep it for a couple more years because of the great fuel milage. about 11 liters/100 km. empty on long trips.

@James - not bad. Ny best with my 2010 5.4 Supercrew was 11.5/100 km or 24.5 Imp MPG.

Ram diesel junior. Get'r done!

What is New!!!???...Once Again...Looks like the 2011 Dodge Ram Model...Like They Always Say...Same Ole, Same Ole... ;:(

@Nate the dog- that't the price you pay for having a medium duty motor- the front axle can barely cope with the weight (many Fords w/ the 7.3/T444 have the same problem) and a transmission that was meant to handle about 2/3 as much torque.


"Ny [sic] best with my 2010 5.4 Supercrew was 11.5/100 km or 24.5 Imp MPG"

What's that in Furlongs to the Hogshead...?

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