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.



@Jason H - for those who have yet to upgrade to a more up to date system of measure (metric or imperial) - that would be 20.4 mpg (US) highway. My best city milleage is 15 mpg(US).
you have to drive like a granny on valium to get those kind of mpg also known as hypermiling. It's hard to do as the rest of the world drives like jack rabbits on acid.
It takes dicipline because driving like a jack rabbit on acid is more fun.


I drive my truck like a granny on Valium all the time and only get maybe 15-16 (US) FPH, tops. You'd think with all the sheetmetal that's disintegrated it would weigh so little that it would get closer to 25, but I think all of the rusty holes must cause enough aerodynamic drag to counteract any weight loss benefits (and then some).

...I should apply for a government grant so I can do a study of extreme rust and it's effects on mileage.

I tried driving like a jackrabbit on acid once, but one of the purple trees running alongside humming Ave Maria caught up and jumped in front of me...what an awful mess that was!

I was surprised that I could beat US EPA MPG and come close the the Canadian MPG tests. Lately I've been in the 16 mpg (USA) range when you do a mix of city, highway, dirt roads etc.

Those Canadian trucks probably aren't choked by the hundreds of pounds of emissions garbage that American trucks are nowadays.

I rarely ever make it to the big city so I should get decent mileage. I do do some towing though. And my daily commute to work is only 11 miles, so the truck isn't wamed up for a good portion of that. I dunno. Maybe it's just a piece of junk. Got 160k miles on it. probably just getting tired.

The 6.0 in the Heep is just a higher-displacement version of the same engine and gets better mileage... And it's as aerodynamic as a goddamn brick and has 35 inch mudders on it...weighs a lot less tho. And it's only got around 10K on the engine.

New stuff works better than the old, I guess.

The overhead display on my Ram shows: 11.6 m.p.g. That is 30% city/65% mountain/5% highway driving. I am giving hypermiling my best go so I can break 12 m.p.g.

CleanMPG was able to average 32 mpg(US) out of a 3.5 EB 4x2 supercrew. That was with the back full of camping gear and 6 adults in the cab.
That story was what got me thinking about trying some hypermiling stuff. It is hard to do in heavy traffic or busy streets. has lots of good tips on driving techniques.

ram is junk, #1 longest lasting my ass i live in canada fords are the king of the road. for towing and hauling ford makes the best tranny. everybody follows the leader, this trucks unchanged except for the tranny which follows ford technology.

My Ram will go places, and do things, that no stock Ford can go or do.

2005 Dodge Ram 2500 Power Wagon vs. Ford:
10,550 pound towing capacity (more than Raptor/less than Super Duty)
2,210 pound payload capacity (more than Raptor/less than Super Duty)
rear and front solid axles (not on Raptor/only on Super Duty)
rear and front electric-lockers (finally on 2012 Raptor)
electronically disconnecting anti-sway bar (Ram exclusive)

Clearly, Ram is not junk. No other pickup equals the capabilities of the Ram 2500 Power Wagon. It does everything as good as a Ford (work capabilities) and a few things better (off-road capabilities).
12,000 pound Warn winch (Ram exclusive)
4.56:1 axle gears (Ram exclusive)

@Buy American:

Sounds like a stout setup but 4.56 gears...? Yikes! No wonder you're only getting 11.6 MPG!

My friend has a 2004 Ram 2500 4WD with the Hemi (not a PW) that has the soid axles and whatnot...Not sure what his is geared at, but he can get 13 pretty regularly as long as he's not towing anything (then it dives to single-digits).

Everyone b!tched about the EcoBoost only getting 9 MPG while towing, but compared to a 7 year old 3/4-ton it doesn't strike me as too bad. Especially when you're getting high teens otherwise.

I hate that the shootouts always compare the 2WD trucks when talking mileage or towing. 2WD trucks are as worthless as tits on a boar up here in the winter time.

We can't all live in sunny California...

Jason H-

Those 4.56 gears sure are great for around town torque and for pulling my trailer. I manage around 8-9 m.p.g. pulling my 22', 5,000 pound, travel trailer. That is with many 6%-grade mountain passes. I got as high as 16 m.p.g. on the highway this past summer, driving back to Southern California from Nor. Cal. That was with a bed 2/3 filled with firewood.

I can live with the dismal m.p.g. because of the great satisfaction I get when I am off-road and lock both axles & disconnect the anti-sway bar. I bought the truck for it's off-road worthiness and not it's fuel economy.

must be a supply/contract issue with the 545, er, whatever they call it, and the 3.7 v-6. As for the 8 speed that will be there someday, hope it makes a world of differance. Because the differance in price will be so high once you have it. Just look at the Charger 5 speed price vs 8 speed. The highway mileage really isn't bad for a 5500 pound truck with the heavier Good Year AT/S , it's the in town that can't be fixed much...idle time, that a v-6 will win. More gears can somewhat help in town mileage. As far as towing I I had 69 Dart figure eight car (read: not aerodynamic) on my trailer, over 6,000 additional pounds I was pulling over 800 miles. Good enough for 10 mpg @ 70 mph and almost 11 at 65. Not bad. Glad Ram makes a quad instead of one with the Ford Supercab Chevy ext cab with (once good) outdated doors. I would almost bet that the 3.6 grows from a v-6 to a v-8 just add two cylinders and it's a 4.8 with lots of parts that can be used in both 3.6 and 4.8 and get rid of the 4.7.

I own a Tundra limited which is built in Texas. 85 % of the parts are built on site. I just saw a youtube review of a 3500 Dually Ram 2012. They showed the door label of where it was built. MEXICO. Most of the profits stay in Texas they don't all go back to Japan. By American, buy a Tundra made by Americans for Amercians. By the way, I don't live in Texas I live in NYC. There seems to be alot of Tundras up here in the last couple of years. The only pickup with a rear window that goes down with the push of a button is on the crewmax. I really like the 3500 Ram Dually inside and out but the Mex thing is a real turn off. I'm knocking the people of Mexico, I just feel these trucks should be built here. The Ram commercials make it look that way but it is not true.

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