2012 Ram Cargo Van Road Test

Ram CV front 2

The 2012 Ram Cargo Van makes a strong value play in the small-business segment, where large and small vehicles need to work especially hard for their owners. The Class 1 arena in the U.S. has relatively few competitors — think the Ford Transit Connect — but it is getting more attention as gas prices and overall cost of ownership become important priorities for companies look to create cost savings for customers.

Pound-for-pound, the Ram C/V is just about the strongest value choice we’ve driven in a long while, pickup or van. 

Base C/Vs start just under $23,000 and come equipped with the new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, rated at 283 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 260 pounds-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. The base model includes the new six-speed transmission. 

EPA fuel economy ratings are 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway; however, during our test drive, our real-world fuel economy averaged closer to 21 mpg in combined driving around town and on a long-haul trip. 

Ram CV int
Mechanically, the C/V’s greatest strength is how well the transmission is quick to sense how to efficiently pull through the gears under loaded or empty conditions. Shifts are smooth and steady in normal modes and seem to adjust slightly with more throttle input. Also, we found having the transmission shifter on the dash — a comfortable reach from where your right hand rests on the steering wheel — was hugely convenient when shifting manually. It’s a quick tap to the left or right to go up or down the gears as needed.  

Another strength of the C/V, appropriately enough, lies in the cavernous storage area. Our test unit came with the standard aluminum flat floor that offers almost 150 cubic feet of cargo space, big enough to hold a good-sized refrigerator or a washer and dryer set. The floor is 48 inches wide at the wheel wells and almost 7 feet long — almost the size of a long-bed pickup truck.  It’s worth noting that a Deluxe Load option included several storage door openings in the floor that allow access to the rear and midsection cubbies under the floor.  

Much like a good pickup truck, the payload rating on the C/V is 1,800 pounds. Our unit weighed 4,250 pounds with our 20-gallon tank full, giving us a gross vehicle weight rating of 6,050 pounds. Factory specs also have the C/V’s tow rating (when properly equipped; ours was not) at a class-leading 3,600 pounds. For those keeping track, that gives us a gross combined weight rating of 8,750 pounds.

Ram CV springs
If these numbers don’t sound like the typical minivan rating, you’re right. We’re told Ram Truck engineers worked long and hard to get the right front and rear spring rates set properly to allow for a good carrying capacity as well as offer better slower-speed control. In fact, the front springs are 44 percent stronger than its Dodge Grand Caravan twin, and the front springs are 37 percent stronger.  

As you might expect, when driving the C/V around town empty, the rear end is a bit bouncy and light, especially when moving over rough roads or hitting speed bumps. However, because the vehicle is front-wheel drive and has more weight in the back with the closed rear sections, there isn’t the same twitchy feel that sometimes accompanies an empty-bedded rear-drive pickup truck.  

Ram allows C/V buyers to order black-out windows, which gives the doors and side panel some added strength but, more importantly, makes it impossible for outsiders to see what type of valuable cargo might be inside the van. We should note that not having full visibility through the rear windows takes some getting used to, but the backup camera, included in the $1,390 Media Center Nav Package, made it quite easy to see all things behind us when backing up. We did wish we could continuously access a rearview screen like many motorhomes do to help keep track of what’s going on behind the van. It would be a good idea to offer bigger optional side mirrors when equipped with black-out window panels. 

For something called a “cargo van,” it might be a little odd to talk about the front seating area, but it deserves it. This is not your typical Spartan commercial interior setup when driving a cost-first workhorse. Let’s be honest: A lot of times it’s not the boss driving a vehicle like this, so comfort and amenities are typically not high on the order list. However, to its credit, the C/V’s interior is much more like a minivan than a commercial stripper model. Dash layout and materials are just as you’d expect in a well-equipped Caravan, with dual glove boxes, good-quality console, instrument panel and door materials, and quite comfortable seats. Our test unit came with the optional $200 eight-way adjustable driver’s seat with an adjustable lumbar support — worth every penny. If this is the vehicle you have to do an eight-hour shift in or over a long-haul transportation route, we’re guessing your back will be just fine at the end of the day. 

Ram CV glovebox
Standard features in the C/V include air conditioning with dual-zone climate control, an instrument cluster with a normal speedometer and tachometer, outside temperature display, an overhead console, A-pillar grab handle, 120-volt auxiliary power outlet, 12-volt front and rear area DC power outlets, interior air filtering, auxiliary audio jack for mobile devices, cloth low-back bucket seats, door courtesy lamps, driver and passenger visors with mirrors, map lamps, cargo rearview mirror, liftgate flood lamp, lower panel storage and cupholders, dual sliding doors with alert warning, power locks, power front windows, cruise control, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, tilt/telescoping steering wheel and variable intermittent windshield wipers.

Safety features include active head restraints, advanced multistage front airbags, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, Latch child-seat anchor system, driver’s knee airbag, electronic stability control, keyless entry with immobilizer and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Our test unit came with only a few options that included the Uconnect multimedia system ($690), side airbag curtain delete (-$150), full-width cargo divider ($450), eight-way power driver’s seat ($200), media/entertainment system ($1,390), Mopar wireless hotspot ($650) and $835 destination fee. The total of our Stone White test unit was $26,680 (Download Ram CV monroney). 

Considering what you get for the money, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything this well equipped and capable of carrying this kind of load in a lockable environment. Think of it as an awesomely priced regular cab pickup truck that you can lock all your valuables in and even sleep inside (fully stretched out) if you need to, comfortably protected from rain and snow. 

Ram CV engine 2

Ram CV econ

Ram CV bed 2

Ram CV rear open


Out of curiosity, can the Ram C/V fit 4'x8' sheets of plywood/drywall in the back?

That was one of the things that I couldn't understand about the Transit Connect when I looked at it. The cargo area is 7', so it is just shy of fitting plywood/drywall or two pallets. If they lengthened it just a little bit, it would have been able to fit that stuff perfectly. Instead, they make you step up to a full size van.

Not even in the same ball park at transit connect.
The gas prices are killing us. Some people just need a small van like in europe, they have hatchbacks with greyed out windows and they call that a van. But this is a big van with a big wasteful v6 engine. It's no different from previous minivans like Ford Winstar that UPS and the postal service use.

And $26k+ for a barbones minivan? Chrapsler fails again.

Looks like a great vehicle for the Mortuary business.

HAHAHAHA, what a horrible post.

Paul, it can fit a sheet of plywood in the back.

My co-worker has a Caravan and frequently carries it.

@Mark Williams

there is a typo when you were talking about the springs. you said front springs twice.


Thanks for coming out. This 283 hp "wasteful V6" and 6-speed automatic is only about 10% worse on fuel than the Transit Connect while having more than double the horsepower and torque, as well as more cargo capacity.

Eh.. I wanna know where the Astro is? The only Real small cargo van that ever existed. Chevy was flat out stupid to kill it. Chevy likes to hand over things to Ford and Dodge though for whatever reason. Morons.

@ Brandon34,

GM killed the Astro because it was a slow seller,and wouldnt pass safety regulations,that keep changing !

You are wrong,Ford is killing off the Econoline to replace with some Euro van,so GM will have the only full size cargo van that isnt a week euro style van,euro type vans dont sell in North America.

You are wrong,Ford is killing off the Econoline to replace with some Euro van,so GM will have the only full size cargo van that isnt a week euro style van,euro type vans dont sell in North America.

Sorry man, I was referring to the truck market Chevy has handed over to Ford and Dodge not the van market. I'm shocked to hear you say the Astro wasn't a big seller. Everybody I know loves them! Around here that's the Go To small van of choice for contractors. The Chevy Express is right there with it and then the Econoline. I agree, Eurotrash vans will never sell big here. If the new Express maintains classic American styling and Design with the options of the Ford/Dodge Eurovans, Chevrolet will own the market. They really need to fix their trucks though.

@ Brandon34,

You were not talking about the truck market...you were talking about the van market as the Astro/Safari is a van !!!

They had the Astro since 84/85 until 04 or so,thats why you see so many of them...And with newer safety regulations the van would require a whole redo,and its sales were down,only small sales were left in fleet sales,to the general public where they make more money they tanked !

Ford is handing the full size van market to GM,as Ford/Dodge no longer make a full size van only Euro Style slow sellers ! Econoline is going to end production soon,handing the van market to GM !


The Ram c/v gets better mpg than the Ford transit,especially when the Ram and Ford are carrying alot of weight,due to the Ram having more power it doesnt struggle all the time to get moving as the Ford does.

Ford has a small wasteful 4 cyl engine,you need a bigger ,more powerful v-6 to be efficient !!

Ram C/V has 283 hp,goes 0-60 in around 7.5 seconds and isnt a bare bones van,alot of h.d suspension work,clever interior layout in the cargo area and a better dash/trim than the el cheapo Transit !!

Chrysler is on a roll,sales are up,great products,and this van fills the market nicely people who need an efficient,fuel friendly van that blows the Furd Twanswit away in every category.

Furthermore,not everyone is hurting for money and gas isnt killing everyone,if so you shouldnt be buying a new vehicle,thats what older used vehicles are for.Also in Europe the roads are smaller,narrower so thats why people are forced into inferior smaller vehicles ,plus there socialist governments force high taxes on people forcing fuel prices extrememly high !

@Paul810, my brother in law had a 98 grand caravan that could fit 4x8 sheets.

"The floor is 48 inches wide at the wheel wells and almost 7 feet long" - that seems strange-- it's smaller than the old one? or does the cargo cage behind the driver's seat cut the length that significantly?

@naysayers- my 05 caravan is fantastic- usable room, sit high, better gas mileage than a big SUV (if you are going to compare to an SUV, compare it to a 3-row or suburban style tank, since it can carry that much). And yes, it loses face because it's a minivan. My new van cost 20K CAD; my 95 explorer (which was a complete POS) cost more than double that. I figure I have more than 20K to repair this minivan before I match the experience of my explorer.

@mark Williams- I wish you would have addressed the price difference between the passenger and cargo vans. I know the cargo has bout 300 pound more capacity, but I could buy a new caravan (with the rebate) for about 20K, and the cargo has no rebate. Pull out the seats in the passenger version and sell them on craigslist-- Now I have a great cargo van.

The metal floor is cool, but 1/2" plywood on the floor works the same.

Actually some of the Korean and Japanese Vans would be a better bet than this. Still they are powered by small diesels, which are pretty rare in the US.

Two reasons this vehicle is a good choice. #1 The motor is rated as one of the best 10 engines available by WARDS. #2 Built in North America not Turkey. It may not do alot of things but, for a guy that needs to bring lots of small parts to a job site it fits the bill.

I still see tons of Safari and Astro vans. They were great little vans. The one I had was rated to tow 5,000 lb. The 4.3 wasn't very good on gas. I can get the same highway mpg with my 5.4 V8.
I have to agree with Mercury, what is the big deal? You could use the stow and go and still have seats. I'd be more inclined to keep them for resale down the road. The resale would be better as a passenger van.

An 1,800 lb capacity is impressive. Not to many 1/2 tons with that capacity.

My dad went from a 76 or so Chevy van to the Astro when it first came out. That lasted a year or two, and then he got a Chrysler front wheel drive four cylinder, and up until the last one four in all, he had no problems. I want to say the last was 04 or so, the trans went bad at about 75,000 miles. The last three were v-6s. About 22 years of no problems before the trans issue. Oh, he's bought GMs, Fords, and Dodges and AMCs. He worked for AMC for awhile. The gas mileage is a hint of good things to come from Chrysler. If I remember right the pentastar V-6 was making its max torque at 4800 in other cars, so they brought it down. Good job! Can't wait to see it in a Ram with an 8 speed!

Whoa, it's probably one of the most luxurious commercial vehicle - look at it dashboard, cockpit: they haven't even remove the rear cup-holders, too bad, it useless and they could win some additional inches of space! It's everything beige that not so practical... I live in Europe, so don't compare to the Ford Transit, it's bigger car, has more cargo space etc.

Good job Dodge, bringing yet another option to the commercial industry. I know of a few small businesses that coverted Caravan's into cargo vans, this will make their lives a lot easier. Also, as Dodge redesigned the suspension and most likely other stuff not mentioned, there should be no issues with the van being used to their limits unlike the euro stuff.

Oh by the way, great idea keeping the rear cup holders

- No extra costs in making/designing new panels
- Place to put the coffee or soda when working out of the back (know of a contractor who isn't going in and out all the time?)
- extra storage pocket for stuff
- etc

"Place to put the coffee or soda when working out of the back"

Forget that. I want the extra width and cargo space for hauling, not a waste space of space to put coffee.

With the Caravan being terminated after 2012, will this Cargo Van also be terminated? I see no mention of this.

Yep, it's no Chevy Astro Van. That's the only small cargo van that ever mattered to me. I still buy those up when I find one in good shape. More cargo space, open dash layout, good non-jellybean like shape and one I have has 453k on it. Just new intake gaskets and a spider injector have been replaced. It's like a mini Express instead of a typical minivan. Too bad they quit making them. The Express is nice though. I have two of them but I like the Astro's smaller size for daily small job use.

Yep, it's no Chevy Astro Van.
Yeah, it doesn't crash like those weak ASTROs. Look it up on IIHS. It doesn't take as much engine as the ASTRO does to make as much torque and more power. Lol, a 4 speed trans vs. a 6 speed??

@Lou, It's not being terminated after 2012 you big dummy! That's the Caravan that is going away. This is completely different! Although they are having second thoughts on terminating the Caravan to. It may still be here post 2012. They just don't want to throw away 10's of thousands of sales for no reason.

You see the ford fanboys slamming dodge already, comparing the wimp mobile ford TrannySIT.

Dodge makes good minivans, always has and I am GM Guy. The Pentastar 3.6 is great motor, attached to a proper 6 speed automatic, cough, cough, put 6 speed+ in Ram Truck.

The Pentastar 3.6 now in the Wrangler has really brought the new Wrangler up to the point that prior TJ lovers (ME) would consider it, although nothing beats that old inline 6 and 3 speed!

So Ford Boys give Dodge some credit for making a real van and not importing some European POS.

I dont know...I think i would have preferred Dutch doors on a cargo van instead of a liftgate...but that's my opinion. I will see how this plays out.
Wait...WHAT?! THE GRAND CARAVAN IS BEING TERMINATED?! I mean, I not a minivan person, but that's just stupid. The GC is like one of the best selling minivans. Read below:


It is just as stupid as when they dropped the Magnum wagon in favor of the Charger sedan. THE HORROR!!!!!!!!!!

Here's a better link


Should axe the VW Routan instead.

Since I'm still pondering which truck to get I currently use our '05 Grand Caravan with the Stow 'n Go seats to haul 4x8 sheets of plywood, with the tailgate closed. They must have thought of that application specifically because the sheets of plywood fit perfectly. I've also hauled 2x6x16, etc. slid up between the front seats touching the front console. 16' boards only stick out about 2' past the rear bumper like that...better than an 8' pickup bed! Naturally a rack on a truck would be better, as well as not putting wear and tear on the passenger van. Regardless, the Grand Caravan has hauled a LOT of stuff for us. The Stow 'n Go is what makes it really useful and easy to transition between hauling kids or hauling lumber :-)

I'm kinda liking this. Would make a nice, more efficient, enclosed, home chore hauler. It would also fit well in my garage which I cannot usually do with a pickup.
This is going on my list of vehicles to replace my truck.

Yuck...junk. A home mechanic could have done better. I call for a redo...

@CMechanic - I never said that the Caravan or Grand Caravan were going to be discontinued. What is stuck up your ass???

since you brought it up, I googled it, and it does in fact look like Chrysler will kill the Grand Caravan.

Exerpt -
In a recent interview, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne announced a surprise product change that will see the elimination of two nameplates: The Dodge Grand Caravan minivan and Avenger sedan are set to be replaced by a single model.

I've owned my RAM CV for 2 months. I drive primarily in econ. mode and am averaging 25 MPG.

A few sheets of 4x8 plywood would fit flat in the back. The number is limited 'cause to get the full 8ft, they slip under the front seats by 4inches or so.

I like this small van..But Chevey /CMC...Knows that even with poor gas prices there is room in the market for full size vans.Dodge had the full size van market for nearly 3 decades..Best Sellers..let Ford Take it with those ugly HOG NOSES...Stoped making a full size van in 2006...Now Ford is giving it up..I feel it is a bad choice to give up That market..Dodge always did have a better Van then all the others..Ford only took the market due to that longer nose..Other wise they are cheap..just close a side door..like cardboard....ride like crap..like a truck.Dodge vans are still around everywhere..and are stronger and better..DODGE needs to do what they did with the pickups..at the time of the Ram in 1994....they had 6 % of the truck market ..now they are in 3rd place just behind Chevey ahead of GMC..and not far behind ford!They could bring The Full size van Back..Modern and better gas millege!Trucks are getting over 20 mpg..A full sized van holds more then a pickup and is safe in bad weather..in a truck not so.My father had 3 Full sized vans[DODGE]all were great..he was a electrician/plumber/carpender..they always done well.Bring back American Full sized Vans..Stop trying to make Suv's..and short bed pickups and minivans do a full size vans job..

We had Astro vans for many years, a great box but with a very poor safety and mechanical problems. We also had the Ford version and suffered more from load and mechanical issues. We changed to the Dodge/RAM C/V in 2008/2009 and we put around 60,000 miles a year carrying lead radioactive boxes at 80 lbs each and an average weight load per trip of 1,500 lbs or more. The engines were flawless, the transmissions and springs never an issue. Only issue we had was brakes needing replacements at around 40,000 miles and rotors at 90,000 miles. Fleet gas millage was around 19 MPG overall. We just put new 20012 C/V s in service and the same runs and load factors we are getting around 22 MPG and these new vans are even better put together. The sticker price was $ 24,600 and with our fleet discounts the price was around $18,000. Nothing compares.. Our subs use pickups and suvs at average gas MPGs of around 12. This is a deal.

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These vans are excellent, the engines are powerful and get great gas mileage. For those saying that a regular Dodge GC with stow n' go is just as good as the C/V: the GC would have a significantly higher load floor as is obvious because it has to fit the seats in there. (Although I know some proud workaholic guys who traded in their pickup trucks because they had kids, and they can actually accomplish all the work they did in the pickup with the Caravan). Also it doesn't have the a perfectly open load space. It's excellent that Ram covered the wheel wells they are just a nuisance when loading things. Also the stronger springs and higher payload mean you don't have to worry about being overloaded. The greater towing capacity is also a major factor considering that contractors often use a trailer to dump scrap.

For some reason auto writers can't comprehend that people actually buy things that are currently not on the market. There is more than to vans that fit the small workhorse niche, and the Ram C/V's biggest compeditor isn't the Ford Transit Connect, it's the Chevy Astro and GMC Safari. Though they ended production in the mid 2000's they are still selling like hotcakes to contractors and tradesman. They're very reliable, and can last into the 300k miles. A lot of people are transitioning from huge box vans to the Astro/Safari for the sake of mileage.

Correction: There are more than *two* vans.

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