Road Test: 2012 Ram 1500 Sport CC 4x4

Ram 1
Story and Photos by Dan Sanchez

At a time when just about every dollar of one’s paycheck is accounted for, people often save money by owning one vehicle that can perform a variety of tasks.  This is a reason why truck sales, especially crew cabs, remain high. So it’s comforting to know that trucks like the 2012 Ram 1500 crew cab 4x4 have evolved into a vehicle that can haul cargo to the construction site, pick up the kids from school and tow your trailer to a campsite for a fun weekend adventure. 

Despite the rise in luxury truck sales, truck enthusiasts who depend on their vehicles know that gas mileage and tow ratings matter more than leather seats and a wood-grain dash. Nevertheless, our Ram test vehicle was a fully equipped four-wheel-drive Sport crew cab with leather seating, navigation, sunroof and many more options that jacked up the sticker (to dowwnload the Ram 1500 pricing sheet, click here) above $51,000. That’s a whole lot of extras on a truck whose base price is around $40,000 and includes a 5.7-liter Hemi engine, a six-speed automatic transmission and a gas mileage rating of 19 mpg on the highway.  

While the base model seems much more reasonable to anyone willing to give up some luxury items, like an $850 power sunroof or a $1,695 rear-seat video system, one of the more useful options is a 3.92:1 rear axle ratio and a limited-slip differential. With a standard payload capacity of 1,500 pounds, the added rear-axle options gave our test truck a towing capacity of 10,200 pounds. This would prove to be a great asset in the off-road conditions we put the truck through. 

Although the bright Flame Red  truck looked great with its color-matched bumpers, grille and sport performance hood, we got it covered in dirt and dust while traveling over several off-road trails that included deep ruts, river washes and loose terrain.

Ram 2
The Ram’s suspension hasn’t changed in several years, and it still proved to be capable. It uses aluminum A-arms, coil springs and twin-tube shocks in the front with a five-link suspension with coil springs, track bar and twin-tube shocks at the rear. We drove the Ram over a steep hill climb and washed-out trails that put the suspension into its maximum point of articulation.  Despite the conditions, the Ram provided a predictable and well-balanced ride. The truck never felt unsteady or incapable of handling anything a stock-height truck could drive over. 

The stiffer ladder-style chassis allowed the suspension to fully extend and compress while slowly crawling over deeply rutted areas. The only limiting factor was the P275/60R20 Goodyear Wrangler HP tires that were an option for our test model’s Sport package. The tires were mounted on polished 20-inch aluminum wheels that looked great, but the combination was better suited for high mileage and a smooth highway ride. It may not be enough traction to tread where Jeeps roam, but the Ram can still easily get you to any campsite off the beaten path. 

The only other drawback we saw was ground clearance. You can simply never have enough of it, but we didn’t want to go into more rugged terrain and risk scratching the air dam. That in and of itself is not much to complain about, but we were well aware that if the truck were outfitted with a set of all-terrain tires and a 3-inch body lift, it would be dramatically more capable without any other changes. Nevertheless, we realized that the Ram was set up to be a good compromise that also offers comfort, smooth operation and capabilities in other areas, which we experienced on our test drive. 

With the Ram’s crew-cab design, there’s plenty of room and storage areas in the doors, center console and under the rear seats. Our test model came equipped with a rear entertainment system that connected to a media center featuring a 40-gigabyte hard drive and GPS navigation. These are nice items to have so you don’t get lost finding that off-road trail off the highway or getting to a new restaurant you’ve always wanted to try. The truck also featured Uconnect, which allows you to make hands-free phone calls via Bluetooth and connects you to assistance when you need it.  For daily driving, the interior is more than spacious and comfortable for driving with the family or taking your boss out for lunch. 

Ram 7
But some truck owners also use their vehicles for work. In this case, the RamBox Cargo Management System comes in handy. The RamBox safely stores items in the sides of the bed with a lockable, weatherproof lid. The boxes can hold lots of 12-ounce beverages (140 total) for your weekend getaways. That was perfect for our off-road excursion, leaving more room in the cab for passengers and eliminating the chance of an ice chest bouncing around in the bed.  The RamBox can also hold work tools, tow straps and other items you may want to keep in the vehicle. We liked that both boxes, and the tailgate, lock with the ignition key. It’s a great feature, especially when used with any aftermarket hard folding tonneau cover to secure tools and other items you may use to transport to and from the job site. 

We took our truck on an exciting off-road trip, but we also saw how well it performs with a heavy load in the bed by hauling 1,000 pounds of scrap metal to the local recycling yard. We especially liked how the new 65RFE six-speed gave us access to all six gears when manually shifting with the console shifter, which came in handy with the heavier load.

Our test model had an optional urethane spray-in bed liner that worked exceptionally well; it didn’t leave any dents or scratches from the load. With the extra weight, the truck sank an inch or two but still drove and handled predictably. The Ram looked quite comfortable carrying the hefty load and it didn’t feel overly top-heavy, especially when maneuvering around corners and in stop-and-go traffic.  In fact, several workers around the recycling yard gathered around to check out the truck, and they gave us a few thumbs-up. Others liked the tailgate assist that made it effortless to open and close the tailgate when moving the payload. 

While the as-tested price gave us (and other truck owners we talked with) a little bit of sticker shock, the Ram 1500 crew cab is definitely a vehicle that proved it could take on mildly difficult off-road terrain, haul heavy loads and keep the family quiet and comfortable in a roomy cab. We also liked that our test truck managed to get 20 mpg on the highway and 15 mpg in combined off-road and street driving conditions. But with a moderate base price and lots of options, buyers can outfit the Ram 1500 crew cab to whatever fits their needs and budget.   

Ram 6
With a stiff ladder-style chassis, the suspension can fully extend and compress while slowly crawling over deeply rutted areas. Ground clearance is an issue, and although the truck is capable of more rugged terrain, we were not willing to damage the front air dam. 


Ram 4
The 5.7-liter Hemi is powerful, making 390 hp and 407 pounds-feet of torque. But it’s also more fuel efficient achieving 20 mpg (unloaded) on the highway during our test, largely due to the modified 65RFE transmission that gives the driver access (through manual shifting only--you'll use only five gears in "D") to all six gears.


Ram 5
Our test vehicle came equipped with P275/60R20 Goodyear Wrangler HP tires and polished 20-inch wheels. The combination is better suited for pavement comfort and traction rather than off-road conditions, but we didn’t hold that against it. 

Ram 9
The interior of our truck had all the amenities, including leather seating. This made the ride seem a bit more comfortable, especially with the power 10-way adjustable driver’s seat and six-way adjustable passenger seat. A navigation system and a multimedia center keeps you and the family entertained.

Ram 10
With good looks and rugged capabilities, the 2012 Ram 1500 crew cab can meet the needs of truck enthusiasts who use their vehicles for work and play; it's more than just a four-wheel-drive truck with good off-road capabilities. It also functions well as a daily driver and heavy hauler when needed. 


@TRX4 I will take that as a No.. you have not owned one. Yes both trucks are 1/2 tons 4x4 with 3:73 gears... The Dog Ram makes a great car for long drives.( Lousy fuel mileage...17 and the 88 gets 20) When it comes to pulling and hauling its still a car/truck. I or you can put 500 lbs in the Dog Ram and it bounces off the rear axle at the slightest bump in the road or field. (I think GM got rid of the coil springs in trucks in...what 1969? )I pull a goose neck big round bale trailer, it holds 6 bales averaging 2,000-3,000 lbs each, which means each load was from 12,000-18,000lbs plus the trailer. Would you hook it up to the Dog Ram if it can't haul 500 lbs in its bed with out slamming against the axle? (Just think what that would do to the frame, when new trucks can't even handle a 20mph impact with out major frame damage) The 88 knew the trailer was back there but it never failed to deliver a load(knock on wood!!) and keeps asking for more.
Oh by the way TRX4, the Ram spent more time at the dealer getting fixed than the 88 ever did in its 400,000 + miles of working.
I should let you know the 88 just has a 350 with mild rv cam and a 700r4 tranny,,, in a short bed Z71. AND It walked all over that new Dog Ram.
Don't get me wrong the 3/4 ton dodge with a Cummins is an awesome work truck...If you can keep the body and interior from falling apart. ( I had one of them too)

A 20 mile per hour impact is a substantial impact, newer trucks are much safer then the days of old, the truck takes the brunt of the accident not the people inside.

Wow, I didn't realize how much GM sucks until I read these comments. Screw U GM!

@Apple Andy

I agree. The crazy GM fanbois are really off-putting and cultish. Very disturbing.

I don't see how people aren't ripping that rear sway bar off on even a mild trail when wheeling. I can't say the new dodges keep the offroad abilities dodge used to be known for.
I prefer the F-150 but I can't deny that Dodge is really stepping up their game and the RAM is easily the best looking truck on the market.

@ TRX4 Took Dodge 25 years to get 107ftlbtq more tq and the same fuel mileage as my 88... Ba ha ha ha ha!!!! As far in a wreck, hit a culvert at 30 mph your truck will be totaled the old one will more than likely drive away...been there done that! Your dodge gets 16mpg at 75 my 88 gets 19 (I did 9hr drives every other weekend) the only thing the Dodge 1/2ton has on the old trucks is the seat is more comfortable and it rides better(after all it swallowed a luxurie car),every thing else my 88 did better. I can give you example after example.
Yes 88's do have AC and over drive. My truck may be an exception but it stops pretty quick, probably every bit as good as the 09 Ram I had.

Sheesh! I start complaining when starting prices exceed $20K, much less tagging $40K or more. Ram is calling this thing a "starter" truck? Ye GADS! I don't care what it is, I have enough trouble even accepting a "fully equipped" model at $30K; this thing is nothing but a Lux Truck with carrying capability.

@ Kirk ,

Funny you mention Dragsters,as every Top Fuel Chevy has a Chrysler HEMI !! Every GM,Ford,Toyota uses a Chrysler HEMI in Top Fuel..Worlds most powerful engine !!

A HEMI RAM 1500 will out run,out pull a 1988 Chevy for gas mileage..the 88 GM trucks were 8-15 city(yes 15 for a 6 cyl short box single cab), My Uncle owned a 87 GMC 3500 454 and it was 8-11 mpg truck !

With the new trucks,they are bigger/heavier and my Hemi Ram averages 18.5 mpg with a 4 door Quad cab 4x4 Hemi with 3.92 axle ,when it was brand new it was 15.4 mpg then steadily kept getting better mpg..If I baby it it can get 20 mpg,but I love to hammer it !! Plus my low 6 second 0-60 mph,and mid 14 second 1/4 mile times with a 5300 pound cant do that in a stock 88 GM truck !!!

Kirk, Walter Mitty, whatever, you are so full of it! LOL! As for safety, go watch some videos on old trucks crashing. My Ram grts 16 MPG? At 75?? Dude, quit making things up! If I was getting 16 it was against a HEAD WIND which will bring down the mileage in anything, espcecially that ol brick you have. I have seen upper 18s too, at 79 with a tail wind, so it depends on wind.

It's guys like you I remember talking to that come up with the "my uncle has a 440 Hemi (not made) that goes 180 down the highway." Really? Towing 12,000 to 18,000 in hay alone before the trailer and truck weight? LMAO! With "just an RV cam in a 350" Now I got my feet off the ground, cause the $#!% is getting deep! IF your old Chevy could just support the empty trailer and stop it, it would be good. Yeah, right, saying you would run atleast 18,000 combined weight? You inflated your numbers so high, you lost any credit! Who believes your crap? Next you will say it runs stock wheels and tires. Next you will tell me your old 4 barrel NEVER has an issue, and if you did like I did and ran from northwest Arkansas to the Pacific Northwest, your old carb would have no issue going from almost sea level to 6 or 8,000 feet altitude. By the way, newer trucks have a higher smog standards, harder to make more power. But they do. Oh, by the way, that old truck even have a/c? I know it's a single cab. Why don't you and Vulpine go hang out together? He's always complaining.

I could be wrong, but last year for Chevy coils I think was 1972. I had a 1969.

I can just imagine your old 88 Chevy on that trip out west, going 79 MPH through a windy Wyoming. All the wind wipping through the door and wing window seals! Or just pushing it around on the windshield.

I had 2006 Chevy, it was poor quality.

@JJ: I have measured the heights of things both Ford with the Off Road Package and Rams, you would be surprised how low the air dam, the crossmember, and some other things are if you too measured the Fords. Unless a Raptor, they sit kinda low too.

Vulpine, you always complain. That's all you do. You never seem to really compare what you get vs. the old pile you have. I've had a few old piles. You will be working and working on it. Hey, they still make a single cab truck, 4x2, short or 8 foot bed. And yes, the longer front is more aero then your 1990 model, which prob has 235/75 R 15s on it. You can walk away after spending 20 grand or less with a new truck, but I guess you want the crew and quad cabs eliminated? There are single cabs out there. I think all but Nissan make them. (?)

@TRX4 Tom: At least my "old pile" cost far, far less and is still worth about 25% of its new price at 22 years old; will you be able to say the same for these new trucks? Personally, even my "old pile" is a road whale. I haven't driven it in a week.

TRX4 From your comments I would have to assume that you a city slicker, Do you know what a Vermeer round baler is or what they make? Do you have any idea how big the bales get with the extra tension er spring? FYI- The guy at the CO-OP scale house tells you exactly what the bales weigh.
LOL, As far as watching a video of a crash, I don't need to, I've been in several, and have had to work several as a part time cop.
In regards to fuel mileage, I spent 18 hrs every other weekend driving from Ks to SD and back, I know what fuel mileage a dodge crew cab with 3:73 gears gets. You are correct about it getting deep in here, it would be nice if you would turn your tap off.

@ KIrk

and if your 88 chevy is soo much better than any RAm Ford or watever....


Comparing an old '88 GM truck to a new Ram is not even a contest. I used to own a '89 GMC K1500 sportside which I bought new. My 2012 Ram Laramie 4x4 is 10 times the truck that GMC was. No well in hell the 350 I had even with all the aftermarket performance parts I put on it could keep up with my new Ram. So why someone is wasting there time comparing the two on here is beyond me. Both are good trucks but the GMC was good back then and the Ram is good now. Well were at it why the hell hasn't someone come out saying their '72 GM truck is better than a 2012 Ford F150??

LOL Kirk! In the Army we say Assume-ing makes an ASS oughta you and me. Yes I know what round bales are, no I aint a city slicker. I've helped my dad haul hay before. Here in northwest Arkansas we're mostly country people here.

I can bet you have in alot of crashes! When you totally overload your half ton to what 1 ton and 3/4 tons should be doing, I bet you get in alot of them! You might want to upgrade to a modern truck with better braking and while your at it, get a 2500, atleast. Great to know they would hire a braindead like you to be a cop! "Now listen hear, boy, we got ya now!" LOL!

It's just your mentality is kinda out there. Really, pulling 12,000 to 18,000 in HAY ALONE, plus trailer weight, plus vehicle weight, with a half ton? With just a rv cammed 350? I will admitt I accused you of having a carb, and it was probably throttle body injection. So they start good, but lack power (nothing like todays multipoint injection. I can just vision your old truck hauling 12,000 of hey, bottomed out, poor steering, poor braking abilities, can't get out of it's own way, overdrive constantly breaking in it, bet it sounds like hell at 75 without the trailer.

I doubt you really had a current Ram, otherwise you would know that current 1500s don't have 3.73 gears, they have 3.21 (4x2 only) 3.55, 3.92 and 4.10 (RT only) The 3.73s are in 2500s. Maybe 2008 or before you coulda had 3.73 in a Ram 1500.

Donald summed it up above, about safety. Oh, I don't guess your old truck is much differance then a 74 GMC 2500 454 which my step dad wreck, and he didn't fare so well. But keep telling yourself an 88 is safer then a 2010....

@Vulpine: You paid roughly $2600 or so or think it's worth that? Wow, with a messed up exhaust manifold, and it's been sitting for a long time, so it's got crud in the fuel? I just don't get it, it's like you are stuck in the 90s, prices on trucks go up cause you get more, takes more to make the truck. So if I was looking at your truck I would be thinking how much suspension and brake work do I need to do? Does it not smoke at all? Have you done a compression test, or had one done on it? Has the trans fluid been changed? Is your windshield darn near perfect? Dents and dings? Does your A/C need a charge? That gets spendy if it needs work. Hows it steer?

It's only worth what somebody will pay. I guess where you are, they sell good. Let me know, I will haul a few down there, we can get together and make a small fortune!

JimJ and company, where do I start? 1) the $$$ our gov. gave to GM and Chry. came from the Chinas gov. 2) the last time I was told is that Mexico is part of N. America, and if the Mexican people have a good job there, they wont need to come up here, with all the social problems that brings . 3) the only CHevy truck built in Mexaco is the Avalanche. 4) the $$$ toyota makes here in our Country leaves this Country, never to come back, unless they need to build more factories, and when they do, they get huge tax breaks from local, state, and fed gov. (our $$$) to do so, and the American manuf. get nothing, or when they do you call it BAILOUT BAILOUT, when than tech means that you dont have to pay it back. 5) Chrys has paid it back, and GM will also.

@Sandman 4x4: For the record, GM does build crew cabs in Mexico. As does Ram build 1500 Single Cabs, and the 2500 and 3500s. Toyota DOES build SOME ACCESS Cab Tacomas in Baja California, Mexico. Ford Builds alot of cars in Mexico as well. But like you say, I will take North America built any day over another continent!

Ram is taking out Ford and Chevy. Ram already took out Toyota and GM.

Ok, whoever wrote that last one, (not me) Has a sense of humor. Ha ha. Truth of the matter, no, Ram hasn't taken out GM YET but they are fixin to. It'll take some doing, but it is possible to take out Ford. Give it a few years...Possible. Now I will get flammed by all the Ford lovers

Ram has taken out GMC though. Ram is about double GMC in sales. Chevy and Ford is next to be taken out. Ha ha.

April 2012

Ram Trucks

GMC Sierra

@TRX 4: I love how you said "down there" when talking to me. Well, if "down there" is at sea level, then you're right; I also live in one of the most expensive parts of the country to live and that's even harder on vehicles than Ark, Mo, ND, etc... The truck I'm driving spent 10 years in central Georgia putting on some 100,000 miles or so and appears to have essentially sat in storage in PA for most of the last 12 years. Considering the location, the lack of body rust on this rig is remarkable--not even a y2K truck "up here" can claim as little rust as this thing carries. That said, I walked into this purchase expecting to spend more just to get it decently road worthy again and I can tell you that I was right. Still, it's cost me only 10% of the starting price of that there RAM that this article was all about. Why did I buy this thing? I needed a truck, needed it fast and wanted something that didn't need a lot of body work just to pass state inspections. I believe I can get right back out of the truck what I've put in when I trade it for a Jeep branded pickup.

One thing though: I bought this thing to be a truck and dog-gone, it is a truck--not a car pretending to be a truck or a truck pretending to be a car. The other thing: Back when this truck was made, I can almost guarantee you that 50% of the sticker price was pure profit. These things today? Still making more profit than cars, but not as much because of all the frills and fluff they put into them.

Oh, and One More Thing; It's paid for.

LOL Well TRX4, You totally missed the original point, Ill be more direct for you. Since your 2010 Ram is so great. Lets see your 2010 Ram pull a trailer with the same weight as my junk 1/2 ton 88 pulls every summer..... Its that simple...I hope you don't break your car truck trying. I'm guessing a new frame for your car truck is around 11-15g.

TRX4, I almost forgot to inform you the wreck I was involved in was caused by one of your fellow statesmen driving on the wrong side of the road....And in case you were wondering, the best drivers in the country are in Kansas, Oregon, South Dakota and Minnesota.

I'm looking to get one of these Sports, hard part is finding one without the fake air intakes on the hood. Just don't care for that look on a truck especially when thier fake.

Kirk is high again. I saw him pulling a trailer with 2500 bales of dope to another South Dakota bake sale in his 88 Chevy.

I like the ram I thought the ram box was cool idea tell i saw a fully loaded brand new dodge ram 1500 4x4 with the rambox and rolling bed cover with those bed hook slides pulled up at work for a load of a pallet of 80 bags of mulch loaded in the bed with the forklift. After i got done loading it i realized how if u are a contractor planning on loading pallets of material in your tuck dont get ramboxs or the bed hook sliders because it was a tight fit with these installed NICE TRUCK besides that


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