2012 Dodge Ram 1500 Express: Rugged, Safe, Strong and Upscale
By Mike Blake Carlisle Events
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Dodge’s tough pick-ups have been hard-working staples of jobsites and America’s highways for nearly a century, having debuted in 1917. Known for delivering power options that include the HEMI engine, Dodge’s trucks are now known as the Ram.
The 2012 Ram 1500 is offered in regular cab, Quad Cab and Crew Cab models, with three box lengths: 8-foot (regular cab), 6-foot-4-inches (regular cab and Quad Cab), and 5-foot-7-inches (Ram 1500 Crew Cab). Eleven trim levels are available, each with a unique appearance: Tradesman, Express, Outdoorsman, ST, SLT, Sport, Sport R/T, Lone Star, Big Horn, Laramie and Laramie Longhorn.
Additionally, Ram can be outfitted with one of three engine choices: a 3.7-liter V-6, 4.7-liter V-8 or 5.7-liter HEMI V-8. The 3.7 produces 215 hp and 235 lbs-ft of torque and is EPA rated at 14/20 for 2WD vehicles. The 4.7 is a V-8 that pops out 310 hp and 330 lbs-ft of torque for a 14/19 2WD EPA rating and a 13/18 rating for 4WD. For HEMI lovers, the brawny 5.7-liter V-8 thunders out 390hp and 407 lbs-ft of torque, rated at 14/20 for 2WD and 14/19 for 4WD. Mated with an automatic six-speed transmission my test Ram 1500 Express, powered by the 5.7-liter HEMI, managed a weeklong average of 15.9mpg in mixed-use driving in severe winter conditions.
Living up to its strong and rugged reputation, Ram 1500 towing capacity starts at 8,000 pounds for the 3.7-liter and moves up to 15,500 pounds for my test 5.7 Express with Crew Cab.
Built in Warren, Michigan, the 5342-lb. Ram 1500 Express utilizes body-on-frame construction with a ladder-type frame, steel cab and a double-wall steel pick-up box. Rams 1500’s Express, with a Crew Cab, measured 229 inches long with a 5-foot-7-inch short bed, on a 140.5-inch wheelbase. Width was 79.4 inches, height was 75.1 inches, ground clearance accommodates 9 inches and the open tailgate to the ground was 34.9 inches.
Exterior enhancements include a Gray upper fascia , "4X4" badge , "Ram 1500" badge, Black rear bumper, body-color fuel filler door, halogen headlamps, locking tailgate, tinted glass windows, black exterior mirrors, power heated mirrors with manual fold-away and dual rear exhaust..
Under the hood, the HEMI lives up to its promise and delivers power when asked. Driving more like a car than like the powerful full-size pick-up truck it is, Ram 1500 Express may not take an autocross with tuner car aplomb, but it delivers a smooth, confident, comfortable ride, and is equally at home on the job site or on the way to a restaurant, theater, tailgating party, camping expedition or the kids’ school or carpool.
Power is available for pulling large loads and for accelerating in all conditions. Aggressive and reliable in passing gear, Ram 1500 is strong off the line with a 7.3-second zero-to-60mph sprint accomplished on a less-than-ideal track, and the half-ton completed a quarter-mile in 15.5 seconds.
Road inadequacies, potholes, mudholes and snow banks are navigated securely thanks to an upper and lower aluminum A-arm, front suspension with coil-over twin-tube shock absorbers and a stabilizer bar, while the rear suspension is a five-link solid axle with a track bar, coil springs, twin-tube shock absorbers and a stabilizer bar.
The cabin is a mix of upscale amenities, comfort and ruggedness. The crew cab showed seating for five or six with head room of 41 inches, legroom of 41 inches, shoulder room of 66 inches and hip room of 61.5 inches up front, with headroom of 39.9, legroom of 40.3, shoulder room of 65.7 and hip room of 63.2 inches in the rear.
Included inside are such accouterments as dual-zone air conditioning, power windows with front one-touch up and down feature, power locks, speed control, a media center with a 30-gigabyte hard drive, first-in-segment “store in the floor” storage bins with removable liners, big enough for ten 12-ounce beverages and ice, and first-in-segment heated and ventilated front seats.
From a safety perspective, Ram 1500 earned five stars out of five in side crash tests and three out of five stars in rollover tests. The Ram 1500 offers more than 30 active and passive safety features, including standard front and rear side-curtain air bags with Enhanced Accident Response System, side seat airbags, knee bolsters, seat-belt pre-tensioners, Anti-lock Brake System, BeltAlert® System, and Electronic Stability Control; and available adjustable pedals, ParkSense® Rear Park Assist and ParkView® Rear Back-up Camera.
The 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 line starts with the ST model at $21,475 (base), and moves up to the Laramie Longhorn at $43,125 (base). Of the 11 available trims, my test Express was the third most economical with a base price of $23,080 for the 4x2 and $26,755 for the 4x4 I reviewed. The Crew Cab brought the base to $33,430. The Flame Red Clear Coat exterior paint matched to a Dark Slate/Medium Graystone interior was included. The ST Popular Equipment Group added $640 for remote keyless entry, floor mats, carpet and SiriusMX Satellite radio. Destination charges brought the sticker to $35,065, but pricing incentives scaled that down to a purchase price of $32,565.
> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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