2012 Ram 3500 Mega Cab - FROM $47,500
The 2012 Ram 3500 is a top pick for a heavy-duty truck thanks to its top-notch interior, respectable ride quality and impressive towing and hauling capabilities.
What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Ram 3500 gets the option of the RamBox bed side compartments for the 6-foot-4-inch bed.
The heavy-duty pickup battle is so fierce that you'd half expect these vehicular equivalents of the World's Strongest Man rivals to be sporting lifting belts around their beds and chalk powder all over their tires. All three of the combatants are rugged rigs that can move pretty much anything short of a mountain. The 2012 Ram 3500 manages to set itself apart from its formidable foes via its sharp styling and handsome interior.
The Ram's cabin is especially notable for its high-quality look and feel and offers enough luxury features to keep the most spoiled occupant happy. The burly Ram also provides its occupants with a firm but still fairly comfortable ride, thanks to a relatively forgiving suspension, hydraulic cab-to-frame mounts and low levels of road and wind noise.
The Ram 3500 comes packing a 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel inline-6 that churns out 350 horsepower and a best-in-class 800 pound-feet of torque when equipped with an automatic transmission. As such, the Ram 3500 more than earns its "heavy-duty" status. Properly equipped, it can tow up to 22,750 pounds (depending on body style and powertrain choice), while maximum payload capacity is equally astounding at 5,130 pounds.
In a heavy-duty truck comparison test we recently conducted, the Ram 3500 finished behind its GMC Sierra 3500 (a twin to the Chevy Silverado 3500) and Ford F-350 rivals, mostly because of its comparative lack of power. In fairness, this test was conducted just before the Cummins turbodiesel (matched to the automatic transmission) received a big power boost that brought the torque output up to 800 lb-ft. But even if we're talking about "just" the 650 lb-ft version, the turbodiesel is still plenty strong for everybody short of Paul Bunyan, and the Ram has the advantage when it comes to bold styling and an uncommonly upscale interior. All things considered, the 2012 Ram 3500 should easily satisfy anyone in need of a heavy-duty workhorse.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Ram 3500 heavy-duty pickup is available in three cab styles: regular, Crew Cab and Mega Cab (a jumbo crew cab). The regular cabs come with a long bed only, while the Crew Cab has either a short or long cargo bed. The Mega Cab rides on the same wheelbase as the Crew Cab long bed but pairs an even bigger cabin with the short bed.
The regular cab comes in ST or SLT trims; the Crew Cab in ST, SLT, Laramie and Laramie Longhorn; and the Mega Cab in SLT, Laramie and Laramie Longhorn only.
With the exception of Crew Cab short beds, all Ram 3500s have a dual-rear-wheel axle.
The Ram ST is the bare-bones trim level that comes with 17-inch steel wheels, vinyl upholstery and flooring, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat, air-conditioning, an electronic vehicle information display, a tire-pressure monitor, a tilt steering wheel and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player and auxiliary audio jack. Power windows and door locks are standard on Crew Cab models, while regular cabs have manual controls.
The SLT adds chrome exterior trim, chrome-clad wheels, electronic trailer brake control, power-folding/heated side mirrors, a sliding rear window, cloth upholstery, full power accessories, keyless entry, cruise control and satellite radio. SLT Crew Cab and Mega Cab Rams are eligible to upgrade to the Big Horn package (sold as the Lone Star package in Texas). This includes a chrome grille, foglights, brighter quad headlights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel (with audio controls), an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a universal garage door opener.
There is also the Outdoorsman package for the SLT that adds a limited-slip rear differential, tow hooks, polished alloy wheels (with white-letter tires), two-tone paint, wheel flares, a body-color grille frame, foglights, remote starting, auto-dimming mirrors, an overhead console, a 115-volt power point, illuminated vanity mirrors, power driver (10-way) and passenger (six-way) seats (with power lumbar supports) and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.
On the other end of the spectrum is the luxurious Laramie, which features polished alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating, a power driver seat with memory, power-adjustable pedals, auto-dimming mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth and an upgraded nine-speaker surround-sound audio system with digital music storage and iPod integration. The Laramie Longhorn adds color-keyed bumpers, remote start, rear park assist with rearview camera, bucket seats/console, ventilated front seats and a navigation system.
A spray-in bedliner is available across the board while many of the upper trims' standard features are available as options in lower ones. Other option highlights include the RamBox cargo management system (which includes bed-side storage compartments and adjustable bed divider and tie-downs), a sunroof, an upgraded stereo and a rear-seat entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Ram 3500 is available in either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. Dual rear wheels are standard, but buyers may choose single rear wheels as an option.
A turbocharged 6.7-liter Cummins inline-6 diesel is standard and produces a stout 350 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque with the standard six-speed manual transmission. Output rises to an impressive 350 hp and 800 lb-ft when paired with the optional six-speed automatic.
The Cummins comes with a big-rig-like exhaust brake, an unusual feature for a factory pickup that provides additional stability and braking power when towing very heavy loads. Properly equipped, the Ram 3500 can tow up to 22,750 pounds.
Standard safety equipment for the 2012 Ram 3500 includes antilock disc brakes and side curtain airbags. Optional on the SLT and standard on the Laramie are power-adjustable pedals.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2012 Ram 3500 takes a page out of the Ram 1500's playbook by offering the best interior among all pickups. On the higher trim levels, soft-touch materials and tasteful stitching are abundant throughout the cabin, while the plush seats and metallic accents in higher-trimmed Rams are almost too nice for work truck status. Interior storage is generous, with plenty of bins and pockets to supplement the dual gloveboxes.
The controls are within easy reach and user-friendly, except for the audio system when paired with the optional navigation. In this configuration, the absence of hard buttons and knobs needlessly complicates some of the most basic functions. Fortunately, the steering-wheel-mounted controls help to alleviate this problem.
Even though the 2012 Ram 3500 was built to tackle the most demanding of pickup duties, it remains comfortably composed in most situations. The steering is responsive and the truck tracks through turns in a composed manner. Though not harsh, the Ram's ride isn't quite as compliant over the bumps as its Ford and GM competitors.
On the highway, road and wind noise are nicely quelled, with only a muted diesel clatter at full throttle. The diesel engine is strong and provides plenty of power for towing and hauling heavy loads. We recommend picking the six-speed automatic transmission, as its 150 extra lb-ft of torque over the diesel with the manual gearbox makes a noticeable difference in towing ability.