The 2012 Ram 2500 finds itself in the thick of a three-way brawl for heavy-duty pickup truck supremacy. Fortunately, it comes packing the right talents in the form of powerful powertrains, a well-sorted suspension and a handsome cabin. The latter is especially notable for its high-quality look and feel and many upscale features. The burly Ram also provides its occupants with a fairly comfortable and quiet ride, thanks to a relatively forgiving suspension, hydraulic cab-to-frame mounts and low levels of road and wind noise.
The Ram 2500's standard 5.7-liter V8 is rated at 383 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, but to maximize its work potential, we recommend going with the diesel. The 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel inline-6 churns out 350 hp and a best-in-class 800 lb-ft of torque when equipped with an automatic transmission. As such, the Ram 2500 more than earns its "heavy-duty" status. Properly equipped, it can tow up to 15,500 pounds (depending on body style and powertrain choice), while maximum hauling capacity tops out at 3,190 pounds.
Compared to its Chevy Silverado 2500HD and Ford F-250 rivals, the 2012 Ram 2500 finds itself essentially evenly matched in terms of capability and ruggedness. But few would argue when we say that the Ram boasts the most attractive styling, along with an uncommonly upscale cabin.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Ram 2500 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 it combines an even bigger cabin with a short bed.
The regular cab comes in ST or SLT trims; the Crew Cab in ST, SLT, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn and Power Wagon trims; and the Mega Cab in SLT, Laramie and Laramie Longhorn only.
The Ram ST is the bare-bones trim level that comes with 17-inch steel wheels, black grille/bumpers, vinyl upholstery and flooring, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat, air-conditioning, an electronic vehicle information display, 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 the diesel engine, 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).
For those planning on using the Ram for serious off-road duties, the Power Wagon (available only as a Crew Cab 4WD with the short bed and 5.7-liter V8) should be of interest. It includes tow hooks, skid plates, all-terrain tires, a manual transfer case, a 4.56 axle ratio with electronically locking differentials, a power winch rated at 12,000 pounds of capacity, a front antiroll bar that disconnects electronically to improve wheel articulation off-road, rooftop running lights, foglights, quad headlights and Bluetooth. The Power Wagon is actually offered in three sub-trims -- ST, SLT and Laramie -- and as such comes with the standard features of those respective trims levels.
On the other end of the spectrum is the luxurious Laramie, which features polished alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating, heated front seats, 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 bedside storage compartments and an adjustable bed divider and tie-downs), a sunroof, an upgraded stereo and a rear-seat entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Ram 2500 is available with rear-wheel or four-wheel drive (4WD is electronically engaged at the high trim levels and mechanically engaged at the lowest one). The 4WD version has a solid front axle and recirculating-ball steering setup, while the 2WD model gets an independent front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering.
Every Ram 2500 comes standard with a 5.7-liter V8 engine that produces 383 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. The 5.7 is paired with a six-speed automatic. In Edmunds testing, a 4WD 2500 Power Wagon equipped with the gasoline V8 and the previous five-speed automatic went from zero to 60 mph in a respectable 8.1 seconds. The optional engine is a 6.7-liter turbodiesel inline-6 that produces 350 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque with a six-speed manual transmission, or 800 lb-ft of torque with a six-speed automatic.
Opting for the diesel will also get you an exhaust brake. Typically seen only on big rigs, an exhaust brake provides additional stability and braking power when towing very heavy loads. And those loads can be quite substantial. The Ram 2500 has a maximum tow rating of 14,000 pounds with the gasoline engine, 13,400 for the manual-equipped diesel and 15,500 with the automatic and diesel engine.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Ram 2500 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 are almost too nice for work truck status. Interior storage is generous, with plenty of bins and pockets to supplement the dual gloveboxes. Unique to this pickup is the optional RamBox feature, which places a pair of lockable compartments over the rear fenders inside the truck bed. It's a neat feature, though we've found that the compartments aren't as durable as one would expect.
The controls are within easy reach and user-friendly, except for the audio system when it's 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 alleviate this problem.