A True Long Term Review - 2012 Ram 1500
My 2012 Ram 1500 Laramie (2-wheel drive, Saddle Brown) is about a grocery store trip away from rolling 100K and I thought it would be a good time to do a true long-term review. Every time I read a ďlong-termĒ review in various auto publications and websites, I think ďwho really considers 20K to be ďlong-term?Ē I certainly donít. With the dramatically improved quality in todayís automotive world, any car that doesnít go 20K trouble free is probably an outlier. What I want to know is how a car will service me to 100K and beyond. My previous daily driver was a GMC Envoy that took me to 200K before I gave it to my son. He is still driving it at 240K with the original engine and tranny. I hope (and expect) my Ram to even longer assuming I donít wreck it.
Before review the truck, I need to explain how it came about that I chose the Ram. I needed a truck to tow a new boat (new to me anyway, it was a 1998 Bryant) I had just purchased. I didnít need four wheel drive and didnít plan to do anything more strenuous than tow the boat during the summer months. So with that in mind, I started my search. Now I know that pickup truck owners are notoriously brand loyal, but Iím just not a brand homer. Through the years I have owned most of the domestic nameplates and a few Japanese vehicles. So when it came time to look at new trucks, I had no firm notions about which truck was the best or which one I preferred. I did a lot of online research and read every review I could get my hands on before I drove anything. I did rule out the Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra early on without doing an actual test drive at a dealership. I had previously borrowed a friends Titan and driven it to run some errands and it was a decent enough truck, but very outdated. I had also rented a Tundra on a business trip about a year earlier and simply hated driving the thing. It was too big, too stiff and just too damn ugly. With apologies to any Tundra owners (what are you doing reading a Ram review anyway??), I wasnít going to buy something that made me cringe every time I walked out my driveway to get in it. So I decided to test drive the Dodge Ram 1500, the Ford F150, the Chevy Silverado 1500.
I drove the Ford first, the Ram second and the Chevy last. I ruled out the Chevy immediately after the drive due mostly to the low-rent interior. It literally looked like it came out of a 2005 Impala (this was August of 2012, mind you). The whole interior was just bathed in cheap, grey plastic and fake wood applique. Ugh. It drove okay, but the ride was very stiff and the steering wheel had a weird offset to it that made it not line up directly with the driver. It came in at a slight angle and off to one side. It was so slight that it was barely noticeable, but I saw in reviews later that it was a real defect. I later looked at a GMC Sierra and the interior was different, but no less cheap looking. I think GM makes a durable truck with an excellent drive train, but their interiors were (and still are) 5+ years behind everyone else. As an aside, I rented the newer generation GM truck a few months after purchasing my Ram and the interiors are still a mess. The new ones have these massive nodules that protrude from the dash like malignant tumors. They look cartoonish to me.
Anyway, I liked both the Ford and Ram. I drove the Ford in both 3.5L EcoBoost and the 5.0L V8 versions. The 5.0L felt underpowered, but the EcoBoost was an absolute hoot to drive. The Ram also felt very powerful and performed much better than the Ford 5.0L and but felt slightly slower than 3.5L EcoBoost. These conclusions were based on precisely instrumented tests using the seat of my pants as the finely tuned instrument.
I thought the Ford drove a little better than the Ram and had more precise steering with less wandering on the road. I used the same instrumented tests noted above to reach this conclusion. Both trucks had very nice interiors, but the Ram was more elegantly done with less ďbusynessĒ than the Ford. There were some slight differences in how the trucks were equipped (e.g. the Ram had navigation and a heated steering wheel that was missing in the Ford, but he Ford had a rear-view camera that was missing in the Ram), but overall the trucks had a very similar feature set and both were beautiful trucks (in my not so humble opinion).
So why did I choose the Ram? It had the best interior in the class (yeah, I know I keep harping on interiors, but itís important to me), it had a proven drivetrain with plenty of power, it didnít have a then-unproven turbocharged V6, it had the best ride quality in the segment and it was $3,500 less than the Ford. Regarding ride quality, the Ram has no peer in the pickup world. Nothing even comes close. Iíve read numerous truck reviews that say the Ram, Ford and Chevy ďall ride smoothĒ and that is true unless you actually drive over a bump. I donít know where they are testing these trucks, but where I live, there are occasionally bumps in the roads and the Ram makes the Ford and Chevy feel like Conestoga wagons by comparison. There are some slight capacity trade-offs with the coil spring architecture, but the Ram had plenty of capacity for what I planned to do with it. So, I liked both trucks a lot, but chose the Ram for the reasons listed above. My only anxiety was the expected quality and reliability as the various ratings I read online were slightly higher for the Ford.
Now that Iíve logged 100K miles, how do I feel about the truck decision I made 68 months ago? Iíll cut to the chase and say I made the right decision. Iím not one given to hyperbole, but this is the nicest vehicle I have ever owned. It has been in the shop for defect repairs exactly zero times. The only issue Iíve had that wasnít self-inflicted was the ubiquitous leaking third brake light. Shame on FCA for allowing this to continue beyond 2009 when the issue was first identified. Any numpty (a great British word that essentially means dolt Ė no charge for that) knows that reticulated foam is not a waterproof sealing material. I just repaired it myself for less than $10 with information found on various online forums (thanks!). My Ram has Raptor stainless side steps (which I would not recommend) and the bed is Line-Xed (is that a word?) with color coordinated (Saddle Brown) material. The liner looks fabulous and has held up very well. Line-X is great stuff. I also installed a Truxedo LoPro that has also given very good service, though I recently had to replace the latches due to wear.
What do I like most about the Ram? Aside from the bullet-proof reliability thus far, the ride. For a truck, the ride is amazing. Weíve made multiple trips out west to see our oldest son and go on various hiking adventures and itís hard to imagine a more comfortable trip vehicle. Between the power, the ride, the room and the extremely well designed interior, the Ram is an easy place to pile on the miles day after day. It also gets respectable mileage for a vehicle so large. In one of our trips we logged well over 3K miles (most of it at 78+mph) and averaged 20.3 mpg according to the trip computer. My manual checks of the trip computer accuracy were always within about 1 mpg of actual. Not bad. There are also a couple of features I have really enjoyed that came with the Laramie package. The heated and cooled seats are really nice to have and they work more quickly and effectively than most other cars Iíve driven. They are far superior to the ones on my wifeís Lexus. The Ram Laramie also has heated rear seats which always impresses the guests in the winter time. One option that I thought was a little gimmicky was the heated steering wheel. I was wrong. This thing is a god send after youíve wiped a little snow off the windshield with your bare hand. The Alpine sound system is also outstanding and I love the large hard drive where Iíve been able to store hundreds of old tunes to that allow me to relive a little youth.
What do I like least about the Ram? The size. This isnít Ram specific and would have been an issue with any of the full size trucks, but this thing is huge. It took me a couple of years before I stopped scrunching against things when trying to park. However, this same large size that makes it no fun to drive around town is the same thing that makes it a fabulous trip vehicle. Just a trade-off you have to accept. Believe it or not, thatís it for the negatives.
In summary, after 100K and 68 months, I still love my Ram 1500 Laramie and am glad I chose it over the competition. Iíve had more positive comments and made more friends at gas stations across the country because of this truck than any vehicle Iíve ever owned. I canít tell you how many strangers have walked up to me to ask what model year my truck is and what the color is. The Saddle Brown color is not very common and when itís clean, it looks just like a new penny. It still draws comments five years on. In my opinion, Ram trucks are the best looking trucks on the road, although the latest iteration is a little conservative for my tastes. However, it still looks better than the current Ford, which although a fine truck, looks a little too cobbled together with disparate styling cues. Sort of like a Johnny Cash Cadillac. The Ram is in a definitely in a different league aesthetically when compared to the awkward looking machines Nissan and Toyota are building. They are like a karaoke version of a Johnny Cash Cadillac. Speaking of awkward, Chevyís newest offering has done something I didnít think possible; they have out-uglied Nissan and Toyota. That thing is absolutely hideous. I think you could lower the value of your house just by parking it in the driveway. However, I completely understand that ugly people need trucks they can relate to.
So thatís it for the review of my 2012 Ram. If my unvarnished opinions on the aesthetics of competitive products cause you any discomfort, please forgive me. For those of you who have read this all the way to the end, I hope it was worth your time. Ciao.
2012 1500 Saddle Brown
5.7L 2wd w/LSD
Raptor 4" Steps
Line-X Color Matched Bedliner