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Review and photos by Mike Schlee

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2012 Ram 1500

Pickup trucks have their roots as utilitarian devices.  They were the driving force for Canadian farming and industry during much of the 20th century.  But lately, pickup trucks have become less of a workhorse, and more of an all-purpose family vehicle.  With their transition into an all-things-for-all-people type of vehicle, pricing on pickup trucks have skyrocketed, as has complexity.  But what about those who need a new, simple, cheap, ready for abuse work truck?  Well, Ram feels they have the solution; the $30,045 2012 Ram 1500 Tradesman 4X2 Regular Cab.

2012 Ram 1500 Tradesman
2012 Ram 1500 Tradesman. Click image to enlarge

The Tradesman is a no-nonsense, regular cab work truck offered in either two- or four-wheel drive and featuring a choice between long or short pickup beds.  All Tradesman editions of the 1500 come equipped with the Hemi V8 and six-speed automatic transmission.  The 5.7L V8 in this application puts out 390 hp and 407 lb-ft of torque.  Since I was driving the short bed, two-wheel drive edition of the Workman, my test truck weighed in at a relatively light 2,140 kg.   This makes this truck quick in a straight line when unloaded.  In fact, it is pretty easy to get the 265/70R17 rear tires loose with a healthy stab of the throttle.  Keep on the throttle and the truck keeps pulling aggressively well past highway speeds.

Being that this truck is road-biased, it features a smooth ride not expected in a pickup truck.  The short wheelbase and relatively light weight make it very maneuverable and it behaves more like a compact SUV than a full-size pickup truck.  However, on very rough roads and rough off-road segments, the short wheelbase and unloaded road-going suspension can get unsettled, making the truck quite bouncy.  On a few of the rougher simulated road sections the truck may have bounced into the air slightly; I know I left my seat more than once.

2012 Ram 1500 Tradesman
2012 Ram 1500 Tradesman
2012 Ram 1500 Tradesman. Click image to enlarge

But back in its element, cruising the highways and back roads of Canada, the Ram 1500 is stable at high speeds and long, sweeping, high-speed corners.  While at the Chrysler Proving Grounds I even had a chance to take it around the SRT development track and although a sports car it is not, this truck was surprisingly compliant.  It was fun to hoon the truck around the track as it displayed predictable understeer in the corners that would turn into a controllable four-wheel slide.  Then, once back on the straightaways, I could tap into the heavy doses of straightaway power.

Nevertheless, let’s get back to what this truck is really meant for—work.  The Tradesman (and all Ram pickups) are available with an optional RamBox cargo management system that turn the sides of the pickup bed into lockable storage containers.  These boxes, combined with behind-the-seat storage bins and a generous center console container, offer a ton of enclosed storage that make this vehicle great as a mobile office.  Inside, all Tradesman 1500s come standard with air conditioning and a heavy duty 40/20/40 split front bench.  If you are inclined to spend a bit more money on the Tradesman, options like power windows, power locks, and a sliding rear window can be had.  My test truck had none of these features.

2012 Ram 1500 Tradesman
2012 Ram 1500 Tradesman. Click image to enlarge

Another integral part of being a work truck is the ability to haul and tow.  Here the Tradesman is also up to the task, coming standard with a spray-in bedliner (which can be deleted for $450 credit), 4- and 7-pin wiring harnesses, and four-wheel disc brakes.  Also equipped to my test vehicle was the available trailer brake control group.  This all adds up to a 718-kg payload capacity in the 1,930 mm bed (6’4”) and a 4,045-kg towing limit.  I did not have a chance to tow or haul during my short time in the vehicle, so I cannot comment on how it performs when fully loaded, although it proved itself in the 2012 Truck King Challenge.

As can be expected in a serious work truck like the Tradesman, fuel economy is not great and the truck (unloaded) is officially rated at 15.4 L/100 km in the city and 10.2 L/100 km on the highway.  The Ram 1500 Tradesman isn’t much of a looker either with its 17-inch steel wheels and unpainted plastic trim pieces, but those will be appreciated when they get scuffed during normal day-to-day duties.  So, if a serious work truck is needed without any frills put on top, this truck is worth a look.  Yes, some trucks may offer large enough incentives to be priced close to this truck’s MSRP, but keep in mind it too may be heavily discounted; as of this writing, in Canada there is $7,500 on the hood.

Pricing: 2012 Ram 1500 Tradesman 4X2 Regular Cab
Base price:
Options: Trailer Brake Controller Group ($325), ST Power Equipment Group ($575), RamBox Cargo Management System ($1,195)
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,595
Price as tested: $33,835

Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Ram 1500

2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500
2012 Ford F-150
2012 GMC Sierra 1500
2012 Nissan Titan
2012 Toyota Tundra

Crash test results
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

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