2012 RAM 1500 Tradesman could be economical sports choice

I often lament that the truck manufacturers try to dazzle journalists with the most luxurious vehicles with the most extensive options, but two weeks ago I got what I had been asking for: a moderate-priced truck with many of the features that sport truck buyers demand, but without a hefty price tag.  Granted, it is a standard cab, but it is still intriguing and it was a terrific drive.

2012 RAM 1500 Tradesman

The RAM 1500 Tradesman was introduced a couple years ago as an affordable alternative for those who need a good work truck with towing capability, and many of the same things that I know sport truck buyers want.  While the Tradesman name evokes work, it could easily reflect trading work for outdoor activities, as far as I am concerned.

The one we had was a commercially-inspired bright white, but I have sure seen a lot of sport trucks in this color.  The interior had a dark slate/medium graystone interior, steel 17″ steel wheels and LT265/7OR17E on/off-road tires, manual door locks and windows and vinyl floor coverings (no carpet).

The Tradesman is one of the entry level vehicles of the 9 trim levels available in half ton pickups from RAM.  Prices for the basic Tradesman start out at $21,975 for the 4×2 regular cab, powered with the 4.7L, 310 hp V8.  Good power at a quite reasonable price.

Basic Interior in shades of gray

I found the white with matte black grille, trim, door handles, etc., very fresh looking — better than a lot of chrome on this vehicle.  In another color with the matte black trim it could have been a minor stunner – and it was a knockout when it came to performance. 

The one I drove had a 4×4 and 5.7L Hemi and basically priced out at $25,835 as delivered, without extras.  It had several options but nothing super fancy.  The Tradesman package ($525) added steel painted wheels, spray-on bed  liner and Class IV receiver hitch with tow capacity of 8,900 lbs.  A Protection Package added tow hooks, transfer case skid plate shield and front suspension skid plate — which I always recommend — for $150 more.  The trailer brake control group ($300) included tire pressure monitoring display, electronic vehicle info center, instrument cluster with display screen and the trailer brake system.  

The upgraded tires that I mentioned earlier were $250, a sliding rear window was $140 and the anti-spin rear differential wa $325. 

On the inside, the ST popular equipment group ($750) changed the vinyl seats to cloth on the very comfortable 40/20/40 bench seat withintegrated fold down storage/work surface.  It also included cruise control and Sirius Satellite Radio.  UConnect Voice Command with Bluetooth and auto dimming   mirror added $360 to complete a very workable media system.

The only other addition to the 6’4″ bed were RamBoxes that offer award-winning storage for fishing or hunting gear, picnic supplies and, of course, tools.  They have compatible locking to the vehicle doors.  At a $1295 price point, they are an excellent value — especially on a truck with a standard cab.  How much storage?  My passenger and I packed two substantial duffles for a three-day trip and transp0rted them in the RamBoxes with room to spare in a single box.  The other held computers and cameras.

RamBox

The bottom line: $30,975 for a vehicle with respectable tow capacity and  adequate features for most folks.

Performance

Since we took this vehicle on a road trip, there was ample opportunity to check out performance.  First was the quiet drive.  Even with all terrain-tires, it was impressive and the well-matched suspension offered a very comfortable ride.  Turning radius was nice and narrow, and the truck maneuvered well.

The 5.7L Hemi is a great engine and power was never an issue.  It is not the greatest out there for fuel efficiency with an estimated mpg of 15; but the standard 26-gallon fuel tank  gives a respectable range of about 400 miles.

Bed Extension with RamBox

While my husband, also an auto writer, guffawed about the manual locks and window cranks, they didn’t bother me at all.  If they did, I could add the $375 power and remote entry group of options, which inckludes heated fold-away mirrors, power locks and windows and remote keyless entry.

If not, you may be in the same situation I was, explaining to a teenage passenger where the activation for locks and windows could be found.  He, of course, had never seen such a thing and was completely incredulous.