Later, when we unloaded the material, we appreciated the truck's spray-on bedliner, which comes standard on the Tradesman. Our rakes and shovels didn't faze the rear cargo box. In the flick of a broom, it was ready to go back to work.
Our camera gear, locked safely inside one of the RamBox side-storage compartments during the haul, was free of dust and debris at the end of the day. The RamBox also comes with a hard-plastic bed extender, which can fold up to serve as a cargo divider. The bulkhead includes a lock to prevent thieves from swiping it.
The Tradesman is equally comfortable going down the highway, though we expect most folks wouldn't want to drive it for more than a few hours at a time. The interior offers a good deal of storage, the cloth bench seat provides adequate leg support, and the interior panels are sturdy yet soft. Controls are easy to use; however, the gauges tend to reflect glare. The interior door handles are a little small, and the over-the-shoulder reach to the seat belt is a long one. As we cruised between 75 and 80 miles per hour, we observed some funky vibration noises coming off the front wheels. When we engaged the front axle, the noise faded.
One of our favorite features is Uconnect, Chrysler's voice-command and Bluetooth system, an option on the Tradesman. We were very skeptical—even afraid—of trying it out. The computer guided us through a few surprisingly easy steps to connect our smartphone to the truck. Once engaged, we could search through our phone's address book and call people up without taking our hands off the wheel. Just say "call Mom," and your truck calls Mom. It's pretty slick.
Our single-cab, standard truck, which sported the HEMI engine, RamBox and four-wheel drive, was no base Tradesman. But it still felt like a work truck. Along with the 4.7-liter V-8, base trucks get a blackout grille and bumpers, four- and seven-pin towing connectors, a spray-on bedliner and a Class IV receiver hitch. Inside, it comes with vinyl floors, manual locks and windows, a CD player and air-conditioning.
Ringing up at $32,545 on the window sticker, our test truck also featured a 3.92:1 rear axle with locking differential ($375), trailer brake controller ($300), rear sliding window ($140), off-road tires ($250), satellite radio and cruise control ($750) and Uconnect ($360).
Although the Tradesman was originally offered in a single-cab configuration, quad and crew cabs are new for 2012. In addition, buyers can opt for the Tradesman HD, which bumps up the truck's tow rating to 11,500 lb and payload capacity to 3,125 lb. The HD is available only in a regular cab with a long bed and two-wheel drive, starting at $29,600.
With options expanding for the Tradesman, Ram is carving out an important niche for people who need a no-frills truck that is ready to go to work. To see more images, check out"> ENR's slide show.