• Car Review

Driven: 2020 Ram 1500

By Chris Teague | March 13, 2020

Autolist rating: 3/5
But would we buy it? Yep!
Price range: $33,840 - $55,160, including destination what is destination charge? but before options

Key takeaways:

  • The Ram 1500 is a great truck and a great all-around vehicle, thanks to a top-notch interior and new tech.
  • There is a drivetrain and options package choice for any buyer, including a new EcoDiesel V6 engine.
  • The blacked-out Night Edition appearance package returns for Big Horn and Laramie trims.
  • The Ram 1500 can tow up to 12,750 pounds and has a max payload capacity of 2,320 pounds.

What is it?

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The Ram 1500 is a full-size pickup truck that competes in a hotly contested segment that includes the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Toyota Tundra, and Nissan Titan. Ram overhauled the 1500 for the 2019 model year, which brought a sleek new look, upgraded safety tech, a host of new powertrains and performance upgrades, and luxurious interior finishes.

Six trims are offered for the 2020 model year: the basic work truck Tradesman, Big Horn, Laramie, Rebel, Laramie Longhorn, and Limited. Most trims are available with either a crew cab or a quad cab, and either a 5-foot, 7-inch bed or a 6-foot, 4-inch bed. Four-wheel-drive is optional for all trims.

Powertrain choices include a standard 3.6-liter Pentastar with eTorque mild hybrid that has 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque, a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel that makes 260 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. V8 engine choices are a 5.7-liter V8 that produces 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque and another version called the 5.7-liter V8 Hemi with eTorque that has 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. All models come with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The updates for 2020 are subtle. One of the most notable updates is that the diesel engine has been given a more efficient turbocharger and a lighter block. The Night Edition cosmetic package makes a return, and options packages have been updated for the off-road-ready Rebel trim. The Rebel comes with off-road tires and suspension, as well as a different appearance to most other Ram 1500 variants.

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The Ram, while offered in a basic work truck configuration, is targeted at new truck buyers that want a more luxurious, upscale experience. The Ram 1500’s interior at the higher trim levels is downright cushy, rivaling the quality and comfort of many high-end luxury brands. Ram is also a tech leader in the truck market, as some of the 1500 models can be equipped with a 12-inch touchscreen and all of the latest in safety technologies. The available multi-function tailgate allows the gate to be opened normally, to split open side-to-side, and can support up to 2,000 pounds. Ram also offers a Rambox cargo management system that has lockable compartments on either side of the truck bed.

What’s good?

TLDR: The 2020 Ram 1500 is one of the most luxurious trucks that has sleek styling and advanced technologies.

Luxury: When the current Ram 1500 was released in 2018, it featured soft leathers, upscale materials, and solid build quality all add to the Ram’s high-brow feel and set as a more premium rival to the competing trucks. The truck’s front seats are well-padded and supremely comfortable, while the rear seats offer superior head and legroom and can be heated if options packages are selected.

Style: The Ram’s redesign moved it away from the curved hood and rounder shape toward a sleeker and cleaner design that works well with the tech-forward and modern feel of the truck. The blacked-out trim and wheels of the Night edition work well to make the truck look sinister, though the black accents show dirt and can scratch more easily.

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Technology: The Ram’s optional 12-inch screen, advanced driver assistance systems, and convenience tech inside make the 1500 one of the most tech-forward trucks on the market. FCA’s UConnect infotainment system runs well on the large screen and is able to run in a split-screen mode that allows two apps to work at once. Uconnect can also run Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The Ram is also full of available driver assistance technology that includes optional radar cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and a surround-view camera.

What’s bad?

TLDR: The Ram 1500 feels enormous in everyday driving, can be expensive in many trims, and has a drive system that can require some getting used to.

Big: Trucks, in general, are large, but the Ram feels even larger than it actually is. Maneuvering the Ram in urban settings tight urban cities requires extreme concentration, even with the available surround-view cameras and parking monitors.

Pricey: The base Tradesman trim is a stripped-down work truck and has a starting price of around $32,000. From there, pricing increases quickly and ends up topping $70,000 with options. Many safety features are held back in extra-cost options packages, and other options are added cost, even at the top trim level.

Confusing switchgear: Many companies are moving toward a dial system for gear shifts instead of the traditional knob, but the setup will still require getting used to for drivers who are used to a shift lever. It’s easy to reach too high on the dash and grab the volume knob or to grab the gear knob when trying to adjust the volume.

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5 stars of execution:

Safety Features? YES

  • Despite the fact that many driver assistance options are held back as extra-cost features, the Ram is still available with the latest in advanced safety tech.
  • Buyers will have to spend extra to get features like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, emergency braking, and forward-collision warnings.
  • Trucks, in general, don’t do as well as other vehicle types in crash tests, but the Ram scored a Top Safety Pick Plus designation from the IIHS for the 2019 model year. We expect the 2020 model to score the same.

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Value? NO

  • The Ram is a truly great truck, but the added cost options and sky-high top-end price make it a tough sell for many people.
  • Trucks from Ford and Chevrolet end up at similar price points, but Toyota and Nissan offer similar pickups for less money.

Efficiency? YES

  • The EcoDiesel and eTorque hybrid system both help push the Ram’s overall fuel economy numbers in the right direction.
  • With two-wheel-drive and the standard, the Ram is capable of 32 mpg combined, which is competitive with several crossovers and smaller vehicles.
  • The V8 engines and four-wheel-drive cut those numbers drastically, landing at 15/21/17 mpg city/highway/combined, but those are still competitive in the full-size pickup field.

Driving experience? YES

  • The Ram rides almost like a car in many ways but maintains its ruggedness and capability over rough ground.
  • It doesn’t handle like a sports car, but the truck has a confidence-inspiring ride that doesn’t feel tippy or floaty like many other trucks can at times.

Execution? YES

  • Ram’s packaging and design for the new 1500 set the bar high for other trucks.
  • Even on the lower end, the fit and finish is excellent and puts the Ram in a league above pickup truck rivals.
  • Regardless if options drive up the price tag, the Ram’s technology and driver assistance equipment are head and shoulders above the offerings from other brands.

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Total Rating: 4 stars

What’s it gonna cost me?

The Ram 1500 Tradesman 4X2 has a starting MSRP of $33,840 and comes with a four-door Quad Cab, a 3.6-liter engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, a five-inch infotainment screen, Bluetooth, six speakers, a rearview camera with gridlines, and a 26-gallon fuel tank.

Four-wheel-drive is a $3,500 option.

The Ram Big Horn 4X2 has a starting price of $38,135 and comes with an electronic on-demand transfer case.

The Ram 1500 Laramie 4X2 has a starting price of $42,235 and comes with an 8.4-inch touchscreen with SiriusXM Radio, and a 10-speaker sound system.

The Ram 1500 Rebel (seen below on the left) 4X2 has a starting price of $46,185 and comes with all-terrain tires and a factory lift kit.

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The Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn has a starting price of $52,585 and comes with a crew cab, navigation, HD radio, and a front/rear parking sensor system.

The Ram 1500 Limited 4X2 has a starting price of $55,160 and comes with self-leveling air suspension, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts with trailer detection.

Several model-specific options packages are available that include features such as the 12-inch touchscreen, a panoramic sunroof, heated seats, and steering wheel, chrome trim, garage door openers, remote start, as well as driver assistance systems like automatic high beams and blind-spot monitoring.

Our money would buy the Laramie trim with added options. The addition of four-wheel-drive and the Laramie-specific options packages makes for a truck that is capable, safe, and full of creature comforts without a comparatively high price tag.

Also consider:

The Ford F-150 is the elephant in the room. It sells more units than many entire vehicle brands’ combined catalogs. Pricing is similar to the Ram. It's old at this point and due for a new generation for 2021 but it's aged well and is worth a look.

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 was redesigned for 2019 and is available with innovative towing and powertrain features. The related GMC Sierra offers similar features but a different design. But it hasn't kept up with the advancement of this new Ram or even the older Ford F-150.

The Toyota Tundra is an older design compared to the American trucks, but its expected reliability ratings make it worth a look. Toyota also added advanced driver assistance features and Apple CarPlay capabilities for 2020.

The Nissan Titan has a quiet interior, comfy seats, and a more reasonable price, but lacks some of the powertrain innovation that its American counterparts have. It also lacks some of the towing capacity but is the pickup to come with a V8 engine across the product line, even if there is only one choice.