Our fathers knew that the right tool was the best way to start any job. Our fathers also told us to listen closely or something—hard to say, we weren’t really paying attention.
However, the 2020 Ram 1500 and 2020 Nissan Titan full-size pickup trucks are tools for many jobs: worksite transportation, everyday hauling, mobile offices, off-road excursions, family detail, and venturing into the outdoors.
The two pickups have similar form factors: engine in the front, a cabin in the middle, and an open bed in the back. From there, the two diverge quickly. As a result, the 2020 Ram 1500 earns a 6.2 TCC Rating and the 2020 Nissan Titan earns a 5.4. It’s a clear win for the Ram with one footnote.
2020 Ram 1500
2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel
2020 Nissan Titan Pro-4X
2020 Nissan Titan Pro-4X
Ram offers an engine for nearly every day of the workweek. A 3.6-liter V-6 is standard on most models and it makes 305 horsepower. It uses a small hybrid battery to save scant fuel and power accessories, although the mild-hybrid system doesn’t affect EPA fuel economy. That’s teamed to an 8-speed automatic and rear- or four-wheel drive. The V-6 is smooth and capable, and for most light-duty users it’s plenty of power. It’s rated to tow up to about 7,700 pounds in specific configurations.
The Ram’s 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel is the next step in capability, but not in price. The turbodiesel is rated for 260 hp but 480 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission and rear- or four-wheel drive. Properly equipped, it can tow up to 12,560 pounds but its magic number is 32 mpg highway in specific configurations, which makes it the mile-chewing champ. The cost for the turbodiesel is a big pill: up to $5,000 more than a comparably equipped V-6. For long-haul truck owners, that may math out in the end. For the rest of us, it’ll take a lot of years and a lot of miles to recoup that investment.
Ram’s 5.7-liter V-8 is the towing champ, and it’s available with or without the mild-hybrid battery system. It’s rated for 395 hp and 410 lb-ft, and tows up to 12,750 pounds on the trailer hitch. The V-8 is standard in Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, and Limited trims, but more on that in a minute. The Ram’s 5.7-liter V-8 is rated for mid-grade fuel, which may be a consideration for some buyers.
2020 Nissan Titan Platinum Reserve
The Titan is available only as a V-8-powered truck, and its 5.6-liter V-8 makes 400 hp and 413 lb-ft, but is rated for premium gasoline. Among trucks, few ask for premium unleaded, although Nissan says it can run on the regular stuff just without delivering the same power. The Titan shifts through a 9-speed automatic that’s new this year and sends power to the rear or all four wheels. The Titan is rated to tow up to 9,370 pounds.
The Titan is down in nearly every meaningful performance metric to Ram, from power and towing, to refinement and fuel economy—perhaps even running costs. Advantage: Ram.
2020 Ram 1500
The Ram 1500 is also cheaper to buy in some configurations. That’s because Ram offers quad-cab full-size trucks geared toward work configurations and costs less than $33,000. Nissan also offers the Titan in only four-door configurations—extended or crew cab—but it costs nearly $38,000 to start and has more creature comforts like cloth upholstery instead of vinyl and a larger touchscreen.
The Titan is better equipped in base versions including active safety features that Ram charges more money for, and only on top trims at that. Comparably equipped with a crew cab, short bed, V-8 engine, active safety features, four-wheel drive, leather upholstery, and active safety features, the 2020 Ram 1500 Laramie costs about $55,000 and the 2020 Nissan Titan SL costs about $59,000. There are much less expensive trucks to be found for sure, but that’s how much Ram charges to equip a truck with automatic emergency braking. Nissan does it for less money on many other trucks, which may be a consideration if the truck will double-down as a family vehicle.
In nearly every other respect other than standard active safety features, the Ram wins. It’s more comfortable and better looking, with a wide range of powertrain choices and options. Ram’s full-size truck does better in work spec and top trims, and it narrowly edges out most of the middle ranges with better equipment and more available options.
If your quest is to replace a family crossover with a full-size truck, Nissan’s mid-range offerings with better safety equipment are worth a look. However, for nearly every other scenario Ram offers a tough truck with a reputation to match. We’d put just about any of them to work.