2020 Ram 1500

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2019
The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
August 31, 2019

Buying tip

The 2020 Ram 1500 Laramie offers plenty of luxury for the price; it’s our pick of all the trims.

The 2020 Ram 1500 has its truck priorities straight, even when it’s cloaked in upscale trims.

The 2020 Ram 1500 is the luxury car of pickup trucks—and one of the strongest in work-day chores, too. With a wide selection of engine options including mild hybrids and a new turbodiesel, the Ram 1500 can be configured to fit nearly any truck task, while it outpoints rivals for its handsome cabin. We give it 6.2 out of 10 overall, based on V-8-powered mid-line trucks with four-wheel drive, the most common variants. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

For 2020, the Ram 1500 gets the option for a turbodiesel engine, which makes an impressive 480 pound feet of torque and has a towing capacity of 12,560 pounds. A new Night Edition for the Big Horn and Laramie trims includes blacked-out looks with big wheels (22-inch for the Laramie, 20-inch for the Big Horn). There are also some additions to the Rebel model, and a new “Built to Serve” edition of the Big Horn with all-American styling elements.

Redesigned for last year, the Ram 1500 has toned down the massive big-rig style of past trucks, opting instead for a smoother, more aerodynamic front end. The cabin has graduated to a new tax bracket, and features some of the finest materials in any American vehicle we’ve driven, pickup truck or otherwise. A massive, Tesla-esque 12.0-inch screen is available and can be used with work gloves to set everything from climate settings to Spotify playlists via the standard Apple CarPlay or Android Auto interface. 

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The Ram 1500 can be had with four different engines, each available in two- or four-wheel-drive. A 3.6-liter V-6 comes standard with a mild hybrid system and 305 horsepower, while the 5.7-liter V-8 can be had with or without the same hybrid system, making 395 hp regardless of which one you choose. For 2020, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 is available and makes a healthy 480 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard across the range.

Available in extended- and crew-cab configurations with two different bed lengths, the Ram is as capable as you need it to be. A maximum tow rating of 12,750 pounds gives it the ability to haul nearly anything the average driver could need to tow around, and with height-adjustable air suspension available on every model, it’s plenty comfortable when tasked with daily duty.

Features range from cloth upholstery to fine leather and that massive tablet screen, as well as heated and ventilated seats, in-vehicle wi-fi, and more.

Crew-cab models get a five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA, and active features like automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control can be had on most trim levels for an extra cost.

Combined fuel economy ranges from 17 mpg to 23 mpg overall, and while the turbodiesel hasn’t been rated by the EPA just yet, we expect it to perform even better.

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2020 Ram 1500

Styling

The 2020 Ram 1500 is more anonymous than previous generations, but the interior is worthy of a luxury badge.

The 2020 Ram 1500 lost its big rig bravado with the most recent redesign, but the interior could wear a luxury badge with pride. We give it 6 out of 10 here as such. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Twenty-five years ago, Dodge flipped pickup truck design on its head with the big-rig Ram, featuring low headlights and a tall, macho grille. Subsequent versions have featured this iconic look, but the new Ram does away with semi-truck bravado for a more sedated look once again, and we’re not the biggest fans. With plenty of chrome and fancy LED headlights for top-trim models, the Ram is sleeker than ever, but also more anonymous.

Thankfully, what resources didn’t go towards exterior design have been allocated to the interior, which is heads and tails above the competition. Work-oriented Tradesman models feature cloth and plastic for durability, but the top-tier Laramie Longhorn and Limited models use fine leather, real wood and metal, and impressive tech to stand out from the pack. An available 12.0-inch touchscreen display dominates the dashboard when optioned and can be used with work gloves if needed. The market hasn’t seen a true luxury pickup truck since the Escalade ESV and Lincoln Blackwood/Mark LT, but the Ram 1500 comes as close as possible.

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2020 Ram 1500

Performance

With the addition of a turbodiesel V-6, the 2020 Ram 1500 offers something for every truck buyer.

The 2020 Ram 1500 takes a couple of paths to better fuel efficiency, while it still delivers strong truck towing and acceleration. There’s a V-6 and a V-6, a mild hybrid system for either, and new turbodiesel grunt too.

We give it 6 out of 10 here on the strength of its powertrains. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The base Ram 1500 sports a 3.6-liter V-6 with “eTorque” mild hybrid technology to help low-speed acceleration and reduce engine load. The mild-hybrid setup puts a 48-volt electric motor and 0.4-kwh lithium-ion battery into the powertrain and allows it to run accessories off that power source. With the setup, Rams move under electric power off the line before the gas engine kicks in. On the V-6, with its 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, this engine’s enough for smaller workloads, but most buyers will choose the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 either with or without the eTorque system. At 395 hp and 410 lb-ft, this tried-and-true powertrain has plenty of grunt, and the hybrid system makes it smoother to operate, and a bit more efficient.

For 2020, the Ram gets a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 like the last generation, which makes only 260 hp but a healthy 480 lb-ft of torque, which any truck nut will tell you is more important than horsepower anyway. With a tow rating of up to 12,560 pounds, the turbodiesel loses 190 pounds of towing capacity, compared to the V-8, which rates 12,750 pounds. We’ve towed 5,200 pounds of boat and trailer with the turbodiesel, and felt its wav of torque that clatters to life and simply pulls what it’s asked, without hesitation, as it caps out its maximum torque at just 3,000 rpm in Tow/Haul mode.

An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard on all models but comes in two different configurations, both of which are smooth and quick. Rear-wheel-drive is standard (and the choice for towing-oriented buyers), while four-wheel-drive is optional across the range.

A standard coil spring suspension setup is a departure from the traditional leaf spring rear design, but doesn’t suffer in terms of capability, offering up to 2,300 pounds of payload capacity and 12,570 pounds of towing capacity. An adjustable air suspension is also available on every model, but we found it too firm for our liking in highway use where it drops ride height for better fuel economy; we’d choose the standard suspension if it was our money.

As for off-road performance, the Ram Rebel adds a helping of off-road ability but is no Baja basher like the Ford F-150 Raptor. With standard four-wheel drive, a suspension that’s raised an inch, Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires, and an electronic locking rear differential, the Rebel is still quite capable off the beaten path.

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2020 Ram 1500

Comfort & Quality

The 2020 Ram 1500 has wide seats, ample space for up to six adults, and a bed with more hidden storage than a bank vault.

The 2020 Ram 1500 is as close to a true luxury pickup truck as you can buy today, with a cabin that is easily best-in-class. We give it 9 out of 10 accordingly, with points for the Crew Cab’s front and rear seats, and its ability to carry people and cargo. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Available in extended- and crew-cab form (badged Quad Cab and Crew Cab), the Ram 1500 offers four front-hinged doors no matter which you choose. The extended-cab version offers decent rear seat room, while crew-cab models are downright cavernous, and front passengers are treated to comfortable seats no matter what. A three-seat bench is available in the front, but most Rams come with two buckets and a massive, configurable center console. Rear seats on the crew-cab model can slide forward and aft, and the backrest can be adjusted as well, something other trucks lack.

With USB and USB-C ports scattered throughout, available in-vehicle wi-fi, and the option for a massive 12.0-inch touchscreen, the Ram is as tech-savvy as new trucks come, not to mention luxurious. The mid-tier Lariat trim is better-equipped than some top-tier rivals for a significant discount, with leather, wood and metal trim, and plenty of storage cubbies throughout.

With two bed sizes – 5’7” or 6’4”, the crew-cab Ram can haul plenty out back, but some models offer only one or the other. Extended-cab Rams get only the longer bed, and the off-road-oriented Rebel model can only be had with the shorter bed. Available lights, spray-in bedliner, and cargo tie-downs increase functionality, as do the optional Ram Box storage compartments and multi-function tailgate.

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2020 Ram 1500

Safety

The 2020 Ram 1500 gets decent crash test scores and offers active safety features, but only on higher-trim models.

Full-size pickup trucks have a spotty safety record since agencies started crash testing them, but the 2020 Ram 1500 makes some strides forward. With available active safety technology, we give it 6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2020 Ram gets five stars overall from the federal government’s NHTSA, but only for the two- and four-wheel-drive crew-cab models, and the frontal crash rating is still only four stars. Extended-cab models get only four stars overall due to one less star for the driver frontal crash rating versus the crew-cab model.

Though 2020 figures aren’t available yet from the IIHS, the independent agency gave the 2019 Ram 1500 Crew Cab “Good” ratings in every category, but “Marginal” and “Poor” headlight ratings kept it from receiving a Top Safety Pick award. We expect the story to be the same for 2020.

Minimum safety gear is standard, including six airbags, a rearview camera, stability control, and anti-lock brakes, but higher trims get the option for some passive and active safety tech. The rearview camera features a zoom function for Rams equipped with the larger 8.4- and 12.0-inch infotainment screens, while blind-spot monitors are optional on Big Horn/Lone Star models and higher, and standard on the Limited trim.

Only Laramie, Rebel, Laramie Longhorn, and Limited trucks are available with the Advanced Safety Group package, with the Rebel gaining the option this year. That package includes adaptive cruise control with stop and go, automatic emergency braking, active lane control, lane departure warning, and automatic high-beam headlights; we think it should be available on lower trims, too.

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2020 Ram 1500

Features

The 2020 Ram 1500 is better-equipped in mid-tier Laramie form than some top-tier rivals, but expect to pay plenty for luxury features.

There’s hardly a feature you won’t find on the 2020 Ram 1500 option list, but prices climb quickly. We give it 7 out of 10 here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2020 Ram comes in a variety of trims, two body styles, two bed lengths, four engine variants, and two drivetrains, so there’s likely a truck for any buyer.

Base Tradesman models are work-oriented and feature cloth seats, a front bench seat option, hard plastics, and minimal styling elements. Most non-commercial buyers will step up to the Big Horn (or Lone Star, for those in Texas), which includes chrome bumpers, 18-inch wheels, and a 5.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, but spend more for the optional 8.4-inch unit, which includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and some of our favorite automaker-supplied infotainment software.

Laramie models are a significant step up, with heated and cooled leather seats, a 7.0-inch gauge cluster information screen, the 8.4-inch infotainment screen as standard, and more. The Laramie wants for little, but does come in at nearly $49,000 for a four-wheel-drive V-8 model. Compared to other top-tier trucks though, it’s a relative bargain.

The Laramie Longhorn and Limited trims occupy the top spot in the Ram range, and both include semi-aniline leather, real wood trim, 20-inch wheels, and LED headlights. The huge 12.0-inch screen comes standard on the Limited along with power running boards, and for those who want a true Western-themed truck, the Laramie Longhorn offers some unique styling elements.

The Rebel trim slots between the Laramie and the Laramie Longhorn trims in terms of price, and include raised suspension, black plastic body cladding with a unique grille and graphics, two-tone paint options, an electronic locking rear differential, and standard four-wheel-drive.

As for the available engines, think twice about paying more for the diesel. It costs $4,995, which might take six years to earn back in savings. It also factors into what might be the most expensive Ram 1500, a Limited EcoDiesel that approaches $75,000. The eTorque setup costs $1,450 extra—but the EPA says even that will take more than five years to pay back.

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2020 Ram 1500

Fuel Economy

The 2020 Ram 1500 sees only a marginal fuel economy benefit from electrification.

The 2020 Ram 1500 is technically a hybrid pickup truck, but its system is more intent on smoothing out power delivery than saving on fuel—and Ram V-8s without it are the most popular, anyway. We give it 3 out of 10 for fuel economy, based on the non-hybrid Hemi. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

No EPA figures are available yet for the turbodiesel.

Base V-6 eTorque hybrid trucks earn an EPA a rating of 20 mpg city, 26 highway, 23 combined for two-wheel-drive HFE (High Fuel Efficiency) models and 20/25/22 mpg for the standard version. Four-wheel drive drops those figures to 19/24/21 mpg.

Most buyers choose the 5.7-liter V-8, and while it does come with cylinder deactivation at higher speeds as well as the option for the eTorque system, fuel economy is still average at 15/22/17 mpg and 15/21/17 mpg for two- and four-wheel-drive models respectively. Adding the eTorque system improves overall mpg to 17/23/19 and 17/22/19 mpg for two- and four-wheel-drive mild hybrid models, respectively.

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6.2
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 6
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety 6
Features 7
Fuel Economy 3
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