2021 Ram 1500

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
September 6, 2020

Buying tip

It’s hard to justify the turbodiesel spend-up in financial terms. Unless you’re on long hauls regularly, save the cash.

features & specs

Big Horn 4x2 Crew Cab 5'7" Box
Big Horn 4x2 Crew Cab 6'4" Box
Big Horn 4x2 Quad Cab 6'4" Box
20 city / 25 hwy
20 city / 25 hwy
20 city / 25 hwy

The 2021 Ram 1500 full-size pickup is heading in the right direction with just a couple of small detours.

What kind of vehicle is the Ram 1500?

The 2021 Ram 1500 is a full-size pickup truck that can carry up to six passengers. It's available in seven trims, two available powertrains, two cab configurations, four engine choices, and two bed lengths.

How much does the 2021 Ram 1500 cost?

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It starts north of $33,000 and reaches six figures for a 702-horsepower 2021 Ram TRX with every option ticked. It’s a mental threshold we never thought we’d cross—in more ways than one. It’s a 6.0 on our scale, which is high for a pickup—and that’s not even the top version. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Since you asked, the Ram is still available in Tradesman, Big Horn, Rebel, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, and Limited trims that won’t raise as many eyebrows. The new Ram TRX tops the field in price and power, more on that later. Also new this year is an available head-up display, rearview camera mirror, trailer reverse control knob, and more standard safety features.

Extended- or crew-cab trucks are available; a regular cab is sold as a Ram Classic and is based on a much older truck.

Under the hood is a 3.6-liter V-6, 5.7-liter V-8, 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6, or a 6.2-liter supercharged V-8. Rear-wheel drive is available, although many trucks will be equipped with four-wheel drive. The Ram rides comfortably on standard coil springs, although a stiffer air suspension is available.

Crew cabs are more common and offer palatial rear-passenger accommodations. Extended cab models are available, though less popular for the reason above. Crew cab pickups offer a 5-foot-7 or 6-foot-4 bed.

The Ram 1500 has mostly good crash-test scores, but Ram walls off active safety features such as automatic emergency braking to Laramie and higher trim levels.

For that reason, we swallow the massive $49,000 Ram 1500 Laramie-size pill as our recommended trim. It’s a spit-take price, but it’s also a very well-equipped truck with leather upholstery, an 8.4-inch touchscreen with smartphone software, heated and cooled seats, and more hidden compartments than a bank vault.

What's new in the 2021 Ram 1500?

The new Ram TRX will steal hearts and open wallets, and it pairs a Hellcat engine with a Ram truck for the first time. It gets all of the goodies: big engine, big tires, wide stance, 12.0-inch touchscreen, and massive exhausts. It’s the first bona fide competitor to the Ford F-150 Raptor and a blur everywhere it goes.


2021 Ram 1500


The exterior is a little boring, but the interior more than makes up for it.

Is the Ram 1500 a good-looking truck?

From work trucks to wild trucks, the 2021 Ram 1500 spans a bigger divide than Bigfoot could ever jump. The monster truck, of course. 

The big-rig look and crosshairs grille are mostly gone, what’s left is a more contemporary truck that’s also a little more anonymous. Some of the details fall down: a new Ram badge looks like a techno-Roman shield from Ridley Scott’s next movie, the gauche engine badges are a little much, and the tailgate stamp…well you can guess what we’re thinking there. It’s better inside, and it’s a 7 on our style scale with two points above average for the interior.

Inside is all appropriate for the mission. Tradesman trucks feel wash-and-ready, Laramie Longhorns are country-western palaces like we hope Dolly’s house is inside. Limited versions are dressed up, and Rebel and TRX versions prefer not to wear sleeves. Each trim gets its own details worth exploring and despite our side-eyes, they’re all well-considered.

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2021 Ram 1500


Hold your breath and hold your nose, the Ram 1500 covers a lot of ground.

Ram may be leading the arms race for pickup horsepower supremacy, but their rank-and-file powertrains shouldn’t be overlooked.

Every pickup has good power and exceptional carrying capability. They don’t steer very well—most battleships don’t either. It’s a 6.

How fast is the Ram 1500?

The base 305-hp 3.6-liter V-6 is a good one, and it’s fitted in most trim levels although many buyers splurge for a V-8. We’re not convinced that’s necessary: The V-6 pairs well with an 8-speed automatic transmission that’s standard across the board, four-wheel drive, marginally better fuel economy, and it confidently tows up to 7,710 pounds.

Not convinced? Not alone. The 5.7-liter V-8 is more popular with buyers, mostly due to its towing capacity. At 395 hp and 410 lb-ft, it’s rated to tow up to 12,750 pounds and lug up to 1,900 pounds in the bed. (The V-6 rates higher for payload because of its lower curb weight.)

It has a distinctive V-8 burble, but it’s refined. Unlike competitors it requires mid-grade gas, which could be a consideration for some.

A mild-hybrid system is available for the V-8 and standard on the V-6. Fuel economy isn’t dramatically improved, and it’s mostly used to power accessories.

The 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel is the next step, although it’s the priciest engine option. At 280 hp and 480 lb-ft, it has the most tug among the three, but it’s rated to tow about 200 pounds less than the 5.7-liter V-8. It has the longest legs at up to 32 mpg highway, but it’s a $5,000 upgrade on the Ram. At current gas prices, it would take most owners many years to recoup the cost at the pump vs. the gas V-6…85 years, actually.

It’s not all bad news for turbodiesel shoppers, though. Compared to the 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 in the Ram TRX, the 3.0-liter diesel pays for itself in oh, say, 20 minutes. That’s because the 702 hp coursing through the TRX is meant to go everywhere off-road at excessive speed. It’s a pricey pickup, and maybe the last thing the world needs—although it’s what many in the world want. Early editions of the truck sold out in hours.

Is the Ram 1500 4WD?

Four-wheel drive is an option across the board, like it is on other full-size trucks. The Ram separates from competitors with a standard coil spring suspension rather than leaf springs. An air suspension is available on many trims, although it rides too firmly for our tastes.

As you’d expect from a pickup with seven trims, two bed lengths, two cabs, four available engines, and two powertrain configurations—there are a lot of variables going on here.

Generally speaking, the Ram rides more comfortably than competitors, but steering the big truck in small streets is a chore for all of them.

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2021 Ram 1500

Comfort & Quality

Functional and spacious, the Ram 1500 is a delight.

How comfortable is the Ram 1500?

“Full-size truck” and “luxury” and "comfort" aren’t mutually exclusive terms. We’ve come a long way from the big red, single-cab church pews of yesteryear.

The 2021 Ram 1500 fits the bill, and its special weapon against full-size rivals is a lousy secret anymore; everyone talks about the interior.

It’s a 7 out of 10 for comfort with an asterisk. That’s based on a crew cab Big Horn, which is more popular. Laramie and higher trims would ring up a score like LeBron at Pop-A-Shot.

Like last year, the Ram 1500 is available in extended- and crew-cab models with four doors. A two-door Ram is available but called a Ram Classic and based on a much older body.

Bench seats are fitted in only the work-spec model, front buckets with a wide center console is more common. Same goes for the full-size four-door crew cab, which has a cavernous rear seat for up to three passengers. Leg room is great, and the seats slide fore and aft for better room or to recline the rear seats.

A 5-foot-7 or 6-foot-4 bed is available on crew-cab models; a 6-foot-4 bed is the only option for extended-cab trucks. A spray-in bedliner is available (and likely found on all trucks on dealer lots) as are cargo tie-downs and a functional tailgate that can drop, swing, and open in the middle. It’s a clever concept compared to a similar multifunction tailgate from GMC, which we compare separately.

There are multiple USB chargers scattered throughout the truck and more storage cubbies than The Container Store.

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2021 Ram 1500


A pickup with good crash-test scores is something we never thought we’d say about a Ram.

How safe is the Ram 1500?

We’re not sure many pickup buyers will boast to their friends about how safe their pickups are, but they could.

The 2021 Ram 1500 is proof. It’s a 7 on our safety scale for good crash-test scores and available tech. It loses a point for reserving automatic emergency braking for top trims that, two decades into the 21st century, is just a money grab.

Federal testers gave the Ram crew cab a five-star overall score but noted four stars for front and rollover crash protection. (Extended-cab models rate four stars overall but are less common.)

The IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick, which was mostly unheard of for a full-size truck even five years ago. That’s due to top “Good” crash-test scores, available headlights that rate “Good,” and available automatic emergency braking that rates “Superior” at avoiding forward crashes.

That automatic braking system is standard on Rebel, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, and Limited trucks. Blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control are available on most trims.

New this year is a head-up display and rearview camera mirror that help. A surround-view camera system isn’t only life-changing for frequent towers, but also helps park the big rig in parking spots that the Ram 1500 keeps outgrowing.


2021 Ram 1500


No two Ram 1500s need to be the same.

Ram offers a rainbow of colors and trim levels for its full-size pickup. Some toward the end cost a pot of gold, too.

The 2021 version wants for little, although base work trucks are spartan. It’s a 6 here for myriad options.

How much is a 2021 Ram 1500? 

Like last year, the Ram 1500 is available in Tradesman, Big Horn, Rebel, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, and Limited. The base price starts at around $33,000.

How much is a fully loaded Ram 1500?

The new 2021 Ram TRX is the most you can spend on a 1500, and it’s a mountain-climbing sports car with an open bed for more than $70,000.

Base Tradesman pickups get just enough to get the job done: cloth seats, front bench, hard plastics, 5.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, cheap bumpers. Shoppers aren’t likely to see these anywhere beyond a job site, so we’ll skip them.

Big Horn (or Lone Star, for those living in or near the Republic of Texas) models are the first stop and add 18-inch wheels, chrome bumpers, and more options including an 8.4-inch touchscreen with smartphone compatibility software, sport trim packages with 20-inch wheels, or active safety features—sans automatic emergency braking.

Which Ram 1500 should I buy?

For that reason, we recommend the much pricier Laramie that includes that tech as standard equipment, and also an 8.4-inch touchscreen, leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, and a V-8 engine. It’s nearly $50,000, but comparable to other luxury pickups from Detroit rivals that cost more.

Laramie Longhorn and Limited trucks heap on amenities like a rearview camera mirror, 12-inch touchscreen, more cameras than “Real Housewives,” and softer leather upholsteries. The Ram Rebel steers toward off-roading with beefier hardware, but is equipped like a Big Horn. The Ram TRX steers toward anywhere at 100 mph and includes most of the tech goodies from Limited, and costs more than $70,000 to start. It can end up at more than $100,000 with every option box ticked. We’d say that we’re surprised, but we aren’t.

Where is the Ram 1500 made?

In Sterling Heights, Michigan.

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2021 Ram 1500

Fuel Economy

The turbodiesel leads the pack in efficiency–and price.

Is the Ram 1500 good on gas?

The 2021 Ram 1500 earns a score of 3 based on the more popular 5.7-liter V-8 engine and four-wheel drive. It’s possible to do better; it’s also possible to do much, much worse.

The EPA rates that 5.7-liter V-8 and four-wheel drive at 15 mpg city, 21 highway, 17 combined. An available mild-hybrid system improves that city and combined figure by 2 mpg.

The smaller 3.6-liter V-6 does better: 19/24/21 mpg with four-wheel drive.  

The 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 is the most efficient and rates 21/29/24 mpg. The 702-hp, Hellcat-powered 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 Ram TRX is rated “OMG”—at least, probably.

Opting for rear-wheel drive slightly improves those figures by 1 to 2 mpg across the board.

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