2020 Ram 1500 Review

2020 Ram 1500 - The best pickup gets even better with new EcoDiesel engine offering.


Ram introduced an all-new full-size pickup for 2019. Dimensionally, the new Ram 1500 wasn't much larger than the outgoing model, but, with an overall weight savings of about 225, it is significantly lighter. The new model was also more aerodynamic, with a windshield that is raked an additional 2 degrees, active grill shutters and taller bedsides. Competitors include the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra 1500, Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra. The Ram 1500 mostly carries over for 2020, with the exception of the addition of an all-new diesel engine option.

Only extended- and crew-cab body styles are available. Those looking for a bench seat/regular-cab configuration will be able to purchase from an extended run of the outgoing model. Gasoline engine choices consist of a 5.7-liter V8 that makes 395 horsepower and a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 305 horsepower. Standard on the V6 and optional on the V8 is FCA's eTorque 48-volt mild-hybrid system. It adds an additional 90 lb-ft of torque to the V6 and up to 130 lb-ft of torque to the V8. The system also enables start stop and is charged through regenerative braking. New for 2020 is a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that makes 260 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic is the only transmission available. Max. payload rating is 2300 lbs. and max. towing capacity is 12,750 when properly equipped.

Six models are available: Tradesman, Big Horn/Lone Star, Laramie, Rebel, Laramie Longhorn and Limited. All save the Limited are available with rear- or 4-wheel drive. The Limited is only offered with 4-wheel drive. Prices start at $31,895 and climb to $53, 615. Available safety features include blind-spot monitor, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, surround-view camera and front and rear parking sensors.

Unique features include a class-exclusive air suspension, 4x4 package with locking rear axle, fourth-generation Uconnect system with available 12-inch touchscreen display, 900-watt Harman Kardon audio system, standard Android Auto and Apple Car Play integration, adaptive LED lighting, reclining rear seat and adaptive cruise control.

Ram continues to offer the best V8 in class and the engine is better than ever offering cylinder deactivation, start/stop and the eTorque system. It's more than powerful enough to push the Ram around with enthusiasm. From a rest, the V8 Ram 1500 will run to 60 MPH in about 6.5 seconds. More impressively though is the smoothness of the engine transmission combo. There's nary a bubble or hiccup as it accelerates or switches from 4- to 8-cylinder mode. Power delivery is linear, smooth and effortless -- exactly what you want in a pickup truck.

The new EcoDiesel engine offering provides an outstanding balance of performance, economy and, thanks to 480 lb-ft of torque, plenty of towing punch. The engine isn't as smooth at startup as the V6 or V8, but it's certainly more than refined enough for daily use.

Like most full-size pickups, the Ram 1500 offers several drive modes. 2WD, 4WD auto, part-time 4WD and 4WD low. For most rainy or snowy situations, 4WD auto is all that's necessary. However, when equipped with the off-road package, the Ram 1500 is extremely capable off-road and, despite its bulk, is quite nimble over the rocks and through the mud. It is important to note that there are two different 4WD systems, the main difference is that one does not offer a 4WD Auto mode, meaning it's 4WD is not to be left engaged on dry pavement.

EPA ratings for the Ram 1500 with 4WD and V8 are 15 MPG city and 21 MPG highway. Those numbers are better than the Ford F-150 and slightly worse than the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 when similarly equipped. With the eTorque V8 with a light load, it's easy to match or surpass the EPA estimates both in the city and on the highway. However, opting for the base V8, expect fuel economy to dip two or three MPG. The EcoDiesel engine nets EPA numbers of 22 MPG city and 32 MPG highway. Impressive, no doubt. According to Ram, the V8 runs best on midgrade gasoline while most competitors will run fine on regular-grade gasoline.

For years, Ram was the only pickup to offer a coil spring rear suspension. This year Ram has upped the ante with an available air suspension. With the standard coil setup, the Ram 1500 is far and away the best riding full-size pickup ever and adding the air setup further refines and increases the Ram's segment leading ride quality. It is hard to describe how much better the Ram rides and drives comparted to the competition, but it is the only vehicle in the class that figuratively shrinks around you as you drive.

The suspension and long wheelbase simply smother road imperfections without any undue bobbing or bouncing. The highway ride parallels that of some luxury sedans. In addition, the electrically assisted steering is responsive and provides positive feedback on the highway and quickens up nicely at parking-lot speeds. Brakes have ample stopping power and are among the largest in the class. Interior noise levels are extremely low, thanks to added sound insulation and better isolation from the road. (Note that Rebel models are equipped with off-road ready tires that can get a bit noisy at highway speeds.)

All told, the Ram, which had been the best riding pickup, is now the best riding and best handling pickup. It's a perfect highway cruiser and easy to maneuver around town.

Inside the Ram is not only refined, but it is extremely functional. Materials scale up with the price, but at top trims are among the nicest in class. Features include wireless device charging, multiple USB-A and USB-C charging ports, an available 12-inch touch screen, a center console that can stow a laptop and two tablets, four additional inches of leg room in back compared to the outgoing model and available reclining rear seats.

Drivers still face a traditional twin-dial instrument cluster that boasts a large center display screen that can be configured to show trip, fuel economy and other vehicle information. Standard at the top of the center stack is a 5-inch touchscreen, but also available are an 8.4-inch touchscreen and 12-inch touchscreen. The 12-inch screen is amazing but can be somewhat off-putting to traditionalists. The best bet might be the 8.4-inch screen with a host of traditional dials and switches for ancillary controls. Regardless, Uconnect is one of the best and most useful infotainment systems on the market and makes plotting destinations or changing audio sources easy.

The front seats are extremely accommodating with plenty of head and leg room. Bolstering is firm, but also quite comfortable on longer trips. The rear seats on the crew cab model are top notch as well and leg room is unmatched in the class. Regardless of model, the step-in height is quite high making ingress/egress difficult. Both the front and rear doors open wide.

Ram claims that the 1500 has class leading interior storage and that's not hard to believe. Map pockets are quite large, the center console is huge. There are cup holders all over the place and plenty of open and covered bins throughout. The extended cab comes with a 6'4" box and the crew cab has a 5'7" box.Ram's innovative new optional tailgate provides great access to the bed when loading and unloading. In addition, the available "side-saddle" Ram Box storage bins are a class exclusive and great, lockable storage option.

Bottom Line - With the addition of an extremely competitive diesel engine offering, Ram continues to be the best all-around full-size truck you can buy right now. The Ford and Chevy might have a few advantages, but overall, the Ram is tops in class. Pickup truck buyers are quite loyal and often blinded by that brand loyalty, but it would be a shame to sidestep the Ram in your search for a new truck.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.