2020 Ram 2500 Review

2020 Ram 2500 - Big-rig capabilities, luxury-car amenities.


Ram redesigned its heavy-duty pickups for the 2019 model year. Key upgrades are a stronger and lighter frame, upgraded powertrain components, new interior and exterior styling and significantly upgraded safety and technology features. For 2020, changes are minimal and include an available 50-gallon fuel tank on crew cab models and the addition of lane-keeping assist and adaptive steering on some models.

Cab styles include a two-door regular cab, a four-door crew cab and a four-door extended crew cab called the Mega Cab. The regular cab comes with an 8-foot bed. The crew cab is offered with either the 8-foot bed or a 6-foot 4-inch bed. The Mega Cab is offered only with the shorter bed. Competitors include the Chevrolet Silverado HD, Ford Super Duty, GMC Sierra HD and, to some extent, the Nissan Titan XD.

The standard engine for the Ram 2500 is a 6.4-liter V8 that makes 410 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque. It mates to a new 8-speed automatic transmission. Also offered is a 6.7-liter 6-cylinder turbodiesel that makes 370 horsepower and 850 pound-feet of torque. It comes with an upgraded 6-speed automatic. The 2500 is offered with rear- or 4-wheel drive. Like the Ram 1500, the 2500 gets coil rear springs. If you want rear leaf springs, you have to step up to the 3500 model.

Six trim level are offered: Tradesman, Big Horn, Laramie, Longhorn, Limited and Power Wagon. The Tradesman is the most basic trim. Standard features include 17-inch steel wheels, locking tailgate, air conditioning, 40/20/40-split front bench, tilt-only steering wheel, 3.5-inch driver information display, vinyl upholstery, and six-speaker stereo with Bluetooth, USB port and a 5-inch touchscreen interface.

The Big Horn adds chrome exterior trim, 18-inch steel wheels, integrated trailer brake controller, remote locking and unlocking, power-sliding rear window, remote ignition, cloth upholstery, carpeted floors, full power accessories for all body styles, and an extra charge-only USB port. The Laramie adds to the Big Horn with more chrome bumpers, soft-closing tailgate, LED headlights and taillights, foglights, 115-volt power outlet, power-folding auto-dimming mirrors, remote ignition, front and rear parking sensors, dual-zone automatic climate control, 7-inch driver display screen, power-adjustable driver's seat, leather upholstery, driver-seat memory functions, power-adjustable front passenger seat, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, upgraded driver information display, 10-speaker surround-sound audio system with HD and satellite radio, 8.4-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support.

The Longhorn adds chrome mesh grille, spray-in bedliner, LED bed lights, automatic high beams, automatic wipers, upgraded leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, wood interior and steering wheel trim, power-adjustable pedals with memory settings, front bucket seats, heated rear seats, and a navigation system. The Limited trim adds power-deployable running boards, 20-inch wheels, additional chrome exterior trim, the RamBox cargo management system, and special black leather upholstery.

Finally, there's the off-road-ready Power Wagon, which is available only in crew-cab 4WD with the short bed and the 6.4-liter gas V8. Mechanical upgrades include unique 17-inch wheels shod with all-terrain tires, off-road shocks, tow hooks, skid plates, manual transfer case, electronically locking front and rear differentials with 4.10 axle ratio, hill descent control, integrated front winch, and front stabilizer bar that can be disconnected electronically.

Key available features include 12-inch Uconnect touchscreen, wireless smartphone charging, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision warning and 360-degree surround-view parking camera.

The standard V8 engine will likely be the best choice for most buyers. It provides robust acceleration despite the Ram's nearly 8000-pound curb weight. (Plus, the turbodiesel is a $9,100 option.) Mash the throttle and the throaty V8 will push the big rig from 0 to 60 MPH in about 7.5 seconds. That's on par with competitors. More impressive is how the engine pulls like a locomotive at all speeds, providing smooth and even acceleration. There are no hesitations or stumbles in power delivery, something that cannot be said by a few competitors.

Alas, a pickup, especially a heavy-duty model, is meant to work and work this Ram can do. Maximum payload ratings are 4,500 pounds with single rear wheels and 7,600 with dual-rear wheels. Max. towing rating with SRW is 19,780 pounds and more than 35,000 pounds with the DRW setup.

Like all heavy-duty trucks, Ram's 4WD system has a low range for off-road slogging or pulling a boat out of the water. The base offering is part-time, but, in higher trims, the 4WD system has several modes that allow it to be left engaged on dry pavement -- a nice touch for those traversing Chicago's snow-covered tundra in the winter. If you are serious about your off-road time, then the Power Wagon is king. It's got all of the mud, sand and rock crawling gear you could want. (Inside tip, you can get all of the Power Wagon's off-road goodies on the Tradesman for a lower price. You just don't get all of the graphics and interior upgrades.)

The EPA does not officially rate the fuel economy of heavy-duty trucks, but that doesn't mean it is not important to owners. The standard gas engine is likely to average about 15 MPG in typical suburban work use. Add a trailer or a couple thousand pounds of payload and you'll have to settle for about 14 MPG overall. Honestly, that's about all you can expect from any HD truck, there's just too much structural weight involved in towing massive trailers or hauling thousands of pounds.

Despite an immense wheelbase and imposing stance, the Ram 2500 is nimbler than you might expect. That's likely due to a very wide stance and the fact that just about everyone gets out of your way when you want to merge or pull alongside. At the same time, the portly dimensions mean you have to plan ahead when parking, take wide turns and avoid most parking garages.

The steering, though slow by crossover standards, has a hefty feel and is accurate on the highway. Brakes have good stopping power and a fairly easy-to-module pedal. However, when the bed is empty, the rear is prone to hopping around in emergency stops. Though there is some lean in turns, it's amazing how much grip the front tires have as they pull the massive Ram around corners. The rears will hop around on bumpy roads, but settle nicely when there's a few hundred pounds in the bed.

As you'd expect from any 2500, the Ram has a firm ride. Even with the coil-spring setup, there's a fair amount of bouncing and bounding when traversing broken surfaces. Things settle down with a load, but even then, you'll note a bit more harshness than a typical 1500-series truck. The interior is amazingly quiet at all speeds.

The Ram 2500 is at the top of the class when it comes to HD truck interiors. From the basic Tradesman all the way up to the top-trim Limited, the Ram 2500 has a consistently simple and appealing interior layout. Buttons and controls are arranged in a logical and easy-to-use manner. Materials are class appropriate in lower trims and border on luxurious on top trim levels.

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 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. Standard crew cab models offer good head and leg room and Mega Cabs offer unmatched rear-seat space. Either way, the seats are top notch providing excellent long-haul comfort. Regardless of model, the step-in height is quite high making ingress/egress difficult. Both the front and rear doors open wide. Outward visibility is excellent, but the front and rear corners are hard to judge, making the available surround-view camera a must.

Ram claims that the new 2500 has class leading interior storage and that's not hard to believe. Map pockets are quite large, the center console is huge. There are cupholders all over the place and plenty of open and covered bins throughout. The cargo bed has very high sidewalls that can make loading a bit more challenging. The tradeoff is increased cargo capacity and a bit more security.

Bottom Line -- With its 2500, Ram makes a compelling case for best all-around heavy duty pickup. Impressive payload and towing numbers aside, the real measure is in the transformation from a work-a-day truck into something that can double as family transport. Strengths include a powerful engine, quiet ride, unmatched interior and a healthy dose of safety and technology features. As with others in the class, prices are steep, especially on top-trim models. If you are in the market, don't let brand preferences sway you, take a test drive in the new Ram. You might be surprised.

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.