Review: 2020 Ram 2500, where all that HS steel pays off
Ram has put a lot of work into its new-generation heavy-duty pickup trucks. About a year ago, Ram introduced the all-new 2019 Ram HD lineup in Detroit. The biggest change was extensive use of high-strength steel in the truck’s framework.
We saw the results of that first hand in March of 2019, where Ram Truck showcased its new chassis in both commercial and work truck formats. We saw how the Ram 2500-5500 heavy-duty line was redesigned from the ground up to make use of lighter, more capable materials in their manufacture. Resulting in towing capabilities once reserved only for large semi-trucks.
The payoff for these changes, for the consumer, is in more capability which results in better safety and usability at “normal” levels. A truck overbuilt for the job will do the job easier than will a truck only just capable of it. We saw that reality in the 2020 Ram 2500 with its massively and well-deserved overconfident feel.
There are six trim levels available, starting with the base model Tradesman, then running through the Big Horn (aka “Lone Star” in Texas), Laramie, Longhorn, Limited, and the Power Wagon off-road variant. We drove the Limited model this time around.
The truck comes with two engine options. The base engine is the tried-and-true 6.4-liter V8 that’s been with Ram for a while, at 410 horsepower (305.7 kW) and 429 lb-ft (581.6 Nm) of torque. This pairs with an eight-speed automatic transmission with rear-wheel drive by default. Four-wheel drive is, of course, available. The upgrade engine, which we had in our test model, is an aggressive 6.7-liter six-cylinder turbodiesel that outputs 370 hp (276 kW) and a monstrous 850 lb-ft (1,152.5 Nm) of torque. This means maximum towing is rated at 19,680 lb (8,927 kg), depending on the truck’s configuration. Payload is maxed at 4,010 lb (1,819 kg). Those are impressive numbers, even in a truck category that’s pushing those numbers year on year. For those concerned that this might mean less comfort and daily usability in the truck, there’s nothing to worry about.
The greatest downside to the Ram 2500 is its diesel engine, which performs very well, but is also very loud most of the time. It’s not heavily intrusive into the cabin at idle, but it chatters pretty continually, whatever the task. To the point that it will need to be shut down at the gate to the lumber yard in order to carry on a conversation with the guard.
The interior is very well-done, and takes all of the best points from the highly-rated Ram 1500 for design and comfort. Seating is high, given the truck’s overall height plus the relatively high position of the chairs, but this actually helps the drive. It’s a continual reminder that this is a large truck and should be treated that way, demanding wider swings around corners and an easier foot on brake and throttle. A heavy-duty truck is not a sedan, and this Ram makes sure that’s understood.
Several technology options are available. From the base level, with the Tradesman package and its little touchscreen and the rest of the lineup’s 8.4-inch, well-vetted system from the Fiat-Chrysler line, the infotainment is easy to understand and very usable. The Limited package we drove included the huge 12.3-inch touchscreen system that we thoroughly tested of last year.
But the Ram 2500 misses is with the largest touchscreen. Many of the “hard” buttons for manual control have been removed in order to make room for that screen. Which means several controls, like seat heating/cooling, steering wheel heat, and some climate controls, are in screen menus instead of being intuitively available as a knob or button. That feels like a step backward.
Better, though, are the driver information screens and their highly useful information options. Transmission, differential, and engine heat are all easy to display. So are metrics for the suspension (if the auto-leveling system is equipped) and load. Cameras for hooking up a bumper tow, fifth-wheel, or gooseneck trailer are all there (or available) to make life easier. So are key metrics such as our diesel engine’s maintenance interval requirements, Def levels for exhaust treatment, and more.
The wireless charging slot for a phone is touchy about placement of said phone, requiring very specific positioning to work. In our case, with one phone, that was sideways, taking up the whole phone holding rack (which should accommodate at least two). With another phone, it was upside down. Also not ideal. A larger charging surface would likely help.
Both towing and hauling are relatively straightforward. Mostly just “load and go.” The truck comes standard with both common plugs for the ball hitch and a fifth wheel setup includes a common RV plug as well. Once attached, putting the truck in tow mode shuts down the rear parking sensors and improves throttle and transmission response for better pulling. When loaded, the truck rides smoothly, with our test load of roofing materials adding up to about 2,200 lb in all and going largely unnoticed by the truck.
The design of the new-generation Ram 2500 means that truly heavy towing, inside of the 15,000-lb (over 6,800-kg) range, is easily realistic. And with confidence, because the rig will have capability to spare. That's something that HD trucks in the 2500 category were incapable of just a decade or so ago. The brakes, frame, and powertrain are all built to handle that and today’s advanced electronics means that sway control keeps it all rubber down.
The 2020 Ram 2500 starts at US$33,745 and nears its top point at our test model’s $82,290.
Product Page: Ram 2500