Trucks & SUVs

2020 Ram Heavy Duty: Did Ram Finally Make the Best Pickup Truck Possible?

It’s official: the Ram 2500/3500 Heavy Duty line is Motor Trend’s 2020 Truck of the Year. In a year marked by Ford’s 1000+ lb-ft diesels, and GMC’s fancy tailgates and carbon-fiber beds, the Ram Heavy Duty line won out. And to repeat, it wasn’t just one Ram HD model that got the nod. From the workhorse Tradesman to the off-road Power Wagon to the luxury Limited, MT gave them all the award. Is the Ram Heavy Duty line perfect? Of course not. But there sure is a lot to love.

What Motor Trend liked about the 2020 Ram Heavy Duty interior

2020 Ram 2500HD Limited interior
2020 Ram 2500HD Limited interior | Ram

As with the 2019 TOTY-winning Ram 1500, the MT staff dug the interior and exterior design. Every trim has its own grille (with active shutters) and wheel options—each trim feels unique. But they’re all nice places to be in. Buyers can pick between multiple color schemes and a range of infotainment screen sizes. The 8.4” and 12” ones even have apps to help with towing.

The interior also has a ton of functional tools. Multiple USB outlets, wireless charging, under-floor storage, and seating for up to six. And if luxury is what you’re after, MT said the Ram 3500HD Limited “could teach some premium brands a few things.”

But it’s not only the interior that Motor Trend enjoyed. To paraphrase Christian Seabaugh’s review of the Silverado, Ram built a better truck. The kind that focuses on “the things real truck buyers both want and need.”

What MT liked and didn’t like about the 2020 Ram Heavy Duty engines

The Ram HD line was praised for its engine choices. The base 6.4-liter Hemi V8, with 410 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque, is technically a carryover. But updated cylinder deactivation tech means it can run in V4 mode even longer. And the Hemi gets a new transmission, a strengthened version of the Ram 1500’s 8-speed. Although the EPA doesn’t test heavy-duty trucks, MT achieved 10.2 mpg city/15.3 mpg highway with the 2020 Power Wagon.

2019 Ram 3500HD High-Output Diesel
2019 Ram 3500HD High-Output Diesel | Ram

And then there are the diesels. The standard Ram 2500 diesel is a 6.7-liter turbocharged inline-six, making 370 hp and 850 lb-ft. But the dually 3500 can also get a high-output version of the engine that makes 400 hp and 1000 lb-ft. MT got 13.2 mpg city/18.0 mpg highway with a high-output-equipped, four-wheel drive dually. The only thing holding these engines back is their transmissions. With only 6 speeds, the diesel trucks are slow to accelerate, especially up steep grades with heavy loads.

Ford’s Super-Duty may have 1,050 lb-ft of torque, but Ram was the first to break into four-digit territory. And with that engine, rear-wheel drive, and the Max Tow Package, the 3500HD can tow up to 35,100 lbs. But if you’re after payload, you’ll need the Hemi to get the max 7,680-lb capacity.

What MT liked about the 2020 Ram Heavy Duty’s ride

Ram upgraded the Heavy Duty’s four-wheel drive transfer cases, as well as both the axles and brakes. But the engineering team also clearly spent a lot of time on the suspension. MT admits that even the previous Ram HD had terrible rides when unloaded—as do other heavy-duty trucks. But for 2020, all HD Rams get new shocks, as well as optional rear helper air springs. And the ride has definitely improved.

What MT liked about the 2020 Power Wagon

As with the rest of the HD line-up, the Power Wagon rides on a new high-strength steel platform. The Power Wagon was already an impressive off-road machine. But MT testers were surprised how much the new platform, 8-speed transmission, and suspension helped both the acceleration and ride. The new platform also gave the new Power Wagon better body control and more-accurate steering. As with the previous version, there are front and rear locking differentials and an electronic anti-roll-bar disconnect. But the Warn winch has been upgraded to 12,000 lbs.

Due to its suspension, the Power Wagon has the lowest payload and towing ratings of the Ram HD line. But even when MT staff deliberately overloaded it—with a 10,500 lb trailer, vs. the 10,300-lb rating—it was faster than the Silverado 2500HD in both the quarter-mile and 0-60 tests. And the Silverado is rated to tow 15,000 lbs.

Towing: what Motor Trend liked and didn’t like

Towing with the Ram Heavy Duty revealed some interesting results. On the one hand, the Ram 2500 and 3500 HD don’t deliver “class-leading” towing numbers. Other heavy-duty trucks have higher towing and payload ratings.

The GMC Sierra 3500HD also beat the Ram 3500HD in MT’s Davis Dam test. The trucks were made to tow a 17,730-lb trailer up a 5.8-mile, 5.2% grade road. And the lighter Sierra, with 45 more horsepower and a 10-speed transmission, finished the climb first. This was were the diesel heavy-duty Ram’s transmission let it down.

But numbers don’t tell the whole story. The Sierra may have won, but the Ram felt more confident towing the trailer. The engine never felt strained, and its automatic exhaust brake was more effective than the Denali’s. Simply put, the MT staff liked towing and living with the Ram more than the Sierra, or any of the other trucks.

What else to know before you buy

Although MT didn’t mention it, Ram pickups have had past issues with rust. The new HD’s platform is steel, although the hood is aluminum for weight savings. But Consumer Reports have reported that the rust issues have been going down in frequency.

The 2020 Ram Heavy Duty trucks have not been crash-tested yet. Every Heavy Duty trim can be equipped with a number of additional safety features, such as automatic emergency braking, radar cruise control, and trailer-compatible blind-spot monitoring. However, the Ram 1500 was recently named an IIHS Top Safety Pick+; it’s possible the Ram Heavy Duty lineup may receive similar honors.

And finally, where cost is concerned, the Ram Heavy Duty lineup does offer good value. The 2500HD Tradesman starts at $35,090: less than both the Silverado and Sierra 2500HD and only $345 more than the Ford F-250. And the Ram 3500HD Limited, at $64,045, is cheaper than both the GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali and Ford F-350 Limited.