Wednesday, December 2

Ram Rivals Luxury Cars’ Driving Experience

CHATHAM, Mass. – All of the large pickups we’ve evaluated during the past seven months have been impressive with their car-like driving presence, despite possessing rugged, working capabilities, but the 2020 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 further blurred the difference between truck and car with one of the most satisfying driving experiences.

The combination of seat comfort, advance driver assist systems (ADAS) which mitigated difficulties of piloting such a large vehicle in tight confines, a responsive, powerful 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine, responsive brakes, sure-footed handling and superb visibility despite the dimensions of this full-size pickup helped make this a fun vehicle to drive, even for a non-truck person like me.

After several days I realized my relaxed confidence while driving this truck (when compared to other large pickups I’ve sampled in recent months) partially came from the subtle downward slope of the hood (bonnet). I felt I had SUV-like forward vision (not to mention excellent vision in all directions through large windows) instead of feeling things happening in front of the bumper were on a different level. In some trucks, looking out across the hood was like looking out from an infinity pool, not the Ram.

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Overall, the driving experience in the Ram was better than many of the cars and luxury SUVs of late, including seating more comfortable and supportive than a luxury vehicle with a big name and a price tag almost double this comprehensively equipped Ram’s ($68,815 including $1,695 destination and handling charge).

Ram a major full-size pickup player

That price makes the Ram competitive with its primary rivals – the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra and Toyota Tundra. All are fine vehicles, with similar pluses, minuses, amenities, equipment and pricing, so choice comes down to personal preferences.

For decades Ford’s F Series trucks have been far and away the best-selling vehicles in the United States, with the Chevy/GMC combination just behind it. Nothing else was even in the same category. That changed when the then Chrysler Corporation launched the 1994 Dodge Ram in 1993, the genesis of this week’s review truck.

Last year Ford again dominated the category, selling some 900,000 F Series trucks, but for the first time Ram (633,694) outsold Chevrolet (575,600)! This truck is a real player in a market segment which means major profits for automakers and a myriad of choices for truck buyers. Work truck, recreation truck or family vehicle – full-size pickups can fill all these roles.

The 2020 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 can easily accomplish any of these functions or all of them in one package.

The Hemi puts 395 horsepower and a 410 pounds-feet of torque through an eight-speed transmission and a four-wheel drive system which can tackle off-road, bad-road, bad-weather as well as daily on-road conditions with a push of a button to go from two-wheel to four-wheel drive high or low. There is even an automatic position which allows the truck’s management systems to determine which wheels should get the engine’s power; relieving the driver of deciding if the road conditions dictate switching to four-wheel drive.

Once upon a time a truck with these specifications would have produced fuel economy numbers in the high single digits or extremely low double digits. Modern technology and engineering allow the Ram to achieve federal Environmental Protection Agency ratings of 17 miles per gallon in the city, 22 on the highway and 19 combined. We’ve seen that last figure in our time behind the wheel, during which time I have liberally used the accelerator pedal (did I say this truck inspires confidence despite its size?).

If fuel economy – and torque – are a primary concern, Ram offers a 3.0-liter V6 EcoDiesel achieving 480 lb.-ft. and the highest available half-ton diesel towing capacity at 12,560 pounds. And a four-wheel drive Ram with the EcoDiesel is rated by the EPA at 21/24/29 mpg city/combined/highway!

The ADAS and safety systems, as mentioned, provided a major help in piloting this truck around the tight roads and streets of Cape Cod. The Ram included rain-brake support; full-speed forward collision warning plus (braking); lane keep assist; blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert; surround-view/backup camera; parallel and perpendicular park assist; advanced brake assist, and adaptive cruise control. Of course, it has airbags throughout the interior and both anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability control.

2020 Ram 1500 Laramie – Sport Interior

Tablet-like display leads abundance of interior features

Open the front door, step up on the automatically deployed running boards (great aid to ingress and egress!) and the LARGE vertically oriented color iPad-like 12-inch x 6.7-inch touch screen dominates the view – even when it is black and blank. And this center of the Uconnect infotainment/communications system (as well as controlling the climate-control and various vehicle settings) functions just like a tablet – you can even customize the screen (including dividing it into two quadrants to have two different applications available). The screen layout provides a great format for the included navigation program. And AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio (with five years of Sirius Traffic included), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also part of the Uconnect package.

2020 Ram 1500 – Uconnect 4C with 12-inch Screen

Ram users needing to power their various mobile devices and much larger electric and electronic equipment, especially useful when the Ram provides a “mobile office” will find the Ram perfect: three 110 Volt A/C outlets; four USB-C; four USB-A, a 12 Volt outlet and wireless charging for compatible smartphones. An included WiFi hotspot means you can connect to the Internet easily from this truck, further solidifying its working credentials.

The Ram folks supplemented the screen controls with a plethora of buttons as well as voice recognition – just like any other well-equipped luxury vehicle.

Different from lesser vehicles is the vast amount of storage. A large, multi-tiered center console adds two slim pockets on its outside; doors have multiple compartments; two under-floor RamBins in front of the rear seats, which can be raised to provide under-seat storage, and a locking glove box as well as a second hidden dashboard storage compartment above it. On either external rear flank, above the  wheels, are RamBoxes – covered, rain/snow-proof lockable compartments with automatic lighting and, in one, a 110 Volt A/C outlet.

Staying on the outside, the multi-function tailgate can be opened normally by dropping down or like a pair of doors with hinges on both sides.

Like all full-size pickups offered on the American market, the 2020 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 can be configured in a huge variety of ways. There are eight models; four engine options; two or four-wheel drive; Quad Cab and Crew Cab, and 5-foot, 7-inch or 6-foot, 4-inch beds. Within each model are a myriad of options, packages and trim levels – something for anyone looking for a vehicle with these capabilities.

And the experience might be a real surprise to anyone without extensive full-size pickup truck experience.

About Author

Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Senior Editor for The BRAKE Report. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.