2020 Ram 1500 review: Testing out some Mopar mods – Roadshow

It’s hard to argue with the Ram 1500’s handsome good looks.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

The Ram 1500 is probably the best half-ton truck available today. Sure, you could argue Ford’s F-150 has a better lineup of powertrains or that the latest GMC Sierra brings more high-tech features to the table. But when it comes to things like interior quality, over-the-road refinement and handsome good looks — to say nothing of impressive towing and hauling capabilities — this rig is really the one to beat. 

Like

  • Intake and exhaust enhance the Hemi’s rumble
  • Katzkin leather a nice upgrade over cloth
  • Appearance add-ons mostly look great

Don’t Like

  • In-bed storage system is useful but limits hauling capability
  • Starchy ride with suspension lift kit

This review unit is a little different. It’s a Big Horn model with a spacious crew-cab body, four-wheel drive and a 5-foot-7-inch bed. It’s also dressed in the optional Sport Appearance Package, which gets you things like body-color door handles and bumpers as well as heated and power-folding side-view mirrors, among many other things. Despite being just one step up from the entry-level Tradesman trim, this truck still looks primo. And being a lower-spec model, it’s a great canvas on which to paint around $13,000 in Mopar accessories, a diversity of appearance- and performance-enhancing add-ons that are above and beyond the truck’s $52,585 asking price.

Mopar, FCA’s service-parts and aftermarket division, offers around 500,000 different components for the company’s broad range of vehicles, including more than 200 accessories for the Ram 1500 alone. Upgrades to this truck are numerous and include a 2-inch suspension lift as well as beadlock-capable wheels. There are sill guards and hood graphics, off-road wheel flares and a wireless phone charger inside. Items like side steps, tonneau covers and splash guards are some of the most-popular add-ons available for this pickup, but unquestionably, of all the goodies added to this test Ram, my favorite enhancements deal with airflow, specifically into and out of the engine. 

Under the hood, this Ram 1500 features a smooth 5.7-liter Hemi V8, one not fitted with Chrysler’s available eTorque mild-hybrid system. It is, however, matched to an ever-astute eight-speed automatic transmission. Helping this pushrod engine sing like a muscle car from Detroit’s glory days is a $1,250 cat-back exhaust system capped by a pair of $395 black-finished tips that measure a burly 5 inches in diameter. This Mopar system is loud and authoritative, but never drones. It strikes just about a perfect balance between sportiness and civility. If I owned a Hemi-powered Ram truck, I’d have one of these exhausts in a heartbeat.

Helping the engine fill its lungs a little easier is a bolt-on intake, which draws fresh air from right behind the grille. According to Mopar, it provides “noticeable” increases in both horsepower and torque, though specific figures are not listed. Unmodified, the truck’s V8 is rated at a healthy 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque. This intake also provides a bit of under-hood rumble, particularly when the throttle is prodded heavily, something that compliments the exhaust system nicely. You can grab one of these setups for $925.

With freer-flowing intake and exhaust systems, this V8-powered pickup performs well, though it doesn’t feel quite as quick as perhaps it should. Don’t get me wrong, it’s plenty strong, but sometimes it seems like there’s more thunder than thrust, the mighty Hemi not really waking up until about 3,500 rpm, which is unexpectedly high for a two-valve engine. As always, the Ram 1500’s transmission is on point, delivering silky-smooth, well-timed shifts and helping reduce fuel consumption as much as possible. This truck is rated at 15 miles per gallon city, 21 highway and 17 mpg combined. Unfortunately, with four-wheel drive, all those Mopar accessories and the frequent need to hear that engine roar, I’m only averaging around 13.5 mpg in mixed driving.

A range of upgrades enhance this Ram’s exterior appearance. Some of the most noticeable are off-road-style running boards and the RamBar, both of which are $995 options. Those steps are made of cast aluminum and feature an anti-slip texture. They look cool, make it much easier to get into and out of the truck, and don’t stick down too far, so they shouldn’t get hung up when off-roading. As for the RamBar, this basket handle-like accessory mounts to the bed, requiring no drilling, welding or other destructive operations to install, though it will not fit trucks equipped with RamBox storage bins or the multi-function tailgate. Powder coated with a matte-black finish for long-term durability, this sturdy item features integrated tie-downs for enhanced versatility and it’s a perfect place to mount accessory lights, like the 5-inch LED units offered by Mopar. Naturally, this truck is fitted with these off-road lamps — two sets, in fact — which cost $595 apiece. They are super bright, ideal for cutting through darkness while out on the trail, though it’s not a good idea to use them on the street as they’re intense enough to singe the retinas of drivers in the oncoming lane. Don’t do that.

Enhancing versatility (or detracting from it depending on your point of view), this test truck is also fitted with an in-bed storage system. This $1,400 add-on consists of two lockable drawers that slide out from underneath an elevated platform. They roll smoothly and make a very satisfying click when latching. Weather-tight, each one can hold up to 200 pounds of stuff, while the upper deck can support a ton. Yes, literally 2,000 pounds. This arrangement should be exceptionally handy for storing power tools or similar items you want to keep away from prying eyes and sticky fingers. Unfortunately, this bulky accessory takes up a lot of space in the bed, about half the cargo box’s depth, so the truck is far less useful for hauling, say, a pair of dirt bikes or a load of mulch. 

2020 Mopar-Modified Ram 1500

A Katzkin interior kit dresses up this truck’s cabin.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Many of the Mopar-modifications featured on this Ram 1500 are thoroughly enjoyable, but one I’m not so fond of is the suspension lift. This $1,350 option comes with new shocks, upper control arms, spring spacers and a few other things. The 2-inch lift it provides is no doubt handy out on the trail, but this setup is a bit starchier than I’d like for everyday use. The Ram 1500’s sturdy and refined steering seems unaffected by this modification, which is great news because it is probably the best handling full-size pickup available today. 

Helping this truck look like a trail-ready beast is a $499 set of Mopar fender flares. These should help protect the body when out adventuring, though I’m not a big fan of the black plastic they’re made of, nor do I care for the faux bolts punctuating their outer surface. At least, like the RamBar, these flares require no drilling or other modifications to install.

Not surprisingly, the interior of this truck receives some accessory love as well, though it didn’t necessarily need any upgrades. Even in lower-end models, the Ram 1500’s cabin is still this segment’s best, with plenty of nice materials and easy-to-use controls. My Mopar-modified test truck also features FCA’s excellent Uconnect infotainment system with an 8.4-inch screen. No, this is not the ginormous 12-inch portrait display you get in higher-end models, but it’s still entirely pleasant to use, both straightforward and snappy. Since this pickup is fitted with a crew-cab body, the backseat is gigantic — like, seriously palatial. If you can’t get comfortable in this Ram, there’s no hope for you. 

2020 Mopar-Modified Ram 1500

What are some of your favorite Mopar mods on this Ram 1500?

Craig Cole/Roadshow

As for cockpit upgrades, durable-looking all-weather floor mats are a steal at $165, plus the $250 wireless charging pad is a must-have item as well so you don’t have to fumble with cables to keep your phone fully juiced. Upgrading the truck’s stock, cloth-covered seats is a Katzkin leather interior, complete with contrast stitching and embroidered Ram logos on some of the seatbacks. These covers not only look and feel nice, but they fit perfectly as well, with no bagginess or crooked seams. This kit is customizable, offered in two different grades of leather and in a wide variety of colors and finishes. At $1,365, the price tag isn’t too severe, either, especially since that figure includes installation. 

Thanks to its on-road refinement, attractive interiors and friendly features, the Ram 1500 is already Roadshow’s favorite full-size pickup. But the folks at Mopar have proven you can make a good truck even better with the addition of a few aftermarket accessories. Aside from the things highlighted in this review, there are dozens of other items available, so if you’ve got a Ram 1500, you might consider checking out the Mopar website for additional information.

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