The 2020 Ram 1500 proves that a V6 truck works


The 2020 Ram 1500 Bighorn at a glance

Engine3.6L V6 Pentastar®
Towing capacity7,620 pounds
GVWR (max weight rating)6,900 pounds
Tech highlightsAdaptive cruise control, eight-inch touchscreen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, HD rearview camera
Price as tested (MSRP Canadian)$66,825

FCA Canada provided a 2020 Ram 1500 with a full tank of fuel for this review

I’ve learned a lot of things from the 2020 Ram 1500 Bighorn. I’ve learned that front bench seats in a truck really do make sense. And they’re fantastic. I discovered that a V6 engine really can work in a pickup truck, although it certainly works harder. I also realized that the circular gear selector – which I have panned on more than one occasion – has a place. What the 2020 Ram 1500 has done is teach me there is a whole world to trucks out there waiting to be discovered.

Getting benched

Getting into a test pickup is one of the most exciting parts of doing road tests. They’re usually top of the line, saddle leather-filled, technology-packed luxury vehicles. When I got into our 2020 Ram 1500 Bighorn tester, I was immediately disappointed and then impressed. Ram has nailed the interior of their 1500 truck, even at the middle trim. But what really stood out was the six-passenger seating offered by the front benches. These are not just comfortable seats; they are almost better than the upgraded versions split by a console.

What isn’t missing, however, is a feeling of class. The 2020 Ram 1500 Bighorn is a trim level up from the base, and our tester didn’t have a lot of options added. Even still, the interior look and feel still stand out above what others on the market offer. The sheer size of a truck means that you have ample space for six full-grown adult humans. What you don’t get, however, is access to control dials when you have a middle passenger upfront. Mercifully, there are controls on the steering wheel for when you have a third passenger.

Power to get it done

Full disclosure here, one of the biggest reasons we tested this truck is the engine upfront. I’ve always argued that a naturally-aspirated V6 engine had no place in a pickup truck. This truck was going to make an idiot of me or prove me right. Reader, the 2020 Ram 1500 Bighorn V6 made me so wrong, I was eating crow all week long. Sure, the V6 needs a downshift on the highway up big hills. It’s not the same grunt as a diesel or V8 engine. It’s still competent, however. Any person in the city who wants a truck and can’t swing for a diesel, but needs something that burns less gas, the 2020 Ram 1500 Bighorn V6 is your truck. The 3.6L Pentastar is the crown jewel of FCA, which has proven itself time and time again.

Our 2020 Ram Bighorn tester included the split tailgate. These tailgate wars are a bit of a gimmick, but again, I was proven wrong. There are countless YouTube fail videos featuring people building ramps up the back of their pickup. In a day spent removing clean fill from my yard, I was so thankful to open the tailgate like French doors. It was quick and safe to throw some wood planks right onto the bumper and make a ramp that was level with the bed floor. As such, I was spared any YouTube infamy. It also cut down the load time substantially.

2020 Ram 1500

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Pickup truck lite

As capable as the V6 was, there are limits. Anybody towing a large travel trailer is going to quickly reach the 11,900 pound GCWR limit. But the 2020 Ram 1500 Bighorn makes fair use of eight gears to balance out the lower engine power and torque. Essentially, what the 2020 Ram 1500 V6 is, is a half-ton lite. It’s easier on gas, likely less to maintain, and less punch. As for overall mileage, the V6 falls somewhere between the EcoDiesel and HEMI® V8. Considering that this V6 is the base-level engine in the 2020 Ram 1500, you’re hard-pressed to justify the significant uptick to the diesel for around-town driving.

For towing, you’ll find yourself with the V8 or EcoDiesel, no doubt, but at up to 6,900 pounds (single-cab, nothing in the truck) pulling, the 2020 Ram 1500 Bighorn V6 isn’t a slouch. It handled, with ease, all the around-town landscaping and dirt-hauling we did. Despite all the heavy lifting, our truck still managed an 11.8L/100 km (20 MPG) review average.

A taste of green

It’s worth noting that all 2020 Ram 1500s with the V6 gas engine include Ram’s (very) mild hybrid system, eTorque. Supposedly it adds some torque and improves fuel economy, but it was hard to see the results in real-life driving. However, it does also provide a boost to the auto engine start/stop. The engine starts immediately, and there’s no lag, thanks to the small electric motor. However, when I compared it to the V6 in the 2019 Ram 1500 Classic, the fuel economy and performance were essentially the same.

That’ll do, Ram, that’ll do

Brand loyalties aside, truck owners are looking for something familiar and reliable. Power, space, and functional gimmicks are essentials. The 2020 Ram 1500 Bighorn shows that you don’t need to spend high to get what you want. You don’t need a budget-busting diesel or dinosaur burning V8, either. Sure, the 2020 Ram 1500 isn’t perfect. There are no integrated steps on the tailgate, for one. But it does a lot of things very well. With bench seats, even the dial gear selector fits in. Compared to the default column shifter you find in competitor bench trucks, the dial feels almost innovative.

What started as an experiment to justify an opinion against a V6 pickup has changed. It’s now an argument for why it should exist. This 2020 Ram 1500 Bighorn shows that a base V6 is as capable as any city truck owner needs. If saving money on maintenance and fuel is your thing, this is as good a truck as you need. Our 2020 Ram 1500 Bighorn V6 tester did everything I asked of it with ease. And it kept coming back for more.

Dan Croutch
the authorDan Croutch
Dan is a freelance automotive and technology writer. He enjoys all things pickup trucks, classic cars, and minivans (really). The intersection of vehicles and technology fascinate him.

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