2020 Ram 2500 Laramie 4×4 Cummins Yearlong Test Verdict: Truck of the (Pandemic) Year

The global pandemic really shaped our time with MotorTrend‘s 2020 Truck of the Year. First it delayed our Ram 2500 Cummins’ arrival by four months, a wait that inspired the nickname “Guffman.” Then health concerns had staffers driving everywhere they’d ordinarily have flown, resulting in an average mileage accumulation of 515 miles per week during its stay. With delivery drivers in short supply, Guffman was even forced to carry things that might otherwise have been entrusted to an industrial flatbed—like pallets of cement.

All journeys, loads, and trailering tasks were handled with a quiet, stoic competence that speaks of over-engineering. For an enormous truck weighing 7,980 pounds empty, drivers large and small remarked at how easy it was to climb into and out of (thanks to a pair of fixed running boards and assist handles on the A- and B-pillars) and how quickly they grew comfortable maneuvering in traffic, thanks to good visibility of the corners and well-designed mirrors. And the posh, comfy interior we loved during TOTY testing never disappointed us and has held up beautifully—even its light tan seating surfaces. Nothing rattles, nothing squeaks, and nothing’s fallen off despite hard use of all features.

FM reception was terrible, but the user-friendly 8.4-inch Uconnect 4 touchscreen and 4G LTE Wi-Fi modem with an AT&T connection plan ($25/month) kept us infotained on journeys of all lengths with minimal dropouts and easy streaming of all content. Throughout its stay we kept finding interesting screens and information displays for things we never knew we longed to know—like how many braking horsepower the “Jake” brake exhaust retarder could apply.

We were still learning new things about our Ram 2500 Cummins in its final weeks—like how to shift the transmission to neutral without starting the engine (jam a screwdriver or long pen up a hole under the steering column to release the shift lock), and the fact that the engine uses a single intake-tract heater instead of individual glow plugs when starting a cold engine (this solution seems to take longer than the glow plugs in GM and Ford HD V-8 diesels).

Guffman wasn’t perfect. The confining box that surrounds the trailer-hitch mount made it impossible to secure a standard hitch retainer pin clip, with disastrous results. Those Firestone Transforce tires don’t grip well in wet or snowy weather, and we had occasional issues with CarPlay broadcasting both a phone conversation and the radio. We also wish it were possible to run CarPlay off one iPhone and music off another via the higher-quality wired USB connection, but plugging the second iPhone in always threatened to usurp the first, forcing us to connect the second via Bluetooth. We were also unable to remove the tailgate following the manual’s directions. The left hinge just refused to release.

Maintaining our highway-blasting Ram 2500 Cummins was a breeze. This duty cycle aligned oil and filter changes with the book recommended maximum interval of 15,000 miles (a trip computer can shorten these intervals under more severe usage). When we parked Guffman for the last time, the engine-hours meter said that his 28,466-mile odometer reading had involved 675 hours of engine-on time, 541 of which were spent driving, That means he averaged 53 mph, which rendered the suggested 7,500-mile tire-rotation and brake inspection intervals pointless. After only a single tire rotation at 14,867 miles, we measured uniform wear on all four tires, indicating 40 percent of the original tread depth remained. Visual inspection of the brake pads also confirmed Guffman won’t need brake maintenance anytime soon.

We spent $144.77 on the single oil/filter/tire-rotation/inspection stop and another $252.26 changing the engine and chassis-mounted fuel filters for a total of $397.03 out of our pockets. Our official tally of $490.93 includes the two tire-rotation/inspection stops and the 22,500-mile cabin air filter replacement we skipped. Our lone normal-wear charge was a new Duracell 2032 coin battery for the key fob, which we easily replaced ourselves without tools for $2.03 (thanks YouTube!). Note that had we managed to cross the 30,000-mile line, the second service would likely have cost about $550, because in addition to oil service and fuel filter changes, it includes a transmission-fluid change and additional inspections of the transfer case and wheel bearings.

That total is about double what our gas-powered Ram 2500 Power Wagon cost to maintain and subdivides the $272.52 we spent running a Ford F-250 Power Stroke to similar mileage and the $700 or so we spent on a Nissan Titan XD Cummins after subtracting its 30K-mile service charge and estimating the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) expense we rolled into maintenance on that truck.

Speaking of DEF, we spent $309.18 on 35 gallons of it—a figure that would have dropped to about $105 had we dispensed all of it from truck-stop pumps (at a national average price of about $3/gallon). We did that only once, because as the forums warned, it flowed fast and only clicked off after pressurizing the tank, geysering out when we pulled the pump out. Overall, the $4,507 we spent on 1,592 gallons of diesel worked out to 16 cents/mile, with the DEF adding another penny.

Our 4-ton giant averaged 17.5 mpg, besting 10.9 for our long-term Ram 2500 Power Wagon gasser and the 16.1- and 15.2-mpg results for our diesel Ford F-250 and Nissan Titan XD. But then, that’s likely just another pandemic asterisk, as those other trucks surely saw less highway use.

Maybe that’s our biggest surprise with Guffman—how great a road-trip machine he was. Senior editor Greg Fink praised “Ram’s stellar job of suppressing exterior noises from entering the cabin,” and the way the “lane-keep assist provided assurance the wide Ram pickup would stay within its lane.” Vertically efficient Detroit editor Alisa Priddle loved the running boards and “sitting nice and high—king of the road.”

Onlookers praised Guffman’s appearance but too often ended their remarks with “too bad Rams always rust out.” A single winter left no mark on our truck, but we reached out for comment on this prevalent opinion and were told that recent efforts to deliver best-in-class corrosion protection had resulted in greater use of galvanized high-strength steel in the body and box and an advanced, computer-optimized electrocoating process utilizing acrylic or epoxy resin polymers that’s now being widely applied to underbody components like half-shafts, drive shafts, axles, engine cradles, control arms, tie rods, truck frames, and suspension linkages to prevent surface corrosion.

We begged for the opportunity to assess these measures’ effectiveness over a few more winters, and one staffer even considered buying this cream puff, but thanks to the pandemic-prompted chip shortage, the price proved unpalatable. We pleaded for a two-month extension (half the time we waited for his arrival) to cover two more long-distance trips. But in the end, 19 days was all the more “waiting for Guffman” Ram was willing to do.

Read More About Our Long-Term 2020 Ram 2500 Laramie 4×4 Cummins:

  • Arrival
  • Update 1: Burdening Our Beast
  • Update 2: King of the Road Trip
  • Update 3: Buyer’s Remorse?
  • Update 4: Yearlong Test: We Get 895 MPG …
  • Update 5: Discovering the Dipstick and Losing a Trailer
POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS2020 Ram 2500 Laramie 4×4 Cummins
ENGINE TYPETurbodiesel, I-6, iron block/head
VALVETRAINOHV, 4 valves/cyl
DISPLACEMENT408.2 cu in/6,690 cc
POWER (SAE NET)370 hp @ 2,800 rpm
TORQUE (SAE NET)850 lb-ft @ 1,152 rpm
REDLINE3,250 rpm
TRANSMISSION6-speed automatic
AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE/LOW RATIO3.73:1/2.35:1/2.64:1
SUSPENSION, FRONT; REARLive axle, coil springs, anti-roll bar; live axle, air springs, anti-roll bar
BRAKES, F; R14.2-in vented disc; 14.1-in vented, disc, ABS
WHEELS8.0 x 18-in cast aluminum
TIRESLT275/70R18 Firestone Transforce HT
TRACK, F/R69.6/75.9 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT238.8 x 83.5 x 80.2 in
HEADROOM, F/R40.9/39.8 in
LEGROOM, F/R40.9/40.2 in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/R65.9/65.6 in
PICKUP BOX L x W x H76.3 x 66.4 x 20.1 in
TOWING CAPACITY23,000 lb (34,130 lb gooseneck)
0-302.5 sec
PASSING, 45-65 MPH4.1
QUARTER MILE15.8 sec @ 87.7 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH144 ft
TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH1,700 rpm
AIRBAGS6: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain
BASIC WARRANTY3 yrs/36,000 miles
POWERTRAIN WARRANTY5 yrs/100,000 miles
ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE5 yrs/100,000 miles
REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB13.2/18.0/15.0 mpg
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECONExempt from testing
Our Car
SERVICE LIFE13 mo / 28,314 mi
OPTIONSCummins turbo diesel engine ($9,300); Laramie Level 2 Equipment Group ($4,195: Ventilated front seats, rain sensing wipers, remote tailgate release, premium sound, Wi-Fi hot spot, 8.4-inch infotainment screen); Rear air suspension ($1,705); Towing technology group ($1,095: High-mount cargo camera and lamp, surround-view camera, trailer reverse guidance); Safety Group ($1,095: Lane keep assist, forward collision, adative cruise control); Sunroof ($1,095); Chrome side steps ($695); Tonneau cover ($695); Leather seats ($545); 5th wheel/Gooseneck ($495); Limited-slip rear differential ($445); Spray-in bedliner ($385); Interior auxiliary switches ($145); Premium paint ($100); Clearance lamps ($95)
AVG ECON/CO217.5 mpg / 1.27 lb/mi
PROBLEM AREASPersistent poor FM reception, sporadic CarPlay/FM radio cross-talk
MAINTENANCE COST$491 (1-oil/filter/inspection/tire rotation/fuel filter, 2-tire rotation, 1 cabin air filter)
NORMAL-WEAR COST$2 (key fob battery)
FUEL COST$4,507 (1,592 gal diesel) plus $309 (35 gals DEF)
3-YEAR RESIDUAL VALUE*$72,400 (95%)
*IntelliChoice data; assumes 42,000 miles at the end of 3-years

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