The RAM 1500 stole the number two spot from the Silverado in 2019. But is it really better than the Chevy?
In the automotive sector it doesn’t get much more competitive than the full-size truck segment. As the biggest selling segment in the US, the fight for top dog is hard won. The perennial winner in this battle has been Ford’s F-150, with the Chevy Silverado and RAM 1500 jockeying for the number two slot. In the first quarter of 2019, RAM overtook Chevy for those honors. The question remains, can RAM cement that position as Ford has done for itself at number one? Or does Chevy have what it takes to retake second place?
RAM 1500 got a new diesel for 2020, a redux of the outgoing 3.0L V-6 but with 80% new parts. It’ll put out 260hp and offer 480 lb. ft. of torque, which happens to lead the class. The V-6 diesel will be paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The RAM’s base engine will be a hybrid-assisted 3.6-liter V-6 alongside a similar V-8. These new 48-volt hybrid assistance systems have been dubbed eTorque engines. There will also be a 5.7-liter V-8 available netting 385hp and 410lb. ft. and a non-hybrid version of the base V-6. That’s plenty of engines to choose from, and later we’ll discuss answers to the obvious question of which one’s the best choice (answer – depends on your priorities, big surprise).
The Silverado boasts even more engine options than the RAM. The base Silverado engine is the 4.3-liter V-6 with 285hp and a 6-speed transmission. The 5.3-liter V-8 with 355hp has a full three transmission options, the same 6-speed as the V-6, as well as an 8-speed and a 10-speed. Sharing that 10-speed is the largest available engine, the 6.2-liter V-8 with 420hp. Like the RAM, there is also a diesel available, in this case a 3.0-liter turbodiesel that also pairs with that same 10-speed.
Clearly you won’t be lacking in engine choices regardless which truck you go with. Next, we dig into the what all those numbers actually equal out to on the road.
Both the RAM 1500 and Silverado 1500 can run in the upper 6 sec. ranges for 0-60 times when configured properly, but since drag racing isn’t the primary focus of these vehicles, we’ll turn to towing.
The Silverado’s beefy 6.2-liter V-8, along with the optional “Max Towing” package including a 15-angle trailer cam, gets the segment’s best towing capacity at a sterling poundage (pun intended) of 13,400lbs. To get the most payload out of your Silverado you’ll need the regular cab long box, which has a payload of 2,250lbs.
As for the RAM’s top numbers, you’ll be needing one of the two eTorque hybrid-assisted engines. The V-8 eTorque is the RAM’s top tower at 12,750lbs., and the V-6 eTorque provides 2,300lbs of payload capacity. But that’s not the whole story. It’s the RAM’s diesel that leads the class in raw torque at 480lb. ft.
Both the RAM and Silverado are still behind America’s best-selling truck when it comes to payload, which for the F-150 is 3,230lbs. Max towing for the F-150 is just a notch below the Silverado’s at 13,200lbs.
Aside from raw output, which have these two trucks running neck-and-neck, there’s also the question of handling, and this is where the RAM starts to separate itself, if ever so slightly, from the Silverado. The RAM surprises with its limited roll and tight cornering. The steering on the RAM is point-and-go and weighted in that Goldilocks zone of just right.
The Silverado also does a decent job around corners and the impeccable optional 10-speed automatic transmission makes for exceptionally smooth acceleration. Steering is a little lighter than the spot-on RAM but is still good.
Silverado’s cabin is as quiet as they come in a full-size pickup. As with much of the segment, there’s a whole heap of passenger room both fore and aft. The seats are decently supportive but not quite where RAM’s or Ford’s are. The suspension smooths out the ride across all but the worst roads. Overall, the Silverado acquits itself well in terms of comfort but fails to wow.
Which is too bad for the Silverado because, as capable as it is, it’s the quality and comfort of the RAM’s interior that sets it apart from the competition. High quality materials abound even at the lower trim levels. Jumping up the ladder to the Laramie Long Horn and Limited and things get downright swanky. Filigree embossed leather upholstery (Long Horn ed.), a 12-inch touchscreen, and wood trim all push the RAM up to a near luxury-level quality.
And then there’s the ride. Among full-size pickups the RAM 1500 has no equal when it comes to the ride comfort. Rugged dirt roads and pock-marked black top have nothing on the coil spring rear suspension (to say nothing of the optional air-suspension). Driving the RAM 1500 on rough roads will often have you bracing for impacts that never arrive.
Both the Silverado and RAM 1500 tack on accouterments with each step up in trim, but what you get for the extra dough grants the RAM another checkmark in its favor.
The Silverado adds things like the blind-spot monitoring, rear parking and cross traffic alerts with its Safety Package and an 8-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, and an HD rear-view camera with its Convenience Package. Unfortunately, that 8-inch touchscreen is the largest available in the Silverado, and in an age where touchscreens and grills keep getting larger by the day, Chevy appears a bit behind the times here. The top trim High Country gets such upgrades as rear heated seats, a Bose stereo system, and wireless phone charging.
The mid-level trims of the RAM offer common conveniences like heated power front seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, front and rear parking sensors, and a power-sliding rear window. But it’s at the higher trims where things get interesting. The abovementioned Laramie Long Horn trim, with its filigree embossed leather, exudes Old West attitude. Add the entertainment package and things really get interesting with its 19-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, power running boards, and a generous 12-inch touchscreen.
But perhaps out favorite feature of the RAM was the bed and tailgate. The RAM multifunction tailgate, while not as flashy as the GMC Sierra’s MultiPro, did win our “Tailgate Wars” battle thanks to its supreme functionality. Combined then with the RAMBOX “cargo management system” which makes use of the space along both sides of the bed, the RAM’s back end becomes the most practical and utilitarian of the segment.
The RAM 1500 and Silverado are comparably priced along trim levels, and aside from some of the stand-out features we mentioned above, price and available features tend to match closely.
The bare-bones Silverado starts at $28,300 with RWD. Adding 4WD raises that number to $32,900. The top-of-the-line High Country Crew Cab has an MSRP of $53,054 before adding the safety or tech packages. For a liberally appointed Silverado, expect to top the $60,000 mark.
Things are no different over with the RAM 1500. Here too you can skimp and save with the base model and leave the dealership having spent only $32,145. But moving up to at least the Laramie Crew Cab gets a lot of “must-haves” like the 8-inch touchscreen, heated front seats, and keyless entry for $42,240. The tip-top Limited 4×4 Crew Cab starts at $57,265 and can be optioned from there. Upgrades, like those we mentioned for the rear box, will end up costing you. The multifunction tailgate runs $950, as does the RAMBOX upgrade.
The very top RAM l500 goes for $4,000 more than the Silverado. And yet, the RAM still ends up being the better deal. The max torque, the exceptional driving experience, and the overall quality inside and out mean you get what you pay for with the slightly more expensive RAM. And besides, with the number of variations available it’s not too hard to find either a RAM or Silverado neatly tailored both to serve your wants and the limits of your pocketbook.
If it’s not clear by now, the RAM 1500 surpasses on the Silverado (though not a bad truck in its own right). In fact, it’s not too much to say that the RAM 1500 bests the perennial champion Ford’s F-150. We liked the Silverado’s raw towing capability and quiet, composed ride. But the RAM, with its luxury aspirations and legit pickup bona fides, is almost more truck than we deserve.
Excellent article. Please keep me on your list. My first car 58 years ago was a 55 Chevrolet Bel Air. I’ve owned Chevrolets ever since 1962. My newest vehicle is a 2020 2500 HD.