The big news is the updated 3.0-liter V6 EcoDiesel.
All new for 2019, the current Ram 1500 blew the segment away with its refinement, interior quality and practicality. However, the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 that gained a fair bit of notoriety in the previous generation Ram was not yet available. Since GM has recently introduced their very competent inline-six Duramax diesel for Silverado and Sierra 1500, Ram had to get back in the light-duty diesel game for 2020. We spent a week with a 2020 Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel, in Quad Cab 4×4 form, to see if the new powerplant can make a great truck even better.
The latest Ram’s styling took some getting used to, but I am really starting to like it more and more. The look does seem best suited for luxury trim levels where the modern rounded lines are highlighted with chrome and big shiny wheels. Our tester in the off-road oriented Rebel trim, traded away all that chrome for matte black, 18-inch wheels wrapped in big beefy Goodyear Duratrac rubber, the unique Rebel grille, and a muscular hood with big black plastic vents. Finished in Bright White, the matte black accents give it almost a work truck look at first glance, and it’s not nearly as eye catching as it would be in a different color.
There are however a couple things worth calling out right away on the exterior of this truck. Firstly, 2020 marks the return of the Quad Cab, the 3/4 size cab that’s still designed to seat two or three adults in the rear, but without the excessive amounts of legroom found in the larger Crew Cab. The rear seat bottoms still flip up and have generously sized cargo bins underneath. If your truck does duty as a family hauler, go with the larger Crew Cab as the extra space is great for things like groceries and travel bags, that need the protection of being in the cab. If the truck is primarily for moving you and your toys, materials, and tools around, the Quad Cab has plenty of room, and will save some cash and weight.
The other thing to notice right away on this truck is the new split tailgate. It can open like a normal tailgate, or it can open barn-door style with a split. I am not sure why manufacturers suddenly feel like they need to reinvent the tailgate, but this is a little more practical than some of the other new tailgates out there. The split itself looks a bit odd, and swinging the long side out requires more space behind the truck than just dropping the gate normally, however doing so gives you direct access to the bed floor. I can think of two situations where this might be useful; reaching stuff that’s pushed forward in the bed and loading very heavy items that you wouldn’t want to rest on the tailgate itself.
It’s pretty well known that the interior of the Ram is one of its strongest features, and it’s no different in the Rebel. Our tester came with a $3,590 “Lleather and Sound” package which adds comfy heated leather seats with stitched Rebel logos, a heated steering wheel, nine-speaker Alpine sound system with subwoofer, and the huge 12-inch touchscreen complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Fit and finish is best in class, with the stitched dash pad and a microfiber headliner. Storage up front is plentiful, and the center console without the fancy covers that come in the upper trim levels is even more practical and spacious. My only gripe remains the seat and steering wheel heater buttons buried in the touchscreen. Beyond that, this truck has everything a good pickup cab should.
The big news really though, is the updated 3.0-liter V6 EcoDiesel, where over 80% of parts are new compared to the EcoDiesel found in the previous generation. Highlights include a lighter block, more efficient turbocharger, and redesigned pistons and intake ports. The result is a healthy bump in both horsepower and torque now pushing 260 horsepower and a whopping class leading 480 lb-ft. of torque at just 1,600RPM. The diesel pulls with enough thrust to place passengers firmly back in their seats, and does so with a refined smoothness that’s nothing like you’d expect. The eight-speed automatic does a great job taming the monster torque, keeping acceleration linear, controlled and smooth. Aside from some clatter on cold start, and a little more under hard acceleration, passengers would be hard pressed to know that they’re in a diesel thanks to the fantastic noise and vibration control.
The only downside to the diesel from the driver’s seat is that the throttle does lag to respond. Once it does there’s plenty of power, but there is a lag time that can be annoying, especially if you’re used to the lightning quick response from the 5.7-liter HEMI gasser. For the record, the HEMI is quicker, and does unlock higher tow ratings than the EcoDiesel, but we shouldn’t forget that it’s much thirstier.
The EcoDiesel is seriously impressive when it comes to fuel economy; after a week of rush hour commuting in the Rebel, we observed an average consumption of 10.1L/100km. This is ridiculously low for a half-ton truck, and bests many of today’s buzzy little crossovers and even some mainstream sedans. It also destroys the 14.5L/100km average observed in comparable HEMI equipped Rams with the same usage. Of course, living with a diesel means you often need to seek out a gas station that sells diesel, and fork out the small premium over regular gasoline.
Beyond the new engine, the Ram in lower and mid tier trims can now be had without the active air ride suspension. Our Rebel tester was not equipped with the optional air, riding on on Bilstein off-road shocks and a four-corner coil spring suspension system. It’s not as glassy smooth as the air, but I’d still argue that it rides better than competitive full-size trucks, with very limited vibration or noise entering the cabin – outstanding for an off-road oriented truck. Steering is well weighted, but the ratio is very slow making moving around in the city a bit cumbersome. On-center steer feel is nice and tight, which makes longer highway trips a relaxing and confident experience.
The other good news for Ram this year is that packaging is done right. You can have the EcoDiesel at any trim level you want; in the case of our tester it’s a $3,900 add on. Basic work truck Rams start at around $35,000, and range all the way up to $85,000 or more for a Limited. With so many standalone options pricing really comes down to what you need and what you can live without. Our Rebel Quad Cab came with a starting price of $60,345 and was optioned out with things like the Safety and Convenience Group ($1,200) which adds all the latest electronic safety gadgets, the EcoDiesel engine ($3,900), and more. In addition to the packages our tester also got a power sunroof ($1,425), and the multi-function tailgate ($1,095). This brought the as tested price to $76,845, but it’s no secret that retail pricing on trucks got out of line many years ago.
So ,was Ram successful in making a great truck even better? Absolutely; even if the EcoDiesel isn’t your thing, new configurations like the Quad Cab, multi-function tailgate, and less complicated suspension are winners. The EcoDiesel though, hits it out of the park with its improved power and refinement. If you put a lot of mileage on your truck and don’t want to feel it at the pumps, the 2020 Ram with the EcoDiesel should be at the top of your shopping list.