Test Drive: 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel delivers impressive power and fuel economy
Tom Quimby | August 27, 2019
2020 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn

2020 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn

And diesel for all.

Following a three-year hiatus and allegations of emissions cheating, every truck from the 2020 Ram 1500 line-up is again available with the new, more powerful, more fuel efficient third generation 3.0-liter EcoDiesel.

The V6 oil burner twists out 480 lb.-ft. torque at 1,600 rpm, a 14 percent increase from its prior iteration, giving it class-leading torque in a half-ton diesel. Horsepower is up eight percent to 260.

Ram gets best-in-class towing at 12,560 pounds compared to 11,400 pounds for the 2019 Ford F-150 3.0-liter PowerStroke diesel (440 lb.-ft. torque) and 9,300 pounds in the 2020 Chevy Silverado 3.0-liter Duramax diesel (460 lb.-ft. torque).

The 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel can tow 340 more pounds than the 5/8-ton 2019 Titan XD 5.0-liter Cummins diesel (yet another punch to Nissan which is nixing diesel from its 2020 lineup). Interestingly enough, the 2020 Ram 1500 gasser with a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 can out-tow them both at 12,750 pounds.

Ram credits the improved performance of its 3rd gen EcoDiesel to several changes including a new-generation water-cooled turbocharger, redesigned intake ports, a dual high- and low-pressure EGR system, new 16.0:1 compression ratio (from 16.5:1) and redesigned aluminum alloy pistons.

The 2020 Ram 3.0-liter EcoDiesel offers best-in-class torque at 480 lb.-ft.

The 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel mated to an 8-speed Torqueflite automatic transmission proved impressive during a recent test drive event in Gilbert, Minnesota. While towing two Yamaha YXZ side-by-sides on a tandem flatbed (roughly 5,000 pounds), the 4×4 Laramie Longhorn (ahhh…the smell of leather) accelerated quickly in city and highway traffic, handled its load confidently and stopped on a dime. According to Ram’s trip odometer, the truck averaged 14.7 mpg during the 12-mile run.

I was especially interested in the 2020 Ram Rebel which for the first time can now be optioned with a diesel engine. With 4×4 low engaged and the electronic rear axle locking differential turned on with the push of a button, the truck ate up some tough terrain including a 30-degree hill climb at the Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle State Recreation Area. No doubt, diesel induces confidence—both on and off-road.

2020 Ram 1500 Tradesman

2020 Ram 1500 Tradesman

Finally, because Ram expects to get best-in-class fuel economy with its latest EcoDiesel, I had to drive their best fuel sipper—a 2020 Ram 1500 4×2 Tradesman Quad Cab with a 3.21 rear axle (3.92 is the other option). The hills along Lake Superior in Duluth, Minn. can be tough and demand heavy throttling at times.

During a 30-mile, round-trip run on Interstate 35 the truck averaged 31 mpg with the air conditioning going full blast, the tailgate up and the side mirrors folded out. Next time I’ll opt for the chassis only, skip lunch and leave the spare behind. In all seriousness, I’m conflicted about hypermiling. While fun and challenging, few pickup drivers here in the South will drive without their A/C on during summer or just about any other season.

2020 Ram 1500 Tradesman

2020 Ram 1500 Tradesman interior

Fuel economy is where it gets interesting. The 2020 Chevy Silverado 3.0-liter Duramax delivers an EPA-estimated 33 mpg, thus far the best fuel economy in a half-ton truck. But Ram’s not done yet.

“The all-new third generation 3.0-liter V6 EcoDiesel is also expected to lead the segment on fuel economy,” the automaker states in a press release.

We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, prices have been released. The 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel starts at $36,890 (Tradesman 4×2 Quad Cab), $1,695 destination. EcoDiesel is a $4,995 option, or $3,000 premium over the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 eTorque ($3,300 on Tradesman, Big Horn/Lone Star, Rebel and Laramie base models). Third-gen Ram EcoDiesel trucks are expected to go on sale in the fourth quarter.

The second-gen 3.0-liter EcoDiesel is still available in the 2019 Ram 1500 Classic.

2020 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn interior

2020 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn interior

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