This past week, Ram Trucks invited us to Duluth, Minnesota to be amongst the first people outside of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) to get some time behind the wheel of the new 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel lineup. We couldn’t wait to jump at the chance to do so, but instead of flying we drove our long-term 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Sport Crew Cab 4×4 with the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 the 720-mile distance from the Metro Detroit area to Duluth. This would give us the best opportunity to compare the new third-generation 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 to the legendary 5.7-liter HEMI V8, back to back.
For the media launch, Ram brought several trucks to the event. While the lineup consisted mostly of Limited, Laramie Longhorn, and Rebel trucks, there was also one Tradesman model on hand. Unfortunately, they did not bring the volume leader Big Horn (Lone Star in Texas) or the entry-level luxury Laramie models out to the event.
So instead of just rambling on about how the engine is, we decided to break down each trim level we drove during the event. The reason being is that each trim-level drives in its own unique way.
2020 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4×4 EcoDiesel:
The first truck we got to spend time with was a 2020 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4×4 with the 5’7″ box. The truck was equipped with the Longhorn 1 Equipment Package, so it featured a lot of premium content. As soon as you get into the truck, it’s hard not to be impressed by the quality of materials and use of real wood in the interior.
I was really impressed when the EcoDiesel fired up. The sound of the EcoDiesel inside the cabin is hardly noticeable. Yes, you can faintly hear the small diesel and turbocharger as it builds boost, but the Ram Trucks team made sure that like the HEMI trucks, that the EcoDiesel cabin is a class leader when it comes to quietness. Matter of fact, the Ram engineering team said that the third-generation EcoDiesel is roughly 10% quieter than the last generation.
Our journey in the Laramie Longhorn would take us to just over 60 miles to Gilbert, Minnesota. The Ram Truck team planned a scenic route for us to drive once we got out of the steep streets of downtown Duluth. On the winding Minnesota country roads, the ZF-sourced 8HP75 TorqueFlite transmission provided smooth and crisp shifts around the turns as well as up and downhills. If you have driven one of the new Ram 1500s with the HEMI and noticed how smooth the transmission is, you will be even more impressed as the EcoDiesel even though it has a different shift map is just as smooth.
This particular Laramie Longhorn featured the optional 3.92 rear gears, so we expected the fuel economy not to be aligned with the highest fuel economy numbers, but it was still impressive. After making several stops along our route to take pictures and shoot some video of the truck, leaving it idling the entire time, the Laramie Longhorn still managed to squeak in 24.4 mpg according to the thin-film-transistor (TFT) screen in the gauge cluster. While we weren’t able to fill the trucks up, it gave us a bit of insight into the real-world economy of the new EcoDiesel with the higher gear ratio. Also not a bad number, considering the engine does not feature Electronic Stop-Start (ESS) either.
Overall the truck was very comfortable to drive and ride in. For 2020, the Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn is virtually identical to the 2019 model. The western theme gives you a rich premium feel, while the attention in detail is simply amazing right down to the tooling in the metal trim. The exterior still has the same handsome and chiseled look as last year’s offering, while our tester came with the painted front and rear bumpers, eliminating some of the chrome, which in my opinion gave the truck the perfect balance between monochromatic and bling with its optional Ivory White Tri-Coat paint and standard 20-inch aluminum wheels.
Our tester also featured the new Ram Multifunction Tailgate. While we were at the Chicago Auto Show for its launch and got to play around with it there, our Duluth trip gave us some time to actually get to use the new tailgate design in the real world. We will be discussing it later this week. So stay tuned.
2020 Ram 1500 Limited Crew Cab 4×4 EcoDiesel:
I actually got seat time in two 2020 Ram 1500 Limited trucks during the event. The first truck I drove featured the optional 22-inch aluminum wheels. We drove the truck around the dirt roads of the Iron Range ORV trail for a photoshoot and were again impressed with its interior. Jumping out of a Laramie Longhorn and straight into a Limited, shows just how good of a job the design staff did at making each trim level feel unique and special to each trim level.
At the start-up of the EcoDiesel, I was immediately impressed by just how fast the little diesel fires up. In most diesel engines, you have to let the glow plugs warm up for a few seconds. But in the 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, you press the push-button start and you have about a second pause till the small diesel turns over and fires up.
You will be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the exteriors of the HEMI-powered models versus the EcoDiesel-powered models. On Limited models, the only real difference visually is the badge on the hood that offers the EcoDiesel name under the “1500” designation script.
The second Limited we got to get some time behind the wheel was again a Crew Cab 5’7″ box model, but this time it was accompanied by a 2019 Yamaha 242 X boat in tow. The Yamaha 242 X is a 24′ open bow boat with a dry weight of about 5,382 lbs. with the trailer. When we slowly pulled away from our starting point, the EcoDiesel had no issue smoothly just setting off. But when we got on the paved roads around the town of Gilbert, Minnesota, the stout little diesel had no issue towing the boat at 25 mph to 40 mph.
During the drive, we were able to get out on the country highway with a speed limit of 55 mph and were able to see how the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 would accelerate getting up to speed with the weight of the boat behind it. While doing 30 mph, we hit the gas and the EcoDiesel sputtered for just a brief second before the turbo built boost and the 480 lb.-ft. of torque kicked in. The third-generation EcoDiesel seems to have a lot more low-end acceleration power than the second-generation 2017 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn EcoDiesel I drove about a year and a half ago. The transmission also seemed to know exactly which gear to be in at all times, keeping the right RPM level for cruising speed where the truck wasn’t stressing under load at all.
2020 Ram 1500 Tradesman Quad Cab 4×2 EcoDiesel:
As I said before, most of the trucks that Ram provided were higher trim level trucks. But they did bring one Flame Red-colored 2020 Ram 1500 Tradesman Quad Cab 4×2 EcoDiesel along. Out of all the trucks at the event, I was most excited about driving this, since this would be the truck that would get the highest fuel-economy rating. However, this truck also featured the 3.92 rear gear option.
While basically a bare-bones truck, this Tradesman Quad Cab did come with the Trailer Tow Group. The package includes Class IV Reciever Hitch, Power Fold-Away Tow Mirrors, and Electronic Trailer Brake Controller. The truck also featured the Tradesman Level 1 Equipment Group and Chrome Package.
If you are ever wondering how there can be a $30,000 price difference between the Tradesman and the Laramie Longhorn package, all you have to do is sit inside the Tradesman after jumping out of the premium trucks. Ram has done an excellent job in the details alone to showcase why you are paying more for luxury trucks. But there is something about the Tradesman… it’s simpler and seems to be ready for the task at a job site.
This Tradesman is a perfect candidate for the EcoDiesel. Being aimed at not just the entry-level end of the Ram 1500 portfolio, the Tradesman package is the work truck of choice when it comes to lineup. The 3.0-liter EcoDiesel would be a great fit for those looking for a truck with great fuel economy, hauling fairly good size loads, or running idle for long times between stops. Out of all the trim packages, the EcoDiesel seems to be the best fit with the Tradesman package.
While driving the truck, I checked the fuel economy display settings just to see what kind of ballpark the truck would be in, even though it’s set up for more of a towing rig than a fuel miser. With about 150 miles since being reset, the Tradesman was averaging 28.3 mpg and that’s with a little over three hours of run time. That’s pretty good, considering once again it has such high gearing in it.
2020 Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4×4 EcoDiesel:
The truck that all the auto journalists were dying to drive had to be, of course, the 2020 Ram 1500 Rebel with the EcoDiesel. It was no surprise considering that this is the first time the Rebel has been available with a diesel option. I had a good amount of time with the truck throughout the day, and while the EcoDiesel does not add anymore capability to the Rebel off-road, it is a welcome addition to the lineup.
The first time I got behind the wheel of the 2020 Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4×4 EcoDiesel was on an off-road course at the Iron Range ORV park near Gilbert, Minnesota. The course featured some steep crawling, water fording, and some tight trail turns. Nothing that the Rebel, whether it be a Pentastar, HEMI, or the EcoDiesel would steer clear from.
One thing I did notice is that the EcoDiesel Rebel does seem to use a little less effort to climb steep inclines thanks to all that torque at such low RPM. Very little throttle input is needed when climbing and the EcoDiesel seems to easily power the truck up the hills that I was climbing. I could just picture a ton of these trucks hitting places like Moab, Red Rock Canyon, or the Badlands. It still will take a lot of modification to make a Rebel even come close to the capability of the HEMI-powered Ram 2500 Power Wagon, but the EcoDiesel Rebel is a good start for those with deep pockets for aftermarket goodies or to those to use as a general off-roader.
The optional four-corner air suspension showed its off-road worthiness adding extra ground clearance over obstacles and allowing more approach and break-over angle to handle the steep terrain. The skid plates, rear locking differential, and 33-inch Goodyear Duratrac tires made sure that the EcoDiesel had no struggle tackling the course that Ram threw together for us… including the water fording in the red water of the former Iron Ore mining area of the Iron Range.
It was time to end the day, and we decided on taking the Rebel Crew Cab 4×4 on the trip home. The optional panoramic sunroof was great to have in this truck as we opened it up to enjoy the beautiful Minnesota weather. While driving on the highway, it was very interesting to note that you hear more noise from the Duratrac tires on the road surface than you do coming from the EcoDiesel.
We ended up getting on the open highway, to see what kind of mileage number we could get from the EcoDiesel at the higher 70 mph speeds. While merging on the highway, again when putting your foot down on the accelerator, the EcoDiesel has just a brief pause before building boost and taking off like V8. Once the little 3.0-liter builds boost, it has no problem getting up to speed quickly. The transmission downshifted quickly when merging on the highway, making sure that the EcoDiesel is at the right RPMs to build the most boost. Of course, it isn’t a HELLCAT by any means, but when it comes to merging on busy highways, EcoDiesel owners won’t have to worry about planning out their moves several seconds in advance.
Now we did not try to take it easy on the Rebel or hyper mile it. We drove the truck at the 70 mph speed limit, with no cruise control or any other tricks. At certain times when the highway was cluttered and we were waiting our turn for the fast lane, the truck’s TFT screen would show an instant fuel economy of 32 mpg at 60 miles per hour. Based on the whole highway drive the truck averaged 26.7 mpg according to the TFT.
We then took the truck through the steep streets of downtown Duluth. If you have never been to Duluth, the downtown area sits on a hill leading to Lake Superior. Some of the streets heading down towards the river range from 19% grades to 25%. It is almost like going up the hill on a rollercoaster.
Prior to my arrival at the event the night before, I drove through the town of Duluth with our long-term 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Sport with the HEMI. While the HEMI had no problem going up and down the steep hills, when you get a red light at an intersection going up of one of the main streets through town, Lake Avenue, when accelerating after the light turns green and you are touchy on the throttle the HEMI has no problems squealing the rear tires as it grips for traction in two-wheel-drive. With the EcoDiesel, the Rebel had a lot smaller RPM range to rev for take-off and it had no issue nor did it chirp the tires up the steep inclines.
Overall, I was impressed with the Rebel and its EcoDiesel powertrain. If the TFT screen is anywhere close to the realistic mpg number on the way we drove it back to Duluth then the EcoDiesel is getting about 20% better mpg than our long-term 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Sport that has the 3.21 rear gearing for better fuel economy.
My overall impression of the third-generation 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 was positive. I was impressed at the improvement of acceleration and quietness compared to the second-generation EcoDiesel, I had driven before. The question is would I buy it? The answer is, it depends on the trim level and the situation.
While we were at the event, Ram released the pricing for the 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel. The EcoDiesel is a $4,995 USD option, or $3,000 premium over the 5.7-liter HEMI® V-8 eTorque ($3,300 on Tradesman, Big Horn/Lone Star, Rebel, and Laramie base models). That is a steep price for the little diesel powertrain. However, it goes back to how are you going to use it.
During their presentation, Ram said that the average diesel buyer tows 23% more than the average gasoline truck buyer. But when it comes to the EcoDiesel and its highest half-ton diesel towing capacity at 12,560 lbs, the HEMI with eTorque has a maximum trailer tow capacity of 12,750 lbs. So is it worth the extra money? If you plan on towing a lot, yes! The third-generation EcoDiesel has proven in each of the variants I drove it in, to get better fuel economy than the HEMI.
It’s my personal opinion that if you are going to be towing a lot, the EcoDiesel might be something you should look into. If you put a lot of highway miles on your truck and are looking for a super fuel-efficient powerplant with plenty of power and that is superbly quiet, then take a look at it. If you are a business owner who has their truck idling for long times or has a delivery truck dropping off lots of materials but doesn’t need a Heavy Duty pickup, then the EcoDiesel is definitely for you. If you live in a higher altitude area like in the Rockies or the Appalachians, then this is an engine you may want to look into.
The biggest question about the EcoDiesel is has FCA fixed the issues that plagued the first and second-generation EcoDiesels? According to them, that is why the engine is basically a new design featuring 80% new parts. You can read about all the new EcoDiesel changes in our earlier post. Our initial impressions are that they have done a good job with the new third-generation motor. But time will tell.
We can’t wait to get our hands on one of the 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel models for a review to see some real-world numbers over a period of time. We hope this answers a lot of your questions about how the new EcoDiesel Ram 1500 drives. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below and we will do our best to answer them.
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