The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is a 2020 Truck of the Year finalist
- 32 mpg (7.3 L/100 km) highway
- Air suspension
- Barn-door tailgate option
- Laggy throttle
- Heavy, slow steering
- Squishy brakes
Car lovers new to trucks unabashedly love the Ram 1500. Its coil- or air-sprung suspension delivers the truck world’s most carlike ride, and that big vertical screen on fancier models reminds us of the 2013 COTY-winning Tesla Model S.
Driving this year’s Rebel reminded us vividly of why Ram won the best-truck Calipers last year. But for 2020, we’re zooming past such niceties and laser-focusing on the new 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 EcoDiesel engine. Unfortunately for Ram, Chevy and GMC also returned for a second swing at TOTY with Silverado and Sierra 1500 models sporting a new 3.0-liter turbodiesel I-6 for our consideration.
Let’s get fuel economy out of the way: GM’s Duramax ranks first (with Chevy slightly ahead of GMC), FCA’s EcoDiesel is second, and Ford’s light-duty Power Stroke brings up the rear, though all are tightly stacked with EPA city and highway ratings ranging from 20 to 23 and 25 to 33 mpg (11.8 to 10.2 and 9.4 to 7.1L/100 km).
On objective performance grounds, the GM Duramax again outpaces the Ram’s EcoDiesel, whether unladen, carrying 1,000 pounds (453 kg) of payload, or towing a 7,500-pound (3,402-kg) trailer.
In air-hauling mode, the GMC Sierra AT4 zips to 60 mph and through the quarter mile 0.6 second ahead of the similar Ram Rebel. That’s too great a differential to be chalked up to the GMC’s advantages in curb weight (108 pounds (49 kg)) or power (10 hp) because the Ram holds its own 20-lb-ft torque advantage. Credit GM’s savvy 10-speed automatic for out-shifting FCA’s eight-speed.
The performance discrepancy grows as the load increases: The Ram is 1.0 second slower to 60 with 1,000 pounds (453 kg) in the bed, and it’s 1.8 seconds slower towing the 7,500-pound (3,402 kg) trailer.
The Ram did scoot through testing director Kim Reynolds’ emergency lane-change maneuver more quickly than the knobbier-tired GMC (3.79 seconds to 4.08), but a lighter rear-drive Chevy RST Duramax on street tires was quicker still (3.68 seconds).
Our on-road subjective assessments added nuance to the hard facts. Road test editor Chris Walton faulted the Ram’s “poor light throttle response at low rpm. Isn’t that where diesels excel?” Features editor Scott Evans said, “The power delivery feels less linear than in the Sierra.”
Features editor Christian Seabaugh forgave the Ram’s relative sloth, countering that it still “rides nicer, handles better, and is quieter, more luxurious, and ultimately a better Swiss Army knife.” On our drive loops, Walton noted that the Ram got “a bit floaty in the curves,” adding that the steering’s weight felt “good and hefty, but with a slow ratio that needs a lot of dial to negotiate a curve in the road.”
Off-road, Seabaugh granted an edge to the Sierra AT4’s “engine and transmission for its immediacy and precision” but credited the Rebel’s manual rear differential lock for delivering “much more traction than the auto diff in the GMC.”
Evans agreed that the Ram’s locking rear diff and height-adjustable air suspension more than compensated for the advantage in mechanical grip afforded by the GMC’s Wrangler DuraTrac tires. But he lamented how the Ram’s “lazier throttle makes the truck surge more than the AT4,” and several of us noted that the Ram’s plush ride disappears at off-road height.
When towing 7,500 pounds (3,402 kg), Walton sensed more vertical ride motion and fore/aft lash from the trailer on the Davis Dam than he did in the AT4. And keeping his foot pinned to the floor following our 35–55 mph (56-88 km/h) “frustration test,” he noted that the Ram topped out at 62 mph (100 km/h) on the grade, while the GMC achieved 70 mph (113 km/h). Evans appreciated the Ram’s mini spotter mirrors for maneuvering, but Walton missed having proper wide-set trailer mirrors for monitoring his rig while climbing the mountain.
So although we still love most everything about the Ram 1500, in its diesel guise it makes a less compelling case.
|2020 Ram 1500 Rebel 4×4 EcoDiesel (CrewCab)|
|Base Price/As Tested||$52,735/$63,510|
|Power (SAE net)||260 hp @ 3,600 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||480 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm|
|Accel, 0-60 mph||8.1 sec|
|Accel, 0-60 mph (loaded)||9.7 sec*|
|Accel, 0-60 mph (towing)||19.8 sec**|
|Quarter Mile||16.1 sec @ 83.7 mph|
|Quarter Mile (loaded)||17.2 sec @ 78.8 mph*|
|Quarter Mile (towing)||21.8 sec @ 62.5 mph**|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||129 ft|
|Braking, 60-0 mph (loaded)||129 ft*|
|Double Lane Change Time||3.8 sec|
|Davis Dam Frustration||23.6 sec @ 1,653 ft***|
|Cruise Control 65-mph Overrun||2.9 mph|
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb||21/29/24 mpg|
|* 1,500-lb payload | ** 7,500-lb trailer|
|*** 35-55-mph uphill acceleration with 7,750-lb trailer|