2020 RAM 1500 Ecodiesel First Drive: Torque Truck
Ram’s super-smooth diesel pickup is a luxury truck that can tow a boat
About 20 years ago I bought my first and only pickup truck. It was a 1980 Ford F-150 with a three-on-the-tree manual. The body panels rattled, the inline-six complained and wind sailed through it without any restriction from door or window seals. It was a forestry truck from some unspecified locale and the seats were made of the itchiest sweater your mom made you wear when you were young.
This is not that truck. The 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Laramie Longhorn is a quiet, powerful, useful living room of a vehicle that can also tow a boat, as long as it lands under 12,560 pounds.
The fifth-generation pickup premiered last year, to much fanfare and great sales numbers. The only thing the light-duty truck lacked was a diesel option to keep up with the Joneses. Now a new version of Ram’s 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 is back in the lineup, making 480 lb-ft of torque to go along with its 260-hp rating. This is the third generation of the EcoDiesel and it brings a 14 percent increase in torque and an 8 percent increase in horsepower.
Big changes, all of which lead to more efficiency and/or performance in the engine, include a new-generation water-cooled turbocharger with a variable-geometry turbine, redesigned intake ports for improved swirl and flow, a new exhaust gas recirculation system that minimizes turbocharging energy loss, an increased compression ratio, redesigned direct-injection fuel injector nozzles and redesigned pistons with thinner rings and a lower-friction coating. Much of that reduces engine noise in the cabin too, which was certainly noticeable when I first fired up the engine.
Side note, the diesel is available on all trims, just not paired with the new eTorque mild hybrid system. It also comes only with the eight-speed automatic.
We tested the 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel in Duluth, Minnesota.
All the good things we liked about the Ram 1500 in our first drive are present here. First, the coil springs that keep the ride better than any other truck, unladen, are there, with air suspension optional. Plus, there’s the RamBox storage space in the walls of the bed. The interior, now with active noise canceling, mutes out not just the quieter diesel but also road and wind noise. And of course, there’s the giant Uconnect screen that can rival anything from Tesla or Volvo. That display can be halved, and whatever information you like can be put on the upper or lower half. I personally like Apple CarPlay on the bottom and the native navigation on top (data costs, ya know?).
Firing up the three-liter diesel V6 in the Laramie Longhorn trim, it was every bit as quiet as a gasoline engine, and I would bet quieter than the 5.7-liter Hemi V8. Taking off, the near 500-lb-ft engine was super smooth and stayed quiet until I put the hammer down on the expressway. The main problem is trying not to spin the tires on a takeoff around a turn, but even when it does happen, the truck doesn’t get squirrely with a bunch of wheel hop.
When the hammer is dropped in the Ram diesel, the eight-speed kicks down seamlessly, and then drivers and passengers get whooshed along with a little growl (and maybe a teeny bit of clatter) penetrating the cabin. Passing moves are almost too easy, and if this was a smaller vehicle, I’d say point at a gap in traffic and shoot for it, but really, you have to keep your eyes on your corners. However, I wouldn’t say the truck feels bigger than its size, just big.Toggle FullscreenShare
Later Ram setup a towing demonstration and the 1500 performed flawlessly. One would hope this is how people use these things: either with a big ski boat attached or two side-by-side off-roaders. But really, and we’ve opined on this endlessly, many people just use these big pickups as their daily driver. And not surprisingly, that’s where this Ram shines.
The Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn is, and there’s no other word for it, opulent. The gauge binnacles are gold colored with a bunch of etched inlay designs, very steam-punky, multiple finished and unfinished woods and more gold accents around the big screen display. The seats are heated and cooled, obviously, and wide enough to support a man-child twice my girth. The space saving rotary shifter is at arm’s length and, on cars with four-wheel drive, that adjustment is down there too. The wireless and wired phone chargers are in the middle along with the ride height adjustment for cars with air suspension. The back seat is positively cavernous. Back in the day, when it was legal to be unbelted, we would have set up a small football field back there. “Doors are endzones!”
The 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel has to keep up with the other pickups with a new multifunction tailgate.
The cabin is so big we’d call it “up north” here in Michigan, and that means a ton of storage for drinks – two in each door, plus the middle – a laptop or file box in the center console and space for about ten cell phones. That’s in addition to the double glovebox for glovebox things (gloves?).
I could easily road trip this car from Duluth, Minnesota where we drove the Ram, to Dallas. Coincidentally that’s what Ram engineers said this would do on one tank of fuel. In my pricing story from last week I figured about 1,000 miles, 33-gallon tank, about 30 mpg on the highway. But keep in mind, the EcoDiesel hasn’t been certified yet by the EPA, so take that as a guesstimate.
The most basic Ram 1500 EcoDiesel you can buy is the Tradesman 2WD model for $38,585. The diesel is a $4,995 option box but just a $3,000 premium over the extra-cost 5.7-liter Hemi V8. It’s the cheapest out of the Big Three diesels with both Ford and Chevrolet options in the mid $40K-range. It’s also the torquiest. Ford’s Powerstroke comes in at 444 lb-ft and Chevy’s Duramax is rated at 460 lb-ft.
What do you want me to say? The Ram 1500, with the new multifunction, dual-hinge tailgate (opens barn-door style in addition to normally) has the nicest interior you can find in a pickup. As for the new look, it’s subjective, but I’d go GMC Sierra, Ram, F-150, Chevy, in that order. Ram sales are up almost 30 percent through June over the first six months of last year, while the Silverado is down more than 12 percent. The buyers are speaking with their pocketbooks. But if you’re an F-150 person, a Silverado person, a Ram person, surely you won’t be swayed.
No matter what brand you choose, if you haven’t driven a pickup in 20 years you’ll be more than pleasantly surprised — you’ll be blown away.