2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel First Drive | What's new, fuel economy, performance

DULUTH, Minn. Ram gave us a new generation of his 1500 pickup for 2019, and we've already had a lot of fun with it. We have run the V6 and Hemi V8 versions. We have tried it with and without the mild eTorque hybrid system. We have tried the humble trader, the rambunctious rebel, the well-rounded Big Horn and Laramie and high-lux Limited. But now we get to try one of the most anticipated updates, this one made for the Ram 1500 lineup in 2020: the third generation EcoDiesel engine.

With many miles already spent on the new 1500 over the past year, we know the fresh generation of full-size Ram pickup is already an overachiever. The interior is class-leading, the ride is surprisingly comfortable, and the handling of the 1[ads1]6th century is surprisingly agile for its size. So we want to focus on the heart issue: the new engine, which starts in a Rebel for a cruise around Duluth.

Designed to go on sale later this year as the 2020 model, this is the third generation of light turbodiesel engine and has undergone significant overhaul. The result is that this 3.0-liter V6 delivers 260 horsepower at 3600 rpm and an impressive (not to mention class-leading) 480 kilograms of peak torque at 1,600 rpm. In addition, EcoDiesel allows for up to 12,560 kilos of towing and a payload of 2040 pounds.

If we hold points – as we know fans it is – Duramax diesel in 2020 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra makes 277 hp (points to GM) and 460 lb-ft, with towing and payloads that have not yet been announced. The Ford F-150 Power Stroke provides 250 hp and 440 lb-ft, with towing capacity of 11,400 pounds and payload of 2,020 pounds. Ram has not announced fuel economy yet, so Duramax's 23 mpg city and 33 mpg highway are numbers to beat, while Ford's comes up to 22 city and 30 freeway in 2WD custom. Advocates for Ram wouldn't look forward to giving fuel economy tips, but Rams US marketing director Mike Koval promised EcoDiesel would be "very competitive" here. To be continued …

Ram's new EcoDiesel aims to perform better in all the main areas consumers care about – power, fuel economy and NVH. To help with all three, the new engine includes low-friction turbo bearings, lower-pressure exhaust gas recycling, lighter pistons and a 15-pound lighter engine block.

At idle, EcoDiesel is subdued, with a bassy pattern typical of a diesel – no surprises there. Sitting still, the truck is very quiet. We made our way through the city, and it remained soft, but for the loud, breathy whisper of the turbocharger that did its part – a sound we liked quite a bit to begin with, but eventually tune out. In town, the truck felt responsive from the line, with a lot of lavender grunting, but without any annoying excess gas-tipped-in.

Accelerating on the freeway as we normally would, the Ram's eight-speed automatic transmission served fast, quiet but early-feeling shifts (expected, due to 5,800 rpm). The Eco-Diesel was wide open, but it started to run out of steam within a few moments before the shift.

It is frustrating not to have fuel economy figures – officially or otherwise. But by looking at the 16th century digital display, we saw an indicated average of 23.1 mpg over 60 miles of rural roads, highways and highways – roughly analogous to the competition's EPA mixed numbers, for what it's worth. We are sure that that number could be improved with little effort by driving smoother and perhaps less eagerly.

Over the miles, we appreciated the engine's quiet and confident voice, steady power, easy response and smooth acceleration. Although EcoDiesel buyers who are not already diesel acolytes are likely to buy this out of a careful, personal calculation of capacity, price and fuel economy, we found it to offer an attractive proposal for improvement. While we previously praised the eTorque engine for the same, EcoDiesel offers similar graciousness, just in a slightly different way. While eTorque facilitates offsets and helps the engine get out of its own way with the help of electrical assistance, this diesel engine provides smoothness, linearity and silence.

When we talk about the eTorque, it's a lot cheaper – with $ 2,350 when seen as a standalone alternative. The ETorque V8 also comes pretty close to matching the skills of the EcoDiesel. It has more horsepower, at 395, which makes it quite pleasantly satisfying to drive, and boasts its own high refinement. It can withstand more than 11,000 pounds and can surpass 12,750 pounds of diesel when fitted just right (4×2 Crew Cab with 6'4 "box). If you just love torque, diesel is king with a margin of 70 pounds. EcoDiesel's fuel economy is the annoying missing puzzle here, but with diesel prices as high as they are in many parts of the country, it can probably take many years of driving to make up the cost difference.

Later we had the opportunity to get into a Longhorn EcoDiesel hooked up to a trailer loaded with two Yamaha Wolverine X2 side by side – for a total of around 4,000 pounds. That's not a third of the truck's maximum towing capacity. And as you might expect, it didn't charge Ram EcoDiesel whatsoever. The truck was definitely slower, but far from slow, and as smooth as before. The rest of our short tug stint was imperceptible, and we are ready to double or triple the weight and try again the next chance we get.

Back in a Rebel EcoDiesel, we took advantage of some of the park's off-road trails. We found EcoDiesel at home as creeping up steep hills coated in a red, dusty soil. With the back wardrobe button pointed, the rebel pointed his nose to the sky and was pleased to mount the frighteningly serious character at a slow crawl. Again, it is impressive how smooth the truck completed what looked like a much more daunting task than it felt. Going downhill was even easier with descent control on the ground as it has the ability to keep speeds as low as 0.6 mph and is adjustable with steering wheel buttons.

The book is not closed on the third generation EcoDiesel. In fact, it is barely opened. We do not have fuel economy figures yet, and we will not arrive until the engine's Q4 availability. Ram released prices for the EcoDiesel models, announcing that it will be available on every 1,500 Tradesman trim and up as a $ 4,995 option. Although there is no small premium, availability on all trims means you can get into a diesel ram for as little as $ 38,585 in the rear-powered Tradesman Quad Cab. It will be significantly more for Ford ($ 46,255) or Chevy ($ 42,385), but they are cost-competitive at the same step. If a (relatively) cheap diesel is what you are looking for, look no further than your Ram dealer.

EcoDiesel speaks softly, but packs a thank you as the mentioned 48kg and 12,560kg of torque speak for themselves. But more importantly, it provides a comfortable, confident ride that is worthy of the very civilized Ram 1500. The lingering question is value. Is EcoDiesel actually worth the price premium? That's if you fetishize torque (hey, we're not here to judge), but we can't call until we know the fuel mileage. We can confirm that EcoDiesel is a quality component of the overall rosy Ram image and that diesel purists cannot go wrong here. For the rest of us, well, to be continued …

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