Exclusive Content
Original Shows, Motorsports and Live Events
Due to the EU’s Global Data Protection Regulation, our website is currently unavailable to visitors from most European countries. We apologize for this inconvenience and encourage you to visit www.motortrend.com for the latest on new cars, car reviews and news, concept cars and auto show coverage, awards and much more.MOTORTREND.COM

First Drive – 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

Oil-Fired Fun

Chad Kirchner
Aug 20, 2019
When Ram introduced its 3.0L EcoDiesel engine in the 2014 Ram 1500, it was a revelation. The powerful engine delivered payload and towing numbers that met or surpassed the competition's gas offerings while delivering fuel economy that dominated the segment. The third-generation engine—returning for the 2020 model year—isn't as groundbreaking, but it is a solid evolution of what made the original truck so great.
Horsepower and torque are rated at 260 and 480 lb-ft, respectively. That's an 8 percent improvement in power and a 14 percent increase in torque over the previous version of the engine. The EcoDiesel's 480 lb-ft of torque is also best in class, beating out Ford's 3.0L Power Stroke V-6's 440 lb-ft and GM's 3.0L I-6 Duramax's 460 lb-ft.
Out in the real world, where people do actual work, EcoDiesel-equipped Rams are rated to tow up to 12,560 pounds—which is also presently best in class for diesel-powered -ton pickups. Ram hasn't released fuel economy numbers yet, but we suspect they will fall right in line with the competition.
Photo 2/88   |   2020 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel First Drive Engine 1
The difference today compared to when the 2014 truck debuted is the competition. At that time, Ford was fully invested in EcoBoost turbocharged and direct-injected gasoline engines and General Motors was eking out as much fuel economy as it could from the company's 5.3L V-8 via technology such as cylinder deactivation. Neither OEM seemed incredibly interested in putting an oil-burner under the hood, so Ram had the segment comfortably to itself.
Fast-forward six years, and the diesel -ton market is hotter and more competitive than ever before. Because of this, Ram couldn't just reintroduce the same EcoDiesel engine after taking a one-year hiatus from the new-generation 1500 (the second-generation EcoDiesel V-6 lived on in the 2019 Ram 1500 Classic). Ram needed to do something to stand out from the new competition, and that's exactly what it's done.
Photo 3/88   |   2020 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel First Drive In Water
For 2020, the EcoDiesel engine block remains constructed of compacted-graphite iron, a robust and relatively lightweight material that helps quell vibrations and adds rigidity. Forged steel makes an appearance on the crankshaft and connecting rods, with light-weight, oil-cooled aluminum alloy pistons. Redesigned aluminum cylinder heads hide chain-driven dual overhead camshafts with four valves per cylinder. The compression ratio has been increased from 16.0:1 to 16.5:1 to optimize combustion. High-pressure fuel injector nozzles have been redesigned to match the enhanced combustion chamber and run at up to 29,000 psi. A new-generation water-cooled turbocharger increases efficiency. And the exhaust gas recirculation system has been updated to a new dual-loop (low- and high-pressure) system.
The biggest change, aside from power output, is engine availability. The previous generation of Ram 1500 had the EcoDiesel available in most trims, however, the off-road-centric Rebel trim didn't have access to it. That changes for 2020, and it's the truck we were most interested in getting behind the wheel of.
On the streets in and around Duluth, Minnesota, the EcoDiesel Rebel proved to be a competent truck. Overall acceleration isn't as quick as the Hemi-equipped versions, but the EcoDiesel does rev out to 5,000 rpm smoothly. There's a bit of "diesel rattle" at low rpm when you're accelerating quickly, but overall cabin noise is kept to a minimum. Tire noise is the most obtrusive sound in the cabin when cruising at highway speed (as we've previously noted about the Rebel and its DuraTrac tires); despite this, it remains the quietest cabin this author has been in with a truck equipped with 33-inch off-road tires.
Photo 4/88   |   2020 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel First Drive
Chevrolet's Silverado 1500 diesel might be a bit smoother with the new 3.0L I-6 Duramax engine, but most diesel buyers don't mind being reminded, even if it's subtle, that they're driving a diesel truck. It makes even more sense on an enthusiast-minded truck like the Rebel.
After an hour of mostly two-lane highway driving, the Rebel's onboard computer indicated around 25 mpg. Considering this is the least aerodynamic version of the truck, with off-road tires and gearing not optimized for fuel economy, that number seemed quite reasonable. We're unsure what overall range per tank the truck will achieve, but more than 500 miles is likely the case. What we do know is it's longer than any human's bladder can handle.
While the diesel engine adds weight over the conventional V-8 in the Ram 1500, the EcoDiesel actually weighs approximately 90 pounds less than the V-8 equipped with the 48-volt mild hybrid system (and 23 pounds more than the non-eTorque-equipped Hemi). The Rebel has never had a diesel, so since the previous-generation pickup weighed more than the current 1500, the difference in mass is likely negligible. We won't know for sure until we weigh it ourselves.
Photo 5/88   |   2020 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel First Drive Hauling
Off-road, the Rebel behaves like the previous generation of the truck, but with more torque. We visited an OHV park in an old iron mine to test the truck's mettle, and nothing could unsettle the Rebel. Off-road hardware like a locking rear end and Goodyear DuraTrac tires help. On the rockcrawling sections, the Rebel's low-end torque was appreciated.
Nobody expected the truck to not be capable in this environment, but it's even more exciting now as we wait to see how this engine performs in the more off-road-oriented Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator.
Climbing into a Ram 1500 Limited attached to a 5,000-pound Yamaha boat is a reminder of just how nice towing can be. A plush interior combined with blind spot monitoring that covers the trailer automatically makes getting to the lake nearly as relaxing as being on it. The air suspension also helps when hooking up and leveling the load.
A 20-mile towing loop returned a computer-reported 11 mpg, though this author apparently has a heavy foot. Some of the other journalists on the program saw numbers as high as 14 when attached to the trailer. Based on our experience with the previous-generation truck, we suspect these numbers will be even higher in real-world use.
Photo 6/88   |   046 2020 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel First Drive
Unhooking the trailer and hitting the 60-mile highway jaunt back to the hotel gave us a chance to see just how comfortable—and fuel-efficient—the Limited could be on the daily commute. When we let the full-stop adaptive cruise control do its thing at about 70 mph, the indicated fuel economy was right around 27 mpg. In a fully loaded, four-wheel-drive crew-cab pickup, that was a solid figure.
One driveability peculiarity we did notice involved initial throttle application. If we were cruising along and wanted to overtake a slower vehicle, there was a slight but noticeable delay between applying the throttle and the truck accelerating. After prodding some engineers, we were informed that the behavior is part of the truck controlling the emissions output. If you lived with the truck every day, you'd likely eventually not notice it, but it does seem more prominent here than with Ford's 3.0L Power Stroke.
Ultimately, it's up to you to choose whether you want the incredible torque and economy of the 3.0L EcoDiesel in your next Ram pickup. It comes at a cost, however. Compared to a base V-6 eTorque truck, the EcoDiesel adds $4,995 to the price. The cheapest EcoDiesel you can buy is $38,675 with destination charge. Or, to put it another way, it's $3,300 more expensive than the eTorque V-8, except on the Limited, where it's only $3,000 more. Fun fact: The base 2020 Ram 1500 equipped with the EcoDiesel engine is nearly $10,000 less expensive than either GM or Ford's base diesel-equipped -tons.
Ram's modern interior remains best in class, and advanced technology makes the truck easy to live with every day. While the EcoDiesel isn't the must-have engine, it adds to a mix of competent and capable offerings, allowing buyers to tailor the truck and powertrain to exactly how they'll use it.
Photo 7/88   |   068 2020 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel First Drive
2020 Ram 1500
Vehicle type: Five passenger, -ton pickup
Base price: $38,585
Price as tested: $67,000 (est. )
Engine: 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Horsepower: 260 hp @ 3,600 rpm
Torque: 480 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm
Curb weight: 5,400 pounds (est. )
Towing capacity: 12,560 pounds (max)
EPA mileage rating: Not Available

POPULAR TRUCKS

MOST POPULAR

Subscribe Today and Save up to 83%!

Subscribe Truck Trend Magazine

Subscribe to:

Truck Trend
Magazine

PRINT DIGITAL
Subscribe Diesel Power Magazine

Subscribe to:

Diesel Power
Magazine

PRINT DIGITAL
Subscribe Truckin Magazine

Subscribe to:

Truckin
Magazine

PRINT DIGITAL
SUBSCRIBE TO A MAGAZINE
CLOSE X
BUYER'S GUIDE
SEE THE ALL NEW
NEWS, REVIEWS & SPECS