Power, efficiency, reality all catch up with 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

August 19, 2019

For 2020, Ram isn’t letting off the gas—or maybe I should say “accelerator.” The 2020 Ram 1500 marks the return of the EcoDiesel engine under the hood of the automaker’s light-duty pickup truck. 

With a $4,995 price premium (or $3,000 over the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 e-Torque mild-hybrid) the burning question for the diesel engine is why? Why pick it over the gas-powered models? Why not a hybrid? Why has everyone else followed suit since?

The answers aren’t simple and won’t be the same for everyone. But for plenty of V-8 shoppers, the answer will be and should be the oil-burner because it’s more efficient and just as capable as a V-8. Calculated for current fuel prices, the diesel will repay its upfront investment in about six years. That’s not long for many trucks that are on the roads for decades. 

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

So, you tow?

While the turbodiesel in the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 can only tow 9,300 pounds and the oil-burner in the F-150 can tug up to 11,400, opting for the turbodiesel in the 2020 Ram 1500 doesn’t cut into the truck’s capability by much. With a tow rating of up to 12,560 pounds, the turbodiesel loses 190 pounds of towing capacity, compared to the V-8, which rates 12,750 pounds. If you want a diesel engine in a light-duty pickup truck that retains (nearly) its full towing capability there’s only one option: Ram.

With a MaritzCX study finding that diesel truck buyers are 23 percent more likely to tow than gas-powered truck owners, towing capability matters when the trailer hooks up.

Ram spokesman Nick Cappa told The Car Connection that cooling and lighter-weight construction helped keep the third-generation EcoDiesel’s towing numbers close to the V-8's rating. 

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

With about 5,200 pounds of Yamaha boat, motor, and dual-axle trailer lashed to the back of the 2020 Ram 1500 Limited the turbodiesel uses its low-end grunt to move swiftly off the line. The diesel clatters at takeoff, which will please those that miss the oil-burner’s trademark noise in the quieter F-150 and Silverado 1500 turbodiesels. 

All 480 pound-feet of torque comes on like a wave pushing the truck (and trailer) forward at just 1,400 rpm, and the 8-speed automatic transmission lets the engine rev well past the max torque falloff just under 3,000 rpm in “Tow/Haul” mode. Shifts are clean and deliberate and the available air suspension keeps everything level automatically, a lovely thing with nearly 5,200 pounds of sea-going vessel attached to the hitch.

With nearly the trailer attached to the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, the trip computer indicated an average of 11.5 mpg with a heavy foot and speeds at and over 70 mph. With a lighter foot, that average could’ve likely be nudged into the teens.

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

More MPGs, more range

The last-generation EcoDiesel was up to 30 percent more fuel-efficient than the 5.7-liter V-8 engine on the highway, according to Ram. The truckmaker isn’t ready to talk about fuel economy ratings for the 2020 1500 EcoDiesel, but Ram spokesman Dave Elshoff told The Car Connection the third-generation EcoDiesel is more fuel-efficient than the outgoing model. 

In mixed driving with a higher mix of highway than in the city, I saw an average of 25 to 26 mpg in the Laramie Longhorn turbodiesel and 24.5 mpg in the off-road Rebel with its larger Wrangler DuraTrac tires and higher ride. I’ve seen an average of just over 12 mpg in a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8-powered Rebel in past experiences.

In a 12.2-mile loop with highways, freeways, elevation changes, multiple stop signs, stoplights along with speed limit variations in a base rear-drive Tradesman, I was able to achieve 35.5 mpg according to the truck’s trip computer. It’s not a definitive sample, but it was an exercise to determine what kind of fuel economy is truly possible with the EcoDiesel. I probably left an mpg or two on the road in the name of safety, if I’m honest about it.

Whether towing, hauling, cruising up north for the weekend, or just headed to the office, the EcoDiesel’s the most efficient Ram available.

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

Tick all the boxes

For the first time, Ram will offer the EcoDiesel in every 1500 trim, from Tradesman to Limited and everything in between, including Rebel. Priced from $38,585 including destination in Tradesman Quad Cab 2WD configuration, it’s not a cheap way to get better fuel economy or more torque. But for those that want every option, it’s an option.

Elshoff told The Car Connection that some buyers just want to “tick every box.” For that, the diesel will be a spendy box when ticked as a $4,995 option. 

Notably, the turbodiesel in the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is only a $3,890 option while Ford charges $4,000 for its oil-burner.

That’s not a cheap option, but Elshoff notes that diesel trucks hold their residual value far better than gas-powered trucks, to the point that buyers usually see that upfront cost returned when it comes time to sell.

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

Ram won’t comment on how many diesel-powered trucks they plan to sell, but Elshoff said it’ll likely be a more common option in the premium models (Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, Rebel, and Limited) than the base Tradesman or Big Horn. 

Some buyers want something different. Something that shows they ticked every single box when they pull up to the pump and grab the nozzle other truck owners aren’t, Elshoff said.

Pricing for the full 2020 Ram 1500 lineup isn’t out yet, but based on the 2019 model it’s clear a fully loaded 2020 Ram 1500 Limited EcoDiesel could approach $75,000, which is a lot of money.

The EcoDiesel makes sense in the 2020 Ram 1500 if you desire a diesel pickup truck that retains its towing and hauling capability, gets more miles per gallon, and don’t mind ticking an expensive option box.

Ram provided lodging to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand report.

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