Test drive: The 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is ready for the long haul

Get your diesels here!

The latest Ram 1500 is now available with a new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6. That is to say, all of them are.

Unlike GM and Ford, Ram offers its new motor an option across the lineup, instead of reserving it for a select few configurations.

(Ram)

The new engine is priced $4,995 above the standard 3.6-liter gasoline V6 and $3,500 more 5.7-liter Hemi V8, but it hauls like the Hemi and delivers better fuel economy than both.

The B20-compatible engine is a major update of the one offered in the last-generation Ram 1500 and produces 260 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. It comes matched to an 8-speed automatic transmission and delivers a maximum tow rating of 12,560 pounds, best among light duty diesel pickups. That's also just 190 pounds shy of the top Hemi-powered model, the difference due mostly to the EcoDiesel's heftier weight.

More to the point, it earned an EPA fuel efficiency rating of 32 mpg highway in two-wheel-drive trucks, just one mile per gallon shy of the class-leading Chevrolet Silverado diesel’s 33 mpg rating. Four-wheel-drive versions from both brands are rated at 29 mpg.

The EcoDiesel is optional on every Ram trim, including the off-road Rebel.

The EcoDiesel is optional on every Ram trim, including the off-road Rebel. (Ram)

In the top of the line Ram 1500 Limited Crew Cab 4x4 I tested that was loaded with features, including an adaptive cruise control system and an adjustable air suspension that can lower the truck at high speeds, I found that 29 mpg mark easy to achieve as long as I kept it under 60 mph.

At 70 mph you start pushing a lot more air and the engine at about 2,000 rpm in eighth gear. Both factors contribute to a drop to around 24 mpg in my real-world driving, which is still solid for a big truck.

The Limited features high-end leather and real wood trim.

The Limited features high-end leather and real wood trim. (Ram)

With the hood closed, the truck is so quiet you’d think Ram pulled up to a Build-A-Bear workshop and filled up the engine bay with stuffing. However, despite its maximum torque arriving at 1,600 rpm, it seems to spend a lot of time near that 2,000 rpm mark, especially on the way uphill, and sounds a little cranky when it does. The Chevy has a 10-speed automatic that lets its inline-six-cylinder lay back and relax more often.

Nevertheless, at today’s pump prices, the EcoDiesel will save an average driver about $550 annually at the pump compared to the Hemi, but the target audience isn’t average. They do a lot of long-haul driving that’ll save them even more. And they can do a whole lot of it. With a 33-gallon tank, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is capable of covering over 1,000 miles between fill-ups.

Something you definitely won’t mind doing in a Limited with its plush leather seats and that cushy air suspension, which was just named Cars.com’s luxury CAR of the year.

For $68,980, like my test truck, I should hope so.

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