2020 Ram 1500 Eco-Diesel First Impressions

A new 2020 RAM 1500 EcoDiesel could have already rolled past you, and you’d be hard pressed to have identified it as a diesel truck. There is little too denote that the truck has the new Eco-Diesel under the hood. Besides a small Eco-Diesel badge on the hood, a DEF gauge in the instrument panel and the word “Diesel” on the fuel gauge it looks the same as its petrol powered brethren. Even the exhaust looks the same.

Only these small accents and a small audible diesel tick reveal that this is the new Eco-Diesel Ram, until you get behind the wheel. I did just that during the vehicle’s debut to the press, where I put in long mixed road miles, tackled some off road terrain and towed a loaded trailer.

Diesel Technology

The new third generation 3.0-liter Eco-Diesel V-6 will be made in Ferrara, Italy before finding it’s way to Sterling Heights, Michigan, where it will meet up with the rest of the Ram 1500 on the assembly line. The new engine offers up a host of technical refinements that not only improve the performance, but should increase the durability and longevity of the engine as well.


For the first time on a diesel engine in North America we see a dual high and low pressure EGR system, which offers up improved fuel economy and lower NOx. The compression ratios has been changed from 16.5:1 to 16.0:1 for similar improvements. A new water-cooled variable geometry turbo offers up improved efficiency and engine response at all RPMs. Things like the intake port design, fuel injector nozzles and piston pin location have all been redesigned to improve efficiency and minimize NVH. New materials are used in a bunch of key areas as well, to reduce weight and friction while improving durability. One thing to note is that the new Ram Eco-Diesel doesn’t have start/stop technology. The often times abrupt and annoying technology, used to increase fuel efficiency when the truck is idling, will not find its way onto the 2020 truck. Many gas powered Ram 1500 owners will turn this feature off on their trucks, but they must do so every time they start the truck, which can quickly become a real nuisance.

Big Package More Power

The 2020 Eco-Diesel gets an 8-percent horsepower bump over the outgoing generation. That puts it at 260 hp at 3,600 RPM. This is for sure a marginal gain, and one that still leaves the Ram 17 ponies short of the class leading Duramax. It is 10 hp more than the Power Stroke however.

Torque is where every diesel shines, but especially so with the new Eco-Diesel. The 2020 Eco-Diesel puts out 480 pound-foot of torque, which is good enough to be best in class. The Silverado 1500 Duramax puts out 20 less, and the F150 Power Stroke 40 less. Torque is king, and Ram has won this war across the board lately.

Power Delivery

My biggest gripe after getting behind the wheel of the 2020 Ram 1500 Eco-Diesel is the way the power is delivered. There is plenty of power and extremely minimal turbo lag. The issue is that the computer is calibrated in such a way that there is a large noticeable delay between the skinny pedal and the engine doing what it’s being told. The delay is most noticeable when trying to make passing maneuvers at highway speeds, but also off the line starts.

After playing with this a bunch and talking to the lead engineer on the project, I’ve concluded that it’s just a computer calibration “issue.” I call it an issue, because I find it to be an unacceptable amount of delay, but the reality is that it has been programed into the truck in order to minimize emissions, maximize fuel efficiency, and reduce engine noise and vibrations.

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I only found one work around to get the truck to provide the throttle response I desired. If you drive in tow/haul mode all the time the delayed response is greatly shortened. Of course this will greatly reduce fuel economy and is something that you’ll have to activate each time you turn the truck on. The new Eco-Diesel will be attached to the current Ram 1500 8-speed transmission. It is quite a good transmission, but falls a bit short when compared to the smooth 10-speed transmissions found in both the Ford and Chevy half-ton offerings.

Fuel Economy

The new 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder Duramax turbo-diesel Chevy Silverado 1500 will reign supreme atop the fuel economy leader board in 2020, with a 33 MPG highway EPA rating. The new Ram Eco-Diesel comes up short by just one MPG. Both are better than the Ford Power Stroke F150 could manage, at 30 MPG highway.

While those are impressive fuel economy numbers from a full-sized American pickup, they aren’t the numbers most of us are really going to care about. Reality is that more than 80-percent of American full-size truck buyers choose a 4×4 truck, and combined city and highway EPA fuel economy numbers are much closer to real world usage. The diesel 4×4 Chevy half-ton truck gets 25 MPG combined, the Ram 24 and the Ford 22. The Ram and Chevy 1500 diesel 4×4 models tie for best highway fuel economy at 29 MPG.

Towing Time

The torque that the Eco-Diesel produces is perfect for towing a big load. At 12,560-pounds of towing capacity the 2020 Ram 1500 Eco-Diesel is best in class. That big number is also quite impressive when you consider that it is a massive 2,560-pounds more than the outgoing Eco-Diesel and only 190-pounds less than a similarly equipped Hemi powered Ram 1500. Do note however that towing with any 2020 Ram 1500 Eco-Diesel 4×4 will only offer about 11,000-pounds of capability. That is because the Max Tow package is not an option on any 4×4 or crew cab model.

More Options

I’m a big fan of off road trucks and am super excited that Ram finally offers its Eco-Diesel in the Rebel. The diesel power plant is perfectly suited for off road adventures where torque is king, and we finally get Ram’s half-ton off road focused offering with a diesel under the hood. In fact, Ram now offers the Eco-Diesel across the entire line of 2020 Ram 1500 trucks. The new engine is a $4,995 option, or $3,000-$3,300 over the Hemi V-8 e-Torque, depending on trim level. Starting price for a Ram 1500 Eco-Diesel is about $39,000. That’s pretty good when you consider that the Chevrolet and Ford half-ton diesel options start at around $45,000.

Ram 1500 Eco-Diesel

The Ram 1500 was an all-new truck in 2019, and the 2020 models slightly refine this already impressive half-ton truck. It is super spacious, comfortable and jam packed with the latest technologies. The 2020 Ram 1500 Eco-Diesel carries on these attributes, with the addition of the economy and torque on tap from the diesel power plant.

The first thing I noticed about driving the new Ram 1500 Eco-Diesel is how extremely quiet, both inside and out, it is. It is also the only half-ton truck on offer with available air suspension, which is now faster and quieter for 2020. Features like the optional RamBox bed storage bins and new Ram Multi Function tailgate offer even more cool and useful differentiators from the competition. The inside of the new Ram 1500 can be dominated, if optioned, with a massive 12-inch Uconnect touchscreen infotainment screen on the center console/dash. Not only is it class leading, but super configurable, and now available on the Rebel model. You’ll also quickly realize how massive the interior of the truck feels, with tons of rear passenger legroom and plenty of interior storage compartment options. For 2020 the Rebel model also gets optional adaptive cruise control.

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With all the pluses, there are a few areas where the new Ram 1500 could improve. Up front I’d like to see a deadpedal for the driver’s left foot and more front passenger leg room, which is restricted a bit with the large transmission tunnel. I’d also like to see cooled seats as an option on the Rebel models, something not yet available. A personal pet-peeve on any vehicle is fake parts for styling sake alone, and sadly the Rebel has non-functional hood vents.
Eco-Diesel Future
The new Ram 1500 is just the beginning for the new 3.0L V-6 Eco-Diesel. In 2020 you’ll see it both in the Jeep Wrangler 4-door and the Jeep Gladiator. Rumors are also flying that it might make an appearance in the Ram Promaster van soon as well. What other FCA offerings might we see this new power plant in?

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