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Competition is fierce among full-size pickup trucks these days. But if we're forced to pick a favorite, it's the 2020 Ram 1500. With its impressive onboard technology, handsome design, great capability and comfortable ride quality, this truck is really hard to beat.
That's even truer now, with the addition of a diesel engine to the Ram 1500 lineup. Offering gains in fuel economy, towing and payload, but without ruining anything we already like about the Ram, the EcoDiesel engine is a great addition to a fantastic truck.
Ram's new 3.0-liter V6 may have the same displacement as the company's outgoing EcoDiesel engine, but 80% of its parts are new. For 2020, the engine has a brand-new turbocharger, intake ports and combustion system. The pistons have been redesigned and feature thinner rings for less friction. A new, low-pressure exhaust gas recirculation system reduces power loss from the turbo. The end result is an engine that offers more power and torque than its predecessor, while offering reductions in noise, vibration and harshness.
This 3.0-liter V6 produces 260 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque -- 8% and 14% gains, respectively, over the outgoing engine. What's more, that class-leading torque comes on at just 1,600 rpm, which is 400 rpm sooner than before. That means there's more low-end grunt upon initial acceleration, and the retuned, eight-speed automatic transmission manages the power so smoothly you can barely tell it's there at all.
You'll notice some audible diesel clatter under hard acceleration, or when initially pulling away from a stoplight. But overall, this engine is free of the noise, vibration and harshness characteristics a lot of people associate with diesel powertrains. You won't get the same immediate response as you would in a Ram 1500 with its naturally aspirated V6 or V8 options -- especially now that they have 48-volt mild-hybrid systems for added electric boost. But roll into the throttle and the Ram rewards you with smooth torque power. Both around town and on the highway, this engine's refinement is greatly appreciated.
Otherwise, the EcoDiesel-powered Ram drives the same as any other 1500 model. The steering is vague, but appropriately weighted -- typical for a full-size truck. What no other pickup can match, however, is the cushy ride afforded by the Ram's optional air suspension. If you'll routinely be pressing your truck into road-trip duty, this is an option you'll definitely want to spec.
According to the EPA, two-wheel-drive Ram 1500 EcoDiesel models should return fuel economy ratings of 22 miles per gallon city, 32 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. Adding four-wheel drive lowers those numbers to 21, 29 and 24, respectively. After a week of mixed driving, however, we observed fuel economy closer to 22 mpg.
The Ram EcoDiesel can haul 2,040 pounds in its bed or tow 12,560 pounds behind it -- the latter being a best-in-class number. The Ram's optional air suspension has a self-leveling feature to keep the ride smooth while towing, and the blind-spot monitoring feature covers the length of the trailer. Of course, the best towing assistance in the pickup truck segment right now still comes from Ford, with its Pro Trailer Back-Up tech, which makes reversing as easy as turning a dial. Be sure to check out our guide to all things towing for more on that.
Oh, and don't forget about Ram's new multifunction tailgate, which folds down like usual, but has barn-door, side-opening functionality as well. It's not quite the origami master that GMC's MultiPro tailgate is, however.
Inside, the 2020 Ram 1500 is the same as the 2019 model we reviewed earlier this year. And because Ram offers the EcoDiesel engine on every single 1500 model, you can have this new powertrain in everything from the basic work-truck spec to the high-end Limited. Even the off-road-ready Rebel is available with diesel power.
In its higher trim levels, the Ram 1500 can be really luxurious. Soft leather surfaces coat the dashboard and seats, and all of the switchgear has a solid, premium feel to its action. The rear seats can recline for added passenger comfort, too. Order the Crew Cab body style and back-seat passengers are treated to a ton of headroom and legroom.
Infotainment tech is handled by Chrysler's Uconnect software, and it's best viewed on Ram's optional 12-inch, vertically oriented touchscreen. The display is as beautiful to behold as it is rich with features, and immediately responds to input. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a Wi-Fi hotspot are all included, and while the menu structure can be a little confusing -- especially for climate controls (you have to open a separate screen to activate heated seats) -- it's arguably the best multimedia tech available in any pickup. Heck, it's better than what you get in six-figure cars from premium automakers.
Happily, Ram doesn't skimp on driver assistance tech, either. The 1500 can be loaded up with all sorts of modern amenities, including lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring, both of which cover the length of a trailer. Parallel and perpendicular parking assist are also available, as are adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warning.
Ram doesn't offer the only diesel engine in the full-size pickup segment. The Ford F-150 Power Stroke is a solid option, but can't best the Ram in power, torque, payload or towing. The 2020 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra offer an inline-six diesel engine, with a healthy 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, and while its 2,302-pound payload rating bests the Ram 1500, these trucks can only tow 9,300 pounds. Finally, there's the Nissan Titan XD, which is more of a heavy-duty pickup than anything else, what with its Cummins V8 engine and 555 pound-feet of torque. Of course, the Titan XD isn't long for this world, so...
As far as we're concerned, the Ram 1500 offers the best diesel package in the segment. But it doesn't come cheaply. You'll pay a $4,995 premium over a 3.6-liter V6 model, or $3,000 over a Ram 1500 with the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 and eTorque mild-hybrid assist. That means a two-wheel-drive Ram 1500 Tradesman Quad Cab EcoDiesel comes in at $36,890, plus $1,695 for destination, which isn't a ton of coin. Of course, even without the diesel engine, the Ram is still a top pick in its class. The EcoDiesel option only broadens its appeal.