2020 Ram 1500 Limited Diesel — This is the diesel powered pickup to buy

By Jim Prueter

(June 22, 2020) For 2019, the folks at Ram did a full-on redesign of its 1500 half-ton pickup, resulting in nothing less than a tsunami of accolades, “best of” awards — including numerous “Truck of the Year” awards — and record smashing sales success. It also did what no one thought it could do, outselling the Chevrolet Silverado, making Ram not only the second best-selling truck in the segment behind Ford, but also the second best-selling vehicle in the country.

Now, for 2020, the 1500 Ram remains mostly a carryover vehicle, with only minor changes and tweaks. But the one change that isn’t so minor is the addition of an optional diesel engine. Ram claims it’s the first in the half-ton light duty pickup segment. This fifth-generation Ram 1500 also brings a new mild hybrid system to its product offerings, but for this review we’ll be concentrating on the new 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel that delivers 260 horsepower and a huge 480 lb.-ft of torque.

For the record, while Ram claims to be the first half-ton diesel, that may be true for modern times, but Ford put a 6.9-liter diesel V-8 in the F-150 back in the mid 1980s. Back in 2014, Ram did introduce a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6. Nissan added a diesel to its Titan in 2016, Ford to the F-150 two years later. Toyota teased with a diesel about 10 years ago, but it has never materialized. The current V-6 diesel is actually a third generation of that engine, but essentially a complete redesign. Ram calls the current engine the EcoDiesel and it is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission designed to handle the higher torque loads that drive either the rear or all four wheels.

Ram can certainly take credit for reigniting the diesel in the half-ton truck segment that’s seen other key players like Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC follow Ram with diesel options of their own. In addition, there are diesel offerings in both Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize trucks.

We recently spent a week testing and evaluating the Ram 1500 Limited Crew Cab diesel, the most expensive and luxurious trim level for the Ram 1500 with a starting price just a few hundred dollars shy of $59,000. It is a gorgeous truck, and we think a standout and best of the bunch, given its “best of” capability, comfort, technology and fun-to-drive qualities. There’s little argument that Ram is the leader when it comes to luxurious appointments, refinement and build quality.

In all driving situations — be it urban, suburban, highway or off-road — gone are the telltale engine knocking, exhaust smell and belching of black smoke coming from the 3.0-liter V-6. What remains is only the slightest engine burble to let you know there’s a diesel under the hood. Thanks to the massive 480 lb.-ft of torque, acceleration is immediate and strong with zero turbo lag. Everything is smooth, quiet and noticeably powerful.

This third-generation turbodiesel is a product of and imported from Italy. The same engine can now be had in the 2020 Jeep Wrangler. 

Capability numbers for the EcoDiesel-Powered Ram 1500 include a maximum payload of up to 2,040 pounds in the cargo bed and up to 12,560 pounds towing. Fuel economy is rated at a combined 24 mpg of city and highway driving. We didn’t get the opportunity to test the vehicle’s towing dynamics but expect it to be smooth and stress free. We do like the available trailer-length detecting blind-spot monitoring, the air suspension that keeps the truck level, the new multi-function tailgate, which folds down like a traditional tailgate or opens up with a 60/40 split dual barn-door style that we much preferred over GMC six-way MultiPro tailgate.

Pricewise, Ram has made its EcoDiesel price competitive, especially by offering it on its base 1500 Tradesman for $4,995 over the standard 3.6-liter V-6 and $3,500 more than the 5.7-liter V-8 HEMI. The least expensive diesel-powered Chevrolet Silverado is the LT that starts at $48,800. That’s $10,000 more than the Ram Tradesman. Our Limited Crew Cab test Ram had an upcharge of $4,995 for the EcoDiesel that is $3,000 more than the 5.7-liter V-8 HEMI. We think, for the added cost for the diesel, you get increased towing and payload capacity, increased fuel economy and overall offers a better value. Can’t do much better than that.

Overall, our diesel-powered Ram Limited has a luxury-sedan-like interior upholstered in supple leather hides, a full panoramic dual-pane sunroof, 22-inch wheels, premium 19-speaker Harman Kardon Premium sound system, surround-view cameras, multi-function tailgate, RamBox cargo management system, air suspension system, 12-inch Uconnect infotainment system with navigation, push-button 4X4 drive.

It’s loaded with advanced safety features and a cabin that’s so remarkably spacious and luxurious you’d think you were riding in a luxury German executive sedan. This Ram is nothing short of phenomenally impressive. Adding the diesel only secures the deal.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $58,651
Price as Tested: $75,305
Engine/Transmission: 3.0-liter 260-hp turbodiesel V6 paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission
Fuel Economy: 21/29/24 mpg, City, Highway, Combined
Seating: 5

Crash Test Safety Ratings: The highest possible 2019 Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and the highest possible overall 5-star rating from the National Highway traffic Safety Administration.

Where Built: Sterling Heights, Michigan

Competes With:
Chevrolet Silverado High Country Duramax Turbo-Diesel
Ford F-15- Platinum Power Stroke V6 Turbo-Diesel

Fab Features:
Best in class torque, payload and towing capabilities
Diesel available in base Tradesman and off-road Rebel trim levels
Best in class ride quality, performance capability and vehicle technology