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2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel proves big trucks don’t have to be gas guzzlers

Ram kick-started the trend of putting diesel engines in full-size pickup trucks, but a diesel option was conspicuously absent when the Ram 1500 emerged from a redesign for the 2019 model year. Now diesel is back in the 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, and ready to take on the competition. The EcoDiesel engine offers a significant boost in fuel economy, but not enough to top all rivals.

Ram’s 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 produces 260 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque. That’s 20 hp and 60 lb-ft more than the previous-generation EcoDiesel engine. The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel also boasts more torque than the rival Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra diesels. However, the Chevy and GMC twins, which go on sale later this year, have 277 hp. Instead of competing directly with the American automakers, the Nissan Titan used a much larger 5.0-liter turbodiesel V8 in a beefed-up XD model, designed to bridge the gap between full-size pickup trucks and heavy-duty models. But the Titan XD will be discontinued for the 2020 model year, making Nissan’s truck gasoline only.

One of the main reasons to choose a diesel engine over gasoline is fuel economy. The EcoDiesel is rated at 26 mpg combined (22 mpg city, 32 mpg highway) with rear-wheel drive, and 24 mpg combined (21 mpg city, 29 mpg highway) with four-wheel drive. That puts the Ram ahead of the Ford F-150 diesel, but just behind the Chevy Silverado, which is rated at 27 mpg combined (23 mpg city, 33 mpg highway) with rear-wheel drive. The gap narrows with four-wheel drive. In that configuration, the Chevy is rated at 25 mpg combined (23 mpg city, 29 mpg highway).

Ram said the EcoDiesel will have a maximum towing capacity of 12,560 pounds, which tops the Ford F-150 diesel’s 11,400-pound rating, which was previously best among diesel half-ton trucks. Ram did not specify the 2020 EcoDiesel’s payload capacity, however.

In addition to the EcoDiesel engine, Ram will continue to offer gasoline 5.7-liter Hemi V8 and 3.6-liter V6 engines, the latter with mild-hybrid assist. The previous-generation Ram 1500 will also remain on sale as the Classic, with an older 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 available as an option.

Because it was redesigned for the 2019 model year, the Ram 1500 doesn’t get any other significant updates for 2020. A multifunction tailgate was added late in the 2019 model year. Ram claims its ability to open in four different ways will be useful to buyers, but the fancy tailgate also seems like a ploy to one-up GMC’s Multi-Pro tailgate.

The EcoDiesel engine will be available on all 2020 Ram 1500 trim levels, including the Rebel off-roader. That will mark the first time Ram has offered a diesel engine in the Rebel. EcoDiesel pricing starts at $38,585 (including a mandatory $1,695 destination charge).

Updated on October 8, 2019: Added fuel economy and pricing.

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