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The 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel.

Handout

In the world of pickup trucks, bragging rights are (almost) everything. More power, more strength, more size, more grrrr! That’s what sells.

The half-ton fight has always been between the Detroit Three – GM’s Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, Ford’s F-150 and Fiat Chrysler’s Ram 1500 – with the Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra picking up their sizable scraps. Each brand has its adherents, and each has a slightly different appeal, but they all do pretty much the same thing, and they all do it well.

Once you’ve settled on a brand, it’s also about choice: work truck, luxury truck, towing truck, off-road truck. You can have it all if you’re willing to pay for the options, and the price can get very costly very quickly.

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Ram introduced its latest generation of the half-ton 1500 last year, and now there’s an all-new, third-generation, 3.0-litre V-6 EcoDiesel engine available. It’s more powerful and less expensive than the other brands.

The diesel engine comes at a premium, but its additional torque makes it popular for towing.

Mark Richardson

Diesel is popular for towing because its greater torque provides more pulling strength. Here’s what you want to know: the new Ram diesel engine makes 480 lbs.-ft. of torque (up from 420), while the Chevy Silverado Duramax makes 460 and the Ford F-150 Power Stroke makes 440. The Ram diesel towing capacity is 5,697 kg (12,560 lbs).

There’s a $3,900 premium for the diesel engine over the most expensive engine for each of the seven trim levels, but it is available across the lineup. That means the price for a diesel ranges from $49,395 (plus $1,895 for freight and PDI) in the Tradesman Quad Cab 2WD, all the way up to $75,000 or more for the loaded Limited.

This is less expensive than the Chevrolet and Ford competition, but there are always incentives at play with pickup trucks, so expect realistic prices to be closely matched.

Tech specs

Ram's third-generation 3.0-litre V-6 EcoDiesel engine is more powerful and less expensive than other brands' diesel variants.

Handout

  • Base price/As tested: $49,395, plus $1,895 freight and PDI / $75,445
  • Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel
  • Transmission/Drive: Eight-speed / 2WD or 4WD
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): n/a (8.2 and 9.6 observed)
  • Alternatives: Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Ford F-150, Nissan Titan, Toyota Tundra

Looks

The latest-generation of the 1500 is somewhat more aerodynamic.

Handout

You’re either a Ram driver or you’re not. That emblem on the grille either stirs your heart a little, or it does nothing. Either way, the Ram 1500 looks every inch a pickup truck, and that’s all it needs. The new generation is more aerodynamic than the last, with a more sloped windshield, active grille shutters, and a co-efficient of drag of 0.357, but the truck is still a brick through the wind.

Interior

The cabin can be basic, with a small central display screen and fabric seats, or it can be luxurious, with a giant vertical touchscreen and leather everywhere. There are seven different trim levels, and it all depends how much you’re willing to pay.

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It’s very quiet inside, with effective sound damping and even noise cancellation. The diesel engine itself is quieter than before, thanks to little tweaks that make a big difference: the piston pin is offset to reduce piston slap, and the oil sump is made from a new polymer/metal material. There’s none of the traditional diesel clatter that used to be prevalent.

Performance

The engine is stronger than before, and the eight-speed automatic transmission is more efficient. The diesel engine is claimed to be more fuel-efficient, which is a big appeal over the gasoline alternative, but there are no official numbers yet. However, 8.2 L/100 km was observed over three hours of driving the 2WD Tradesman, and 9.6 L/100 km after two hours on the highway in the high-end Rebel. That is impressive fuel consumption for any half-ton truck.

The second-generation of the Italian-built diesel engine was capable but had its issues, most notably a reputation for cam-gear slippage that could lead to engine failure at less than 100,000 km. This third-generation engine, still built in Italy, is 80-per-cent new, redesigned from the ground up, so presumably these potential problems have been taken care of.

The water-cooled turbocharger is apparently more efficient, and the intake ports are redesigned for both economy and performance. Exhaust gases are recirculated at both high and low pressure, while the compression ratio is lowered, all of which reduce emissions.

The ride itself is very smooth, using a link-coil rear suspension system that can be upgraded to active air suspension.

Technology

The 1500 has impressive towing technology, including a sensor system that measures the length of the trailer.

Mark Richardson/Mark Richardson

The new Ram is about as connected as can be, with the fourth generation of FCA’s Uconnect multimedia system holding everything together through an available 12-inch touchscreen. You can set it up just the way you like it. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both offered.

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The towing technology is impressive, with a sensor system that measures the length of a hitched-up trailer as soon as the truck is angled at 30 degrees to see it. It will then adjust the distance of the blind-spot warning in the mirrors. That’s clever, but the Ford F-150’s Towing-For-Dummies system is still tops, helping you to steer through a camera while reversing.

Cargo

Yup, it’s big, and it has storage cubbies everywhere, inside and out. The size of the bed is up to you, as is the choice of the size of the interior. Ram claims the Mega Cab setup offers the most interior space of any pickup, with up to 151 litres of inside storage.

The verdict: 8

A truly impressive truck. If you like Ram, or its Dodge predecessor, you’ll love it. If you’re a Chevy or a Ford driver, you’ll still need convincing.

The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.

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