Pickup Review: 2020 Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel



We love the Rebel, but unsure if the diesel is worth the extra cost


Great looks, smartly appointed interior, off-road chops


High cost, industrial soundtrack


I’d like an interior with more physical buttons and knobs


I like the Rebel trim level but could do without the Ecodiesel and split tailgate

The diesel-powered half-ton truck is something that buyers have long been asking for, and Detroit has been promising since the 1990s. Until very recently, diesels were limited to the 2500 and 3500 trims of most pickups, but Ram was first on the scene with the EcoDiesel in 2014. It’s since been joined by similar half-ton diesel options from Ford and GM, but the question here is, which engine is best under the hood of a Ram 1500?

The Ram in question is the half-ton Rebel. Our tester is a 4×4 Crew Cab with a laundry list of options, but we’ll touch on that later. The Rebel costs the exact same as the Laramie, both starting at $60,945. It’s a mid-level trim, and above that you’ll find the $68,145 Longhorn and the $72,545 Limited. It’s best to think of the Rebel as Ford Raptor-Lite, what with its white-letter all-terrain tires, a locking rear differential, and a great-looking blacked-out grill reminiscent of a ‘fu manchu’ moustache. Frankly, it looks cool.

And it’s a cool place to sit inside, too. The front seats have embroidered Rebel logos and are supremely comfortable and supportive. The back seats are not so spacious, though, and you wouldn’t want to ride back there for more than an hour. Still, the rear seats fold up easily and the area can be used as a large and handy storage space. On the other hand, the dashboard trim is “piano black” plastic and for those working the controls with work gloves or grubby hands, this area will get dirty quickly. Although it looks really nice when clean, it won’t stay nice if you use the Rebel like an actual truck.

Compare the Ram 1500 Rebel against its rivals side-by-side right here

Far more practical is the centre console arrangement. It’s a masterclass is useable space utilization; the overall volume is huge, and it’s able to swallow bags, cameras, drinks, and notebooks with ease. It also has a sliding tray in the middle to hold cups and change, but what really sets it apart is the super cool phone holders. Up front, there are two spots to hold a smartphone with accommodation for a charging cord as well. It securely wedges your phone in place and allows you to plug into one of four USB ports at the front. There are another four ports at the back for a total of eight, of which four are USB-C. It’s a well-designed and versatile storage area.

Blurring the line between feature and gimmick, our tester was also equipped with a dual-action tailgate. Basically, it can open down and towards you like a conventional tailgate, or it can open vertically in the middle, like a pair of barn doors — or saloon doors, if you prefer. I found myself using the feature more often than expected, as you don’t have to lift heavy objects across the tailgate when loading them in the bed. That said, it’s a rather complicated piece of equipment and I wonder about the longevity of the sensors and servos that make it work, considering a tailgate is rudely slammed shut pretty much every time it’s used. And at $1,095, it’s not a small cost consideration, either.

Speaking of not small numbers, our tester wore an incredible $16,500 in options. They included the $3,590 Sound and Leather Group which includes the aforementioned fancy seats, an Alpine sound system, a 12-inch touchscreen, plus a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot. Additionally, there’s the $2,215 Level 2 Equipment Group that includes dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming mirror, front/rear park assist, and some other goodies. Also in the mix is $650 for a tri-fold tonneau cover, $1,425 for a power sunroof, $700 for side steps, and $375 for trailer brake control.

But the most expensive option on our truck was the $3,900 EcoDiesel engine. It’s a 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 making 260 horsepower and 480 lb.-ft. of torque. Ironically, in terms of horsepower, it makes less than even the base V6, but torque is king in a pickup and the EcoDiesel has plenty. Paired exclusively to FCA’s eight-speed automatic, it’s a reasonably smooth drivetrain, though not as smooth as the Duramax inline-six you’d find in the Chevrolet Silveradoor GMC Sierra. The soundtrack is also err, industrial, to put it lightly, and not in the pleasant way a 5.9L Cummins sounds. It sounds like a minivan cross-bred with a UPS truck.

Conversely the 5.7-litre Hemi V8 makes a comforting muscle car rumble, along with 395 horsepower and 410 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s 135 more horsepower than than the diesel, but 70 fewer pound-feet of torque. It also makes both those numbers at a higher RPMs than the diesel. The EcoDiesel does, however, offer impressive fuel mileage with an officially rated return of 11.1 L/100 kilometres in the city and eight in the city, for a 4×4 model. By comparison, the Hemi V8 in 4×4 trim achieves 15.7 L/100 kilometres in the city and 11.1 on the highway. So, there’s a fuel economy price to be paid, but it’ll take you a good while to amortize that $3,900 up-front cost.

All things considered, unless you regularly tow heavy trailers or you just love the rattle of a diesel, we’d go with the gasoline V8.

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