Here’s an interesting story
while you wait out the COVID-19 crisis: when RAM was developing its current-generation 1500 truck, General Motors was also preparing new versions of its Silverado and Sierra brothers.
We don’t have official numbers on this, but rumor has it that GM was so confident in its mass-selling rigs, that it invested almost twice the amount of resources as FCA.
Yet, when both trucks hit the market, Ram walked almost instantly walked away with the coveted North American Truck of the Year award, leaving General Motors in its dust. As we write this, we’re supposed to be a few weeks away from the unveiling of an entirely new Ford F-150. But because of the Coronavirus outbreak, the event has been cancelled. So don’t expect an all-new Ford to arrive anytime soon.
This means that, until further notice, the RAM 1500 is still the undisputed king of full-size trucks. What’s its secret? Well, it’s just as capable as its rivals, but it rides smoother, has a better-appointed interior and comes in a wide variety of flavors that do a lot to distinguish themselves from one another.
The 2020 RAM 1500 Rebel is a great example of one of these many flavors. And now, it’s available with an entirely revamped turbodiesel V6. We took it out for a spin to see how it performs.
That Badass Look
It’s no secret that the current trend in pickup trucks is the lifted, darkened, badass treatment. Ever since Ford released the Raptor, all brands have upped their game, presenting new off-road-dedicated packages of all shapes and sizes.
Yet, nobody still manufactures a full-on Raptor rival.
While, yes, FCA is currently cooking up the TRX
, which aims at stealing the Raptor’s lunch money, the Rebel plays the card of the more sensible adventure machine, like what GMC is doing with its AT4 package, or Toyota with TRD Pro.
See the Ram Rebel as the Power Wagon’s baby brother. Sitting between a Sport and a Laramie within the Ram hierarchy, the Rebel sets itself apart visually thanks to a vented, power-domed hood, blackened fender flares, the now iconic Rebel grille design, model-specific 18-inch aluminum wheels and 33-inch-diameter all-terrain tires.
For the 2020 model year, the Rebel can be had in either Quad Cab (as tested) or Crew Cab configurations, with box lengths ranging between 5.7 and 6.4 feet.
All Rebels come fitted with a set of upgraded Bilstein dampers with external reservoirs at the rear. There’s a one-inch suspension lift, a hill-descent control system, an electronically controlled locking rear differential, as well as skid plates to protect the front suspension components, steering gear and transfer case. It’s a serious package.
Base price for the Ram 1500 Rebel is $60,345 before applicable rebates. Our tester had the no-cost Bright White paint job, the turbodiesel V6, which adds an extra $3,900 to the price tag, the $3,040 Level 2 equipment group, which includes heated seats, steering wheel and other handy features like a remote starter, the $1,425 power sunroof option and the new-for-2020 multi-function tailgate ($1,095), which opens in two separate sections. Final price for the bad boy you see here was $78,740.
Is the Diesel Option Worth It?
If you were to ask us if the Ram Rebel is worth the price, we’d say yes without flinching. It offers the right amount of equipment, at the right kind of price, and has the right off-road gear to please any adventure-seeking truck owner.
As for the diesel engine, we’re still lukewarm about its relevance in this class.
Originally, the idea behind this engine is to offer 1500 buyers workhorse capability comparable to the heavy-duty rigs, but in a smaller, more affordable package. In that respect, the Ram’s all-new EcoDiesel 3.0-liter V6 has all the right ingredients. Horsepower is now rated at 260, with torque bumped up to a diesel-appropriate 480 lb-ft.
While displacement is identical to the last-generation unit, RAM has significantly overhauled it by retuning the water-cooled turbocharger, fuel injectors, intake ports and combustion chambers. The result is a 12,560-pound (5,697 kg) max towing rating, which bests the Ford F-150 Powerstroke
(11,500 lb / 5,216 kg) and the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Duramax
(9,300 lb / 4218 kg). Still, considering the combined fuel economy rated by FCA at 9.7L/100 km/h, the level of capability here is indeed impressive.
And frugal our Ram Rebel was. We easily managed to hang in the low 10L/100 km mark, often dropping down below 9.5L/100 km during prolonged highway driving, numbers that are comparable to some compact crossovers.
The turbodiesel V6 is smooth, with turbo lag only slightly present when you commit to full throttle launches. The eight-speed automatic gearbox does a tremendously good job of maintaining torque on full-boil, given the engine’s narrow powerband. It even gives you the option of choosing the maximum number of gears it has for better towing performance.
We were also pleased by the RAM 1500’s overall ride quality thanks to its coil-spring suspension. This is a smooth-riding truck, with compliant handling, a vault-quiet cabin and some of the most upscale-looking materials we’ve seen in this class. The level of refinement and craftsmanship here is truly in a class of its own, comparable to some luxury-branded vehicles.
We were also impressed by the ginormous 12-inch touch screen that houses the always-pleasant Uconnect infotainment interface. But we did find this version to be a tad more complicated due to its touch-heavy controls. Large rotary dials for volume and radio station seeking were appreciated, all while looking like a million bucks. And the subtle REBEL interior design cues like the seats and gauge cluster give this truck a unique and pleasing demeanour.
So on paper, the 2020 RAM 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel seems like the perfect full-size truck. It’s capable on the beaten path, boasts solid towing capabilities and returns supreme fuel efficiency. Indeed, it’s a package we quite like. But there’s a catch.
Before rushing into your local Ram dealer to buy one, consider that diesel fuel is considerably more expensive than gasoline, and that the maintenance costs, especially oil and additive changes, tend to be considerably pricier than those of a gasoline-powered truck. Also, don’t forget the extra $3,900 you’ll need to pay to even get the thing.
We’d recommend this engine only for people who’d use it for actual labour. Entrepreneurs, for instance, who can claim these expenses under their operating costs, might be good candidates. If you’re not in that situation, we suggest sticking with the good ol’ 5.7-liter V8.
As for the Ram 1500 in general, it’s still our favorite of the three American trucks for its striking presence, impeccable driving manners and a cabin that puts the other two to shame.