The Rebel 1500 was introduced in 2015, so it has been in the Ram stable of trucks for five years. The 2WD and 4WD models are built and targeted for off-road styling and function, and they've proven to be fun trucks. For those looking for a factory off-road package, the Rebel offers a taller stance, underbelly protection, and unique body features along with a locking rear differential and tuned Bilstein shocks.
The big news for the 2020 Rebel (and for all of the Ram 1500 line) is the new, third-generation 3.0L EcoDiesel engine. The turbocharged V-6 powerplant offers an 8 percent increase in horsepower and 14 percent increase in torque. The new engine hits its peak, 480 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm, about 400 rpm higher than the previous diesel engine. Power is now rated at 260 hp.
Powertrain engineers redesigned a majority of the key components when building the new EcoDiesel. A water-cooled turbocharger with variable geometry turbine can more efficiently make use of forced induction over a wide range of engine rpm. The engine uses chain-driven, twin overhead cams with four valves per cylinder. Aluminum alloy heads sit on a block cast from compacted graphite iron, a material stronger yet lighter than gray cast iron. The crankshaft and rods are forged steel.
Design of a new dual, high-pressure and low-pressure exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system allows the engine to produce better fuel economy while also reducing emissions. Compression ratio was dropped slightly from 16.5:1 to 16.0:1 compared to the previous engine. Fuel is introduced to the cylinders via direct injection using a 29,000-psi pump. The design team worked to reduce piston ring friction by 52 percent through the use of thinner rings and specialty coatings. Additionally, the piston pin was offset by 0.3 degree to help reduce the common issue of piston slap and to further quiet the engine.
We spoke with Mauro Puglia, the chief engineer for the EcoDiesel engine. He stated there appears to be somewhat of a shift in consumer interest in diesel engines. In the past, it was often Europe and other overseas markets that were driving the design of small diesel powerplants, but Puglia now sees U.S. market demand starting to drive this sector.
Again, this is the first time a diesel has been offered in the Rebel. Note that the previously offered 3.6L V-6 Pentastar and the two 5.7L V-8 Hemi engines will still remain available for the 2020 model year trucks. All engine models use an eight-speed automatic transmission. A Borg Warner 48-12 transfer case with 2.64:1 low range makes up the part-time 4WD system. All Rebel models ship with a 3.92:1 axle ratio and a rear electronic-locking differential.
2020 Rebel buyers can choose from two body configurations: the Quad Cab with a 76.3-inch-long bed and 140.5-inch wheelbase or the Crew Cab with a 67.4-inch bed and 144.6-inch wheelbase. A Rebel Black Appearance Package is optional and includes black exterior paint, Ram badging, brushguard, wheels, and an all-black interior. Inside, the new 12-inch Uconnect 4C touchscreen is impressive and is an option on Rebel models.
As with the entire Ram 1500 line, a 26-gallon fuel tank is standard, with a 33-gallon tank optional. Some back-of-an-envelope math tells us the big tank combined with the new diesel engine might take you somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 miles before it runs dry.
Diesel pickup owners are typically more likely to tow with their trucks than gas truck owners. Ram wanted to address that demand and now lists the 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel trucks with a claimed highest 1/2-ton diesel tow rating capacity of 12,560 pounds.
We had the opportunity to drive Ram 1500 models with the new EcoDiesel engine over pavement and diesel Rebel models on dirt at the Minnesota Iron Range OHVArea. The new engine is smooth and relatively quiet. From inside the cab, it exhibits a slight diesel rumble coming off idle and then winds up to cruising speed quietly thanks to the engine design and proficient cab sound deadening. The truck pulls up to highway speed easily, and the shifts from the eight-speed transmission are smooth, keeping the engine in its powerband.
Off-pavement driving is fun in the Rebel. Low-end throttle response seemed good due to the variable geometry turbine. Maybe not quite as quick as with a gas engine, but it chugged up and over obstacles easily. It would be interesting to try a side-by-side comparison to a gas engine Rebel in the dirt. When the trail opens up a bit, the Rebel likes to be driven aggressively over moderately bumpy terrain. The Bilstein shocks are well-tuned to keep the truck with the factory tires well planted and stable. We didn't have the opportunity to see how the shocks would fair being pounded for an extended period of time, but they performed admirably during our drive.
The 2020 Ram EcoDiesel will be offered for sale in the fourth quarter of 2019. Base pricing on the 4WD Rebel Crew Cab is expected to be $47,740. The EcoDiesel is a $4,995 option, or $3,300 premium over the 5.7L Hemi V-8 eTorque. Actual certified EPA fuel ratings are not currently available but will be forthcoming before sale date. During our short testing period we saw average mileage readings in the mid-20s, so real-world mileage numbers should be promising.
The Rebel isn't meant to be a hard core off-road machine, but rather a competent step above the standard 4WD offerings. If you're looking for an off-road-capable pickup straight from the factory, you'd do yourself a favor to check out the Rebel. Now it offers dirt prowess, good looks, and finally a diesel to boot.