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2020 Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel 3.0L: Your Next Trail Truck?

This half-ton rocks in the rocks.

Our 2020 Ram 1500 Rebel 3.0L EcoDiesel came to us with a new-for-2020 powerplant, and we couldn't wait to get it into the snow, dirt, and rocks during the 2020 Pickup Truck of the Year test.

What's Hot

  • Has a selectable rear locking differential
  • Refined interior
  • Lots of truck for your money

What's Not

  • Needs a forward-facing off-road camera angle
  • Grille reminds us on Nien Nunb

2020 Ram 1500 Rebel 3.0L EcoDiesel New Features

With a revamped 3.0L EcoDiesel closely related to the one found in the 2020 Jeep Wrangler, the Ram Rebel 1500 secured itself a place on this year's Pickup Truck of the Year test. The diesel sends 480 lb-ft of torque and 260 horsepower through the familiar TorqueFlite 8HP75 eight-speed automatic transmission, giving an entirely new on- and off-road experience compared to that of the previous year's Hemi-powered Rebel.

The Rebel's compacted graphite iron block and aluminum heads shaved 15 pounds from the previous generation, while the aluminum alloy pistons have a connecting pin offset by 0.3 mm to quiet any piston slap. The compression ratio dropped from 16.5:1 to 16.0:1 in the name of increased efficiency, which was made possible by redesigning the ports and combustion chambers for better intake swirl, fuel burn, and exhaust flow.

VM Motori also added upgraded eight-hole servovalve injectors and a water-cooled, variable-geometry turbine from Garrett Advancing Motion for gains in turbo boost, horsepower, and torque. Fuel is delivered by a Bosch CP4-series injection pump, which fills the rails to the tune of 29,000 psi. To keep the EcoDiesel cool, the charge-air cooler was moved behind an opening in the bumper where computer-controlled shutters modulate airflow to balance cooling with aerodynamic drag. Also new for the EcoDiesel is dual-loop exhaust gas recirculation system which contributes to improvements in fuel economy and lowers harmful gas emissions. New shift patterns and a fresh torque converter give the TorqueFlite 8HP75 eight-speed trans what it needs to handle the low-rpm goodness of the EcoDiesel. Downstream of the gearbox, the drivetrain remains unchanged from that found in the Hemi-powered Rebel.

Ram 1500 Rebel Articulation Scoring

When we shifted into 4-Lo and engaged the selectable rear locker, we crawled up the 22-degree RTI ramp to a score of 393, the least-flexy mark out of the half-ton trucks.

Speed Testing

The 2020 Ram 1500 Rebel got off the line and up to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds and covered the quarter mile in 17 seconds while reaching 83.4 mph in the process. With no change in brake dimensions from the previous year's Hemi-powered Rebel, the diesel-powered Ram slowed from 60 to zero in 126.9 feet.

Interior and Exterior

We observed judges standing at a distance, looking at the 2020 Ram 1500 Rebel's grille and making comparisons between it and the pursed-lip visage of the Star Wars character, Nien Nunb. We were befuddled by the fact that the $595 option of spray-in bedliner was not included in our test vehicle. Judges also commented "slim pickings" as they counted the number of available cargo hooks in the bed on a single hand. We were fans of the "angry and artistic" styling around the truck from the front skidplate to the dual exhaust tips out back. However, we heard a judge ask, "do we need to be told it's a Ram in license-plate-sized font on the tailgate?"

"This is my throne" commented a judge after hopping down from inside the Rebel, and many others agreed. We felt far more comforted by the Rebel's seats than other vehicles on the test, and the array of controls within reach of the driver was impressive. In terms of four-wheel-drive engagement, a few judges brandished indignant fists over the selector knob in place of a traditional transfer case lever—or even buttons, for that matter. However, this feature did create a "pirate's treasure chest of space" in the console spacious enough for a common laptop computer. We were also impressed by the soft-to-the-touch materials in the dash and the seamless transition between panels. One incredibly observant judge even pointed out the trigonometric ratios, metric conversion tables, and other mathematical goodies found under the console lid, as well as rulers (15 inches and 26 centimeters) molded into the floor storage inserts. "So, I can measure fish and help my kid with homework?" they said.

Pavement Performance

When judges compared the 3.0L EcoDiesel to the previous year's 5.7L Hemi, we found comments to the tune of "it's a more relaxing driving experience," and "I didn't think I'd like the engine/trans combo, but I did." VM Motori's efforts to make the EcoDiesel quieter and smoother were also reflected in the comments as judges praised the noise level in the cabin, with one judge even wishing for "more of that diesel growl I love." Throughout our test, the Rebel delivered an average fuel economy of just over 20 mpg, the least efficient of the half-ton diesels, but the third most-efficient truck. (Calculations are based on our actual fuel consumed and miles driven).

2020 Ram 1500 Rebel Off-Road

One keystone of the 2020 Ram 1500 Rebel's off-road performance was the selectable rear locker. Judges drew stars next to their notes and used exclamation marks with reckless abandon when conveying their support for this "must-have" feature. Sand performance was aided by the locking rear diff, but dunes also reminded judges of the truck's low-rpm powerplant and its inherent limitations. We had fun in 4-Lo "chugging through the rocks," during our gnarlier trips through the canyons, but the 8.2 inches of ground clearance left a little to be desired as the geology neared the truck's undercarriage. We found ourselves either craning our necks to see over the hood or barking at our passengers to spot in front of the truck due to a lack of forward-facing camera, a feature we've come to appreciate in similar trucks. The Rebel's response to trail irregularities at quicker speeds was "one of the most composed" of the entire lineup with the IFS up front and five-link rear suspension working in concert to make whoops and washboards alike feel next to nonexistent. After engaging the rear locker and selecting 4-Lo, we dug the Goodyear DuraTracs deep into the pudding mud and slushy snow making a solid attempt at the hillclimb, still limited in our forward progress by the lower rpms of the EcoDiesel.

Our Take: Would We Take It To The Trails?

Yes, and many times after that. The combination of aggressive Goodyear DuraTrac tires, a selectable locking rear differential, and exceptional bump-absorbing capabilities give us confidence when the road becomes dirt, and the interior solidifies our position that this is a solid amount of truck for your money.