The Ram 1500 diesel is finally here. This is arguably the big pick-up truck Aussies have been waiting for, because until now, if you wanted a Ram 1500 you had to have it with a petrol engine.
But the launch of the 2020 Ram 1500 Laramie EcoDiesel could well be the answer to plenty of people's questions. Diesel is often preferred for those who tow heavy loads or lug a lot of weight on a regular basis, and it's often a more affordable fuel type if you're travelling outside the city limits, too.
For those thinking that a diesel version of the Ram 1500 would push it into new territory when it comes to fuel consumption – especially for a variant named EcoDiesel – there's some bad news. We'll get to that below.
For this test we did more than, er, 1500 kilometres to get an idea of how the Ram 1500 diesel handled itself. From a long highway trip to a heavy-duty towing review, this test aims to tell you everything you need.
The Ram 1500 we get in Australia isn't the new one. It's the old one. But because Ram is still building the old one for plenty of markets, that's the one we get.
The diesel version of the Ram 1500 is an intriguing option – but is it the pick of the range? (image: Glen Sullivan)
If you’re interested in the dimensions, the length is 5817mm long (on a 3569mm wheelbase), 2017mm wide and 1917mm tall. (image: Glen Sullivan)
It is very American looking, and if that’s what you want, you’re going to be pleased. (image: Glen Sullivan)
Elements like the chrome bumper, chrome grille and chrome wheels all add to that US-ness. (image: Glen Sullivan)
As a result, it doesn't look as modern as the new-generation Ram 1500. It is very American looking, and if that's what you want, you're going to be pleased. Elements like the chrome bumper, chrome grille and chrome wheels all add to that US-ness.
This is a big rig, but it carries off its size pretty well. If you're interested in the dimensions, the length is 5817mm long (on a 3569mm wheelbase), 2017mm wide and 1917mm tall.
There are some really neat elements to the cabin design. (image: Glen Sullivan)
How practical is the space inside?
If you like space and you like storage, the Ram 1500 will please you greatly.
There is plenty of loose-item stowage, more cup and bottle holders than seats, and amazing levels of space, even for big adults. I'm 182cm (6'0" in the old money) and I can easily fit behind my own driving position without any hassle at all, and three adults my size will fit across the back without any hassle at all.
Shorter occupants (like my parents and my niece and nephew, who all had a go in the back seat) were bemused by the lack of side steps on this vehicle, because it is a big step up into the cabin. You can get them as an accessory fit option, but they should be standard.
Three adults my size will fit across the back without any hassle at all. (image: Glen Sullivan)
The rear seat bases can be latched up and a flat platform can be put down for secure, flat storage. (image: Glen Sullivan)
One neat interior feature is the rear seat – not just because it offers extensive space, but because the rear seat bases can be latched up and a flat platform can be put down for secure, flat storage. Plus the seat bases have lights in the bottom of them, to help you see what you're storing if you're doing it at night. Very neat.
There are some other really neat elements to the cabin design. The fact you can electronically adjust the pedal position to better suit different-height drivers is a nice thing, though there is no reach adjustment for the steering wheel, only height adjust.
The foot-operated park brake on the right of the accelerator pedal is something you have to get used to – you use a hand trigger to release the park brake, and your foot to engage it. But the handle feels a little cheap, as with some of the other plastics in the cabin.
Standard equipment includes heated and cooled front seats and a heated steering wheel. (image: Glen Sullivan)
And while the conversion job – done in Melbourne by Walkinshaw Automotive where they drive in a left-hand-drive Ram, pull it to pieces, move the controls to the right of the cabin and piece it back together – is mostly convincing and the ergonomics are acceptable, our test vehicle had a few fit-and-finish issues.
The tub length is 5'7" – which in our language is 1712mm. There's a width of 1295mm between the wheel arches, which is wide enough to fit a pallet in, and an overall tub width of 1987mm. The depth of the tub is 509mm. Sadly, diesel Ram 1500 models aren't able to be optioned with the RamBox storage system.
Payload capacity is just 735kg for the Ram 1500 diesel. It has a kerb weight of 2715kg, and a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 3450kg, so keep that in mind if you have a heavy crew and want to take something heavy with you in the tub. The gross combination mass (GCM) is 6692kg.
The tub length is 5’7” – which in our language is 1712mm. (image: Glen Sullivan)
There’s a width of 1295mm between the wheel arches, which is wide enough to fit a pallet in, and an overall tub width of 1987mm. (image: Glen Sullivan)
You can get the petrol Ram 1500 with the lower axle ratio (3.92) and fit a 70mm tow ball for a maximum braked towing capacity of 4.5 tonnes. (image: Glen Sullivan)
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
The Ram 1500 Laramie EcoDiesel is priced at $109,950 plus on-road costs. A lot of money for a ute, but it comes with plenty of gear to help justify the cost.
Standard equipment includes 20-inch chrome wheels, a spray-in tub liner, leather trimmed interior, electric seat adjustment up front, heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated second-row outboard seats, dual-zone climate control, push button start, smart key entry, and halogen projector headlights.
Media and infotainment is covered by an 8.4-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (image: Glen Sullivan)
Media and infotainment is covered by an 8.4-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, two USB ports, a 10 speaker Alpine sound system with subwoofer.
There are only three colour choices for the Ram 1500 diesel model – Billet Silver, Bright White or Granite Crystal (dark grey). The petrol models are available in red, blue (three types!) and black.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
The 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 engine fitted to the Ram 1500 is hardly a powerhouse, but it does offer competitive outputs.
The power output is 179kW at 3600rpm, and the torque number is 569Nm at 2000rpm. For context, despite the size of the Ram, those outputs are lower than an Amarok V6 diesel (200kW/580Nm) and X-Class 350d V6 (190kW/550Nm).
The 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 engine fitted to the Ram 1500 is hardly a powerhouse, but it does offer competitive outputs. (image: Glen Sullivan)
The Ram 1500 runs an eight-speed automatic transmission across all variants, and it has a selectable four-wheel drive system with 2H (two-wheel drive high range), 4H (four-wheel drive high range) and 4L (four-wheel drive low range) modes.
You might be thinking that a ute like this should have a huge towing capacity, but the fact of the matter is that the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel towing rating is the same as you get in many of the utes in the size bracket below: 750kg for an unbraked trailer, and 3500kg for a braked trailer. So, the same as a Ford Ranger.
If you need more towing capacity, you can get the petrol Ram 1500 with the lower axle ratio (3.92) and fit a 70mm tow ball for a maximum braked towing capacity of 4.5 tonnes.
You might be thinking that a ute like this should have a huge towing capacity. (image: Glen Sullivan)
We saw a little better than that for our highway-based road trip from Sydney to Cooma and back, with an average of 11.1L/100km at the pump. That was a repeated fuel use figure, which we saw on a second fill, too.
When it came to the towing portion of our test, we saw an indicated return of 16.3L/100km on the digital driver information screen, but the at-the-pump maths we did showed the real fuel use was 18.8L/100km. Bear in mind, this route included a lot of stopping and starting for video and photos, and we aimed to keep pace with the traffic on the route. You should see a lower return for highway driving.
When it came to the towing portion of our test, we saw an indicated return of 16.3L/100km on the digital driver information screen. (image: Glen Sullivan)
If you're wondering how the petrol vs diesel fuel-consumption equation works, there's a surprising difference.
The petrol 5.7-litre V8 with the equivalent towing capacity (but with the higher 3.21 axle ratio) uses a claimed 9.9L/100km – so 2.0L/100km less than the diesel claims.
We asked Ram's local team if we could get a petrol to compare how they compare when it comes to towing fuel use, but it wasn't possible this time around.
What's it like as a daily driver?
The Ram 1500 is surprisingly easy to drive.
What I mean by that is that it feels smaller to drive around town than it really is. With a turning circle of just 12.1m, it shrinks around you despite its physical size, and that's actually a better turning diameter than a Ford Ranger (12.7m), which is about half a metre shorter!
The steering is accurate and easy to judge, light enough to make urban driving pretty easy.
The steering is accurate and easy to judge, light enough to make urban driving pretty easy. (image: Glen Sullivan)
The ride of the Ram is excellent in most situations – it has independent suspension all around, with the five-link rear suspension proving impressively subtle at dispensing with lumps and bumps in the road surface. I did a lot of kays without a trailer in tow, and it was super comfortable on long stints.
We noticed a few instances where the transmission could be caught out at urban speeds, holding a gear and refusing to downshift, leaving it up to the driver to hit the steering wheel button to trigger a new gear choice.
That said, it pulls strongly, is quiet and mostly very refined, and made for a very comfortable drive from Sydney to Cooma and back, as well as a few hundred extra kilometres closer to home.
The ride of the Ram is excellent in most situations. (image: Glen Sullivan)
Do a lot of driving at night? There's a good chance you'll be disappointed with the headlight performance in the Ram 1500. Illumination is poor for low beam, and the auto high beam lights are slow to react to oncoming traffic.
We didn't do any off-road review driving for this test. But if you want to know the vitals, here goes: the approach angle is 15.2 degrees; the departure angle is 23.7deg; the ramp-over/break-over angle is 17.1deg; and the ground clearance is 235mm unladen.
What's it like for touring?
By touring, we mean towing. And it's a pretty impressive tow vehicle. We towed a Jayco Journey Touring caravan thanks to our mates at Jayco Nowra, and while it wasn't pushing the capabilities of this type of vehicle, it is indicative of what a lot of people will tow. It has a travel length of 7545mm, and a tare weight of 2045kg, but our van was a bit heavier than that thanks to a few optional extras. The list price for this van is $59,897.
We selected Tow/Haul mode on the Ram, which adjusts a number of parameters such as throttle mapping and transmission logic, allowing the Ram to stay within its optimum power band, and it also disables the rear parking sensors.
The Ram's 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 engine never feels short of pulling power, with strong response across its rev range, and a transmission that feels well suited to the job at hand.
We towed a Jayco Journey Touring caravan thanks to our mates at Jayco Nowra. (image: Glen Sullivan)
While it wasn’t pushing the capabilities of this type of vehicle, it is indicative of what a lot of people will tow. (image: Glen Sullivan)
It has a travel length of 7545mm, and a tare weight of 2045kg, but our van was a bit heavier than that thanks to a few optional extras. (image: Glen Sullivan)
It’s a pretty impressive tow vehicle. (image: Glen Sullivan)
We selected Tow/Haul mode on the Ram, which adjusts a number of parameters. (image: Glen Sullivan)
It revs smoothly and doesn't feel laggy in its response, and while the transmission can be a little clumsy when you're not towing, in this mode it holds gears nicely and ensures you won't be left wanting for pulling power. The transmission isn't afraid to hold on to a gear longer than you think you might need it, which may impact your fuel use at times but it does make for good drivability.
The Ram 1500's long wheelbase and independent suspension all-around mean it feels comfortable, controlled and competent. Only over rough country road surfaces did the ride come into question – largely because it's running those big 20-inch chrome wheels.
At higher speeds it is very composed and refined, though we still noticed a little bit of fore-aft pitching, with the weight of the trailer bobbing the ute from nose to tail in some instances.
The Ram 1500’s long wheelbase and independent suspension all-around mean it feels comfortable, controlled and competent. (image: Glen Sullivan)
One element that really appealed to me was the integrated electronic brake controller, which uses a toggle system down on the centre console rather than a dial. And the best bit is that it links to the driver information screen, meaning you can see what setting you're choosing without having to avert your gaze too far from the road ahead.
Braking response was good – unlike some of the utes in the size segment below, the Ram 1500 has four-wheel disc brakes instead of drum brakes at the rear, and the extra stopping response is good, even if the pedal-feel could be a little better. Interestingly, the Tow/Haul mode the cruise-control system will hold pace down hills, where if you're not in that mode the Ram will tend to run away on you.
One issue we had with the Ram was the quality of the reversing camera. It's not the screen – the multimedia unit has a great resolution and design, but the camera itself is a poor quality, offering a grainy image that struggles to cope with changes in contrast. If you reverse from direct light into a shadow, it really struggles to adapt, and that makes it hard to judge.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
Because the Ram 1500 we get in Australia is actually an older-generation vehicle, it lacks a lot of the active safety equipment you might expect if you're spending this much money on a ute.
Here's what it has: a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, airbags (dual-front, front-side, full-length curtain), stability and traction control, trailer sway control, hill start assist, auto high-beam headlights and auto headlights and wipers.
Here's a list of what it doesn't have: auto emergency braking (AEB), lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear AEB, a 360-degree camera. All of that stuff is available on utes that cost $40,000 less than this one.
There are dual ISOFIX child seat anchor points in the back, and three top-tether child seat attachment points. Fitting a child seat or baby seat isn't the simplest task in most double cab pick-ups, and the Ram is no exception. Are you up to date with the laws around child seats in dual cab utes? Read more here.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
The Ram ownership plan isn't great. Ram covers its models with a three-year/100,000km warranty plan. Want an extended warranty? Ask your dealer, but plenty of other utes out there have five-year/unlimited kilometre plans, and some even have seven years' warranty coverage.
The servicing is a question mark, too, with 12 month/12,000km intervals. That's pretty short, especially if you cover lots of kilometres. If you're thinking of doing the Great Australian Road Trip, you'll need to consider it for mid-trip maintenance, too, as the dealer network isn't what you'd call extensive.
This is a big rig, but it carries off its size pretty well. (image: Glen Sullivan)
Ram does offer buyers three years/100,000km of roadside assist, too.
But you might have concerns over problems, issues, reliability, engine problems, transmission issues, suspension complaints, recalls and more. Be sure to check our Ram problems page for more information.
It's expensive, yes, and it doesn't really tow $50,000 better than a Ford Ranger, for instance. But if you need a ute of this size and you plan to spend a lot of time touring, the Ram 1500 diesel is a solid option.
Thanks again to our mates at Jayco Nowra for helping out with this towing test.