If you’ve read our previous 2020 Ram 1500 reviews, you’ll know we’re fans of the full-size US pick-up in RHD guise. Not for everyone, sure, but for the right buyer they make a hell of a lot of sense. If you’re towing, live in rural areas, or simply need the room afforded by a US truck, there’s nothing that compares.
In fact, with the pricing as sharp as it is, the Ram starts to make more sense than ever, regardless of the model grade. Conventional dual-cabs are hardly ‘cheap’ anymore in comparison – take a look at pricing for the top specification grade across each manufacturer.
Until now, though, we’ve only tested the 5.7-litre petrol Hemi V8 – no bad thing given the power and torque it generates – but Aussie buyers undeniably love oilers under the bonnet of their dual-cabs, and as such, we’re now going to take a closer look at the 2020 Ram 1500 Laramie EcoDiesel.
Let’s just call it the 1500 diesel, though, shall we…
At the time of testing, the list price is $109,950 before on-road costs, which positions the diesel model exactly 10-grand more expensive than the Laramie with the petrol V8. It might be the first time we’ve been able to buy a 1500 diesel here, but the 3.0-litre V6 engine has been available in the States for more than five years and is a little more popular over there than you might expect – especially for business buyers.
It’s a familiar turbo diesel V6, too, the same as we’ve tested in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and sourced from VM Motori – one of the biggest specialist diesel engine builders in the world. The 3.0-litre engine is backed by an eight-speed automatic, and it churns out a smooth 179kW at 3600rpm and 569Nm at 2000rpm while using 11.9L/100km on the combined cycle.
Those power and torque figures are by no means stratospheric, but the 1500 diesel promises to be more frugal, certainly around town, than its petrol sibling. Horses for courses, then. However, it is worth noting the numbers of the Amarok for comparison – especially given we hark back to conventional dual-cabs when it comes to price comparison.
So, the Big Mac in the Amarok range makes 190kW and 580Nm – also from a 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel engine – which puts the 1500 in its place somewhat. In a comparison of sheer grunt anyway. However, the Ram is still efficient, certainly for a truck of such heft. We saw an average of 10.9L/100km after our highway run, and an average of 13.9L/100km purely around town in traffic. While the 1500 might not punch the hardest then with a diesel engine, it’s certainly not out of the question if you’re a frugal buyer.
The Laramie grade gets plenty of standard kit including: spray-in tub liner, 20-inch chrome wheels, electric seats, heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel, heated outer second-row seats, dual-zone climate-control AC, keyless start, smart entry, 8.4-inch touchscreen system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, proprietary satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, 10-speaker audio system with sub, and two USB inputs.
There are many things that set the US trucks apart from the dual-cabs we’ve been used to – not the least of which is the longer wheelbase, and coil springs at the rear – but the biggest difference would have to be the interior. Especially now that you can get a Musso or Navara and (for a limited time) X-Class with coils at the rear, so the Ram isn’t the only option there.
No other dual-cab comes close to the space, storage and execution of the Ram’s cabin, though. There’s so much storage for phones, wallets, keys and other bits and bobs, you’re more likely to lose them than struggle to find somewhere to put them.
The storage location itself is useful, too, well placed and sensible. The way that the Ram facilitates the use of a large smartphone is excellent, because in this day and age where you can’t even look at your phone funny, you need it stored somewhere secure rather than bobbling around in a door pocket.
The amount of room on offer for occupants is exceptional, with space for three adults across the second row, in terms of head room, shoulder room, leg and knee room, and for your feet under the front seats. There’s no caveat there either. It’s proper room across that row for adults, which is a bonus if you have a large or growing family.
Our tester didn’t have side steps, so climbing into and out of the cabin was a challenge for those with shorter legs, but you’d surely option side steps onto the Ram if you were buying one. It might be the only option you need, in fact.
The driver and passenger get heated and cooled front seats, there’s plenty of leg room and an adjustable pedal set for the driver, but only height adjustment for the steering wheel, not reach. That adjustable pedal set is something you may never have thought about, and it’s something you may never have thought you needed, but if you have drivers rotating through the truck who are significantly taller or shorter than each other, it’s genius.
One piece of design genius that you could argue all dual-cabs should have is the rear seat system. American trucks have had this for a while, too, but the seat base folds up out of the way, tight against the seat back, to reveal a collapsible flat platform that turns the second-row floor into completely flat storage for whatever you might need to carry out of the weather.
On road trips overseas, for example, I’ve used that space for suitcases most commonly. The seat bases also have lights in them, so you can see what you’re doing when you’re loading and unloading.
I don’t love the foot-operated park brake – in any car really – but it’s a necessary evil in the Ram. Engineers have explained to us in the past that the brake is required to match the GVM given its tow rating. You need to get used to it when you do park the Ram – right foot on the brake, into park, left foot on the brake, right foot engaging the parking brake. It’s really the only element of the LHD to RHD conversion that isn’t ideal.
Take a Ram out for a run into the country anywhere in Australia, and you struggle to think of a more relaxed touring vehicle – certainly in the commercial space. The long wheelbase ensures that it simply lopes along, utterly unfazed by the road surface. And while I do love the exhaust note and chunky power on offer from the petrol V8, I never felt like the diesel was lacking anywhere either.
Yes, it is a big truck, longer specifically than the usual dual-cab brigade, but if you live in the inner city, this isn’t the vehicle for you anyway. The turning circle – 12.1m – is actually pretty handy for a vehicle of this size, and the steering is easy enough to use around town that it doesn’t feel hefty and ungainly. In fact, you’ll quickly get used to it, and start to enjoy the high-riding visibility and comfort afforded by the long wheelbase.
Independent suspension up front with a five-link set-up at the rear makes the ride comfortable just about everywhere. What’s key to the all-round ability is the fact that the ride remains comfortable even unladen. Most dual-cabs can’t lay claim to that fact and require 200–300kg in the tray to iron the pogo effect out. Not so the Ram, which does well with or without weight in the tray and with or without a trailer hitched up.
The diesel engine is smooth and refined right up to redline, and at any speed around town or on the highway. The eight-speed auto does a proficient job of finding the sweet spot of the power and torque delivery, too, ensuring the engine never feels like it’s working too hard. Further, unlike some of the dual-cab brigade, the Ram has discs at the rear making for impressive braking performance, even on longer downhill stretches.
The Ram is an old platform now, and has been available in the States for quite some time, so its suite of electronic safety isn’t as extensive as some. You do get a rear-view camera (that is a little on the grainy side), front and rear parking sensors, dual front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags, traction and stability control, trailer-sway function, hill-start assist, automatic high beams, and automatic wipers.
So, some of the conventional dual-cab brigade get better and more extensive safety equipment now, which may be a factor for some buyers. The 1500 diesel is covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty and roadside assistance for the same period. Servicing is required every 12 months or 12,000km. If you cover big distances in rural areas, that 12,000km interval is going to be a bit of a pain.
While the Ram 1500 is a dual-cab, it really is a different proposition to the models we’re most familiar with. It’s more comfortable, more proficient and significantly better for towing. That goes for either the petrol or diesel engine, too. The diesel is undoubtedly more efficient, though, and more refined than you might expect.
If you’re towing a large van, work machinery or farming equipment, or you want an effortless cruiser, nothing really comes close to it.