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2020 Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel Review: The Ideal Vehicle... For Some!

You really have to be in need a work tool to consider buying a turbo-diesel pickup these days… but if you're among them, here it is! Automotive columnist: , Updated:

Auto123 reviews the 2020 Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel.

I took the wheel of this black-and-white behemoth exactly one week after the first press conference given by the Premier of Quebec in connection with the novel coronavirus pandemic. At that time, the whole of Canada was beginning its fight against Covid-19.

This also meant that I was able to test-drive this menacing-looking full-size Ram pickup on fairly empty roads. At one point, I traveled a normally congested section of highway in the west end of Montreal without any other vehicles in sight. It’s a situation that likely won't happen again soon...

No surprise, the Rebel package, introduced for the 2015 model year on the older-generation pickup, is once again part of the product offering for the 2020 Ram 1500. This rugged variant has been pretty universally well-received since its introduction. This year there’s a little more to the Ram 1500 Rebel, which can now be ordered with the new version of the EcoDiesel V6 engine (which is more powerful for 2020), in addition to Ram’s vaunted multi-function tailgate that makes loading smaller items in the cargo bed easier.

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Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel 2020, avant
Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel 2020, avant
Photo: V.Aubé

So what’s a Ram Rebel?
Although in the popular understanding  the Ram Rebel is often linked to the Ford F-150 Raptor, a couple of clarifications are in order. Unlike its Ford rival, the Ram 1500 Rebel doesn't have a suspension capable of withstanding a high jump over a dune in the Mohave Desert in California, for example. There are Bilstein shocks and a ground clearance that's an inch higher than in the 1500, but that's about it. O, and there are those exclusive 18-inch wheels and off-road tires that mostly contribute to the Rebel's (off-)street cred.

Under the hood, the Ram Rebel doesn't deliver any improvements for 2020. Ford’s Raptor for its part comes with a 450-hp twin-turbo V6, but Mopar enthusiasts will be happy to know that Ram engineers are working on a Rebel TRX that should theoretically accommodate a 6.2L supercharged V8 under its hood; we’Ve seen that engine in use in the Jeep Trackhawk, among others. In other words, Ram will soon have a pickup truck that can develop 707 hp when it leaves the factory.

In the meantime, the 2020 Ram Rebel is the best-equipped pickup in the lineup for off-road driving, if you exclude the Ram Power Wagon from the equation. As for the rest, the Rebel trim comes standard with the 28W package, which includes a 3:92 rear axle ratio, hill descent control, off-road package and a self-locking rear differential.

2020 Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel, interior
2020 Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel, interior
Photo: V.Aubé

Luxurious interior
Frankly, given its $76,845 price point (not counting preparation fees of $1,895), the 2020 Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel pickup doesn't really have a choice but to offer a certain level of luxury on board. Be warned, however, that to enhance the interior experience, the optional Leather and Audio Package adds $3,590 to the cost. It does also add power-adjustable heated leather seats, heated steering wheel, premium audio system (courtesy of Alpine), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems, 4G LTE wireless connectivity and that big 12-inch touchscreen.

The latter feature is been the subject of much discussion, Ram having taken inspiration from Tesla in installing an oversized screen. Fortunately, some physical climate-control buttons are still, surrounding the screen, making those easier to access. But the switch to a touchscreen now forces the driver to look for many controls he or she needs while driving. In my view this isn’t ideal, especially if you're holding the steering wheel and you have to take your eyes off the road for a few seconds.

Otherwise, the optional $700 running board is very useful, given the height of the vehicle. That’s great for the cabin, but the cargo box is harder to access; Ram hasn't yet come up with a solution to help folks make it up into the open trunk more easily. On the other hand, the new multifunction tailgate is very easy to handle, especially when loading stuff likes a bigger-than-usual covid-19-era grocery order, for example.

2020 Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel, tailgate
2020 Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel, tailgate
2020 Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel, 2nd row
2020 Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel, 2nd row

As for the Quad Cab, you should know that the available space in the second row is perfectly suited for young children and even a few medium-sized adults. There's that very vertical backrest to contend with, but hey, you can't have everything.

At the wheel
As always with a vehicle of this size, it takes a few minutes to get used to its increased dimensions. Not that it's hard to drive a 1500 pickup truck, but there is a difference between manoeuvering this truck around and a compact car.

You also have to consider that the engine under the hood is a turbo-diesel V6, an engine that has nothing to do with the HEMI V8 that purrs like a Dodge Challenger! But, as I often like to remind myself, being behind the wheel of a Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is a reminder that there's also a Ram Heavy Duty higher up in the lineup, which can be equipped with a 6-cylinder inline turbodiesel engine from the Cummins catalogue. Which means that, at the wheel of this Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel, you actually feel like you're driving a real truck.

2020 Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel, profile
2020 Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel, profile
Photo: V.Aubé

Beyond the unique sound of the V6 diesel, the surprise from this powertrain is in the accelerations it produces, this as you hear the sighs of the turbocharger when your right foot gets heavy. With 480 lb-ft of optimal torque available, passing maneuvers are done in no time on the highway. Also impressive is the average fuel consumption, which in my case ended up at about 11.0L/100 km, a bit more than 1.0L/100 km above than the Canadian EnerGuide official figure.

You really have to be in need a work tool of this type to consider buying a turbo-diesel pickup these days. Of course, there are all the inconveniences that a pickup truck entails, such as difficulty parking or fuel consumption (if you’re going to tow stuff), not to mention the Ram 1500's pricing, worthy of a top-level sports car.

On the other hand, the 2020 Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel is comfortable, luxurious and capable of towing a small house on its own. For outdoor enthusiasts and entrepreneurs who need such a vehicle, the EcoDiesel pickup – you don’t necessarily have to go for the Rebel trim – should really make the short list of this very specific clientele, which does now have the luxury of switching over to Ford or even GM, both brands now also offering a "small" turbo diesel engine in their product offerings.

2020 Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel, three-quarters rear
2020 Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel, three-quarters rear
Photo: V.Aubé

We like

Towing capacity
Fuel economy
The luxury of a sedan

We like less

Suspension of the Rebel a little firmer
Some unnecessary options
No step to access the cargo box

The competition

Chevrolet Silverado
Ford F-150
GMC Sierra
Nissan Titan
Toyota Tundra

2020 Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel, rear
2020 Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel, rear
Photo: V.Aubé

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