The 2020 Ram 1500 offers a quiet ride and mega...

The 2020 Ram 1500 offers a quiet ride and mega towing power. Credit: TNS/FCA US LLC

Fiat Chrysler wins the latest round of the Truck Wars as an all-new diesel engine lifts the towing capacity of its 2020 Ram 1500 pickup well beyond the diesel Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500.

The whisper-quiet 3.0-liter diesel also generates more torque — the force most important for towing — than those key competitors. The third-generation 3.0L Ecodiesel V-6 goes on sale in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The engine will be available in all 2020 Ram 1500 models, from the $36,890 Tradesman to the luxurious $60K-plus Laramie Longhorn. Detailed pricing and fuel economy figures will be available closer to when the new diesel goes on sale.

The 2020 Ram 1500 diesel can tow 12,560 pounds. That compares with 10,400 for the F-150 diesel and 9,300 for the Silverado 1500 and GMC 1500. Diesels have been popular in automakers’ bigger medium-duty pickups, like the Ram 2500 and 3500, for decades, but they’re relatively new in 1500s, which are also called half-ton pickups, even though they all haul more than that. The term “half-ton” dates back to when pickups were less capable than they are today and could only carry about 1,000 pounds in their cab and bed.

The 2020 Ram 1500 diesel can haul up to 2,300 pounds in its cab and bed, in addition to its towing capacity.

Buyers liked the first Ram 1500 diesel, so Ford followed suit with its own 3.0L V-6. Chevy and GMC joined the party this year, as Ram is introducing the third generation of its engine. Truck drivers love diesels because they’re more fuel efficient than a gasoline engine with the same towing capacity.

A full 80 percent of the Ram diesel’s parts are new, including its block, valvetrain and head — most of what you see when you open the hood. Unlike the Ram’s gasoline engines, the diesel doesn’t have Fiat Chrysler’s 48-volt eTorque mild hybrid system.

The new block contributes to quiet operation. Diesels used to be plagued by rattles and smoky exhaust, but you might walk by an idling Ram and not realize there was anything unusual about the engine. The quiet operation owes to a host of engineering changes, including making the block — which is essentially the engine’s body — out of a very stiff material called compacted graphite iron. Despite all that, I suspect the Chevrolet Silverado’s new 3.0L inline six-cylinder diesel would be smoother and quieter than the Ram in a side-by-side test.

The Ram I tested was loaded with comfort and convenience features, including an air suspension that delivered one of the most comfortable rides I’ve ever had in a pickup. The suspension adjusted for off-roading and highway driving, too.

The engine is smooth and quiet. The big pickup accelerated smoothly, thanks in part to diesel-oriented changes to the eight-speed transmission’s shift points.

Ram provided a 5,150-pound trailer. That’s not enough to truly test a vehicle that can tow more than twice that, but the Ram pulled fine up and down mild hills and up to 65 mph. Acceleration was OK, and the pickup’s brakes and steering were good enough that it was easy to forget I had a trailer with a pair of ATVs behind me.

2020 Ram 1500 Laramie

Base price: $36,890

Price as tested: $68,000

Power: 3.0L diesel V-6; 260 hp., 480 pound-feet of torque

EPA fuel economy rating: To be determined

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Bottom line: Quiet performer

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