Ram 1500 EcoDiesel And eTorque Bike Hauler Test

For race motorcycle weekends, new Ram Rebel is the SR-71 Blackbird of pickups.

The best way to test a truck’s motorcycle hauling abilities is to take it on a road trip to the races. Both the Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel (shown) and Ram 1500 Laramie Sport Hemi eTorque performed well.
The best way to test a truck’s motorcycle hauling abilities is to take it on a road trip to the races. Both the Ram 1500 Rebel EcoDiesel (shown) and Ram 1500 Laramie Sport Hemi eTorque performed well.Michael D’Oliveira

Remember the On Any Sunday scene where Mert Lawwill and his mechanic drive state to state, hitting the burger joints in between races, catching Z's in the back of the Econoline, and arriving right as the track gates opened? My buddies Hector Cademartori and Michael D'Oliveira and I enjoyed a similar experience scurrying between AHRMA vintage motocross nationals in Arizona, California, and Colorado. I used the road miles—nearly 6,000 as of this writing, and the season's not over yet—to cycle through as many of the latest full-size pickups as I could get my Loctite-stained paws on, including the 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Sport Crew Cab 4x4 and 2020 Ram 1500 Rebel Quad Cab 4x4 shown here.

Ram 1500 Laramie Sport Crew Cab 4x4 Hemi eTorque Vs. Ram 1500 Rebel Quad Cab 4x4 EcoDiesel

New for 2019, the restyled fifth-generation Ram trucks feature lighter high-strength steel frame and body structures, better aero thanks to features like an active front air dam, and amplitude-reactive shocks. Of course, the Ram pickup range is way broader, all the way up to a Ram 3500 boasting 1,000 pound-feet of torque, practically enough to tow a house. But I wanted to focus on the versatile 1500-series trucks, the best choice for motorcyclists wanting both a daily driver and a weekend bike hauler.

Restyled for 2019 the fifth-generation Ram trucks get better aerodynamics, lighter frames, and amplitude-reactive shocks. All good stuff, but how do they perform as bike haulers?
Restyled for 2019 the fifth-generation Ram trucks get better aerodynamics, lighter frames, and amplitude-reactive shocks. All good stuff, but how do they perform as bike haulers?Michael D’Oliveira

Ram 1500 Laramie Sport Crew Cab 4x4 Hemi eTorque

The first of two sojourns with these new Rams was the second round of the vintage series at Perris Raceway near Riverside, California, last February. From my adobe on the Central Left Coast, I loaded the Laramie for a 350-mile round trip, plus racing, in one long day. A 4 a.m. start put me head-down on the freeway to pick up Hector, the 395-hp 5.7-liter gas Hemi V-8 humping along smartly and delivering 18 mpg—good but not exactly stunning, even with its “eTorque” battery assist; it’s a “mild hybrid” in truck-speak. The Crew Cab was brilliant—comfortable and plenty roomy in back to store riding gear, cooler, tools, and spares. Chemicals, race gas, ramp, and bike stand went in the 5-foot 7-inch bed along with two bikes. Predictably, the tailgate wouldn’t close, requiring most everything be tied down.

Ram offers a 6-foot 4-inch bed, a multifunction tailgate, and bed step in some 1500-series trucks, but our Laramie didn’t have these. Thus, the nearly 3-foot-high bed required using a bike stand—or high-stepping or leaping—up to the tailgate (now aluminum, BTW) when loading bikes. Technical term for this repetitive drill: PITA. The Ram 1500 Crew Cab has a flat rear floor, which means you can sleep comfortably “indoors” at the track. No one needed to on our Perris run, but I nuzzled my 6-foot frame into the 5 x 2-foot rear floor and determined, yep, can do.

Takeaway from the weekend: Good power with agreeable but not stellar fuel economy, great overall looks, and a nice auto high beams headlight feature. Inside are fine front seating comfort, roomy rear seating and storage, terrific Harman Kardon audio and active noise cancellation, USFS trails included with recordable GPS mapping, and dual 400-watt 115-volt outlets inside (none in the bed). The street-oriented low-profile 20-inch Bridgestone Dueler H/T tires allow sharp handling but degrade ride quality and limit off-road acumen. And in back, the bed features a welcome eight tie-down hooks, but is awkward to load or unload, and the LED bed lighting is poor.

Cycle World Bike Hauler Grade: B

Ram 1500 Rebel Quad Cab 4x4 EcoDiesel

_Cycle World_ preferred the torque-rich engine character of the 3-liter EcoDiesel.
Cycle World preferred the torque-rich engine character of the 3-liter EcoDiesel.John L. Stein

Rather than the gas Hemi V-8 of the Ram 1500 above, the burly, Baja-style Rebel has a 3-liter turbodiesel V-6 that just flat gets it on. Boasting 480 pound-feet of torque, the motor is so grunty that it just doesn’t care what gear the eight-speed automatic is in or what you do to the right pedal. It just goes. In attacking the 18th round of the VMX series in Milliken, Colorado, last September, Michael and I typically saw 20–23 mpg on our four-day, 2,300-mile haul, with speeds often 80 mph and diesel fill-ups every 500 miles. Now that’s more like it.

For a truck as aggressive looking as the fiery red Rebel, the Quad Cab (smaller than the Laramie’s Crew Cab) is composed inside. It’s impressively quiet, despite some background noise from the lugged 18-inch Goodyear Wranglers, and the highway ride quality is good. Our marathon weekend, which included successive 500- to 600-mile days, therefore inspired good overall comfort. The only downsides were a substandard 5-inch navigation screen, and seat cushions that felt too hard for my skinny racer’s arse. Manlier men will prolly find them fine.

Another test for the Ram Rebel came the next weekend, when, having run fresh out of friends, I blew solo up to Alturas, California, for round 20. More than 600 miles on day one, racing four motos, and heading back to Frisco on day two, and then returning to SoCal on day three—alone again, naturally—proved what a stupendous enabler the Ram Rebel is.

More tie-down points in the bed would make for easier securing of multiple motorcycles and gear, however a few aftermarket mods would solve one of the very few issues on the Ram Rebel.
More tie-down points in the bed would make for easier securing of multiple motorcycles and gear, however a few aftermarket mods would solve one of the very few issues on the Ram Rebel.John L. Stein

Given the frenzy of road miles to and from races, there’s little off-roading info to report here—just some dirt access roads and a couple of quick forays into low-range 4x4 on the MX tracks after the races. Predictably, the Rebel seemed as ready to get dirty as to chase miles of interstate home.

There is plenty of room on the Ram for extra hardware you may pick up on the race weekend.
There is plenty of room on the Ram for extra hardware you may pick up on the race weekend.John L. Stein

Rebel dislikes? The stock painted bed with just four tie-down points and the same high tailgate as on the Laramie. Those issues can be solved by checking boxes on the order form—or with wheel chocks, a spray-on bed liner, and a milk crate! I love the Ford Raptor’s 510 pound-feet gas EcoBoost V-6 a ton, but the Rebel’s available EcoDiesel is damned close in output—and gets way better mileage. And in this day of annoying short-bed trucks, the Rebel’s 6-foot 4-inch bed also held two MX bikes with the tailgate up and locked. Bravo Zulu, Rebel.

Cycle World Bike Hauler Grade: A