Review: Don’t judge a book by its cover; Ram’s 1500 Tradesman diesel proves true in driving test

2015 Ram 1500 Reg Cab Bws1478web

Ram’s base-model Tradesman is a stripper for sure. Basic white body with steel wheels. Vinyl seat and floor mats. Crank widows and push-down door locks. Black steel bumpers.

Trucks don’t get more vanilla.

But it’s perfect for the business owner that needs a cheaper, inexpensive pickup to haul stuff and occasionally tow a trailer.

I recently spent a few days driving the city streets, interstates and mountain roads between Phoenix, Arizona and Laughlin, Nevada, in a 2015 regular cab two-wheel-drive Tradesman.

What wasn’t bland was under the hood: the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6.

Ram’s standard 3.6-liter, 305 horsepower V-6 is a strong motor, delivering 18/25 mpg on city/highway. But if you are going to be towing heavier trailers and hauling heavy stuff in its 6-foot, 4-inch bed, then it’s the $4,500 EcoDiesel V-6 option that I was driving you want.

The EcoDiesel Tradesman sips fuel like a camel trekking over the Sahara. During a joint test with the folks at Cars.Com, I saw 29.2 mpg on a 110-mile highway-driving loop that included a 20-mile section of twisting mountain roads.

This particular truck also bested the EPA’s 20 mpg city driving numbers with better than 22 mpg navigating through moderate stop-and-go traffic.

It’s a fast, strong package, too. It pulled a 4,500-pound trailer with great ease even in the mountains. Not surprising as the diesel makes about 50 percent more torque than the gas V-6, pushing out 420 foot-pounds of torque running through a very smooth eight-speed automatic.

(Is a diesel the right choice for your business? Do a quick comparison on the EPA website where you can compare different vehicles and “personalize” the fuel prices/mileage to get a quick cost-per-mile and annual fuel cost overview.)

On top of the power, I found the regular cab Tradesman both nimble and comfortable – even when spending hours behind the wheel. It takes the bumps, dips and irregularities in the road with aplomb, and the vinyl 60/40- split-bench seat is both comfortable and adjustable enough to make even taller drivers and passengers be at ease.

Ram’s base-model 1500 Tradesman with the optional diesel V-6  is a true work truck. It may look plain Jane, but it’s power and overall performance is pleasantly colorful.

Basic Specifications

  • Model: 2015 Ram 1500 Tradesman Regular Cab 2WD
  • Base Price: $25,195
  • Price As Tested: $32,020
  • Major options: EcoDiesel ($4,000); 8spd automatic ($500); Uconnect ($660)
  • Engine: 240hp 3.0L V-6 EcoDiesel
  • Transmission: 8spd TorqueFlite Automatic
  • Axle Ratio: 3.55:1
  • Fuel Economy (EPA): 20 city/23 combined /28 hwy
  • Observed: 22 city/29.2 hwy/17 towing
  • Maximum Towing Capacity (hitch ball): 5,000 lbs
  • Maximum Towing Capacity (Weight-ditrubuting): 8,240 lbs.

Editor’s Note: Bruce Smith is a Senior Editor at Randall-Reilly

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