Call it plain vanilla. Call it a stripper. Call it bare-bones. It’s all of those. One thing the 2015 Ram 1500 Regular Cab EcoDiesel isn’t, though, is wimpy.
The truck I recently spent a few days driving the city streets, interstates and mountain roads around Phoenix, Arizona and Laughlin, Nevada is the epitome of bland.
But get beyond the two-door’s vinyl floor mats, hand-crank windows, manual seats and manual door locks, and you quickly realize it’s also the epitome of a true work truck: Functional. Powerful. Economical. Comfortable.
Powered by the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel, this Ram sips fuel like a camel trekking over the Sahara. During a joint test with the folks at Car.com, we saw 29.2 mpg on a 110-mile highway-driving loop that included a 20-mile section of twisting mountain roads.
The truck also bested the EPA’s 20 mpg city driving numbers with better than 22 mpg navigating through moderate traffic.
I also slapped a 4,500-pound trailer on the hitch ball to see how the little V-6 diesel, developing 420 foot-pounds and 240 horsepower, backed by the 8-speed automatic, does in the trailering department. Taking the same 110-mile route the Ram delivered 17 mpg, which is exceptional fuel economy for a work truck.
The diesel V-6, which is a $4,000 option, is strong right off-throttle up to about 4,000 rpm, at which point the 8-speed quickly snicks up another gear to continue the power surge.
On top of the power, I found the steering nimble, the brakes strong. And the visibility is excellent.
As for ride, the base model Ram 1500 Tradesman 2WD ($25,195) is surprisingly comfortable. One would expect a regular cab with a payload capacity pushing 1,500-pound to be harsh and the seating cramped. It’s neither.
The truck 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.
There’s a spacious center console with 12-volt and USB connectivity to power electronics, and the Tradesman has a plastic base storage area behind the seats for smaller items such as heavy jackets, work boots, a briefcase and more.
Having the optional UConnect system, with upgraded audio, Bluetooth and touch screen, modernizes the bare interior while making hands-free phone and other connectivity operations available for the rolling office.
One of the only nits I could find to pick with the Tradesman is the stock 17-inch tires. They are fine if the truck is going to be used strictly as a parts getter. But their narrow width and street tread don’t afford much in the way of off-pavement driving or navigating slicker road surfaces.
That can become an issue with the diesel; there’s so much low-end torque it’s easy to find the rear tires protesting as they grab for traction if one gets a little sporty in their driving. I’d also upgrade if I were going to be doing a lot of towing or hauling loads.
Ram’s base-model 1500 Tradesman is a true work truck. But it’s also fun to drive with the EcoDiesel, be it empty, the bed loaded, or with a trailer in-tow. The best part? You don’t make many fuel stops.