Ram announced today that a new model would join its 1500 full-size pickup truck line for 2021, and it will be the new fuel-economy champ in Ram’s showroom. The new 2021 Ram 1500 Tradesman HFE EcoDiesel (there’s a mouthful) will be rated by the EPA at 23/33/26 mpg city/highway/combined, according to the brand, making it the most fuel-efficient full-size pickup offered by Ram (HFE stands for High Fuel Efficiency).
The improvements are 1 mpg better for both city and highway mileage than the 2020 Ram Tradesman EcoDiesel, and Ram achieved them through some changes to the 1500 that boost efficiency without sacrificing utility.
How Is the HFE Different?
Ram modified four main areas as part of the Tradesman HFE package. First is in the aerodynamics department, which sees a standard bed cover and a new front grille and bumper design; this improves airflow for less drag and better fuel economy. Different tires with low rolling resistance are fitted, as well, another way to overcome the factors that affect mileage. Finally, a 3.21 rear-axle ratio helps boost fuel economy by allowing the truck to cruise on the highway at a lower engine rpm. Despite these modifications, the Tradesman HFE EcoDiesel package can still tow a maximum of 12,560 pounds and go up to 1,000 miles on a single tank of fuel, a Ram spokesperson told Cars.com.
‘Unsurpassed’ Gas Mileage? No, Not Really
How do these numbers compare with other fuel-efficient trucks in the segment? Well, despite Ram’s claim that these new numbers are “unsurpassed,” the 2021 Ram Tradesman HFE EcoDiesel doesn’t actually match the numbers generated by the 2021 Chevrolet Silverado Duramax 2WD, which is rated at 23/33/27 mpg city/highway/combined, beating the Ram by 1 mpg in the combined rating (in rounded EPA figures, anyway). Ram’s efforts now match Chevrolet for city and highway mileage, but the diesel-powered Silverado 1500 still has unsurpassed combined mileage.
Both Ram and Chevy are still ahead of Ford’s efforts, however, with the most fuel-efficient 2021 F-150 being either the new 2021 F-150 hybrid rear-wheel-drive (25/26/25 mpg) or four-wheel-drive 2021 F-150 Power Stroke diesel (20/27/23 mpg), which beats the hybrid F-150 in highway mileage but not in city or combined scores. Ford now ties its Power Stroke diesel engine to four-wheel drive, however, which is one likely reason it’s rated lower than the Ram or Chevrolet light-duty diesel trucks for fuel economy. (It’s also worth noting that as of this writing, AAA pegs diesel fuel nationwide at 23 cents per gallon, or 8.5%, more than 87-octane regular gas. So although its mileage is lower, the 2WD F-150 hybrid, which runs on regular gas, slightly undercuts the diesels in EPA-projected annual fuel costs.)
Pricing and Availability
What do you get with the HFE EcoDiesel? Well, you have to order a Tradesman trim in 2WD with the crew cab and 5-foot-7-inch bed. The HFE package brings 20-inch wheels, a black bumper and grille, wheel-to-wheel side steps and cloth bucket seats. Of course, you also get the turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engine, which makes 260 horsepower and 480 pounds-feet of torque and is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. You only get the superior numbers with the 2WD version however, so no 4WD for you. You also only get a choice of two paint colors for the HFE: Bright White Clear Coat or Diamond Black Crystal.
The Tradesman HFE EcoDiesel will start at $43,935 (including destination), and it will be available for purchase in the spring.