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First Drive: Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

Ram’s big pickup gets a major boost from diesel power.

by on Sep.23, 2013

The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is the first half-ton full-size pickup to offer a diesel option.

The Ram 1500 pickup truck has built a solid reputation for reliability, refinement and power – landing critical kudos earlier this year by winning North American Truck of the Year against a solid list of competitors. Add a favorable review from Consumer Reports, which has never been terribly impressed by vehicle built by the Chrysler Group, and the Ram pickup has plowed through the competition lately, picking up sales and market share seemingly every month.

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But the brass at the Chrysler Group also seemed to have learned that if you’re not moving forward, you’re actually standing still — or worse, losing ground. So this fall, they have elected to become the first full-line manufacturer to equip a full-size pickup truck with a diesel option — the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel – something the competition is only just beginning to hint about.

The timing probably couldn’t be better considering the growing interest in this high-mileage, high-torque technology. Diesels, in general, have been gaining ground, though largely under the hoods of various German luxury imports. But “oil burners” offer some potentially significant advantages for truck buyers.

The 3.0-liter DOHC V-6 diesel is rated at 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque.

For one thing, they can they yield huge savings on fuel – Ram executives suggesting the payback for a diesel package is likely to be little more than a year. Then there’s the matter of torque.  At a whopping 420 pound-feet, the 2014 Ram 1500 diesel can deliver up to 9,200 pounds of stump-pulling towing capacity.

No wonder Ram thinks it can convert between 10% and 15% of its truck buyers to the diesel option and they could be right, based on our own drive in the new 1500 diesel.

The 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engine is the same Chrysler is now offering in the Jeep Grand Cherokee – and it  comes from the same Italian manufacturer, VM Motori, that builds the 2.0-liter diesel used in the Chevrolet Cruze.

If you haven’t been in a modern diesel anytime lately, forget what you think you know.  Today’s oil-burners deliver a most pleasing experience. The engine noise for which diesels have been notorious is minimal as are the fumes, smell and roughness.  No, the big truck isn’t a rocket, but it offers reasonable performance out on the road – especially when you’re towing or carrying a heavy load.

(Competition heating up as truck makers add more pickup models to their line-ups. Click Herefor more.)

Chrysler makes it easy to add urea to clean up the diesel's exhaust.

The 3.0-liter eco-diesel used in the Ram delivers plenty of low-end torque so it accelerates and climbs quite nicely.  We’d love to reveal the precise fuel economy numbers but Ram is still waiting for final EPA certification. The maker is looking at something in the 25 mile per gallon highway range, which would make it well and above the most fuel-efficient model in the segment. And for those who use the Ram as a work truck, that can add up to thousands of dollars in savings over the course of a single year, the maker contends.

The 240-horsepower EcoDiesel V-6 is matched with a new “TorqueFlite” eight-speed automatic transmission to further enhance both drivability and fuel economy.

While the focus might be under the hood, the 2014 Ram 1500 retains the basic design and features that helped it win truck-of-the-year honors last January.  The overall look is handsomely rugged, arguably the most attractive of all the current crop of full-size pickups.

(Mazda delays its new diesel by 6 months. Click Herefor details.)

The EcoDiesel can tow up to 9,200 pounds..

Inside, truck buyers who haven’t been in the market in recent years might be surprised by the 1500’s level of refinement. The seats are comfortable, the trim is surprisingly upscale. Switches, knobs and gauges are where you’d want them to be. There’s a large touchscreen at the top of the center stack that can be paired with an optional navigation system and connectivity options that include a WiFi hotspot.

The new air suspension on the Ram line makes a big difference, especially when balancing out a heavy cargo load or trailer. You might think you’re tooling around in a large sedan rather than a pickup truck. The electric power-assist steering offers ample feedback, and the brakes offer plenty of stopping power, critical in such a heavy vehicle.

(Range Rover diesel hybrid coming to the U.S. – eventually. To find out more, Click Here.)

As with all diesels, you’ll pay a premium for this package.  Pricing for the 2014 Ram 1500 starts at $24,200, plus another $1,095 in destination charges.  The diesel and eight-speed automatic transmission combination add another $2,850 to the sticker, making it more expensive than a similarly equipped Ram 1500 with a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8.

The new engine and transmission add a level of technical sophistication that we’ve not seen in the pickup segment — but the appearance of the Ram 1500 Diesel, due in showrooms later this fall, is bound to put more pressure on General Motors, Ford and their Japanese competitors to also offer diesel powered pickups to their American customers.

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3 Responses to “First Drive: Ram 1500 EcoDiesel”

  1. Sidney says:

    I think the new RAM diesel is the first “quarter” pickup of any kind, short of a Subaru Brat.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      Oops…correction coming…

  2. Jorge M. says:

    Unfortunately this is a Fiat Diesel and not the Cummins Diesel engine that was developed specifically for the Chrysler’s SUVs and 1/2 ton trucks. We’ll see how it holds up. It’s stupid that all U.S. car makers didn’t offer Diesel power in SUVs and 1/2 ton trucks 5-10 years ago.