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Ram Diesel, Toyota Highlander Hybrid Win Consumer Reports Nods

Both deliver unexpected mileage, magazine says.

by on Aug.27, 2014

The Ram EcoDiesel delivers sedan-like mileage, according to Consumer Reports testers.

Consumer Reports has placed Fiat Chrysler’s Ram 1500 EcoDiesel at the top of its full-size pickup truck ratings due to its performance in fuel-economy tests, while the influential magazine also lauded the Toyota Highlander SUV.

The choice of the Ram Diesel underscores the growing intensity of the competition in the full-size pickup segment, which is undergoing a technical revolution as truck makers roll out new, more fuel-efficient powertrains and make other significant improvements meant to boost fuel-economy.

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Ford Motor Co. will launch a new, aluminum-bodied F-150 this fall that sheds up to 700 pounds and is expected to gain significant mileage, but the all-new truck wasn’t included in this round of tests by Consumer Reports.

The Ram EcoDiesel is the first full-size, half-ton pickup to offer a diesel option which, CR found, turned in a best-in-class fuel economy of 20 miles per gallon overall and 27 mpg on the highway, outscoring the previously tested V8 gasoline version and Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LT, the magazine said.

(Surge in diesel sales outstrips overall recovery of U.S. auto market. Click Here for the story.)

Toyota also garners CR's kudos for the fuel economy and performance of its Highlander Hybrid.

“These are about the same fuel-economy numbers that we typically see in a mid-sized SUV. The Ram is currently the only truck to offer turbo-diesel technology. It will be interesting to see what impact it will have on the half-ton truck market,” said Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports engineers also found the EcoDiesel to be as luxurious and refined as the previously tested V8 version. The EcoDiesel remains fully capable of doing dirty work when duty calls. A unique coil-spring rear suspension gives it a smooth ride, and the interior, the magazine said, is whisper-quiet.

Consumer Reports noted some telltale diesel clatter at idle and low speeds, but the engine noise is well-hushed when cruising, adding that some buyers may like hearing the distinctive diesel engine note. The continued interior and powertrain improvements make the Ram a particularly well-rounded choice for most consumers.

(New car buyers demanding better fuel economy. Click Here for more.)

The redesigned Toyota Highlander Hybrid’s impressive mileage earned it the top spot in Consumer Reports’ midsized SUV ratings. Testers found it refined and comfortable, loaded with creature comforts, and the ability to tow 3,500 pounds. Yet it gets a very thrifty 25 mpg overall which, like the Ram EcoDiesel, matches up with many small SUVs and midsized sedans.

The Hybrid takes the V-6 from the regular Highlander and adds a hybrid battery pack and three electric motors, increasing horsepower by 10, to 280. In place of the conventional six-speed automatic transmission, the Hybrid uses a continuously variable transmission, which is well-matched to the engine, according to CR. That 25 mpg overall fuel economy is 25% better than the regular Highlander’s 20. Power delivery is smooth. Transitions between electric power and the gas engine are seamless. And the Hybrid can usually propel itself on electric power up to about 35 mph, the magazine noted.

The new Highlander also handles better, with a steadier ride and reduced body lean in corners. When pushed to its handling limits, a well-tuned stability-control system kept things secure. Energy-saving regenerative brakes make the pedal a little touchy, but stopping distances were good.

(Click Here for TheDetroitBureau.com’s review of the new Toyota Highlander.)

Testers were impressed with Toyota’s new infotainment system, which has simple menus that make it easy to select functions, as well as knobs for volume and tuning. It also has excellent voice controls and one of the most comprehensive Bluetooth streaming-audio interfaces Consumer Reports has seen.

Complete tests results of the redesigned Toyota Highlander Hybrid, as well as additional reports for the recently tested Chevrolet Suburban(“Very Good”), Chevrolet Tahoe (“Very Good”), and Ford C-Max Hybrid(“Very Good”),  are available online at www.ConsumerReports.org and in the October issue of Consumer Reports.

 

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