In the race for supremacy in the enormously profitable full-size pickup truck market fuel economy has become an increasingly competitive issue – and is likely to become even more important going forward, so makers that once put horsepower and towing limits atop their ads are now just as likely to emphasize mpg.
That’s meant some significant changes in truck design, with a growing emphasis on so-called “lightweighting,” and the emergence of a new generation of higher performance V-6s, such as the Ford EcoBoost V6 that has left competitors domestic and foreign scrambling.
But Chrysler has struck back with its new Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, landing a string of kudos, including the coveted Motor Trend Truck of the Year. And now, Chrysler is claiming what could be an even more significant victory, the EPA giving the diesel version of the Ram a car-like 28 mpg Highway Cycle mileage rating – the best ever recorded for a full-size half-ton pickup.
(Ram 1500 EcoDiesel named Motor Trend Truck of the Year. Click Here for the full story.)
In fact, that number would be top-ranked even among smaller pickups, boasted Bob Lee, Chrysler Group’s Head of Engine, Powertrain and Electrified Propulsion Systems Engineering.
“We are immensely gratified by achieving these milestones,” Lee said. “Not only do they confirm our position as an industry leader in powertrain development and truck design, they promise tremendous benefits for our customers.”
(Ram EcoDiesel named finalist in Green Car Tech of the Year competition. Click Here for the full story.)
The gas-powered Ram took last year’s fuel economy lead with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 that got the big 1500 up to 25 mpg. But the EcoDiesel doesn’t force owners to trade off hauling power for mileage. While it also gets 20 mpg in the EPA City Cycle, the diesel V-6 delivers a more V-8-like 420 pound-feet of torque.
That could surprise some truck traditionalists who equate V-8s with maximum towing and cargo capabilities. Indeed, Ram isn’t the only brand delivering a V-6 surprise. The Ford F-Series’ V-6 EcoBoost can match the towing capability of the F-150’s most competent eight-banger.
Whether Chrysler’s big truck can maintain its fuel economy lead remains to be seen but Ford is clearly gunning for its Ram rival as it prepares to roll out a new, “aluminum-intensive” version of the F-150 for 2015.
(Chrysler set to roll out new Jeep Cherokee Diesel at Geneva Motor Show. Click Here for a closer look.)
In various configurations, the new Ford pickup will shed anywhere from 500 to more than 700 pounds compared to the outgoing model. A general industry rule of thumb has been that a vehicle gains about 1 mpg for every 100 pounds of mass it sheds – which could mean up to a 7 mpg improvement for some versions of the F-150, if that holds true.
Ford hasn’t released fuel economy numbers for the 2015 F-Series yet but it may sacrifice a bit of the potential mileage increase to further amp up the truck’s capabilities. But it is considered highly possible that the new model could, in some configurations, nudge up to 30 mpg on the Highway which would mark a new industry benchmark.
(Paul A. Eisenstein contributed to this report.)