A diesel half-ton finally hits the towing market. But how does it pull?
Automakers have toyed for years with the possibility of equipping half-ton pickup trucks with diesel power, but no one has had the guts to place that bet, until now.
Ram Trucks (ramtrucks.com) has turned this concept into reality.
For 2014, Ram will offer a V-6 diesel engine option in its 1500 series pickup — making it the only diesel-powered half-ton on the market right now — and it’s betting that trailer boaters, among other truck buyers, will love it.
That’s because the 240 hp 3.0-liter EcoDiesel promises both towing power and improved fuel efficiency over a gas engine. To find out if this powertrain delivers on its promise, we tested a diesel-equipped Ram 1500 with and without a trailer boat on its tail.
Ram couples the V-6 turbodiesel with the TorqueFlite 8 eight-speed automatic transmission to take advantage of the engine’s narrow power band (a characteristic common to all diesels). The wide range of gear choices lets you keep the EcoDiesel at peak 420 foot-pounds of torque, which is achieved at around 2,000 rpm, in virtually any towing situation.
While we like having eight speeds, an electronic dial shifter on the dash took some getting used to. We’d prefer a column or console lever for manually downshifting and selecting gears while towing. Plus, a dial shifter doesn’t mesh well with the brand’s mucho-macho marketing theme of “Guts. Glory. Ram.” Maybe it should make the dial knob look like a saddle horn.
For our test along the tortuous roads of California’s coastal mountain range, Ram provided us with a Sky Supreme 220 SP from Ski Supreme along with a tandem-axle trailer. The gross weight was 3,800 pounds, according to Ram. The EcoDiesel-equipped 1500 is rated to tow a maximum of 9,200 pounds.
Though it lacked the punch of a gas V-8 such as the 410 hp 5.7 Hemi, there was no doubting the diesel’s stump-pulling torque, even while towing up brutal 8 percent grades. By manually selecting among the octet of forward gears, TorqueFlite auto tranny kept the diesel happily revving in the 2,000 to 3,000 rpm range.