Dodge Ram Diesel
The possibility of putting a diesel engine in a half-ton pickup has loomed for years, but no truck brand possessed the huevos to make the move… until now.
Ram Trucks for 2014 will offer a V-6 diesel option in its 1500 series pickup – making it the first diesel half-ton – promising both towing power and improved fuel efficiency over a gas engine. We had a chance to learn if the promise rings true by driving a diesel Ram 1500 with and without a trailer-boat on its tail.
But before we go there, let’s look at this new power plant. The turbocharged Ram 3.0-liter EcoDiesel generates 420 lb.-ft. of torque and 240 hp. As a point of comparison, the 5.7-liter Hemi, a comparable gasoline option in the Ram 1500, generates 410 lb.-ft. of torque and 395 hp. An EcoDiesel upgrade is $2,850 more than similarly equipped 1500 with the Hemi gas engine, according to Ram.
Built by Fiat in Italy, the EcoDiesel features a compacted graphite-iron block, aluminum heads, dual-overhead cam, common-rail fuel injection and, of course, diesel exhaust fluid system, a Tier IV diesel emissions requirement.
To capitalize on the diesel’s inherently narrow power band, Ram couples the V-6 with the TorqueFlite 8 eight-speed automatic transmission. The wide range of gear choices lets you keep the EcoDiesel at peak torque, which is around 2,000 rpm, in virtually any towing situation. The EcoDiesel 1500 has a maximum tow rating of 9,200 pounds.
For our test, Ram provided us with a Sky Supreme 220 SP from Ski Supreme with a tandem-axle trailer. The gross weight was 3,800 pounds, according to Ram. We ran a course through the hills surrounding California’s Conejo Valley and found the diesel-powered Ram 1500 to be an able tow vehicle. Though it lacked the punch of a gas V-8 such as the 5.7 Hemi, there was no doubting its stump-pulling torque, even while towing up brutal 8-percent grades. The TorqueFlite 8 kept the diesel happily revving in 2,000 to 3,000 rpm range.
Our truck had another Ram exclusive – four-point automatic air suspension. It leveled the load and stabilized the pickup as we traversed washboard dirt roads and maneuvered through sharp cutbacks in the hills.
After completing our tow testing, we were even more pleased to see the fuel economy – 13.3 mpg. And that was on some of the most arduous terrain over which you can tow boat.
We also like the non-towing performance. The EcoDiesel displayed its peppy side, accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 8 seconds. While it bogs a bit when you stomp on it, mid-range acceleration is impressive, as is the truck’s cornering ability. After running the diesel hard over both mountains and flat roads, fuel economy proved to be a startlingly good 20.1 mpg. EPA fuel numbers were not available at press time, but Ram claims the EcoDiesel can achieve greater than 25 mpg. This diesel is also quiet, not a whole lot louder than a gas engine.
Ram seems to set its own course in deciding how to engineer a half-ton pickup. This brand was the first to equip its trucks with rear-axle coil-suspension, the first to offer four-corner automatic air-suspension, the first to offer an eight-speed automatic tranny, and now it is the first to offer a diesel in a half-ton.
From a trailer-boater’s point of view, all I can is, thanks, it’s about time.
Pricing for the 2014 Ram 1500 starts at $24,200, plus $1,095 destination. Look for availability of the EcoDiesel-equipped Ram 1500s late in 2013.