2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel: a win­ning com­bi­na­tion

The Southwest Booster - - WHEELS - MICHEL DES­LAU­RI­ERS AU­TOGO.CA

We can crit­i­cize Chrysler for not of­fer­ing hy­brid ve­hi­cles in their cur­rent prod­uct line-up, but their ef­forts made in re­duc­ing the fuel con­sump­tion of their trucks are com­mend­able.

Af­ter all, about 80 per cent of the com­pany’s over­all sales are trucks, so the strat­egy of mak­ing them more fuel ef­fi­cient is per­fectly log­i­cal. In ad­di­tion, the Ram pickup ac­counts for 30 per cent of Chrysler Canada’s na­tional sales, so it’s cru­cial to con­stantly find ways to im­prove their most pop­u­lar model, in or­der to re­main com­pet­i­tive.

Af­ter adding the 3.6L V6 in the 2013 Ram 1500, a new tur­bod­iesel 3.0L V6 is now avail­able in the 2014 edi­tion. It’s ac­tu­ally the same one that’s of­fered in the 2014 Jeep Grand Chero­kee.

A small diesel en­gine in a big pickup is a great idea. Why haven’t the do­mes­tic au­tomak­ers thought of this be­fore? They prob­a­bly did, and a long time ago, but didn’t have such an en- gine avail­able, or the ones they did have in the parts bin of their Euro­pean sub­sidiaries couldn’t meet the stricter North-Amer­i­can emis­sions reg­u­la­tions. But now, the gi­ant Fiat pow­er­train cat­a­logue opens up for Chrysler, and they didn’t waste any time fig­ur­ing out what they needed. Mus­cu­lar, yet ef­fi­cient The 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel serves up 240 horse­power as well as 420 lb-ft of torque at just 2,000 rpm. Chrysler has no trou­ble com­par­ing their new tur­bod­iesel mo­tor to the Ford F-150’s Eco­Boost V6; at least, in terms of fuel econ­omy. While the of­fi­cial num­bers have yet to be re­leased in Canada, the com­pany ex­pects the Ram EcoDiesel to de­liver about eight to 10 per cent lower con­sump­tion than the mod­els equipped with the gas Pen­tas­tar V6. At­tached to a four-wheel driv­e­train, the lat­ter boasts a high­way av­er­age of 8.5 L/100km.

In both cases, the en­gine is matched to an eight­speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, whose mis­sion is to fig­ure out the best rev range ac­cord­ing to driv­ing con­di­tions, in or­der to de­liver the best pos­si­ble fuel econ­omy.

The diesel V6 no­tably trumps the gas V6 in the tow­ing ca­pac­ity depart­ment. The Ram EcoDiesel can pull up to 9,200 lbs. (or 4,173 kg), more or less half­way be­tween the lim­its of the Pen­tas­tar V6 and the mighty 5.7L HEMI V8. By the way, Chrysler sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased the gas V6 en­gine’s tow rat­ings for the 2014 model year.

On the road, the diesel en­gine, sourced from Ital­ian com­pany VM Mo­tori that’s owned by Fiat, doesn’t feel as lively dur­ing take-offs as the gas V6. How­ever, we adore its prodi­gious low-rpm torque dur­ing reac­cel­er­a­tion. In ad­di­tion, it’s quiet and re­fined at speed and at idle. In short, it seems very well adapted for the Ram pickup. Other new stuff Chrysler brought a lot of im­prove­ments to the 2013 Ram 1500, which ob­vi­ously sol­dier on for 2014. Among them is a four-cor­ner air sus­pen­sion, which can raise the truck for ex­tra ground clear­ance, or lower it for eas­ier ingress/egress. This op­tional sus­pen­sion pack­age also drops the height of the truck au­to­mat­i­cally at high­way speeds to im­prove aero­dy­nam­ics.

The cock­pit no­tably ben- efits from an ever-im­prov­ing qual­ity fin­ish, as well as the ex­cel­lent Ucon­nect 8.4A touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, a must-have op­tion. And for 2014, Ram added front sonar for mak­ing park­ing jobs eas­ier.

The Rambox bed­mounted stor­age cases are still of­fered, very prac­ti­cal for stor­ing tools or dirty ob­jects. Those bins now lock them­selves at the same time as the doors when us­ing the key­fob. On the other hand, the Rambox cases eat up the bed’s width, so be sure what you’re plan­ning on haul­ing will fit be­fore de­cid­ing. A good deal? Ac­cord­ing to Chrysler, the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is avail­able start­ing from $36,395 in base ST trim, or about $4,500 more than a sim­i­larly equipped model with the gas-pow­ered V6. It will also be avail­able in more lux­u­ri­ous trims lev­els, such as the Laramie ver­sion that we drove. A few years of sav­ing fuel will be re­quired be­fore re­cu­per­at­ing the ini­tial ex­tra cost, but usu­ally, ve­hi­cles equipped with diesel en­gines ben­e­fit from a stronger re­sale value.

So, it’s a mar­vel of a small en­gine that serves up low fuel con­sump­tion and high tow ca­pac­ity. How­ever, that diesel mo­tor doesn’t come cheap. Yet it’s a unique prod­uct in its cat­e­gory, and an ex­cel­lent so­lu­tion for those who pre­fer the char­ac­ter and torque of a diesel, but that just don’t need a heavy-duty pickup such as the Ram 2500/3500.

PROS

Great tow­ing ca­pac­ity Low fuel con­sump­tion Qual­ity cock­pit fin­ish

CONS

Diesel en­gine isn’t cheap

Not much more fru­gal than Pen­tas­tar V6

Rambox bins re­duce bed width

By Michel Des­lau­ri­ers, Au­togo.ca Photo

Chrysler brought a lot of im­prove­ments to the 2013 Ram 1500.

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