2014 Ram 1500 Laramie EcoDiesel quick spin
Ram EcoDiesel shows frugal doesn’t need to be puny in full-size pickups
What is it?
The former Dodge and now Ram brand has become the only full-size pickup maker to install a diesel engine in their mass-market half-ton pickup. And it’s a frugally sized three-litre V6, familiar from its impressive appearance in the pricy but highly regarded Jeep Grand Cherokee, and not just a repurposing of the heavy duty Ram’s massive 6.7-litre Cummins turbodiesel.
This 3.0 L V6 engine helps make the Ram EcoDiesel the most fuel-efficient pickup truck on the market – even more so than all four-cylinder pickups equipped with automatic transmissions, according to both the EPA and the Canadian government’s updated five-cycle (i.e., more realistic) fuel consumption figures.
The pricy $4,500 EcoDiesel option just went into production in February 2014, and already there’s been a rush of dealer and customer orders for it. One Dodge Ram Hemi-driving fellow in cottage country actually followed me up a long driveway to get a closer look, and listen, marveling at how quiet it is compared to the diesel pickups he had been driving for 20 years before the Ram’s 5.7-litre Hemi V8. He said his dealer had told him an order for one now (early spring 2014) would mean a wait until early 2015. That seems a very long wait for such a high volume vehicle, but the supply on previous versions of this European-designed diesel engine has been tight on other models in the past as well.
What’s it like to drive?
Climbing way up in this Ram 1500 means kids and adults alike will appreciate the optional chrome side steps. Once settled, there’s a huge amount of space up front, with a massive centre console that can easily fit a lunch or digital SLR case, plus a handy three-prong 110V plug. As on other updated Chrysler products, the transmission uses a Jaguar-like rotary knob to twist between Park and Drive, lending to the truck’s upscale and modern interior feel, but this advanced eight-speed unit is mounted on the dash, freeing up valuable real estate.
On the road, this turbodiesel engine’s healthy 420 lb.-ft. of low-end oomph may make the most torque of any light duty Ram 1500, but it also makes the most noise and vibration, and by far the least horsepower too (at 240). There’s a noticeable lag in throttle response until the turbo kicks in noticeably, that torque figure eclipsing even the Hemi V8’s (by 10 lb.-ft.), maxing out at 2,000 rpm. But it seems clear this engine is geared more for towing – up to 9,200 lb in the EcoDiesel with rear-wheel drive – and fuel economy than anything else.
Granted, fuel ‘economy’ is a relative term, and with my first few days with it spent largely in suburban and some downtown traffic, the dash’s rating that hovered just above 15 L/100 km didn’t seem mighty impressive. Its ’14 window label predicts a city figure of 10.6, and even the more realistic 2015 Canadian five-cycle fuel consumption figures estimate 12.1.
But this engine shined on the highway, where its minor but still noticeable clattery vibrations disappeared, and consumption dropped like a stone, leaving it with an overall average of 10.3 L/100 km after a few hundred kilometres of highway running. That’s not bad considering half the time was spent with an oven strapped in the bed, held in place by tie-downs and a cargo divider.
Should you buy one?
Despite the impressive EcoDiesel engine costing nearly double in Canada what it does in the U.S. (US$2,850), if you know you need a full-size pickup, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel’s extra towing capability over any V6 plus four-cylinder pickup-like fuel economy give the entire truck a major edge over the competition. But if it’s more for transporting the family or commuting, there are much quieter, better handling or fuel-efficient SUV or sedan alternates out there.
2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Laramie Crew Cab 4x4
Price/as-tested: $53,295 / $70,090
Type of vehicle: 4WD full-size half-ton pickup
Engines: 3.0 L V6
Power/Torque: 240 hp/420 lb.-ft.
0-100 km/h (est.): 9.0 seconds
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel consumption (city/hwy/combined; five-cycle figure): 12.1/8.8/10.7 L/100 km
Competition: Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan, Toyota Tacoma and Tundra
QUICK SPIN SUMMARY
Nicely upscale interior, for a full-size pickup
Great fuel economy, for a full-size pickup
Fine ride and handling balance, for a full-size pickup
Diesel clatter engine noise tamed, but not eradicated
Some questionable fit and finish
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