1st Place: 2014 Ram 1500
Though it appears almost the same this year, the Ram has received a host of improvements which have propelled this truck to the top of the pack.
First, the folks at Chrysler added an eight-speed automatic transmission and four-corner airbag suspension, which alone make it a great workhorse. Not stopping there though, the Ram can now be had with a small 3.0-liter diesel, and is currently the only half-ton on the market to offer such as engine.
So how do these three new technologies work? For starters, the airbags offer conveniences that can’t be found elsewhere. Automatic leveling helps keep the composure of the truck flat at all times, and acts as an equalizing hitch when a trailer is hooked up. That means that the weight is distributed better between all of the wheels, keeping the steering strong and confident at all times.
The airbags can also raise the truck up two inches, or drop it by two inches, nice for parking in an underground lot, or taking this half-ton off road.
Next, the ZF eight-speed transmission. While Ram led the way with the addition of two extra cogs, look for the rest of the industry to follow. The transmission is so well implemented in this truck that there doesn’t seem to be any downsides. Low-end gears feel meatier because of the short gear ratios and the high-end gears are made to be tall returning solid fuel economy on the highway. Granted, this truck is shifting more often than any other, but the shifts are smooth and hunting for gears never seems to be an issue.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Review
A Hemi-equipped truck with airbags and an eight-speed is a solid package, but Ram has finally answered the prayers of truck enthusiasts everywhere, bringing in a 3.0-liter diesel that pumps our 420 lb-ft of torque.
This motor, in comparison to the EcoBoost, GM’s 5.3 and the Tundra’s 5.7, feels right on par off the line, with the low end torque of the diesel pulling like a V8, even with a trailer hitched on the back. Ram also did an exceptional job keeping the cabin quiet, with the diesel rumble only truly piercing the cab at low speed. The one, and really only downside, is the little 3.0-liter loses some of its bluster at high speeds.
But, the real hero story of this motor is the fuel economy. The diesel consistently returned around 3 MPG better than every other truck tested, whether it was empty, loaded or towing. No compromise was made to the power and the fuel numbers are stellar.
On top of all that, a useful interior is found in the Ram, offering one of the most elaborate luxury trucks with the Laramie Long Horn, but also offering no frills base options that are put together simply but offer an easy to navigate cabin. Especially nice is the info cluster screen that has no background or unnecessary graphics, keeping the gimmicks out to deliver the important info right to the driver’s eyes.
One more factor that needs to be taken into account is price. You need to drop at least $30,000 to pick up a Ram diesel, making it a few thousand dollars more than other V8-powered, base-level trucks. So, in buying this truck, you will sacrifice some horsepower that you could have gotten elsewhere for the same or less money, but if lots of highway miles with a trailer are part of your intended pickup truck use, then the diesel will pay for itself over time thanks to all the fuel you won’t be using.
Overall, the Ram 1500 3.0-liter diesel offers the best overall package of any other truck on the market today, which is why we are naming it the 2014 AutoGuide.com Truck of the Year.
1. The Ram 1500 can be had with a 3.6L V6, a 5.7L V8 or the new 3.0-liter diesel.
2. A four-corner air suspension and eight-speed transmission are available.
3. Pricing starts at $23,585, with out tester ringing in at just about $40,000.
4. The RAM 1500 is rated to tow 10,450 pounds when properly equipped.
5. Equipped with the 5.7L V8, the Ram is rated at 15 MPG city and 21 MPG highway.