Conversations over cups of coffee at the local garage have no doubt been dominated by talk of the new Ram EcoDiesel for the past few months.
|Engine: 3.0-liter diesel makes 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Eight-Speed automatic.
Fuel Economy: Rated at 19 mpg city, 27 highway.
Price: Ram EcoDiesel Starts at $32,935. Our Tester costs just over $54,000.
The return of diesel power to the half-ton pickup truck comes at a time in the truck industry when it seems like if you’re not innovating, you are losing sales. Look at the GM half-tons, which have been widely criticized for being too conservative. They have been giving up market share ever since their arrival and Ram has been waiting in the wings to pickup its competitors losses and rightfully so.
Innovation Breeds Success
The Ram 1500 was the first modern half-ton to come with an eight-speed automatic (GM is now following suit and Ford likely isn’t far behind), four-corner air suspension and of course, diesel power.
The motor in this truck is a turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel sourced from Italian company VM Motori and the numbers it puts up are exactly what you would expect from a small diesel. It makes just 240 hp at 3,600 RPM, but the real meat is the 420 lb-ft of torque that is accessible at 2,000 RPM. This engine is tied with the Ford 3.5-liter EcoBoost for the title of most powerful V6 engine found in any pickup truck today, at least when it comes to torque. And like the EcoBoost, this is a straight up V8 competitor despite its lack of two cylinders.
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Power from this engine, whether un-laden or under load feels authoritative. Dragging a 6,000-lb trailer feels great with all of the low-end grunt providing ample pulling power. This truck is rated to tow a maximum of 9,200 lbs and it feels like even loaded up to max weight, the motor will be up to the task. Really, only Toyota’s 5.7-liter V8 and the 6.2-liter from GM feel as strong as this truck and that makes it a very compelling purchase in the half-ton market because the fuel economy of this engine is far ahead of those two competitors.
Official ratings put the EcoDiesel at 19 MPG in the city, 27 on the highway and 22 MPG combined, and our week with the truck affirmed these numbers, averaging 21 MPG. That is including pulling a trailer and many slogs through city traffic. Unlike some other pickups out there right now, the Ram Ecodiesel promises good fuel economy and actually delivers without needing the driver to stay out of the throttle.
It isn’t just the engine at work making the Ram EcoDiesel pull weight so well though.The four-corner air suspension helps a great deal with an excellent auto leveling feature that ensures the truck sits as flat as possible, helping to spread the weight around to four corners like an equalizing hitch would. Having eight speeds doesn’t hurt either, allowing the low gears to be nice and short, so that the torque is put to the best use possible.
The best aspect of this motor also contributes to one of its few low points. It always feels as though there is a tremendous amount of backpressure coming from the engine, which doesn’t love to rev very freely. This, of course, is expected of a diesel, but it is so evident in this truck that it might turn you off. If you are looking to conquer on-ramps with quick jumps to highway speeds, get a gas-powered truck.
Power and Practicality
Hard work isn’t the only area where the Ram excels. Move inside and you find one of the nicest interiors anywhere on the market today. Outfitted in Laramie trim, the cabin is loaded with soft touch materials that give it a sophisticated look. But it isn’t just fashion that makes this a great interior, it’s also function.
Just about everywhere there could be a storage spot, Ram found a way to manufacture one. Both the driver and passenger have small cubbies by their air vents for storage and the center console is massive. It’s also separated into two different compartments to help keep your things organized along with a double glove box setup and a small area on the dash for storage as well. As an office, this Ram EcoDiesel functions exceptionally well.
Infotainment is also top notch in this truck. Chrysler’s UConnect unit works seamlessly without lag and is easy to understand and operate. Beyond that, the eight-inch screen in the info cluster fitted between the tach and speedo delivers all of the crucial info clearly. There is a simple black background, making it easy to gather all of the info offered with a quick glance.
Noise, vibration and harshness are other concerns with a diesel engine, but the folks at Ram do a splendid job of covering it. At start-up, especially in the cold, the engine can be a bit raucous sounding. Once you get up to speed, it’s hard to notice that this isn’t a gas engine. You do lose the 5.7-liter Hemi’s great rumble, but the 3.0-liter diesel sounds good in its own way with bass filled grunts.
One of the most important aspects of this truck is the price. To upgrade to the diesel over the base Pentastar V6, you’ll have to part ways with $4,500 (including the mandatory transmission upgrade), while a $2,850 premium is needed to get the engine over the V8.
Using official estimates and an average of 15,000 miles driven every year, the EcoDiesel will save its owner $600 a year in fuel over the HEMI, meaning that six years will see this engine pay itself off, at least compared to the big V8. Now, that is using that 22 MPG number on the dot, and often on long stretches of highway, it isn’t uncommon to rake in between 25 and 27 mpg, which means that for the driver doing lots of long freeway stretches, this engine is for you.
The Pentastar V6 is also a fuel miser, but doesn’t offer anywhere near the torque levels of this truck. The base price of entry for a Diesel Ram is $32,935, not only making it a clear choice in the Ram lineup, but also against the competition.
Discuss this Review at our Ram 1500 Diesel Forum
The return of the diesel engine to the half-ton pickup truck could have been a failure if it wasn’t implemented properly, but Ram did it so well that it pushes the bar for the entire segment even higher. With a new Ford F-150 on the way, Ram will be tasked with pushing its innovations further to try and keep on growing its market share and if the current upswing in sales predicts the future, the number three truck brand may not stay in that trailing position for long.