2019 Ram 1500 eTorque Review

Mild Hybrid, Many Benefits

Completely overhauled for model year 2019, the Ram 1500 is better than ever, offering truck buyers more capability, strength and performance.

But even this monumental progress wasn’t enough to satisfy the engineers in Auburn Hills, which is why they also pushed innovation, technology and refinement to new heights, revolutionizing their flagship vehicle in what is perhaps its most significant redesign ever.

The latest Ram 1500 may offer things like air suspension, a 12-inch infotainment screen and even interiors that rival those found in luxury sedans, but these aren’t necessarily what pickup customers crave most. A truck could have enough power to uproot a giant sequoia, but if it burns fuel like a container transport ship that capability counts for little. Efficiency is still mission critical for droves of people, which is why a pair of electrically enhanced engines has been added to this truck’s powertrain menu.

eTorque: So Much More than Just Stop-Start

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Far more than just stop-start, FCA’s new eTorque mild-hybrid system bolsters performance, improves drivetrain refinement and appreciably reduces fuel consumption. Within the next couple months, it will be standard equipment on all V6-powered Ram 1500s, however, customers that prefer the rumbling 5.7-liter Hemi have the option of equipping their trucks with eTorque. The technology costs and extra $1,450 on top of the $1,195 it takes to get the V8 engine.

SEE ALSO: 2019 Ram 1500 Review — VIDEO

This truck’s updated 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 is rated at a healthy 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. The Hemi delivers 395 and 410, respectively. But, throw eTorque into the mix and it adds up 90 pound-feet of twist to the base engine and 130 to the V8, serious increases for both powerplants.

Surprisingly, fuel economy is also up, with eTorque-equipped, Hemi-powered Rams gaining an impressive two miles per gallon on both city and combined test cycles. The two-wheel-drive, Laramie-trim, Quad-Cab model tested here stickered at 17 miles per gallon in urban conditions and 23 on the highway. According to the U.S. EPA, it should average 19 mpg in mixed use. eTorque-equipped V6-powered Ram 1500s have not been officially rated just yet but should offer significant efficiency gains as well.

How Does it Work?

The eTorque system is comprised of three major components. This includes a belt-driven motor-generator, an attaché case-sized 48-volt battery pack and a DC-to-DC converter, though many smaller items, like sensors and software, are also required to enable this technology. Still, eTorque provides a host of benefits without adding a ton of cost, complexity or weight.

Replacing a typical alternator, the eTorque system’s motor-generator both charges the electrical system and provides driving force in certain situations. In V6-powered Rams it bolts to the engine’s front and is water cooled, while Hemi-equipped models have their air-cooled motor-generators mounted up top, near the throttle body.

As for the battery, it’s compact in size though still packs a punch, with 12 pouch cells providing 430 Watt-hours of juice. Cleverly mounted to the back wall of the truck’s cab, it takes up no passenger space. Air cooled and extensively insulated to keep noise at bay, it features advanced nickel-manganese-cobalt-graphite chemistry.

A DC-to-DC converter is required because these trucks feature two separate electrical systems. While eTorque runs on 48 volts, legacy functions like the power windows and infotainment system operate on just 12. This converter allows the 48-volt motor-generator to keep the old-fashioned lead-acid battery charged and operating a peak efficiency. Also, 12-volt batteries are supposedly better for cold starts since they’re more efficient in extreme temperatures.

Certainly, untold lines of computer code along with a phalanx of sensors and computer processors are required to tie all these components together and make the eTorque system work seamlessly, which (spoiler alert) it does in practically every driving situation.

Six Customer Experiences

This mild-hybrid technology provides six major customer benefits with one of the most noticeable being stop-start, which kills internal combustion when the truck isn’t moving to save a significant amount of fuel. Making this one of the most seamless systems of its type available today, the motor-generator helps smooth out shut-down and restart events, meaning there’s no shuddering or juddering from the powertrain. And if, for instance, you’re stuck in traffic, the system even allows for up to 10-minute-long auto-stop events.

In addition to this, eTorque provides electrical assistance for enhanced acceleration. Through its eight-rib belt, which is held tight by double tensioners to minimize slippage, the motor-generator can be used to help drive the truck by applying torque to the crankshaft pulley.

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Regenerative braking is another benefit of this system, allowing the truck to recuperate energy that would normally be wasted, routing extra electricity back into the 48-volt battery pack. Regenerative braking works at speeds down to about 10 miles an hour (16 km/h), at which point the friction brakes take over.

Once underway, eTorque is also used to smooth out upshifts, improving the truck’s NVH performance. By briefly regenerating, it can bring engine revs down to help the transmission more seamlessly engage the next gear.

Of course, the opposite is true as well. It can help improve downshift quality by increasing engine rpm, kind of like blipping the throttle to rev-match a manual gearbox. This is some very clever engineering.

Finally, eTorque can reduce fuel consumption by recharging the 12-volt electrical system at optimum times. Rather than running a traditional alternator constantly, engineers figured they could gain more efficiency by recharging while at, for instance, cruising speed, a time when it more economical to do so.

The Drive

Driving an eTorque-equipped Ram 1500 is a totally transparent experience. There’s no whirring or vibration and absolutely no unseemly shuddering from the drivetrain. The system is refined at all times and nearly invisible. Really, the only times you notice anything happen at all is when the tachometer needle drops to zero or while accelerating when it provides a bit of extra oomph off the line.

The stop-start system is completely seamless, with the truck’s burly V8 roaring back to life as soon as you’re ready to start moving again. In fact, this setup is so responsive the engine is up and running even before your foot is completely off the brake pedal. eTorque-equipped Rams also feature a transmission pressure accumulator to help deliver this refined and instantaneous experience.

Shift quality is also seamless, with the truck’s unperturbable eight-speed gearbox shuffling through its ratio stack promptly as dictated by driving conditions.

Take off from a standstill and eTorque bolsters the Hemi’s lower-rpm performance, filling in before it really hits its stride in the middle of the rev range. Mash the accelerator and it will easily spin the rear tires from the get-go.

As always, that 5.7-liter V8 is a delight, smooth and responsive with a growling exhaust note that should be music to any car enthusiast’s ears. Even the base six-cylinder engine emits a throaty snarl, though it’s at a noticeably higher pitch than the Hemi.

I briefly experienced the eTorque system with that Pentastar V6 and it provides much the same feel as its larger sibling, albeit with a little less forward thrust. It’s smooth, responsive and helps a burly full-size pickup move with greater authority off the line.

SEE ALSO: 2018 Ford F-150 Power Stroke Review — VIDEO

If there’s any downside to eTorque, aside from the additional cost on V8-powered Rams, it’s that the system adds quite a bit of weight. Engineers optimized this new-generation truck to cut as much mass as possible, designing a brand-new frame, adding more aluminum components, reworking the suspension and so on. Depending on model, the 2019 Ram 1500 has lost up to 225 pounds compared to its predecessor, a significant savings, though much of that is offset by the addition of this mild-hybrid system. On V8 models it adds about 90 pounds while V6 versions gain around 100.

The Verdict: 2019 Ram 1500 eTorque Review

eTorque is a welcome addition to the Ram 1500’s powertrain lineup. It improves refinement, capability and, of course, fuel efficiency. Making it standard on V6 models going forward is a smart thing to do.

If you’d rather avail yourself of the additional performance afforded by the Hemi engine, there’s absolutely no reason to avoid this mild-hybrid system, aside from the relatively modest upcharge.

2019 Ram 1500s equipped with V8 engines and eTorque are on sale right now; similarly equipped six-cylinder models should be available at dealerships within the next couple months.

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