By its very nature, this crew cab Ram isn’t for everyone. Even for those attracted to half-ton pickups, the Ecodiesel may still be a niche player – or maybe not.
Pickups are king in many parts of the United States. While a status symbol for some, there are equal numbers that are worked everyday. They are able to haul loads, pull trailers, and the crew cab versions can ferry passengers in accommodations of a size no longer available in any sedan. For sheer versatility, pickups – especially the crew cab versions – have a lot of positive attributes. For fuel efficiency…well, that’s a different story.
image source: www.motortrend.com
In a nod to the lackluster fuel economy of pickups, Ram has made available for their half-ton 1500 series pickups a 3.0 liter diesel V6 produced by VM Motori, a diesel engine manufacturer based in Centro, Italy, and owned by Fiat. This engine came online in the midst of the 2014 model year and I drove this example back in July or August.
The basic design for this Ram dates back a few years to when it was still called a Dodge. The driving comfort of this Ram is identical to the gas powered models, which I find to be superior to the contemporary Ford F-150 and prior generation Chevrolet Silverado. Overall driving dynamics are a smidgeon different given the diesel engine but the differences would likely escape the unobservant.
Throttle response off the line is solid and assured. It provides off-idle throttle response similar to the 4.7 liter gasoline examples I have driven. Once moving, all comparisons are out the window as the Ecodiesel’s 420 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm nullifies any small displacement diesel engine phobias. The auditory output of the engine during acceleration reminds you it is an oil burner, but it is still well behaved and sounds as if the engine is quite far away. There is no scream of diesel fury that can often be found in heavier duty Dodge and Ram pickups sporting a modified Cummins piloted by an enthusiastic owner.
The sticker price for this example was $44,000 dollars; it was fairly restrained in the option department. The upcharge for the diesel engine is $4,500, just over 10% of the overall vehicle price. Therein lies my speculation about it being a niche within the Ram lineup. Diesel in this area is currently just over $1.00 per gallon more than gasoline with pump prices being $2.50 per gallon for regular unleaded at around $3.50 for diesel – yes, prices have dropped considerably since August. Estimating 25 mpg for the Ecodiesel and 16 mpg for a gasoline powered version, I’m calculating only a $0.016 per mile advantage for the diesel so it will take considerable time for the fuel savings to pay for itself. However, given the dynamics of fuel prices, this is only a snapshot in time. I will speculate there are those who will only look at the EPA rating of 28 miles per gallon and think no further. (Ed: the gasoline V6 has a 25 mpg highway rating. EPA Combined ratings, which tend to most closely reflect real world driving, rates the gas V6 with 20 mpg, 21 for the HFE version. The diesel is rated at 23mpg combined (all 2WD versions))
Your mileage and needs may vary.
image source: www.autoguide.com
For generations, gear selectors have been on a shaft erupting from the steering column, console, or even the dash board. The gear selector in this Ram is a rotating dial on the dash below a vent. Other than an annoyance, this poses a sanitary issue. Suppose one is doing something that has dirtied their hands – not an unusual thing. Upon entering, dirty hands will smear grime over the dial and it will likely arc in the entire area and embed itself in the texture grooves of the dial. With a gear selector on the steering column, all grime will be in an isolated area able to be cleaned from 360 degrees. Dials are for the radio and heater controls, not the gear selector. As a traditional gear selector is available on heavier duty models, it should be available here.
While I have likely harped about various automotive quirks in reviews past, I don’t want to let these quirks overshadow everything else. Well, at least not this time. One of the things that might likely overshadow this pickup is the recall record of the Dodge / Ram 1500 series. For 2007 to 2013, the Ram 1500 was the fourth most recalled vehicle sold in the United States, behind the Toyota RAV-4 and Jeep Grand Cherokee. Interestingly, my series of rental car reviews has two of my former steeds occupying the offenders list, which can be found here.
Ram is making this engine available across all trim levels of its 1500 series. At the time I drove this example, it was the only one to be found in the 200-odd miles between St. Louis and Kansas City. Since then I have been keeping a watchful eye out for others and have seen exactly two – another crew cab pulling an RV camper and a regular cab that was a service truck for a local electrical supply company.
My situation of driving a pickup 8,000 miles annually simply does not justify the added cost of the diesel. Yet as the needs of any given buyer are unique, there will be cases where a buyer is looking for a pickup to do a lot of work or one that will be racking up miles quickly. This Ram may very well be a terrific choice for them. How big that market is remains to be seen, but kudos to Chrysler for serving it.
Like I said at the beginning, these aren’t for everyone but that is the nature of a pickup, especially a crew cab. For those who have the need or desire, these would be a fantastic option to explore.