2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel: First Drive

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It’s not unusual when you have a new truck or piece of technology introduced by a truck maker to have key executives (usually from marketing) running around like headless chickens, saying, “This is a game changer! This is a game changer! This is a game changer!”

What is unusual is that, in this case, it might be true. From what we’ve seen in our first opportunity to get behind the wheel of the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, although it likely won’t be changing the world (it already knows how good diesel can be), this is likely to be the moment we look back and say, “I remember when Ram put that little diesel in their 1500 and it changed everything.”

The Details

The new EcoDiesel is sourced from Italian company VM Motori (soon to be fully owned and controlled by Fiat, which updated and upfitted a modern 24-valve 3.0-liter V-6 for Ram, capable of producing 240 horsepower at 3,600 rpm and 420 pounds-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm. It’s worth noting that the original 5.9-liter Cummins B-motor first offered in the Dodge Ram in the mid-1980s only produced 165 hp and 400 pounds-feet of torque.

The engine uses a relatively low compression ratio at 16.5:1, combined with a high-pressure common rail injection for both long-term durability and extremely precise fuel management. The 60-degree dual overhead cam V-6 uses a compacted-graphite iron block with aluminum heads and pistons. Additionally, engineers have used graphite and other composites wherever possible to improve strength and save weight. We’re told the total added weight to the truck over an identically equipped Ram 1500 with the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 is less than 50 pounds, but the added cost for the diesel option over an identically equipped Hemi Ram will be $2,850 (but expect the upgraded transmission to be another added cost).

Dave Sowers, head of Ram 1500/2500/3500 marketing, noted that given where fuel prices are now, Ram expects good mileage ratings from the EPA (as of our drive, EPA-estimated ratings had not yet been released). Given the likelihood that these EcoDiesels would provide stronger resale in the used truck market, Sowers thought new truck owners should expect to effectively break even on the diesel option choice in three to four years.

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All EcoDiesel Ram 1500s will be equipped with the ZF eight-speed transmission (the same one mated to the Hemi engine option) have 3.55:1 axle gears and offer a 9,200-pound maximum towing capacity. Ram will offer the small diesel option across all cab configurations and all trim levels (except the regular cab short bed and HFE model). That means whether you’re a fleet buyer or just looking to replace the family pickup, the Ram 1500 will be the first truck in the half-ton segment in a very long time (remember the old Detroit Diesels in the GM lineup?) to offer a light-duty diesel option. Ram executives are cautiously optimistic that as many as 15 percent of their half-ton buyers will opt for the EcoDiesel. All they have to do, Ram says, is get people to try it, and they’ll buy. That’s probably not too far off the mark.

The Drive

Our drive took place just north of Los Angeles, where our Ram-prescribed route took us up and through the Malibu canyons and along the Pacific Ocean. Temperatures were cool and much of our driving was on two-lane highways through coastal farmlands and through mountain canyons.

The first thing we noticed was that interior engineers likely requested some added insulation for the interior because it will difficult for many, from the driver or passenger seat (windows rolled up), to distinguish between the EcoDiesel engine and the gas 3.6-liter Pentastar. The only giveaway on the inside will be the DEF (the diesel exhaust fluid that is injected into the exhuast stream to clean up the tailpipe emissions) gauge in the lower left corner of the cluster. We’re told there will be plenty of warning steps as the urea tank drops to empty, but thankfully the truck will never completely shut down or lose full power.

As you might expect, much of the beauty of this engine comes from the drive characteristics of the computer-controlled TorqueFlite eight-speed transmission. We really like the throttle response because it does exceptionally well off the line, with very little hesitation, and up- and downshifts happen briskly and often when throttling up or down steep hills. We assume there was plenty of fine-tuning done to make sure the variable geometry turbocharger has very little turbo lag; it’s almost undetectable.

During certain sections of our hill climbing on twisty mountain roads, we did sense the transmission was hunting and quick-shifting (probably skipping a gear or two) trying to keep up with our enthusiastic throttle foot. Downshifts happened solidly and without any big hits or shocks as we pushed the half-ton crew cab Longhorn like we would a Mazda Miata. Make no mistake, although the torque numbers are similar to the Hemi, the truck does not feel as responsive or feel as strong as it does when the truck is equipped with the Hemi, but that shouldn’t surprise experienced diesel owners.

We spent much of our time through the twisties keeping our thumb on the plus and minus button of the transmission shifter on the steering wheel, just above the cruise control settings. If there’s one weakness to having a rotary dial for a transmission selector, it’s that there doesn’t seem to be a good place for a tap-up or tap-down shifter. Some have suggested paddle shifters, but this doesn’t seem the place for it (but maybe a Rumble Bee package might have them). Still, the transmission was good about holding the gear we programmed, allowing us to downshift quickly when approaching a tight downhill decreasing radius corner in the canyons.

7 Ram EcoDiesel action II

Once out of the mountain roads, we kept a steady 50 mph average along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, where we saw our average fuel economy creep up to 26 mpg (remember, that includes our climb up the canyons and then back down), but out on the highway, cruising at freeway speeds (in California, that’s about 70 mph), we saw the instantaneous readouts tell us we were getting between 24 and 26 mpg. If we had to guess where the EPA ratings will land, we wouldn’t be surprised to see 20 city and 29 or 30 highway.

We did get a chance to take some shorter loops later in the day with a Laramie 4x4 with the EcoDiesel; when navigating the wide open city streets on our 12-mile test loop, we averaged 42 mph and 22.7 mpg.

We also got a chance to do a bit of towing. Ram provided us with a small boat and trailer (weighing about 3,000 pounds) for us to drive the urban 12-mile route. We managed to get 15.4 mpg under load in tow mode. In fact, it was while towing that we saw a little of the EcoDiesel’s shine come off the finish. We found that even under the relatively light load of a small boat, the response of the transmission seemed sluggish. Our tow vehicle did have the rear coils springs (not the air suspension), so we expect it to be a little more sensitive to tongue weight, but it was clearly not as quick to respond to our inputs or as ready to drop a gear or two when we needed acceleration help. This was another situation where having another form of manual shifting, beyond the thumb buttons, would have been nice, especially for keeping the gears in exactly the right spots on the powerband.

We should note that when driving empty, especially with the Longhorn’s air-ride suspension, there was nothing jerky or plodding about this powertrain combination. The powertrain, with all its torquey diesel characteristics, fits perfectly with the luxury trim package, and with the added range (our truck’s computer estimated 540 miles for a single tank), this will be a popular option with the luxo crowd. Our test vehicle listed at $57,420.

We did not notice any of our test units dipping into the DEF fluid in a way that moved the gauge needle, but we liked being able to see exactly how much there is left in the eight-gallon tanks (a Ram exclusive). Ram is saying it expects a single tank of DEF to last about 10,000 miles (and assumes that duty cycle includes some towing or hauling), which is also the factory-required distances Ram is recommending for oil changes.

The Results

We have to say we’re impressed. It’s not a perfect engine, but it offers a great sound and it has the obvious benefits of longer intervals between fillups, functionally invisible drive characteristics, plenty of low-end grunt and the extra trade-in value, which are all huge assets for this new powertrain option. We’ll reserve our full judgment until we get to see this truck and engine combination during some back-to-back runs with other powertrains in the segment. There’s no telling where the Ram 1500 would have finished in our 2013 Light Duty Challenge if it had had slightly better fuel economy numbers empty and towing than it did with the Hemi during our testing.

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Whether this truck will have the 15 percent take rate when it hits the dealerships we feel is a no-brainer. Ram is the first to market in a segment that is looking for smart ways to be more efficient and capable — and this does both. No doubt Ford and GM will respond quickly (Ford is offering a small Power Stroke in the Transit van and GM’s small pickups are rumored to use two different small diesels). Both will be carefully watching to see how consumers respond.

We should note, especially for those with good memories, this is exactly the same posture Ford was taking when it first brought out the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine. That turned into Ford's biggest engine homerun in the segment in decades, making it the engine of choice for almost half of all F-150s today. We’re pretty sure the EcoDiesel will never become that popular (barring any unforeseen international issues), but it’s likely the EcoDiesel will be even more popular than the most hopeful Ram Truck marketing folks or engineers might think. The more half-ton shoppers that Ram can get behind the wheel, the more drivers will be convinced that they can live with it without any trouble. We’ll have more when we get one for full-report comparison testing.

For the press release overview for the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, click here.

For the press release focused on the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel engine, click here.

For the most recent specification chart for the 2014 Ram 1500, click here.

 

Test vehicle specifications

Model:                     2014 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn

Configuration:        Crew Cab 4x4

Engine:                    3.0-liter DOHC V-6 TD

Horsepower:          240 @ 3,600

Torque:                    420 @ 2,000

Transmission:         TorqueFlite eight-speed

Wheels:                    20x9-in aluminum, chrome inserts

Tires:                         275/60R20 Goodyear Wrangler SR-A

Brakes:                     Four-wheel vented disc

Axle ratio:                3.55:1

Suspension, front:  Double wishbone, air bags

Suspension, rear:   Five-link, air bags

Base price:              $48,730

As tested:                $57,420

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8 Ram EcoDiesel towing II

Comments

You would think that tow/haul mode would help keep the truck in lower gears and really help with towing performance. The 1500 does have a Tow/Haul switch doesn't it?

I think it should do well although it will be interesting to see what kind of Mileage this small Diesel will get towing 5-6K as it will be working harder then a big V8.

Why not put paddle shifters in a truck? It may seem out of place in a non-sporty vehicle, but if it works well and is easy to use, then do it. If Chrysler still mounts audio controls on the backside of the wheel, it might make that spot a little crowded.

Oh, I didn't think they were going to offer the diesel on the sport model Rams but according to this they are? If so I want one.

Ground-braking powertrain!!!! I applaud them for that.
That said, $57,420 is an INSANE amount for any 1/2-ton truck!

@nlp - +1

I don't think it's much of a jump from there into a 3/4 Cummins Ram that will drag this truck backwards like nothing.

This might be my next truck.

Guts
Glory
Eco Diesel
RAM

No regular cab/short bed diesel? That's kind of a bummer.

I am a die hard Ford man, but I am impressed at the 1500 Diesel. I do wish maybe it was of 3.2 Liters or 3.5, somewhere in that range, but I highly applaud Ram for this. COME ON FORD!!!! I want a 3.2 Inline 5 in my next F-150!!!!! I do love my insanely reliable thus far Ecoboost, as after 60k, my average is at 17.7, and that includes MOSTLY heavy towing and hauling. The performance is awesome!!! But a diesel would certainly net me around 20 or slightly higher for what I am using it for. Those Ram boys got it going on with this 3L Diesel. I only hope it is reliable.

57K K K ! ! ! ! for a 1/2 ton truck??? I might look at this engine in a reg cab SB but that is not in the cards? oh well the Hemi is nice also, and I can not wait to drive the new Chevy reg cab sb 5.3, next month I will start looking, but I will take the Ram Diesel for a ride anyway.

@sandman You got that right. I could buy my own gas station for this price of this thing.

And another thing, Detroit's marketing whiz kids are alienating the truck customer. I don't want to see another thing in the Big 3 product lineup called Eco or Green. I might start buying something else.

I'll wait until I see how durable this Fiat Diesel is in the long run before i'm a guinea pig!

Our tow vehicle did have the rear coils springs (not the air suspension) so we expect it to be a little more sensitive to tongue weight...

We should note that when driving empty, especially with the Longhorn’s air-ride suspension, there was nothing jerky or plodding about this powertrain combination. The powertrain, with all its torquey diesel characteristics, fits perfectly with the luxury trim package...

Assuming you drove several trucks during this report?

@Len - the 3.0 VM Motori is not a new diesel. It may be new in the Ram and new to North America but it is not new.

Interesting advertising strategy, they compare it directly to the original Cummins Ram and had one to show, notice it in the background of the second photo.

It will be nice to see a full test on this drivetrain.

Guts
Glory
30 mpg
Ram!!!

Finnally a diesel 1/2 ton. This proves that pickup truck makers are do listening to what we say and need in a pickup truck.
Thank you!!!

57k will be the new norm, i saw a bran new gmc denali in the showroom the other week that was 54K, and no diesel, so it seems like this will be common if you want to buy a 1/2 ton lux truck for any of the brands

57,000 WTF?

$57,420? Really? I guess I will wait and see what the used car market bears. I was one of those give me a diesel and I will buy ... BUT not at those prices. For me, this is a toy/daily driver to go camping, skiing, haul the dirt bike, "bulkier/larger purchases", etc. with the family. I bought a Honda Odyssey Touring for $40K as the family car last year (all bells and whistles). On flat highway with AC on and 8 people in the van, I have calculated 30 mpg on road trips. Although it is a game changer, these new car prices (statement for the industry as a whole) are not worth selling off my children!

57K for a truck, no thanks I would never spend that kind of money on something that will depreciate to nothing in ten years. I'd rather put the money in the back and let it grown and buy a lesser model or a used for 25K.

Thing is it cost 57K but it only costs these companies like 25K to make so its not a great value by any means but people buy them so I can understand why the companies keep coming out with higher more expensive trim levels because its mega profits for the car companies.

$57,000 is for a Laramie Longhorn. A Hemi is only $2850 less. The diesel version is not the reason for the high price. IMO $57,000 for a 1/2 ton cowboy Cadillac is too much. It would've been nice if it came with a little more grunt but after reading a recent article from a Ram spokesman it is apparent that Ram is trying to find a balance between MPG and towing. Most 1/2 ton owners don't tow heavy so MPG's over ruled. This article talked about the truck being sluggish with 3000lbs behind it. Well I had a 5.4 F150. Talk about sluggish. Lousy mpg's too. I'd take high mpgs along with a slight loss in towing power any day.

I'm sure the MPG figures looked good on the test but wait til the truck hits a regen cycle and those MPG figures come crashing down a point or two to real world figures

One of the surprising things about the new engine is the relatively small price penalty: a 1500 equipped with the EcoDiesel and eight-speed transmission starts at $28,045, including destination. That’s just $2,850 more than a comparably equipped truck with the 5.7-liter Hemi. Truck diesels typically cost quite a bit more, and Ram says the small diesel will offer the same reduced maintenance and extended service life of the larger Cummins diesels used in the heavy-duty Rams.

This might be my next truck.

Guts
Glory
Eco Diesel
RAM

Posted by: FordTrUcks1 | Sep 23, 2013 8:37:33 AM

10-4 on that one old buddy! This jewel is in my crosshairs for my next truck, as is a 2500 6 speed manual with the Cummins! I may even consider a 2500 Duramax Allison, or maybe a 4.5 Duramax in the 1500 Silverado should they decide to produce those.

You know, this is great. I love seeing diesels start to make a comeback. I am a little concerned about how late the power comes on compared to the ecoboost, but if it means getting 25 or 26 miles to the gallon I'm on board. Can't wait to see what Ford and Government Motors will do to combat this.

Yeah it's going to be $57,000 which is a lot but people gotta realize if you want a diesel in a half ton you gotta pay the big price. You buy this truck because you want a diesel engine not because you want to save money.

Those gauges are HORRIBLE. I have good eyesight and those are hard to read for me...I can imagine an older guy having trouble with that. They need to ditch those quick.

The 8-speed is a joke. I told everybody years ago that the more gears you have, the more hunting the tranny is going to do. It's not going to improve longevity or fuel economy. In the real world it's just going to be a PITA.

Pair this engine with a manual trans. and better interior and you've got a winner.

No deal. It's $15,000. more than the price of the truck I'm looking at.

if Chevy decides to put a small diesel in their trucks, I doubt it will be a duramax, only reason is they are half owners of the VM diesel currently in the Ram, why would they compete against themselves?

I get the desire for a higher MPG diesel, but unless the diesel is getting considerably higher MPG than their gas counterparts, it is going to be tough to make an economic case for the diesel. The diesel is going to have to get above 22/30 MPG before it makes any economic sense to buy it. Plus, since the diesel will be an additional $2300 option over the Hemi and a $4500 option over the base V6/V8 the diesel doesn't make any sense unless a buyer plans to drive the thing for 10+ years.

@WXman: Automatic transmissions have come a looooong way in the past 10 years. Any auto tranny worth its salt in a brand-new pickup truck won't hunt for gears, especially when in Tow/Haul mode.

The more gears you have in a transmission, the better ratios you have either for towing or for fuel economy. This is basic physics. Or would you rather we all go back to having three-speed column shifters and two-speed automatics?

But yes, those gauges with the really "squished" numbers do seem like they would become a liability with older drivers.

Combined MPG is excellent, but I can't get passed the 57k price tag either. Even the "entry level" price of $49k...gulp! At this price it isn't for me. I hope the Nissan with the Cummins engine will be priced a little more...reasonably. Although I doubt. A FX2 with an Ecoboost will do nicely instead.

@WXman, I have to agree w/ DAVID, because the 8 speed in my 12 3.6 Chrysler 300 does not exhibit any excessive hunting. Even in stop and go traffic, this trans does not hunt. It is very smart and always seems to know what gear to be in for every occasion. Same as with the 6 spd in my 11 Ecoboost....I never get any hunting for gears, even in hilly terrain while towing. Transmissions are very smart nowadays and do not hunt like you think they would, at least in my two vehicles.

At $57,400 for the Long Horn edition I promise you there is $20,000 of NET profit built into that price.

Hey don't knock the 3.0 VM Motori for not being a Cummins. Google "banks 630T". Banks felt this motor was the best engineered small diesel out there. There is a detailed article about the design of the motors and how it had the best features of both the Cummins ISB and the Duramax in a 500 lb package and then some. They felt they could easily get 600 hp out a race version.

When it came out in Europe, reviews felt this was a better motor than MBs and other luxury brands 3.0 v6s.

The 3.0 diesel has great potential.

The half-ton GM diesels you reference were built by Oldsmobile, not Detroit Diesel.

@ nitro,

NO,GM is not part owner anymore...Fiat bought them out...

FYI,GM only owned them since 2004 or so..

DaimlerChrysler owned the company before and Chrysler Corporation owned a large part in the 1990's.

So,Chrysler has actually is a fitting company for VM as it was owner/part owner and now full owner longer than any other car company.

European Jeeps,Chrysler/Dodge minivans/Suvs Nitro ect.. had VM Diesels for decades..Even other countries had a Dakota with a VM.

VM Motori was once owned by Detroit Diesel..

People need to realize that this a 57K truck because it is a Laramie Longhorn. It has the Ram box too.
This truck without the diesel is 54K but would be 60K with the air ride.

Perhaps what may appear to be "hunting" is due to driver's/testers not being used to having 2 extra gears.
For those of you who have never had a chance to go on a haul in a commercial tractor/trailer unit, there can be a lot of shifting going on.
Gear hunting tends to be caused more by the driver not being attuned to the "personality" of the individual vehicle. I can make my truck gear hunt under certain conditions but its not the trucks fault, it is mine.

We need to give these trucks a chance to prove themselves in the real world. That aplies equally to a gasser with the 8 speed.

Can anyone answer me this question, the 8 speed is a 1,000 dollar option in the 5.7. Is there a price premium for the 8 speed with the diesel and/or the 3.6 V6?

$57,000..

Yeah,its 2013 soon to be 2014 so what do you expect..People earn well over $100,000 today if not get motivated and stop wasting time on the net !

You still can buy a low rent base model for under $20,000 so stop it already ! I dont like many new cars so a $57,000 truck is a bargain..But I really want a 6.4,392 HEMI in a RAM 1500.

As for profits,companies need them,look a few years ago FORD,GM,CHRYSLER just about went belly up...Ford actually got more loans from the feds then Chrysler but nobody said anything..Ford is a government company or at least around today because of free government money and loans tenfold more then they gave Chrysler which Chrysler paid back ! Taxpayer money went to Ford more so then Chrysler and Ford never nor has to pay it back !

Furthermore,I am glad Fiat/Ferrari/Maserati bought the rest of VM Motori,now it fits in nicely with the Chrysler group vehicles..

Must say I dont like the name ECO-Diesel...

Chrysler,Ford,GM please stop using the name ECO !!

We all know the world is cooling and is greener because we drive ! Global warming is a scam,and stop wrecking our vehicles with 'ECO' crap on them ! For this I will buy a gas V-8 !

@Mitch
You made the comment below,


I think it should do well although it will be interesting to see what kind of Mileage this small Diesel will get towing 5-6K as it will be working harder then a big V8.


In real life the Hemi will probably use 70-80% more fuel towing than the diesel. The Hemi will be working harder.

@ Not a Lefty: And what happens when gas runs out? At least with a diesel there are other sources of fuel (waste oil, vegetable oil, etc.)

Even if you don't put much stock in global warming (FWIW, I know the climate is changing but I don't really think it's our fault), you have to admit that it has certainly given our auto engineers a kick in the rear. Think about it: you can get a 1-liter engine in a compact car that puts out 100 HP and can go 37 miles on one gallon of gas. If that's not a marvel of modern engineering, I don't know what is.

Even putting an engine that gets above 20 mpg in a pickup truck while still returning the kind of HP figures that we'd expect in a big-block V8 from 20 years ago is nothing to sneeze at.

Just like the Eco Boost I have read some article that stated that the benefits from the 8spd aren't as great as promoted.

Also, in the HD Ram Cab Chassis article I posted an article on the utes we get (this isn't a midsize story :). A Ford Ranger has a 6spd auto and the Mazda BT50 has the 6spd manual. The BT50 is identical mechanically to the Ford.

What came out of the test was the Global Ranger used an incredible 'over 13 litres per 100km' of diesel compared to the BT50 which used 9 litres per 100km. The Ford diesel was new and diesels are notorious for being 'tight' engines when new and can take 50 000km to run in. Are these new autos as good as a manual shifter?

This VM powered Ram could be much cheaper if a 6spd manual was offerred.

Why would Ram want to offer this? This is a new and novel idea in the US. Ram is out to clean as much cash as possible right now. Others will jump on the bandwagon soon enough.

You guys need Ford F-150, Chevs, Tundra, etc all to have diesels. This will drop the prices quite a bit.

These small diesels don't cost the figures you are being charged.

A base model work truck Ram with a 6spd manual would cost the same or even less as a Hemi V8 auto.

@David
I wouldn't run anything in this other than diesel. Trust me on this one. Older diesel might have faired well, these new diesels don't.

Chrysler used the VM diesel in the 2005-2006 jeep liberty. Then did nothing to support it.
I needed VM parts and had to go to Europe for them. Chrysler is a warranty and unload company.

@ BAFO: Yeah, I suspected as much. With such a precisely engineered piece of modern tech, getting it to run on anything besides pure No. 1 and No. 2 diesel would be nothing short of a miracle. Now, an old Detroit Diesel, 12V Cummins or 7.3 Powerstroke would have very little issues, if any.

I can already see it the high school kids now with these trucks, first mod will be a smoke tune and a straight pipe; so they can blow smoke everywhere.
They do this with the older heavy duty trucks in my town. Tons of Cummins running around with big C stickers on the rear window rolling coal all the way down the street with exhaust that sounds like a hair dryer.

For some reason, dumping coal is fun for those high school kids.

FYI,the new ram 1500 diesel is certified to run on B20 with no problems.

@David
Please address me as Al, Big Al or Big Al from Oz, that's the first thing.

Yeah imagine running an Eco Boost on pure alcohol. That would be similar.



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