Auto Journalist's Nirvana: 2013 Chrysler's 'What's New' Event

Ram HD Chassis II

By Aaron Bragman

Out of all the jobs on the planet, few are better for a car guy or gal than being an automotive journalist. The exception might be the job held by Ralph Gilles, Chrysler's top designer and head of the Street and Racing Technology group responsible for the SRT brand — the man responsible for how all new Chryslers look, the company's motorsports efforts and the creation of some of the most badass street cars ever to hit American roads. But if you can't be Gilles, being an "auto journo" is probably the next best thing, for reasons like the one that I got to experience in late June, courtesy of Chrysler.

Every year Chrysler puts on a big open house at its Chelsea Proving Grounds in southeast Michigan, Called the "What's New" event, it attracts a few hundred journalists from all over the world for what is arguably the best annual single-day product event in the business. Chrysler shuts down a big portion of the proving grounds, sets up a massive tent, brings dozens of cars from all of its brands and sets the media loose to drive them all day long. There's a highway-speed oval loop a few miles long, a tight-and-twisty handling course for throwing cars around, an off-road course for Jeeps and Ram 4x4s, an autocross and more. And all of it is kept fed and watered by catering from one of the best smokehouse/deli/bakery/coffee roasters in the world, Zingerman's Delicatessen of Ann Arbor.

My day started with an 8 a.m. arrival at CPG to get registered, participate in a track safety and rules talk (no cameras out while driving deep into the proving grounds, for instance), and drink some coffee. After shuttling in, the opportunities for fun abounded — what to drive first? The new Dodge Dart GT? One of the SRT vehicles, all of which were represented? The new Fiat 500L, 500e or 500c Abarth Cabrio? The Dodge Charger Pursuit police car with full lights and sirens? Nope. I went right to the one vehicle that doesn't get any love or attention, or appear in any press fleet: a 2013 Ram 5500 Chassis Cab with the dump truck bed and a Cummins turbo-diesel!

Dump Truck II

Where else can you flog such a beast around a racetrack handling course? The big white work truck howled in protest as its dualie rear axle's tires scrubbed and slid around the corners, but the quick ratio of the heavy-duty truck's steering actually proved to be remarkably responsive for such an enormous monster. And massive it is — nearly 7,800 pounds without the dump body on it, the 5500 Chassis Cab can be up-fitted to handle a whopping 37,500 pounds gross combined vehicle weight. Without a payload (max of more than 11,000 pounds), it can tow just less than 30,000 pounds thanks to a Cummins turbo-diesel 6.7-liter inline-six. That motor makes 325 horsepower but a whopping 750 pounds-feet of torque, which in an empty dump truck actually makes for some entertaining acceleration.

More mundane Ram offerings were on hand, of course, including the Ram 1500 HFE I tested earlier this year (the exact one, in fact), as well as a 2500 Quad Cab. Sadly, neither the new 2014 1500 with the EcoDiesel 3.0-liter or the 2500/3500 with the new 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 were available for driving, but they were on hand for static display and pictures. The new Hemi has Ford worried, besting the cross-town rival's numbers in the ongoing game of one-upmanship (for now anyway). But while the journalists were being dazzled by the big numbers and news of coil-spring and air-leveling suspension making its way to the HD trucks, many overlooked the new Laramie Longhorn interiors on the 2500 HD and 1500 EcoDiesel trucks on display. They are, in a word, stunning. Featuring high-quality leather, beautiful wood trim and Chrysler's benchmark Uconnect multimedia system, they might just be the best truck interiors in the industry right now, at least until Ford gets its next Platinum models out and GMC brings us a new Denali.

Viper II

The next six hours were a free-for-all as the assembled media rotated in and out of Chrysler's entire 2013 model year lineup, as well as a select number of 2014 models (impressions of which can't be published until Sept. 1). One could drive Wranglers and Ram Power Wagons off-road on a special trail in the proving grounds meant for just such activity. Race car driver Tommy Kendall arrived for lunch to give hot-lap demonstration rides in an SRT Viper GTS to demonstrate both what the car is capable of and what it takes to make a journalist lose his or her barbecued lunch. Or you could pilot a Viper yourself over at the autocross course. Decisions, decisions.

For an auto enthusiast, it just doesn't get much better than this.

3.0L V-6 VM Mortori EcoDiesel

EcoDiesel II


'Man of Steel' Ram Power Wagon

Ram of Steel II


Ram 3500 HD Chassis Cab

Chassis Cab II


6.4L Hemi V-8 Engine

Hemi II


Feather-weight Custom Jeep Concept

Jeep II


Longhorn Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

Longhorn EcoDiesel II



Looks like you had a lot of fun. To bad you couldn't test drive the Eco Diesel yet or the 6.4L Hemi trucks.

Chrysler/Fiat is coming out with some great stuff. They've had issues with production and delivery which need to be corrected.
Fiat just bought another 3.3 % of Chrysler. Fiat wants to get to 75% ownership. That would then allow them to access Chrysler capital to help with their European divisions.
They want to buy the remaining shares owned by VEBA but the courts are having to decide the price. It appears that the UAW want much more than experts feel they are worth. IIRC, there is a time limit on Fiat exercising their stock options. I can see why the UAW wants to delay. They would end up with more say in the company.

Are you able to say if the V-6 diesel will be available in base model trucks?

Do you mean a tradesman diesel? I supposed that could be interesting.

According to RAM website, it will be available on Tradesman, SLT, Outdoorsman, Big Horn, Laramie, Laramie LongHorn.

The Ecodiesel will give Ram a great line of engine choices. In the past, they did not have a good engine lineup. The 5.7 was your only legitimate choice as all of the smaller engines were hard on fuel with poor power.

Can you say when they will release the actual HP, TRQ, fuel economy, and max tow rating numbers on the ecodiesel?


It seems not only have Fiat/Chrysler had new vehicle release issue with pickups, but also Darts, with just the manuals.

Chrysler has to resolve this problem of releasing new models. When there is a recall, even a minor one, people look at Chrysler and say what are you doing. This doesn't help the image that Chrysler needs to rebuild itself on.

Chrysler and other vehicle manufacturers spend a lot of effort 'bedding' the media. But they must realise as much as the media can help build an image it can also destroy and image.

This destruction of an image can only be directed at the manufacturer. It called poor judgement and management.

The products could very well be good, except perception dictates otherwise.

They have already released HP and torque for the EcoDiesel. It's even on 240HP/420lb-ft (same as the Jeep). They haven't released the other numbers yet.

I wonder if the FE figures aren't released because of the issue's of some of the other manufacturers fudging figures.

I mean the manufacturers don't only have to convince the consumer, they also have to meet CAFE requirement.

Maybe CAFE regulators shouldn't be so hands off during the FE testing phase.

those numbers on the site I dont buy, since they said they wouldn't release those until august, aren't those the same as the jeep??

The diesel will have 65 less hp than the base V6. 155 less hp than the Hemi. Also, Ford said no on a diesel.

DEARBORN, Michigan — Ford officials, speaking at a press event at the company's development center, said there are no plans to build a diesel-powered F-150 anytime soon.

"We don't see the dynamics for an F-150 diesel right now," said Raj Nair, Ford's group vice president of global product development. "If you go through the math, your payback is much longer and consumers are smart enough to know that."

Diesel output numbers don't tend to vary as much as gasoline output numbers. Gas engine also react differently to load.

Gasoline engine outputs vary for different applications of expected use, ie, peak power and torque for car vs pickup.

This diesel is already in use on a SUV, the characteristics needed to move both vehicles will be similar.

Changing the diesel's power and torque curve is not required for the Ram vs the Grand Cherokee.

I don't know what they are, but I think Alex is correct.

@Big Al
I don't think it's so much manufacturers fudging MPG figures, rather it's the EPA test not reflecting real world conditions. You can't blame the manufacturers for engineering vehicles to do as well as possible on the EPA's test, since those are the numbers that appear on Monroney stickers and advertisements.

@ Luke in CO
I was referring to what came out in the news here with Hyundai and Kia and I think Ford with their mpg figures.

From what I read the companies didn't reflect what the actual figures should have been.

The vehicles were tested by the regulator and failed to make the mpg figures they advertised.

Did they have any of the new Cherokee's for you to drive? Might give up my truck for one if it is decent.

1) You are referring to Hyundai and Kia. Not Ford.

2) BTW - the window sticker numbers/tests are not the ones that are used for CAFE.

@Kirby (real name or new?)

1. Did I state Ford as a fact? Or did I state I 'think'. Also Ford gave you away:)

2. I will stand by my comment;

"The vehicles were tested by the regulator and failed to make the mpg figures they advertised."

Read below, this is a cut and paste from autoblog;


Bird has filed a suit looking for class-action status in Sacramento County Superior Court. The lawsuit "seeks to stop Hyundai from illegally using gas mileage numbers in its advertising of the Elantra without government-mandated disclosures." Naturally, damages are being sought for California owners of 2011 and 2012 Elantra models. As you can see above, the 2013 Elantra is still ADVERTISED with a 40-mpg rating on the highway, a figure arrived at by the EPA and, as Hyundai points out in a press release, by independent sources like Popular Mechanics and Car and Driver.


DM, why do you consistently use differing names?

Use google as I have told you before, and comprehend what is written and stay on theme.

@Kirby, @BigAl

Ford got nailed for false MPG numbers as well. It centres more on the Fusion and C-Max hybrids. Some say it is how hybrids are tested and rated as opposed to "fudging" numbers.

Typical reaction - how dare any foreigner say something negative about an American company.

The payback on the Ecodiesel should be reasonable but even if one removes "payback" from the equation, its price is in line with any of the competitors premium motors.

A recent study shows that diesels do have a cost benefit over gassers.
The lowest savings was Ram 5.7 versus Cummins. The savings was $67 dollars on a 3 year cycle but jumped to $578 over 5 years based on total cost of ownership.

Ford on the other hand had a very poor diesel resale (thank you 6.0/6.4) but still had a net benefit in total cost of ownership. Ford has a 3 year total cost of ownership at $1,395 and 5 year down to $763.

GMC trucks had the best TCO.
Chevrolet Silverado 2500 owners saved $3,673 in three years and $1,278 over a five year period.
GMC Sierra 2500 owners saved $2,720 in three years $2,613 over a five year period.

As an aside ,I have chat/chatted to Tommy Kendall. Still racing competitively. Nice fellow ,had a bad accident roughly 2006 that had him limping for a while.
Raced in Australia in 2006 from memory, struggled a bit but accident made him tire easily.

"Ford got nailed for false MPG numbers as well. It centres more on the Fusion and C-Max hybrids."

Lou, No offense but this is becoming a typical reaction by you to stick up for the haters from down under. Al said he "thought" Ford was nailed by a "regulator". That is false. The regulators have said nothing. If they come back and say Ford's test was bogus, then say so at that time. Don't just make things up or say you "think" this is what happened.

"Some say it is how hybrids are tested and rated as opposed to "fudging" numbers."

Exactly and Ford has already told the EPA to change the test! Your gotcha link is to Consumer Reports. CR tests at 65 mph steady state. The EPA test is at 48 mph and is stop and go. Not Ford's fault. No offense but if you have a problem with the test go tell the EPA, and lay off me!

Note your CR report is from December 6th. Here is the December 12th reponse from Ford and backpeddle from CR.

Raj responds to CR. CR backpedals on EPA claims

During the 2013 NAIAS preview, Raj took the opportunity to respond to CR's claims on EPA hybrid mileage, 8:00 minutes in at Meanwhile, CR has backpedaled and suddenly discovered how the C-Max and FFH earned the EPA mileage that they did. CR realized that the CR test isn't the same as the EPA test. Raj has a great powerpoint graphic that shows CR's city testing revealed that the Prius and Prius C diverged from the EPA city rating more than any other hybrid models, a "whopping" 19mpg in the case of the Prius. The Ford hybrids diverged 12 mpg, the Prius divergence was more than 50% worse.

Consumer Reports today: "Ford should be congratulated for producing some of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the market. However, customers who look for 47 mpg may need to readjust their expectations. When the EPA revamped its testing cycles in 2007, it made significant strides in bringing its estimates more in line with what drivers can expect to get themselves. The EPA is looking into this latest discrepancy and may again need to address new challenges in predicting fuel-economy for emerging technologies.

I like you Lou but you make youself look bad when you defend Al who posts bogus info.

Ford, FIRE RAJ NAIR! You need a Diesel if you're going to kick Ram's ass. Go back to being Ford of the 80's and 90's and stop being so conservative, you're not Toyota.

@Kirby - I don't see Big Al or Robert Ryan as haters. That is why I tend to "stick up" for them. An "outside" viewpoint is far from "hate". An "outsider" often can see what is going on inside the box more clearly than someone from within.
What do you define as "hate"?
It isn't as if they are burning USA flags or defaming the USA.

Most points made on this blog are opinion unless one clearly posts evidence to suggest a point is hard cold fact.

Ford is being sued by C-Max and Fusion Hybrid owners. I do tend to believe that those kinds of suites are frivolous and Ford will have an easy time making a mockery of those claims.

My understanding is that the EPA did retest C-Max and Fusion hybrids. That would mean the use of the word "regulator" is correct.

This is straight from the EPA MPG site:
"EPA estimates are based on laboratory tests conducted by manufacturers according to federal regulations. EPA re-tests about 10% of vehicle models to confirm manufacturer's results."

Thanks for your kind words.

I'm not anti American, this has been started by a select few, who in my mind are not on this site for a good debate or friendly exchange.


My buddy got one of those FORD C-Max things for his wife. The battery sh!t the bed the first week they had it. He got them to trade it for a conventional Taurus. (He buys a new F350 from them every few years so they treat him well.)

Personally, I don't think some of those hybrids are fully baked yet.

@Mark Williams (the author): While I understand you couldn't pull out a camera in the back areas of the proving grounds, did you happen to see any pickup trucks that did NOT look like a Ram? I want to know if Marccione is following up on his support for a Jeep-based truck.

@Jason H - I don't trust hybrids. If I wanted economy, I'd get some 4 banger econobox or a diesel VW.

2014 looks to be a excellent year for pickups!!!!!!lots of new engines and body styles coming up !

I feel like this site is improving , vs 6 months-1 year ago , still some pepper tricks and stupid fan boy comments . But it's getting better .

Chrysler is a catch twenty two to me , have owned 3 and and all of them in my point of view have had the same type of pros and cons .

Pros- very nice styling, excellent 4x4 capibilities and nice interiors

Cons-at 100 k mi the truck or jeep tends to wander on high way speeds regardless to impeccable maintaine, transmissions are biggest complaint 1996 dodge ram and 2005 jeep grand Cherokee both had funky shifts and early signs of severe wear and damage.

1990 grand wagoner was prob my favorite vechicle that I have ever owned, but by far had the most reliability and engine/ carb problems (yes they had carbs on GWs until 91 there final year )
.plus the worst breaks and sterling on any vehicle I have ever owned !!!!

I like the idea of this engine , but not ready to be the guinea pig on this one .

Just wondering if they set-up a booth where you could place bets on how many recalls these “new” products would have?

GUTS (it takes guts to own one...really I mean guts)
GLORY (glory me what a POS)
RAM (I’d rather RAM my head against the wall before buying one)

Glad Ram is coming with a diesel. Diesel @low rpm has more torque... better off road...less fuel...engine life is longer over 2x gas engine.Ford is nice bad...losing the market soon. Is only political all the talks ...from GMC Ford Chevrolet... they don't like you to have a better truck with better mileage. lasting save more...spend less...they don't makeso much money...

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