Sunday, December 21, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Ram diesel thinks big by going small

2014 Ram 1500

2014 Dodge Ram 1500 diesel. Courtesy photo

By
From page A10 | January 17, 2014 |

Up until now, if you wanted a diesel engine in your pickup truck, you had to buy a big heavy duty pickup. We know that diesels are more efficient so why can’t we have a diesel engine in a half-ton pickup? Thanks to Chrysler’s Ram brand, that is now possible and it is a very good one.

The 2014 Ram 1500 not only is the first light-duty, full-size pickup to offer durable, efficient diesel technology — it is the only one. And with the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel’s historic debut, Ram customers can enjoy class-leading fuel economy and range, along with torque that is unsurpassed by any full-size truck with a V-6 engine.

“Light-duty pickup owners have long clamored for diesel technology and the time to deliver is now,” said Bob Lee, vice president and head of engine, powertrain and electrified propulsion systems engineering at Chrysler. “Clean, efficient, prodigious torque and the promise of durability are the hallmarks of a superior truck engine. The EcoDiesel makes good on all counts.”

The new 3.0-liter 24-valve, dual-overhead-cam diesel is a turbocharged 60-degree V-6. It generates 240 horsepower at 3,600 rpm and makes torque like a V-8 — 420 lb.-ft. at 2,000 rpm — without V-8 fuel consumption. The fuel-economy advantage inherent in diesel technology also enables the Ram 1500 to trump competitive trucks with turbocharged, direct-injected gasoline engines — especially under load, the driving condition most critical to pickups and their owners.

The new turbo-diesel is designed and produced by VM Motori, a Chrysler Group diesel engine supplier since 1992. The engine was made available because of the Fiat purchase of Chrysler. That engine is available in some Fiat models worldwide and is made in Italy.

The EcoDiesel’s 60-degree cylinder-bank angle and 1-2-3-4-5-6 firing order are optimized to manage inertia and firing loads, eliminating the need for a balance shaft. The engine’s aluminum cylinder heads are heat-treated and feature individual bearing caps that help reduce friction and noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). Durability is further ensured by the EcoDiesel’s forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods — which provide additional NVH benefits — and its aluminum alloy pistons. These pistons, which benefit from cooling oil jets, reduce reciprocating mass inside the engine for enhanced efficiency and performance feel.

The dual overhead cams with chain-driven roller-finger followers and gear-to-gear meshing afford efficient valve operation, working in harmony with the variable-geometry, electronically controlled, water-cooled turbocharger. Special attention to this relationship helps to virtually eliminate “turbo lag” by providing increased turbine power at low engine speeds. The system incorporates a new “pre-filter” on the transmission cross-rail and an engine fuel filter. The result is enhanced prevention of injector corrosion, an enabler of long-term durability, as well as protection from the vagaries of regional fuel quality.

All of the specifications are great but how does it drive? In a word, sweet! The engine provides a terrific amount of power at anytime with no turbo lag. Just step on the gas and feel the rush. If you are a fan of the Cummins diesels found in other Ram trucks, you may be offended when I tell you that this is a better engine. It is much more efficient and, best of all, it is smooth and quiet. You are never reminded that this is a big truck engine. You can actually have a conversation with the engine running and the windows down.

A great engine would be nothing if it was attached to a bad truck but Ram has done a wonderful job with the Ram 1500. The 2014 Ram 1500 delivers best-in-class fuel economy with a truckload of pioneering, fuel-saving systems including eight-speed automatic transmission, stop-start system, thermal management system, pulse-width modulation and active aerodynamics with grille shutters and air suspension.

The air suspension is fantastic and works very well. When you park the truck, it lowers itself so you can get in and out easier. At freeway speeds it also lowers itself for better aerodynamics. If you want to go off roading, you have two higher levels for more ground clearance. All of this is available with the push of a button.

Inside the cab, our loaded Laramie model had everything under the sun but was still not the top-of-the-line Ram model. Standard equipment included rear back up camera, trailer towing package, power adjustable pedals, heavy duty cooling, security alarm, dual zone HVAC, ventilated and heated front seats, heated steering wheel, 7-inch cluster with Bluetooth and U Connect, and so much more.

Driving the Ram was a joy. It was smooth and quiet on the freeway. The diesel engine provides a range of over 600 miles making the Ram diesel a great partner for long trips. We recorded mileage in the mid-20s easily with 30 mpg being possible if you are careful with the throttle. That is amazing considering that this is a truck capable of towing over 9000 pounds.

The worst feature of the Ram diesel is the price. Our Laramie Crew Cab 4-by-4 Ram started out at $45,000 and after $10,000 of options, the final price came out to $55,760. That is a lot of money but then again this is not your 1950’s pickup truck with AM radio either. If you are careful, you can purchase a lower grade Outdoorsman two-wheel drive for as little as $35,000 with the diesel engine.

The diesel engine option in the Ram 1500 makes the truck into something that you can truly live with every day. The fuel economy is very good and it is as luxurious as your neighbor’s Lexus with the bonus of more room and a huge trunk.

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