2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel - Driven

The Ram truck has been around since its nameplate was officially used on the 1981 Dodge pickup. Dodge trucks dating back to 1933 were known for their ram hood ornament, so the mascot went from decoration to the trucks’ name. Big news happened again in 2010 when the Fiat Chrysler Group moved the Ram lineup outside the Dodge umbrella, making the Ram its own brand. Now in its fourth generation, the Ram truck is breaking ground on uncharted territory. That uncharted ground includes innovations like dumping the traditional leaf-spring rear suspension design in favor of a smoother-riding, five-link with coil springs and introducing the industry’s first V-6 turbo-diesel in a half-ton package. The diesel aspect has garnered the Ram some notable attention from both the auto industry and the truck-buying public.

In fact, more than 8,000 EcoDiesel trucks were ordered by Ram dealers in the first weekend the books opened — a number than represents nearly half of the Ram 1500’s normal monthly production run. Since that February weekend in 2014, Ram EcoDiesel sales have exceeded the automaker’s expectations and have contributed to Ram’s overall sales increase over last year.

So what’s the big deal about a diesel, you ask? Well, I squeezed 33 miles per gallon out of my Ram 1500 EcoDiesel tester I recently had. Sure, that was with me babying the throttle down the highway, but by the week’s end, the dash still showed an average of over 24 mpg. That’s the big deal. Not to mention my tester was equipped to pull 9,200 pounds at the hitch and haul an impressive 1,620 pounds in the bed.

Skip on down fore the complete run-down of the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

TopSpeed Garage

Exterior

Ram 1500 EcoDiesel - Driven
Ram 1500 EcoDiesel - Driven
Ram 1500 EcoDiesel - Driven

The forth-generation Ram has carried roughly the same look since its introduction for the 2009 model year. A minor refresh for 2013 brought a revised front bumper, new wheels, and a revised interior. For 2014, most of the changes happen under Ram’s long hood.

Speaking of that hood, it carries that distinct Ram appearance as it slopes down to meet the flat-top fenders first seen two decades prior. The grille also harks back to that innovative 1994 design; still staying true to that aggressive crosshair design yet with a larger, more modern interpretation.

Ram 1500 EcoDiesel - Driven

My tester came dressed in the Crew Cab form, meaning it has four real doors large enough for easy entry and exit. It also has the short bed equipped with the innovative Ram Ram Box system. The side-saddle boxes are plenty big enough for tools, trailering accessories, and a couple backs of sodas and ice. I was even able to haul a five-gallon gas can in the RamBox with it perfectly secure from sloshing around. No tie-downs were needed. The bed itself suffers some loss in capacity due to the flattened walls of the RamBox, but there’s still plenty of room for hauling stuff. A cargo tie-down system is also present inside the bed, helping secure smaller items. Additionally, the truck came with the bed extender that doubles as a divider.

Ram 1500 EcoDiesel - Driven

Below the bed lies the two-inch receiver hitch, along with the four- and seven-pin wiring connectors. With the proper weight-distribution hitch, the Ram 1500 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel will haul an impressive 9,200 pounds. And don’t forget that number is certified by the SAE towing standards known as J2807.

I do have two aesthetic quibbles about the Ram’s exterior. My tester’s 17-inch chrome wheels just look tiny in relation to the rest of the truck. Secondly, the Ram’s front end takes a serious nosedive, leaving its air dam inches from the ground. I understand it’s in the best interest of fuel efficiency, but it still looks a little odd.

Interior

Ram 1500 EcoDiesel - Driven
Ram 1500 EcoDiesel - Driven
Ram 1500 EcoDiesel - Driven

Luxury seems to be my tester’s prime objective once inside the cabin. Equipped in the Laramie trim, the truck coddles its passengers in supple leather seating with soft touch materials abounding everywhere else. Materials look as good as they feel and things generally look as if they’d wear well as the years pass.

Ergonomics for the driver are pretty good. The power adjustable pedals and tilt/telescope steering column helps ensue a proper seating position. The 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment screen is within easy reach, as are all the physical controls down below.

I’m glad the HVAC controls are still physical knobs and not relegated to the touchscreen and I like the placement of the less-used controls in the switch bank down low on the center stack. The driver’s gauge cluster is easy to read, thanks to large, white numbers on a black background. Thankfully Ram’s speedometer also counts by 10s rather than 20s, making quick speed checks a simple task.

Ram 1500 EcoDiesel - Driven

What’s more, a large seven-inch TFT information screen dominates the gauge cluster. Everything from instant and average fuel economy to oil pressure, coolant temperature, and transmission-fluid temperature is displayed.

Ram 1500 EcoDiesel - Driven

There’s plenty to enjoy as a passenger as well. The rear seats are rather comfortable and have miles of legroom. Head, shoulder, and hip room also present nary a problem for even the girthiest of passengers. When it’s time to move cargo, the rear bench folds up in two sections. This allows lightweight flaps to unfold to create a flat load floor. The system work, but isn’t as functional as other trucks’ rear seat systems.

Drivetrain

Ram 1500 EcoDiesel - Driven
Ram 1500 EcoDiesel - Driven
Ram 1500 EcoDiesel - Driven

Here lies the main story with this Ram truck: its 3.0-liter, EcoDiesel powerplant. Thanks to its partnership with Fiat, Ram makes use of the turbo-diesel V-6 to help achieve both stellar fuel economy as well as impressive pulling power. The engine makes 240 horsepower at 3,600 rpm and an impressive 420 pound-feet of torque at only 2,000 rpm. With all that torque down low in the power band, getting heavy loads moving shouldn’t be a problem.

Though I didn’t get a chance to two or haul anything during my time with the Ram, I feel confident the EcoDiesel could handle 90 percent of any towing or hauling task the average American would ever throw at it. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago when 2500- and 3500-series trucks were only rated to pull 10,000 pounds.

The most noticeable thing about the EcoDiesel is its ability to not be noticed. I would wager the average driver wouldn’t know anything was different under the hood. The EcoDiesel doesn’t emit much of the traditional diesel clatter, none of the black smoke, and yet drives like a regular gasoline truck. It’s only when a careful ear pays attention does it hear the diesel difference.

Zero to 60 mph times doesn’t seem to suffer either. I posted an 8.5-second run without really trying.

Like many Chrysler products, the EcoDiesel is mated to the ZF-sourced, eight-speed automatic transmission. Its rotary dial make switching gears fun as each position has a noticeable notch. The transmission shifts incredibly smooth when under light throttle and stiffens up when under a heavier foot. And though four-wheel-drive is available, my tester’s driveline only serviced the rear axle.

Fuel Economy

Ram 1500 EcoDiesel - Driven

Since this is such a noteworthy topic with the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, it gets its own section. Now the EPA rates my particular tester at 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 23 mpg combined. As with many diesel mills these days, they tend to exceed the EPA’s estimates. Mine was no different.

On a flat highway at sea level driving at 65 mph, I averaged 33 mpg, well over the 28 mpg rating. Throughout the week of mixed highway and city driving, along with the several 0-to-60 runs I performed, my average still crested above 24 mpg. I found it very easy to tailor my driving habits to make the instant fuel economy readout stay as high as possible.

Beside the EcoDiesel under the hood, the Ram also gets help from active aero shutters behind the front grille. When the engine doesn’t need the extra air for cooling, the shutters close like venetian blinds, creating an area of positive pressure that pushes excess air around the truck.

Pricing

Ram 1500 EcoDiesel - Driven

The Ram 1500 can be had in many different sizes and flavors, starting with the base Tradesman trim level which starts at $24,810. In order to get an EcoDiesel under the hood, you’ll have to get the Quad Cab version of the Tradesman, costing $32,590 without options. Of course the EcoDiesel is available in the higher trim levels.

My tester came fitted in the Laramie trim level with the larger Crew Cab configuration. Its base price started at $42,380, but quickly grew as the options piled on. The EcoDiesel adds $2,850, the leather seats with heated second row and full-length console cost $500, the Convenience Group cost $495, the 8.4-inch Uconnect cost $500, the ParkSense system cost $395, the Remote start cost $200, the Spray-in bedliner cost $475, and lastly the RamBox system adds another $1,295.

In total, my tester came to $49,785, including a pricy $1,195 destination charge.

Competition

2014 Chevrolet Silverado

Chevrolet Silverado High Country - Driven

The Silverado has long been a strong competitor for the Ram. Generally coming in second behind the Ford F-150 Ford F-150 yet ahead of the Ram, the Silverado checks all the important boxes for truck customers. It’s available with three powerplants, three cab lengths, and three bed lengths, the Silverado can be configured to meet any need.

For 2014 the Silverado got a fresh start at life with an all-new exterior, interior and powertrain. The engine updated focus around adding direct injection, variable valve timing, and active fuel management. Though the displacements are the same, GM says the 4.3-liter V-6, 5.3-liter V-8, and 6.2-liter V-8 are all-new for 2014.

Pricing for the Silverado starts at $27,060 and rises past the $50,000 mark with all the options selected.

2014 Ford F-150

Ford F-150

Unlike the all-new Silverado, the 2014 F-150 is on its way out with a swanky, all-aluminum replacement coming for 2015. Until then, we’ll keep looking at America’s best-selling pickup.

The F-150 comes in the same cab and bed configurations as the Silverado, along with its own unique trim levels to suit individual customer preference. Unlike the Chevy, the Ford has three conventional port-injection engines that include the 3.7-liter V-6, the mighty 5.0-liter V-8, and the monstrous 6.2-liter V-8. Like the Ram EcoDiesel, Ford Ford has changed the half-ton truck game by adding its 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. That engine is twin-turbocharged and makes a respectable 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque.

Pricing for the F-150 starts at $23,070 and can crest above $50,000 in the top trim with all the options selected.

Conclusion

Ram 1500 EcoDiesel - Driven

I came away from my week with the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel very happy. I was impressed with the level of luxury inside the Laramie’s cabin, usability in the RamBox bed, power provided by the 3.0-liter V-6, and the outstanding fuel economy thanks to the diesel.

I did have a few issues with interior ergonomics. Like I said in the video review above, I wish the buttons to manually control the eight-speed transmission were larger and better placed. Also, the two cup holders are placed on the passenger side of the center console, somewhat far from the driver. That’s not a big deal, but something I mumbled about a few times during the week. Overall, however, I found the truck to do everything I asked it to. It responded with excellent fuel economy numbers and a comfortable ride.

Giving complements to vehicles happens on a daily basis for me, as nearly everything out there as some redeeming quality about it. But one complement I don’t often give is the compliment of purchase. And honestly, if I were in the market for a new truck, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel would be my number one pick.

LOVE IT
  • Powerful, efficient, quiet Diesel engine
  • Strong payload and towing numbers
  • Comfortable interior with lots of lux
  • Solid outward appearance
LEAVE IT
  • Smallish 17-inch wheels and low-slung front
  • A few minor interior ergonomic quibbles
  • Starts to get pricy with options

What is your take?

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