On-and off-road in the 2014 Ram
Diesel pickup trucks are a smokin’ hot commodity. Problem is, as of late, buyers have to purchase a ¾- or 1-ton model if they want to join the club. For many, this is more truck than they need and/or the price of entry is out of reach. Well, the Ram truck brand has made another major contribution to pickup truck history by offering a modern diesel engine in a ½-ton pickup. Welcome to the club.
The engine is called the EcoDiesel and it’s available in the ’14 Ram 1500. It’s a 3.0L V-6 turbodiesel that is touted as powerful and fuel efficient. It’s built by VM Motori, a company that has been a Chrysler Group diesel engine supplier since 1992. The 50-state-legal, 182-cubic-inch, 24-valve, DOHC EcoDiesel has a bedplate and cylinder block made from Compacted Graphite Iron (this helps to increase strength, durability, and reduce noise, vibration, and harshness- commonly referred to as NVH); heat-treated aluminum alloy heads (also helps with NVH); MultiJet II common-rail fuel injection (with 29,000 psi of line pressure); and a 16.5:1 compression ratio. Other engine features include a forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods, as well as aluminum alloy pistons. The turbocharger is a variable-geometry, electronically-controlled, water-cooled unit. To ensure that emissions meet current regulations, there’s an engine-cooled Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) system and also a state-of-the-art Selective Catalyst Reduction (SCR) system that includes a Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) system, among other things. A passive cooling system (one that does not use engine coolant) is used for the DEF injector and to lessen the effects of cold weather operation, the DEF system has an insulated 8-gallon tank with heated lines.
The EcoDiesel is mated to a ZF 8HP70 eight-speed automatic transmission that Ram calls the TorqueFlite 8. This transmission’s features include adaptive electronic control, automatic or Electronic Range Select (ERS) manual control, and a 4.71:1 First gear ratio.
All of this engine and transmission data sounds impressive, but how does it actually perform in the real world? To find out, we borrowed an EcoDiesel-equipped ’14 Ram 1500 and we used it on- and off-road. The vehicle Ram loaned us was a high-zoot Laramie Crew Cab 4x4, and it was loaded with options including the four-corner air suspension system. Base price was $44,925, but our dolled-up tester totaled $55,205. If that price makes you take a step back, don’t worry, you can get the EcoDiesel in a far less expensive model of Ram 1500.
“Overall, we were impressed at the ability to harness the power of the EcoDiesel and finesse it in off-road situations, while at the same time having the power on tap"
Naturally, we spent a lot of time off-road in the Ram. The majority was spent in the pastures at the rural Four Wheeler Midwest Bureau. The EcoDiesel makes very good power, especially the impressive, V-8-like 420 lb-ft of torque, but we wondered how controlled it would be off-road. After all, there are times when finesse, and not brute power, is needed. Turns out, Ram did a fantastic job with throttle calibration and low rpm engine control. At one point, we were in 4-Lo, off-camber in pouring rain on slick grass. Smooth power delivery from the EcoDiesel was critical to keep the street-biased tires planted so the truck wouldn’t slide sideways down the hill and into a creek. As we gently pushed the throttle, feedback was excellent and power delivery was smooth and controlled. We were able to crawl the truck off the slippery surface with no wheelspin and no drama. Another time, we were driving the truck in woods that are used for cattle and horse grazing. The trail through the woods was twisty and muddy and required a mix of slow speed control with an occasional need for horsepower to gather speed to climb muddy inclines. With the transfer case in 4-Hi, throttle control was excellent and engine power was more than sufficient. While off-road, we liked that we could use the ERS controls on the steering wheel to shift the eight-speed transmission without taking a hand off the wheel. During mostly off-road testing, the truck returned 18 mpg, which we think is great for a fullsize truck in those conditions. Overall, we were impressed at the ability to harness the power of the EcoDiesel and finesse it in off-road situations, while at the same time having the power on tap for heavy-footed wheeling.
What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Fuel mileage, power, seamless transmission
Not: Capless fuel fill, no transmission gear display unless in manual-shift mode
Our Take: Great combination of power and economy