Real-world mpg and towing performance
With the keys to a 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel V-6 in our hot little hands we did what anyone would, find out how it tows and what kind of fuel economy it gets. Without hesitation we hitched up our trailer and a project Jeep that nearly matched the max tow capacity for our particular truck. While some strippy 2WD versions of the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel are rated to tow up to 9,200 pounds, our well-outfitted Laramie Long Horn 4x4 was rated to tow 7,300 pounds.
Rather than give you a lackluster tow review from flat ground, we decied to steer the Ram into the some of the nastiest local grades we could find with our max-weight trailer in tow. Fortunately, our offices aren’t too far from what’s known as The Grapevine on I-5, which slows many big rigs down to a crawl. We made a 120-mile torture loop that took us both ways up and through the Tejon Pass that peaks out at 4,160 feet. This provided us a total elevation change (up and down both sides and back again) of nearly 11,000 feet, certainly enough to test the powertrain and engine braking of the new EcoDiesel Ram.
The first thing we noticed is how quiet the 3.0L EcoDiesel is. It's a pleasure to tow with. It’s far more relaxing to drive than the rumbling and sometimes guttural Hemi V-8 gas engine, which has an appeal all its own. Our 3.0L backed with the eight-speed transmission and 3.55 axle gears was always able to maintain a minimum of 55-60 mph on our brutal test route. While ascending the steepest areas on the route, which included the 6 percent grade of the Grapevine, we had our foot to the floor and the V-6 was spinning at 4,000 rpm for several minutes in order to maintain 55 mph. On less steep sections the little diesel quietly motored along between 2,000 and 3,000 rpm, and still had enough reserve power to make passes.
Towing max capacity around town with the Tow/Haul button engauged, the eight-speed transmission athoratativley downshifts, assisting slowdown as you modulate the brakes. The EcoDiesel V-6 and eight-speed transmission were also able to scrub excessive speed on most mild downhill sections as well. Speeds on moderate descents could typically be controlled by downshifting with the manual shift buttons located on the steering wheel, however the really steep grades required more braking input than the transmission and engine alone could provide.
During our harsh max-capacity towing lap we were able to drag the 3.0L’s fuel economy down to a respectable 13.8 mpg. We say respectable because many 1/2- and 3/4-ton gas trucks have trouble mustering even double digit mpg on this section of highway at full towing load.
With the trailer unhitched, it’s easy to take the EcoDiesel’s fuel economy into the the high 20s. The 3.0L diesel in our Ram purred at 1,900 rpm at 75 mph. On a 440-mile highway, mountain, desert, and Los Angeles traffic infused trip we managed to reach 26.1 mpg without much effort. This kind of mpg performance gives our EcoDiesel Ram about a 700-mile range between fuel stops when unloaded. We're sure that frugal hypermilers could do far better than us and easily reach 30 mpg or better with an unloaded truck on mostly flat highway commutes.
The EcoDiesel Ram 1500 is not intended to be a heavy-duty truck, or replace a 3/4-ton truck. In fact, if you were looking for max tow capacity from a 1/2-ton, the company would likely steer you into a Hemi V-8 truck with an eight-speed transmission, which has a max-tow rating of up to 10,450 pounds (depending on options). Instead, consider the EcoDiesel V-6 a fuel-economy play for the Ram Truck brand. With mpg in the high 20s and possibly exceeding 30 in some situations, it's easy to see the appeal of such a truck for the typical 1/2-ton truck buyer that rarely tows in excess of 7,000 pounds. Regardless of if you are a Ford, GM, Nissan, or Toyota fan, the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is one of the most significant pickups of the last decade, and it will surely alter the 1/2-ton-truck playing field in the future.