The Leader of the Pickup MPG Pack
The year 2016 has quite a few surprises, but none bigger in the automotive world than in September when Ram pickups took second place in the sales race behind the perennial leader Ford. We’re not saying that’s as amazing as what happened the following month in national elections, but it was similarly unprecedented. After spending a week in a 2016 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, we have some theories about how this upstart can legitimately claim a place atop the pickup hierarchy.
First, we averaged close to 25 mpg in a crew cab 4×4 pickup! That’s hauling around almost three tons of sheet metal and capability and having fuel economy closer to what might be seen in an average midsize sedan a few years ago. Something’s happening here—and it’s a good thing. What’s clear from those numbers is that 30+ mpg for this pickup is within easy reach.
Then there’s the functionality and luxury that abounds in the cabin (it’s not just a cab anymore) of this pickup. But more on that later. Let’s start with the powertrain.
An International Effort
The Ram’s success in the market place shouldn’t be surprising. It’s been running strong for several years on the strength of its Hemi V8s and Pentastar V6s and the stump-pulling Cummins diesel that’s the engine of choice in its 2500 and 3500 models. The new-comer that has sparked a boost in the Ram is the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 from VM Motori, another part of the Fiat Chrysler automotive world.
The efficient diesel (EPA numbers for our test rig were 19 mpg city/27 highway/22 combined, but some models bump up to 29 mpg highway) is mated to an eight-speed automotive transmission, a sophisticated rarity in the truck world. In motion, the 2016 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel gave you a little of the chug-a-lug found in older diesels, but generally was responsive and, when the turbocharger kicked in, it could haul.
The combo puts out 240 horsepower and a very impressive 420 lb-ft of torque. You can put that torque to work towing up to 9,210 pounds.
The end result is a fine American pickup, assembled in Warren, MI, with 27 percent of its content from Mexico, an engine from Italy and a transmission from Germany.
The Big Deal
There were plenty of market specifics that led to the September surprise, but Ram sales are up 11.2 percent for the first 11 months of 2016, something neither Ford or Chevy pickups can match.
Another factor playing into the Ram hand is value. A Vincentric report found the 2016 Ram 1500 HFE EcoDiesel offered the highest cost-of-ownership savings among pickup trucks, at $3,323. A different variant of the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel—the four-wheel drive Tradesman in the Quad Cab configuration took the prize in fuel savings, with a calculated $4,438 advantage compared to its gasoline counterpart.
However, with diesels those savings only come over time. At the outset you pay a premium for the fuel-sipping engine. In the case of the EcoDiesel, it’s $4,270 including all of the fixings like an SCR system, a beefed up cooling system. The base price for the Laramie Quad Cab 4×4 we drove was $45,090. With the EcoDiesel and other options, it’s as tested price was $53,855, including $1,195 destination charge.
Ram models start at the $26,145 Tradesman 4×2, and the EcoDiesel option can be added to most trim levels.
The standard equipment list was lengthy, including a shift-on-demand transfer case, Class IV receiver hitch, 26-gallon tank, locking tailgate, anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes, ParkView rear back-up camera, dual-zone temperature control, Uconnect 8.4 (access with a six-month trial), integrated voice command with Bluetooth, SiruusXM radio (one-year subscription), nine-speaker Alpine audio system with a subwoofer, media hub (SD, USB, Aux), leather-wrapped/heated steering wheel with audio controls, tilt steering wheel, power adjustable pedals with memory, seven-inch multi-view cluster, overhead console with garage door opener, rear power sliding window, power 10-way driver seat with memory and power six-way passenger seat, heated and ventilated front seats, power lumbar adjust, second row in-floor storage bins, fold-flat load floor storage, 20-inch aluminum chrome clad wheels, P275/60R20 all-season tires, bi-function Halogen projector headlamps, fog lamps, premium tail lamps, power chrome multi-function mirrors with power fold-away with turn signals and a bright grille, front and rear bumpers.
The $7,000+ bump from options included leather-trimmed bucket seats in front, full-length upgraded floor console, heated second-row seats ($500), Laramie Package 28H (which included tow hooks, transfer case skid plate, front suspension skid plate for $150), the Ecodiesel engine package (with 800-amp battery, maximum-duty engine cooling, SCR, dual rear exhausts with bright tips and 3.55 rear axle ratio for $4270), eight-speed transmission ($500), LED bed lighting ($100), Uconnect 8.4 (which includes GPS navigation, SiriusXM traffic for five years and SiriusXM travel link for five years for $600), tires ($225), ParkSense front/rear park assist system ($395), trailer brake control ($280) and spray-in bedliner ($475).
What Do You Get?
The Ram 1500 Quad Cab 4×4 is a big vehicle in every way except its bed, which is shorter (six-foot-four inches to be exact) than the standard eight-footer. The wheelbase of this unit is 229 inches is
the same as a regular cab pickup with an eight-foot box, but the overall truck is two inches shorter. That ends up giving you a good turning radius, especially for such a big vehicle.
Steering—well, it’s truck steering–is responsive, but not super-sensitive. With all of the electronic gadgetry, the truck functions like an oversized version of many of the smaller vehicles on the road; it’s capable of taking over many of the driving chores and still is ready to work all day.
Inside, there’s more of the functionality that trucks are known for. The center console can serve as an on-the-job desk for your mobile office, and is big enough to swallow up your laptop so it’s not left out and vulnerable.
I loved the dash—it featured plenty of gauges, knobs and everything needed for a fully functioning truck. Inside the cab you are isolated from the sounds of the diesel engine; it’s as dead silent as a sedan.
Did we mention that we averaged almost 25 mpg in a mix of freeway and stop-and-go driving.
Safety & Warranties
The 2016 Ram 1500 Quad Cab 4×4 received a 4-star overall safety rating from government testing and also in the frontal crash test; 5-star in the side crash and 3-star for rollover. The Insurance
Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) had this to say about this large truck. Moderate overlap front crash—good; side—good; head restraint and seats—good; small overlap front and roof strength—marginal.
The warranty on the EcoDiesel is stronger than some of the other Ram powertrains.
Basic – Three years/36,000 miles
Powertrain – Five years/100,000 miles
The 2016 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is easy to appreciate. The power of the diesel engine and its fuel economy are a tough combination to beat in a pickup. It’s no longer surprising to find luxury or advanced technology in a pickup, particularly at the prices these trucks now command. When those attributes are layered on top of the diesel V6, an eight-speed transmission, a shift-on-demand transfer case and leather seating for five, the Ram’s sales success in 2016 is completely understandable. As GM and Nissan add diesels to their pickups and Ford considers a hybrid, it’s clear the options for truck buyers will continue to be broad and present an upside that will offer fuel efficiency to go along with functionality.
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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