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First Drive: 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel and Ram 2500 Cummins Turbo-DieselNew tech meets old

2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

As part of my trip to the Chrysler press drive event, where I got to test-drive the new 2014 Jeep Cherokee, I was also able to sample some of the new Ram offerings. Two of these were the new 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, the first light duty full size pickup to offer a diesel engine, and a very capable heavy duty 2014 Ram 2500. This 2500, equipped with a manual transmission, is the last full size pickup to offer a row-your-own option in the United States.

Hit the jump to enter the Wonderful World of Diesel.

Ram EcoDiesel
3.0-liter EcoDiesel with 240hp and 420 lb.-ft. of torque, offered with the TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic transmission.

Efficiency is the name of the game here, as the EcoDiesel engine is expected to see miles per gallon in the upper 20’s (official EPA numbers are not yet available), combining the power of a V8 with the fuel economy of a V6. The new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engine is not made for extreme towing power like a Cummins, but it felt adequate for light towing and general truck duty (240hp and 420lb.-ft. or torque for a 9200 lb. towing capacity). It also had better manners than the larger Cummins, in that it was much quieter. Unless you really floored the throttle, the fact that it was a diesel was nearly imperceptible. Even then it produced nowhere near the clatter of the Cummins and it shouldn’t, because this is not really a truck for the heavy-duty truck-driving crowd. No diesel smell and no diesel sound. It’s the truck engine that went to finishing school.

2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel
2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, the first light duty pickup truck to offer a turbo diesel engine option.

The EcoDiesel engine was also equipped with the TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic transmission, which seemed to get the truck moving a little more quickly from a stop than the manual 6-speed in the 2500. Reaching peak torque at only 2000rpm likely helps with that. First and second gear in the manually equipped 2500 felt downright slow. Once up to speeds above 35mph however, the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel in the 1500 was noticeably slower than the 6.7 liter Cummins High-Output Turbo Diesel in the 2500 (350hp/660lb.-ft. when equipped with the manual). But again, you’re trading some power for the sake of efficiency with the EcoDiesel, and it’s a truck that can be used more comfortably for everyday driving. However, I should mention that it does take more than just a few years for the extra price of the EcoDiesel to be amortized versus what you would pay for a gasoline engine-equipped truck ($2860 over the 5.7 Hemi V8), but the diesel truck takes much less of a hit in depreciation over the life of the vehicle. They also last forever and you get more torque to boot.

2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel
Interior of the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel.

The ride in the 1500 was also softer than the 2500, which is to be expected with it being a light duty truck versus heavy duty. But I really feel I should mention that I was more impressed at how little the difference was in the 2500. For a ¾ ton truck, the Ram 2500 was remarkably comfortable to drive. This was my first time driving on the streets of Southern California, and although an HD Ram is the last thing in which I would have ever imagined myself stringing corners together, it was actually quite fun! The 2500 seemed to push out in some of the tighter corners, but these were some very extreme 15mph corners with a long crew cab body. And even when I got a bit frightened running over some low rounded inside curbing that might have been trouble in a car, the suspension absorbed the bump without drama. While in the 2500, I was also guided up a small dirt trail where I could do a full throttle launch from a stop. The new link coil suspension on the rear of the 2500 hooked up without any perceivable wheel hop. It just dug in and went.

2014 Ram 2500 Cummins Turbo Diesel
The 2014 Ram 2500 HD Cummins Turbo-Diesel I6 with 6-speed manual.

I later overheard the event organizers pondering whether the canyon roads of Mulholland and the like were the best venue on which to begin a truck drive, implying it to being like driving trucks on a course meant for sports cars. For a corner junkie like myself, I told them it was heaven. I had a big goofy smile stuck on my face for the rest of that day.

2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Ram Box
The Ram Box is a convenient bed side toolbox housed inside the previously unused inner fenders. No more ugly truck boxes needed.

The interior of the Ram pickups carry over from last year and continue to be a nice place to spend time, having won a spot on Ward’s 10 Best Interiors in the past year (2013 1500 Laramie Longhorn). The few minor things I found to complain about where less complaints and more just getting used to an alternate interface for various things. The rotary knob-controlled automatic transmission seemed a little strange at first, but it turned effortlessly and it’s a little easier to use than the old steering column shift selector. Another thing that was a bit confusing initially was the location of the satellite radio controls, which were behind the steering wheel, where you might expect to find paddle shifters. I pushed them, not really seeing any change in gear, but instead ended up losing my radio station for a moment.

2014 Ram 2500 Cummins interior with 6-speed manual
Interior of the 2014 Ram 2500 Cummins Turbo-Diesel, the only full size pickup truck still available in the USA with a manual transmission.
 

2014 Ram 1500 LoneStar Edition
Interior of the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel LongHorn Edition (known as the LoneStar Edition in Texas). 

A high point for the interior was the leather seats in the Longhorn Edition (known as the LoneStar Edition in Texas). At first glance, the filigreed saddle leather seemed a bit much, but then I got in and sat on them. The aroma of fresh leather was all around me and the stitch work appeared top notch. Maybe this Western theme wasn’t so bad after all. The fact that you can get this edition with the EcoDiesel really shows how committed Ram is to the EcoDiesel as a viable option for an efficient yet capable truck engine. The EcoDiesel is available in all but the Sport trim and all body configurations except the short bed.

2014 Ram 1500 gauges
TFT Gauges in the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel.

The only feature that really tripped me up in a potentially bad way was the GPS navigation unit. It’s an advanced unit; enough so that when I made a wrong turn once, onto a private road, it knew it was private and therefore a restricted road, so it alerted me to turn around. However, at the end of the day, when I needed to head back to the hotel, the hotel’s name was typed into the navigation unit, except it ended up leading me to a construction site that was obviously not the hotel. A little panicked, I then tried to key the address into the unit, but it seemed to be trying to auto-complete what I was typing, but not to the address I was trying to key in. I then called the hotel and was just beginning to get to the second turn that I was told to take, when my phone lost connection. At this point, I was getting more concerned, since this was my first day of driving in California and I didn’t know any of the roads. So I traced my steps back and just lucked out to make it back to the ranch from which the other driving tests had begun, and so someone was able to key the hotel address in for me. I’m chalking this situation up to likely user error. It’s definitely an impressive system, as it then led me right to the hotel, but it does have a learning curve to it.

2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

In the end, I could see how the 1500 EcoDiesel is more important than the 2500, to Ram and to a wider variety of truck enthusiasts in general. But I have to admit that I found the 2500 to be more much more fun to drive. After over an hour of driving that stick through the canyons, I was tired and more than a little queasy, but I loved every minute of it. I’d be curious to see what the EcoDiesel would feel like with the manual transmission. It might lose a couple miles per gallon but it could also increase the smiles per gallon.

Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

Full Flickr slideshow available here

[Disclosure: Chrysler flew me down to beautiful Westlake Village, California to drive the new 2014 Ram vehicles as well as the new 2014 Jeep Cherokee. This was my first press trip, and while there I got to drive through the hills around Thousand Oaks and Malibu every day until I was sick to my stomach (a first for me to do that to myself). Though I will say that I didn’t let that slow me down much. It was a total blast! These were the roads that dreams are made of. I met a lot of nice people, drove off road for the first time, stayed in a very nice hotel, and got to eat lots of delicious food.]

 Photos Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Bryce Womeldurf

  • Devin

    It's weird that you can't buy trucks with a manual transmission anymore. It just seems wrong somehow.

    • trey

      Dodge is best truck in Texas

    • Neez

      because who wants to row through 8 gears??

  • Okierover

    That blacked out front end is hideous. Uninspired and just silly.
    Happy to see diesels creep back into existence.

    • I Think Not

      Check the steelies — I'm pretty sure that's a fleet-grade Ram, there. It isn't so much blacked out as it is left unpainted, because it's probably just going to get beaten up anyway.

      • Impalamino

        Agreed. I think the black grille makes it a Tradesman, the lowest trim level available.

        Note on the manual transmission: it can only be had with the Cummins diesel on 2500s and up.

  • Rosso Fiorano

    Its just not right Nissan is getting the 5.0 Cummins that should be in Ram 1500's. The 5.0 will walk all over this small little Vm engine. Remember the days you could order a truck with a manual behind any engine.

    • ptschett

      I'd agree with your 1st sentence if DodgeRam didn't have the 6.7L in the 2500.
      As it is the 3.0L can do anything a half-ton needs to do.
      It doesn't hurt the 3.0's cause that Fiat owns half of VM Motori and is expected to have full ownership within the year.

      FWIW I won't be shocked if Fiat/Chrysler one day follows the CNH Industrial engine-sourcing path & dumps the Cummins in favor of FPT Industrial's NEF (which happens to be a cousin to the Ram's Cummins, by way of the European Engine Alliance.) The NEF's a good engine and it can crank out some torque – for example, 930 lbf-ft net at 1300 RPM in its Case 921F/New Holland W230C wheel loader application.

      • rosso fiorano

        You are are the guy that bought the challenger with a v-6 instead of a v-8. 275-300 hp and 550+ ft lbs from the 5.0 Cummins. The 3.0 is weak even in the grand cherokee. Why is GM going to give up half its ownership of vm? Also a new 6.7 stock has 850 ft lbs of torque (easily capable of more) and would kill the nef in mpg's that engine wasnt designed for the road.

        • ptschett

          My Challenger's an R/T with a Hemi, but that's not really relevant to this discussion.
          300 HP / 550 lbf-ft was a decent 3/4-ton truck engine specification not very long ago.
          The published data I've seen for the Grand Cherokee makes that engine look OK to me for that application.
          GM has a long history of choosing strange timing to dump things. Not saying that's what happened here, but it's my first thought.
          Altering factory engine tuning has a way of voiding warranties. Usually not something you want to do on a $40,000 investment.

          re "not designed for the road" –
          The B-series was developed through a partnership between Cummins and Case (Consolidated Diesel Corporation) – its 1st application was in Case tractors.
          15 years later Cummins teamed up with New Holland and Iveco (European Engine Alliance). The current B-series and the NEF resulted from that joint venture.
          There has been some drift between FPT & Cummins since – for example the 6.7L NEF has 104x132mm bore/stroke where the Cummins is 107×124. But they still use the same head design. So I'd be interested to know why the fuel economy should be meaningfully different.

          • SSurfer321

            Old GM owned a stake in VM. Old GM liquidated that asset during bankruptcy. New GM does not have a stake in VM.

            That 3.0L Diesel was developed by Old GM and VM. It was 100% complete when GM sold off. Fiat bought in and had a ready to run diesel for RAM. They tweaked a few things but essentially its a GM motor in a Dodge.

          • Rosso Fiorano

            So a 5.7 instead of a 6.1, Just messin it was only relevant because you dont seem think the Ram will look weak pulling a hill with a Nissan passing it. My intended original point was where would Ram be if they never teamed up with Cummins. Many people never considered the Ram relevant until that powerplant became available. As a Mopar enthusiast I dont like the idea of a Cummins powered Nissan, I bet it will be a great truck though. Truck wars are heated and its all about torque HP and tow ratings (Ram has lost payload rating with coilsprings). Numbers matter. The NEF series of engines were never intended for road use. Emissions, rpm's etc. It just doesnt make sense to use an engine intended for farm tractors as well as construction equipment such as skid-steer loaders, compact track loaders, crawlers, and backhoe loaders. The history Ram has had with Cummins it would have been great to see the 5.0 in the 1500. 8.0 seconds to sixty is not OK for me, But I'm the guy that went with the 6.1.

            • ptschett

              I don't care what the Ram/VM 3.0L looks like against a Nissan/Cummins 5.0L pulling up a hill. If it's on a regular basis, that's what the 2500 with the 6.7L is for.

              No disagreement that the Ram/Cummins partnership has done a lot for both companies. Fiat/Chrysler ends it at their peril. Nissan/Cummins does for Nissan what Ram/Cummins was perceived to do for Ram, but Nissan is going to have to step up their game with their part of the truck (as Ram did) or not even the Cummins can save it.

              The numbers game is great, till you come home with a new truck and find that the class-leading cab means your garage door can't close because the rear bumper sticks out too far. Or that you need a stepladder to reach over the box wall. (Looking at you, Ford.) I like how Ram's been doing it, letting the 1/2-tons be 1/2-tons. I think they learned something from the decline and fall of the Dakota – go too far with class-leading and you may take the product out of the realm where the customers really are, and let someone else step into that vacuum. I'll grant that there is a risk that Ram is going too much toward having the class-leading fuel-efficient 1/2-ton diesel and letting the Nissan/Cummins take the class-leading HP/torque/towing end of the 1/2-ton diesel market.

              The NEF was absolutely intended for on-road use. The initial motivator for the Fiat companies to join the EEA was that Iveco needed a new engine in the 1L/cylinder range for medium-duty trucks. New Holland needed engines & brought the injector pump that became the Bosch CP3, and Cummins got a hand in amortizing their 4V/cylinder head program.

              There's no technical reason the NEF couldn't be used on-highway here – just $$ and engineering work. The emissions/aftertreatment system could derive from the Iveco Euro6 system, which is technically like current US on-highway systems except that FPT is meeting Euro6 (and off-highway Tier4B) without using EGR. Integration into the Ram could be a bigger job but not strictly impossible. The hardest part would be justifying the expense of installing the NEF in the Ram when the current Cummins arrangement isn't broken.

              Does it make sense to use a tractor/construction equipment engine in pickups? That's what Ram has been doing since the late 80's, so I would have to say: yes.

              • Rosso Fiorano

                Technical reason schmeason just engineering and $$$. The B series was designed for commercial truck applications first. Sure it has been adapted with little change and at little cost. The garage you speak of was built when trucks never went in garages. Times have changed and that's why there is a 3.0 in a Ram. When the NEF is in a 3/4 ton or 1 ton I will wash your 5.7 every day. But by then will diesels even be allowed?

                • ptschett

                  Perhaps Cummins had highway trucks in mind. But Case had a half-interest in the CDC joint venture, and Case tractors & construction equipment were among the 1st products to use the original engines – the odds are at least equal that off-highway was the initial target.
                  An off-highway engine pedigree is nothing to be ashamed of. If the engine stands up to agricultural (or worse yet, construction) use, it should have no trouble on-highway.
                  I sure hope diesels are still allowed if a NEF ever shows up in 3/4 or 1-ton trucks… I'll have to find a different line of work if there's no longer a market for designing engine-related systems on diesel-powered construction equipment. No daily washes required, I'm happy with weekly. 🙂
                  Have a good weekend.

                  • rosso fiorano

                    Haha Hat tip good sir you, as well have a good weekend.

    • bhtooefr

      Sure, but I remember when a Ram with a Cummins 5.9 had less power and torque than this 3.0.

      (In fact, it only beat it on power in 2001 (and then only with the High Output trim), and only beat it on torque in 1996 with the manual, 2001 with the auto.)

  • MVEilenstein

    I have to say, I think RAM is the best-looking truck of the bunch. Crew cab is not my style, but a long bed with those Ram Boxes definitely are. I always wanted the storage compartment under the bed of older F-150s; these fill the same need.

  • I like these trucks in a lot of ways, but I hate the way that all of the current full-sizes over-accentuate everything. Huge badges, huge door handles, bodywork that's visually striving to occupy as much space as possible.

    I think what people miss about "proper" compacts and mid-sizers isn't just the size, but the design language that's along the lines of "no bigger than necessary". I miss my sister's Dakota Quad Cab:
    <img src="http://worldcarslist.com/images/dodge/dodge-dakota-4×4-crew-cab/dodge-dakota-4×4-crew-cab-03.jpg"&gt; <a href="http://worldcarslist.com/photo/dodge-dakota-4×4-crew-cab/03/default.html” target=”_blank”>http://worldcarslist.com/photo/dodge-dakota-4×4-crew-cab/03/default.html

    • PotbellyJoe ★★★★☆

      The 3rd Gen Dakota killed any Mojo those trucks had. I didn't hate the 2nd Gen, but always liked squared trucks and therefore the 1st Gen was the best looking in my books.
      <img src="http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/3/2955/1961/32385980001_large.jpg&quot; width=550>

      • Eh, the 1st gens didn't do it for me.

        The 2nd gens and sister Durangos were on top of the world circa '00, then the '05s came out and…ooof, that was an epic design failure if ever there was one.

        • ptschett

          The '05's are a fine truck if you can get past the looks.
          FWIW: in 2004 when I started thinking about buying a brand-new vehicle for the 1st time in my life, I decided I wanted a Dakota. I could have gone with a last-year '04 or a 1st-year '05. I went with the '05, and have never looked back.

          • PotbellyJoe ★★★★☆

            Best thing about driving the 3rd Gen Dakota is that you don't have to look at it while you do…

            • ptschett

              It feels pretty from the driver's seat.

      • I had one. Everything about it was as basic as can be.

        • PotbellyJoe ★★★★☆

          Yeah the regular cab one I drove regularly had a single speaker for the AM radio, manual side mirrors and no carpet. Nothing to break though.

  • wunno sev

    i'm not generally a trucks kinda guy, and when i am i like to think i'm not really into these huge monsters with 99999.6L engines and space for your entire extended family, but……..

    there's this diesel F-250 that parks on my block with the loudest turbo in the world and a manual transmission. when i see and hear that truck, i totally get it.

    this ram isn't really doing it for me, though. and i will say that i am not really sure manual transmissions on trucks would be more desirable than automatics, given that these BFTs are used for things like towing, plowing snow, and driving around the suburbs with nothing in the bed like a totally regular car, all things that are probably more easily accomplished by automatics than manuals.

  • MVEilenstein

    <img src="http://hooniverse.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/DSC4610.jpg"&gt;

    Anyone else notice that nice 150 in the background?

  • Brian

    "The ecodiesel is available in all body styles except the short bet"

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

  • dukeisduke

    Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! I wanna hear it ruuuuuuunnnn!

  • dukeisduke

    I wonder how durable the EcoDiesels will be? After all, it's not a Cummins.

  • eggsalad

    The only pickup truck available with a manual? Um, no. Both the Tacoma and the Frontier can be had with a clutch. Perhaps you meant the only full-size pickup available with a manual?

  • zombienixon

    I'm surprised they used the "EcoDiesel" name on the trucks. I mean, I doubt environmental friendliness is all that much of a priority for pickup buyers, not to mention calling it EcoDiesel in the first place is pretty unimaginative. (Marketing Exec: Gentlemen, we need a name for our new economical, emissions compliant Diesel engine. Marketing team: Look, our break is in three minutes and we're hungry, let's just slap "Eco" on it and call it a day, it worked for Ford.)

    However, bringing back the TorqueFlite name for the 8-speed auto is pretty cool, even if it's on a ZF trans.

  • Derek W Palm

    You're article was interesting but you were wrong on a few things.
    I own a 1500 4×4 laramie loaded with air ride and 8 speed train with 400hp hemi.
    The bed with the side compartments is not unused space it shortens the width of the bed by 12 inches 6 per side . try sliding in a camper won't go.
    The new 6.7 diesel can tow 30.000 pounds with a auto good luck on the Tacoma.

  • Sorry man, those aren't Dodge trucks, this is a Dodge truck. Slant Six, 4 speed, radio delete, no A/C and not a cupholder in sight.

    <img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-GQhjnx1DkSs/TYlWnsSh5iI/AAAAAAAAO_8/Kt2mmSPe07I/s1600/1+019.jpg&quot; width = "600">

  • BALKRISHNNA

    EXLANT





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