TTD Road Test
2014 Ram Crew Cab 4×4 Big Horn
Impressive fuel economy and power key features of Ram Truck’s 1/2-ton pickup; turbo-diesel pulls like a Hemi while delivering 28mpg
by Bruce W. Smith
Most pickup buyers looking at a diesel engine option are interested in two benefits it provides over gasoline engines: fuel economy and towing power.
The big question is whether or not the added cost of the diesel option is worth it. In the case of the 2014 Ram 1500, it is.
I spent two weeks driving a Big Horn Crew Cab 4×4 model powered by the new (to the U.S.) Fiat 3.0L V-6 turbo-diesel option that makes Ram the first pickup manufacturer in more than a decade to offer a diesel in 1/2-tons.
I was curious to see how Ram Truck’s V-6 diesel would fare in a world seemingly dominated by V-8s. Some 800 miles on the road with it proves it’ll do just fine as a fuel miser and as a tow vehicle.
Having the V-6 EcoDiesel’s 410 lbs-ft of torque at your beck-and-call – the majority of that pulling power coming in low in the rpms – will move a boat, camp trailer, a load of ATVs or load of hay just as smoothly as the Hemi, maybe even easier.
Getting good fuel economy is an added bonus; the VM Motori diesel delivered 14-plus mpg during one of my towing jaunts along the Oregon Coast with a 4,000-pound enclosed trailer in-tow.
This model Ram has a maximum trailer towing capacity of 7,200 pounds, and, like all Ram 1/2-tons, requires the use of a weight-distributing hitch be used on trailered loads above 5K.
Unladen, the Crew Cab 1500 got better than 28mpg running Interstate 5 at 70mph, with city stop-and-go fuel economy hovering in the low 20s.
Ram’s EcoDiesel doesn’t perform like any other V-6 I’ve driven except maybe Ford’s 3.7L EcoBoost. The engine’s throttle response is quick, the low- to mid-range torque pull strong. Good power and class-leading fuel economy are the two big selling points of the VM Motori diesel.
The engine is a two-step, $4,500 upgrade from the base gas 3.6L V-6, or $2,850 more than the 5.7L Hemi.
Is the cost of the diesel worth it? If you put a lot of miles on the truck and do any amount of towing, yes.
The cost of the diesel package pays for itself in short order compared to the 395hp Hemi because the 3.0L diesel gets 4-6mpg better fuel economy empty, 1-2mpg better mpg when towing, and it’ll bring a higher resale/trade-in value than its gas counterpart.
ON THE ROAD
Driving the EcoDiesel Crew Cab 4×4 is really no different than that of any other Ram 1500: The interior is comfortable, it’s quiet, driver visibility good and overall ergonomics well thought out. The truck handles very well on- and off-pavement, too. On curving two-lane highways the Ram’s five-link coil rear suspension did a nice job of keeping the truck planted.
It also did a nice job softening harsh changes in the rougher road surfaces and giving the driver a confident feeling of control towing or while having the bed loaded to its full load-carrying capacity of 1,200-plus pounds.
The suspension is smooth under loads, yet it never felt mushy or unstable, which is one of the reasons the 5-link setup has now migrated under the new Ram 2500HDs.
A SHIFTY CHANGE
There is one oddity driving the Ram 1500 diesel: there’s no shift lever.
Designers did away with a conventional column or console shift lever, replacing it with a shift dial on the dash.
Taking advantage of the truck’s computer power and drive-by-wire technology has no doubt saved Ram millions in manufacturing costs making regular shifters.
But it’s weird reaching for that big knob on the left edge of the centerstack to dial-in the shifts.
Although I adapted to the change, I never got comfortable with it because I didn’t like having to take my eyes off the road to do so. The buttons for switching between 2WD and the various 4WD modes are more intuitive in their placement being located directly below the shift knob.
The 4WD system works flawless, as one would hope, getting me out of one near-stuck situation near a river.
Thankfully one of the options on the test truck was Ram’s 3.55 anti-spin rear differential that added just the needed traction to get me through.
I highly recommend the $325 limited-slip axle upgrade.
Another nice feature I found useful during my test was the way Ram handles rear seat storage in the Crew Cab. Underneath the 60/40 split-bench are plastic panels on top of the seat base that look like a folded–up box.
The panels can be folded into their upright position and then the “base” folded forward to create a strong, level load floor the length and width of the rear seating area.
Ram 1500s are fine pickups and growing in popularity now that they have the diesel option.
This Ram 1500 Crew Cab 4×4 package, with the 3.0L EcoDiesel, is going to bring a satisfactory smile to first-time pickup owners – and surprise more than a few current Hemi owners who take one for a test drive.
2014 Ram 1500 Big Horn Crew Cab 4×4
MSRP: $38,665 AS TESTED: $48,425
Engine: 3.0L V-6 EcoDiesel
HP/Torque: 240hp / 410 lbs-ft
Transmission: 8HP70 8-speed automatic
Axle Ratio: 3.55 w/ anti-spin
Fuel Capacity: 26 gals
Fuel Economy: 19 City / 27 Hwy (EPA)
Fuel Economy: 21 City / 29.2 Hwy (Observed)
Suspension F/R: IFS coil/solid-axle with 5-link coil
Brakes F/R: disc/disc
Steering: electric power
Max Towing Capacity: 7,750 lbs. (as tested)
Max Payload: 1,233 lbs. (as tested)
Performance: 0-60mph: 9.4 sec