2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Road Test

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.

2014 Ram 1500 Crew Cab Big Horn 4x4 with EcoDiesel V-6
2014 Ram 1500 Crew Cab Big Horn 4×4 with EcoDiesel V-6

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.

Highway fuel economy is the 3.0L V-6 diesel's strong point, getting 28mpg-plus.
Highway fuel economy is one of the 3.0L V-6 diesel’s strong points, getting 28mpg-plus.

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.


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.


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.

Stepping back in time. New Ram tranny shifts are made with a knob, not a shifter.
Stepping back in time. New Ram tranny shifts are made with the twist of a knob, not a shifter.

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

¼-mile: 17.3sec@80.5mph



Polaris RZR 1000 XP4 First Drive


2015 Polaris RZR XP 4 1000; a four-passenger ATV that will bring a smile in a hurry

The screams and laughter from the three seats around me reflected the same excited adrenaline rush that was coursing through my veins as I made a hard sliding turn just before the crest of a hundred-foot-tall sand dune, throwing up a huge spray of sand as the ATV is was piloting headed back down hill.

With a top speed of nearly 80mph, seating for four, four-wheel-disc brakes, a full roll cage, and the suspension travel of an off-road race vehicle, the 110hp 2015 Polaris RZR XP4 1000 is the kind of ATV that is built to thrill.w 2LW_7493

The XP 4 1000 is the flagship of the Polaris multi-passenger line-up.

“Razors,” as the ATV crowd call these speedy machines, are unlike any other side-by-side. With race-style bucket seats, automotive-style seat belts, electric power steering, and shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive, RZRs seem to dominate the multi-passenger ATV market.

The newest model to enter the fray is the four-seat model, which Polaris didn’t pull any punches on making it comfortable and fun to drive.

I’ve been testing a Voodoo Blue XP4 since mid-summer. My outing thus far have been on the miles of open sand dunes in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area (ODNRA) just south of the coastal town of Florence.

Such wide-open spaces are the perfect playground for such machines: The scenery is spectacular, the dunes are vast, the challenges always changing.

The 999cc, 110hp four-stroke and CVT transmission, with high- and low-range, delivers a boat load of pulling power whether driving alone or with three companions strapped in the high-back bucket seats.

And the shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system provides that extra level of traction and control in such changing driving conditions.

Even more surprising to the first-time RZR XP 4 driver is how controllable and how soft the ride is compared to traditional side-by-sides and ATVs.

Launch it over the crest of a dune and you expect to come back to Earth with a back-wrenching thud. Not so with the XP 4. It absorbs the impact just like off-road race trucks, the suspension never seems to bottom out. w 2LW_7550

That’s the beauty of having 18″ of rear suspension travel in the rear and 16″ in front, all controlled by Walker Evans race-style shocks that have the reservoirs remotely mounted so they maximize performance under extreme conditions.

Add in 13″ of ground clearance and those 110 ponies churning out of the big four-stroke and its easy to see why the Polaris XP 4 chews up the sand.

Then there’s the long wheelbase: it’s 146-inches long, that makes one feel like they are driving a pickup instead of an ATV.

This combo takes the hard knocks out dips, bumps and jumps, letting the 1,600-pound machine glide over terrain while other ATVs struggle to keep up.

The RZR XP 4 will also pull your cheeks back if you have room to let it run. Polaris says the top speed is 77mph. I’ve seen 60-plus thus far and have no doubts it has the power to hit the upper 70s.

With an MSRP of $22,299, it’s a bargain when you consider that building a Jeep, sand rail, or truck with the same kind of suspension and power-to-weight ratio would cost tens of thousands more — and still not be nearly as fun.w 2LW_7555

This is the perfect ride for anyone who has a family that like to explore vast expanses of off-road and have a lot of thrills together.

Be that in the desert, dunes, or anywhere else where there’s a lot of room to play, a Polaris RZR 1000 XP 4 is sure to bring smiles to every one aboard. (Photos by Larry Walton/Editorial Services West)

2015 Ram Truck Tow Ratings

Ram Truck Releases 2015 Trailering Capacity For 1500-3500 Pickups; Tow Ratings J2807 Compliant

Ram Truck Announces Industry’s Broadest Alignment with Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J2807 Towing Standards Across All Pickup Truck Segments

Beginning with the 2015 model year, Ram will become the first automaker to adopt the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J2807 standardized tow rating practices across all three fullsize pickup truck segments, including the ½-ton Ram 1500, ¾-ton Ram 2500 Heavy Duty and one-ton “King of the Hill” Ram 3500 Heavy Duty.

“Because our customers asked for it, every single 2015 model year pickup truck Ram sells will come with a trailer-tow rating achieved using SAE’s J2807 testing protocols,” said Reid Bigland, President and CEO – Ram Truck Brand. “No other automaker can make that claim.”

“Ram Truck has been preparing for integration of the SAE towing standard over the past few years and adding heavier ¾ and 1-ton trucks to the criteria gives it more teeth,” said Mike Cairns, Director- Ram Truck Engineering, Chrysler Group LLC.

“For too long, an uneven playing field existed and towing capacities went unchecked,” said Cairns. “We’re happy to be the only pickup truck manufacturer to align with the SAE J2807 towing standard across our pickup truck line up.”

The SAE J2807 towing standard outlines dynamic and performance criteria as it relates to a given vehicle.

Examples within the standard include a number of tests while towing: 0-60 MPH time allowance, tackling the notorious Davis Dam Grade while maintaining no less than 40 MPH for single-rear-wheel trucks and 35 MPH for dual-rear-wheel trucks, a constant radius understeer test while increasing speed and a sway maneuver using aggressive steering input.

The purpose is to put all trucks through the schedule of J2807 tests in which operators will likely see in the real world. SAE standards have existed in a number of other areas including engine torque and horsepower.

2015 Ram SAE J2807 Tow Ratings

  • Ram 1500 V-6 with 3.6-liter gasoline Pentastar: 7,600 pounds
  • Ram 1500 V-6 with 3.0-liter EcoDiesel – 9,200 pounds
  • Ram 1500 V-8 with 5.7-liter gasoline HEMI – 10,650 pounds
  • Ram 2500 V-8 with 6.4-liter gasoline HEMI – 16,300 pounds
  • Ram 2500 with 6.7-liter Cummins diesel – 17,970 pounds
  • Ram 3500 V-8 with 6.4-liter gasoline HEMI – 16,420 pounds
  • Ram 3500 with 6.7-liter Cummins diesel – 30,000 pounds


Road Test: 2014 Honda Pilot Touring 4WD

2014 Honda Pilot_BS27692

Getting Your Pilot’s License

When I pulled up to house in the Obsidian Blue Pearl Honda Pilot, my wife walked out the front door and said, “Wow. That’s a beautiful color.”

Usually, most people’s first impressions of a new vehicle are a statement targeting its styling, size or sticker price. Not its color. That says a lot about the 2014 Honda Pilot.

Honda continues to stick to its guns on this midsize SUV, staying with the van-like interior features while retaining the dated boxy exterior.

Boxy isn’t bad; after all, it’s a minivan in disguise, and it is aimed at attracting growing families.

Color aside, I found the Pilot appealing to a growing family. The high-end Touring 4WD model I was testing is priced less than similarly-equipped Ford (Explorer), Nissan (Pathfinder), Dodge (Durango), Nissan (Murano), Chevy (Traverse) and GMC (Acadia) competitors.


The loaded Touring comes with a leather-clad interior, third-row seating, a healthy 250hp V6 and Honda’s version of all-wheel-drive for $42,250 as tested.

There aren’t any options because the Pilot Touring is pretty well loaded. It’s also pleasant to drive.

True to minvans, the second and third-row 60/40-split bench seats, can be folded individually, or as entire rows, leaving a flat cargo floor that swallows a lot of stuff.

The steering is light, the brakes good. Visibility is what you’d expect from an SUV, but the saving grace is the rear camera system, which shows all.

The Touring edition interior is leather and loaded with options. Seats are firm, cargo space abundant.
The Touring edition interior is leather and loaded with options. Seats are firm, cargo space abundant.

I found the interior, although leather, to be a bit harder in both looks and touch than I personally like.

The seats reminded me of every economy-class airplane seat I’ve spent time in over the past few years, and legroom in the third-row makes those same airline seats look roomy by comparison. (Which is to say, the third-row seats are best suited for the little darlings.)

Speaking of airplanes, when I first slid into the driver’s seat and looked at the center console, the rows and rows of knobs and buttons instantly reminded me of what pilots look at when they buckle in an older plane.

The vast array is intimidating. But after you spend a little time with the owner’s manual and playing with the controls, they actually make sense.


When it comes to power, Honda makes a fine engine. The 250hp 3.5L V6 starts feeling its oats around 3,000rpm and stays strong to nearly 6,000rpm.

Honda's 3.5L V-6 is a nice match to the Pilot. Combined fuel economy is in the low 20s.
Honda’s 3.5L V-6 is a nice match to the Pilot. Combined fuel economy is in the low 20s.

That’s twisting it a lot for most drivers.

But when one wants to pass or merge faster-flowing traffic, it’s nice to know the engine will get you to speed rather quickly.

Acceleration is mid 8-second to 60mph and another eight to get to the end of the ¼-mile. That kind of performance puts the Pilot into the good grocery getter and family transporter class. Load the family hauler up with a full complement of passengers/cargo and it’s not quite as responsive, yet it’s still fun to drive.

Fuel economy hovered between 20-21mpg in my combined city and highway driving, which is on track with the EPA numbers.


The normally front-wheel-driven Pilot utilizes Honda’s VTM-4 (Variable Torque Management 4WD System) to automatically transfer power form the front wheels to the rear as needed.

When the slightest bit of traction is lost up front, VTM shifts power to the rear. If more traction is needed, a push of the VTM-4 Lock button on the console just forward of the shift lever increases torque to the rear wheels-but only up to 18mph – or if you shift into 3rd or higher gears.

VTM-4 works well in snow, sand, light mud and heavy rain. It’s a nice safety feature Snow Belt and Coastal buyers will find quite beneficial.

The Pilot will also function nicely for towing a couple ATVs, personal watercraft, or a smaller boat. Its tow capacity is 3,500 pounds and it handles those lighter trailered loads easily.

Another plus for the growing family with an active lifestyle.

I like the Pilot. It’s practical and well built. I’m sure Honda will be bringing a more modernized version of the Pilot to market sometime soon.

For now, however, Honda loyalists who just can’t see themselves driving an Odyssey minivan will find the Pilot delivers a lot of value for the money—and the Touring model adds just enough luxuriousness to make one feel the money was well spent. – TTD/Bruce W. Smith


Road Test: 2015 GMC Sierra 2500HD Denali


Road Test: 2015 GMC Sierra Denali 2500HD Crew Cab 4×4; towing from the seat of power luxury

by Bruce W. Smith

Savvy RVers pulling 5th wheel or gooseneck trailers, and boaters trailering anything larger than a 26-footers, know the go-to tow vehicle is a heavy-duty diesel pickup because they have the power and towing stability to safely manage 7,000-pound-plus trailers with ease.

With a 13,500 pound towing capacity without need of a weight-distributing hitch, the 2015 Sierra 2500HD is a solid truck for RVers.
With an SAE J2807-rated 13,000 pound towing capacity, the 2015 Sierra 2500HD is a solid truck for RVers.

There’re a handful of excellent ¾- and 1-ton trucks from which to choose.

But if you are looking for one that provides muscle with the elegance and comfort of a high-end luxury car, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one better than the 2015 GMC 2500HD Denali. It has more power under the hood than most big rigs and an interior that’s roomy, refined and quiet.

The combination is what sets GMC’s Duramax-powered flagship apart from lesser-equipped heavy-duty Sierras.

Its leather-appointed interior easily accommodates four adults, two in leather-appointed front bucket seats and two more in the split-rear bench with its nicely contoured outer seats. (The center position can accommodate a third person, but it serves best as console/armrest.)

Leather-appointed interior is one of the quietest on the road.
Leather-appointed interior is one of the quietest on the road.

GMC’s Denali package is just a step above a fully optioned SLT, adding wood trim, projctor LED headlights, heated/cooled front seats, unique grille and full-on electronics package with all the newest in safety and sound features.

The model I tested was optioned with dual 150-amp alternators ($295) and the Duramax Plus option $8,845) that includes not only the 6.6L diesel and 6-speed Allison automatic, but also lane departure warning that vibrates the driver’s seat, and forward collision alert electronics.

Does one need the added safety alert features? Maybe not, but they do help keep tired/inattentive drivers more focused.

My test truck also included a power sunroof ($995), 20-inch tires ($200) on forged aluminum wheels ($850). The power camper mirrors ($55), which I highly recommend, rounded out the option list.

In total, the $53,740 base MSRP swelled to $64,575 when all was said and done. Is the Denaili worth the price? If you want a luxury tow vehicle, absolutely.

The 397hp 6.6L Duramax makes 765 lb.-ft. of torque and delivers better than 19mpg unladen.
The 397hp 6.6L Duramax makes 765 lb.-ft. of torque and delivers better than 19mpg unladen.

GM’s vaunted 6.6L Duramax, which is now making 397hp and 765 lb.-ft. of torque, is smooth and strong from off-idle to full throttle. It’s a wonderful beast.

The 6,900-pound truck rockets up on-ramps and will 60mph in 7.8 seconds.

Keep your foot in it and you’ll hit a ¼-mile in 16.0 seconds @ 86.4mph.

In comparison those unladen numbers are better than recent Ram and Ford 2500 diesel and gas 4×4 models I’ve tested. Put a trailer in-tow and it will not disappoint:The Denali 2500HD is built for towing, whether short distances or cross-country.

GM now rates it for a 13,000-pound trailer under SAE J2807 specs with or without using a weight-distributing hitch. The Denail can also carry up to 17,400-pound 5th wheel or gooseneck trailers, and haul more than a ton in the bed as long as the Gross Cargo Weight Rating (GCWR) doesn’t exceed 24,500 pounds.

Fuel economy is another area I find the Sierra 2500HD impressive. I drove the Onyx Black crew cab over a 110-mile interstate test loop at 70mph where the Duramax averaged 19.6mpg. Driving it around town the fuel economy hovered north of 15.1.

Soft-touch switches under the centerstack put all of the important electronic driver controls within easy reach.
Soft-touch switches under the centerstack put all of the important electronic driver controls within easy reach.

Those numbers give it a cruising range of roughly 700 miles and 540 in easy city driving.

I spent a week driving the 2015 Denali HD and looked forward to every chance to be behind the wheel. The interior design and packaging is first class. It’s roomy and comfortable. It’s remarkably quiet on the road. And it has all the electronic bells and whistles we demand these days with plenty of USB and 110V charging locations to keep you plugged in the entire trip.

Is GMC’s flagship 4×4 pickup for everyone? Absolutely not; it’s only for those who demand the best and like to tow with a truck that pampers its occupants and oozes with richness.


Westin 10 LED Lightbar Install 2014 Mazda3 S-Touring

2014 Mazda3 LED Lightbar Install

The gallery below is covers the basic installation of a Westin Automotive 10″ LED high-performance driving lightbar on a 2014 Mazda3 S-Touring 5-door hatchback.

Installation by Warren Spears, Spears Automotive, Long Beach, MS. Photos by Bruce W. Smith/TruckTestDigest.

Related Images:

MazdaBoomMat 08

How To Quiet The Interior of a 2014 Mazda3 Hatchback

14Mazda3 SMeterBWSNoisy Mazda3 S-Touring Hatchback Interior Brought Under Control With Boom Mat Sound Deadening Material Install

I love the way my 2014 Mazda3 S-Touring hatchback performs. It’s sporty, handles great, delivers excellent fuel economy, and has the crisp design of a luxury sports sedan.

But the interior noise it generates over the road grates on you after the first week in the car, overshadowing it’s positive attributes.

Most Mazda3 Hatch owners let the noise slide, cranking up the stereo system to over-power the road ruckus.

I’m not one of those.

Instead, I turned to Ohio-based Design Engineering, Inc. (DEI)- a company that has specialized in vehicle acoustic control for decades.

Their flagship product is Boom Mat. It’s a noise barrier material made with an aluminum surface on top of a viscoelastic polymer designed to dampen vibration.

DEI Boom Mat, UC Lite and Spry-On Boom Mat ready for installation.
DEI Boom Mat, UC Lite and Spray-On Boom Mat ready for installation.

A special adhesive backing keeps it in place over a wide range of temperatures and it adheres to any clean surface.

Boom Mat comes in 12.5″x24″ sheets. I used a box of 20 for my car.

For added sound deadening and insulation, I installed  DEI’s new under carpet material called UC Lite. It’s a 1/2-inch thick composite material developed to both insulate and deaden sound.

My Mazda3 required every inch of the 54″x72″ UC Lite material I’d ordered.

I ran sound numbers before and after the installation of DEI’s sound deadening products.

At 70mph on the interstate the interior noise level fluctuated between 71-76 dB, depending on the road surface.

After installation those numbers dropped to 68-72 dB.

A 3 dB drop in noise levels inside a small car like the Mazda3 Hatchback is very noticeable.

Now the doors thud instead of pinging when closed; conversations can take place without raising one’s voice; you don’t go deaf driving through the car wash;  the voice-activated Mazda system actually works; the stereo system sounds more pure; and you get the overall sense of driving in a much higher quality car.

The gallery below shows the highlights of the installation. It’s straight forward and easy to do in a day.

SPECIAL THANKS: Design Engineering, Inc; 800-264-9472


Related Images:


550HP Chevy Silverado 1500 Reaper At Dealers

ChevyReaperSmith_29webLimited-Edition “Reaper” Silverado Arrives At Select Chevy Dealers

Sales are brisk for the limited-edition Reaper™, a performance off-road edition of the 2014 Chevy Silverado 1500 pickup with up to 550hp that is now arriving at select General Motors dealerships nationwide.

Co-developed by Lingenfelter Performance Engineering and Southern Comfort Automotive, the specialty pickup truck offers drivers enhanced muscular styling, an eye-attracting street presence and amped-up off-road performance.

“The Reaper blends Lingenfelter’s legendary performance engine tuning and suspension know-how with Southern Comfort Automotive’s expertise in custom styling for a truly unique and exciting vehicle,” said Mike Copeland, vice president of operations, Lingenfelter Performance Engineering.

Matt McSweeney, president, Southern Comfort Automotive, adds that the combination of engine performance and off-road capability offered by the Reaper is drawing a lot of consumer interest.

“This vehicle is already creating a lot of excitement on dealer lots,” says McSweeney. ” OurGeneral Motors dealers are looking to increase the number of Reapers they have available since this custom truck is such a big draw.”

The modified Chevy Silverado comes in red, white, gray and black with a long list of standard features including a three-inch lift, long-travel off-road suspension, Fox Racing shocks, 20-inch exclusive Reaper wheels mounted on General Grabber LT tires and a Lingenfelter performance exhaust system.ChevyReaperSmith_47web

The Reaper’s style is enhanced with a custom hood fitment and grill assembly, high-clearance front bumper, wide-body fender flares, a wheel-to-wheel rock guard with removable side steps and high-profile exterior Reaper badging.

Custom lighting includes integrated LED driving lights, side front fender marker lights and an integrated off-road flood light system.

The interior is embellished with embroidered headrests, door panel accents, a gauge package and an auxiliary switch panel for flood lights and additional accessory upgrades.

Available upgrades include a Magnuson TSV1900 Supercharged 475hp 5.3L or 550hp  6.2L tuned engine, a 17-inch beadlock off-road wheel and General tire package, bold Reaper graphics and a frozen matte paint finish.

The 2014 Chevy Silverado Reaper edition carries a three-year 36,000-mile warranty on Lingenfelter upgrades* and Southern Comfort Automotive restyled parts.


CNG badge on tailgate lets everyone behind you know this is an alterative fuel truck.

Road Test: 2015 Chevy Silverado 2500HD CNG

Road Test: 2015 Chevy Silverado 2500HD Crew Cab 4×4


Bi-Fuel CNG/Gas Option Brings Added benefits To Some GM Heavy-Duty Pickup Buyers

by Bruce W. Smith/Editor

Alternative fuel options are starting to catch on around the country. Most of the early adopters are commercial fleets and businesses that don’t need a lot of flash or creature comforts in their work vehicles.

2015 Silverado CC 4x4 with CNG bi-fuel option.
2015 Silverado CC 4×4 with CNG bi-fuel option.

But that hasn’t stopped the Big Three from making the propane autogas and compressed natural gas (CNG) pickups appealing to RVers, boaters, and others who put on a lot of miles a year and want to save in fuel costs.

Chevrolet’s 2015 bi-fuel (CNG/gas) Silverado LT is one of those vehicles. The Crew Cab 4×4 model I tetsted is nicely appointed on the interior with cloth buckets up front, a split bench in back, and just enough of the creature comforts to make life on the road pleasant summer or winter.

Refueling is easy, too. Other than watching a one-minute orientation video on the Clean Energy Fuels’ filling station pump screen before I get a PIN, and snapping the fuel pump’s round fuel line connector to the male receptacle on the tank, there’s really no drama or mystery to the CNG fueling process.

The first trip to the fueling station took less than a minute to put 11.7 GGE (Gasoline Gallon Equivalent) into the truck’s in-bed CNG fuel tank, which looks like a black diamond-plate tool box.

Once it’s filled, the next step is to tap the CNG switch at the far end of the row of auxiliary switches along the bottom of Silverado’s center console.

When you do that the onboard computer pops the CNG fuel gauge’s bar graph on the digital dash display. If the bar is blue all the way to the full mark, the tank is full.

If CNG toggle switch’s indicator light blinks for a few seconds, then remains on, it indicates you’re good to go.


The bi-fuel CNG GM uses two different engine control systems, or ECMs, instead of one like an ordinary pickup.

Using two separate ECMs was the only way the GM engineers could optimize the driving characteristics of the two very different fuels.

The CNG module has different engine and transmission calibrations than the module on the gasoline side: Injector durations and flow, engine timing, transmission shift points and a host of other calibrations have been changed to meet stringent EPA emissions goals.

Driving the 2500HD on CNG is no different than when regular 89-octane E-10 flows through the 6.0L’s injectors: The engine is smooth and the exhaust quiet.

CNG badge on tailgate lets everyone behind you know this is an alterative fuel truck.
CNG badge on tailgate lets everyone behind you know this is an alterative fuel truck.

Where I feel the difference between running on gas and CNG is when you really lay the throttle down.

That’s when the power difference between the fuels is readily apparent. The GM 6.0L V8 makes a respectable 360hp on gasoline, but drops 59 of those horses when CNG runs through it.

GM CNG engineer, Mike Jones, says the drop in power is a result of tuning the engine so it meets EPA requirements.

Although the BTU of CNG is closer to that of diesel than E-10 unleaded, Jones says the current engine technology in the way the gaseous fuel is delivered doesn’t take full advantage of that energy.

“When we first began experimenting with CNG engines they made better horsepower and fuel economy than they did running on gas,” notes Jones reflecting back several years. But we have to meet certain emissions criteria and that has an adverse affect on both power and mpg.”


Consequently, when the CNG switch is activated the Silverado takes a 20-percent hit in both horsepower and fuel economy as the trade-off for running an environmentally clean fuel.

I saw 15.1 mpg running the truck on E-16 gasoline on the 108-mile round-trip stretch of relatively flat I-10 I use for testing fuel economy between Gulfport, Mississippi and Pascagoula, Mississippi.

The run is at a steady 70mph on cruise control. Switching over to CNG the fuel bar and the percentage readout above it showed 45-percent left in the tank at the end of the same round-trip test.

That’s the equivalent of 11.6 mpg. At that rate the range on the 17GGE CNG tank should be almost 200 miles.

But that’s not how CNG works. In today’s CNG vehicles the capacity on the tank is not the useable capacity: The useable capacity is about 2/3 of the tank’s rating, or in this instance, 12 GGE with a driving range of about 140 miles.


That’s because CNG is under tremendous pressure (3,000-3,600psi) and the fuel tank needs to stay at that pressure for the fuel system to work.

As there’s no internal fuel pump, like in a gas tank, when the CNG internal pressure drops below a certain pressure threshold, the system shuts down.

The bed-mounted tank on the Silverado 2500HD has a useable CNG capacity between12-13 GGE — not 17 as indicated on the spec sheets.

So instead of a 200-mile operating range on CNG, it’s really closer to 140-150 miles – and that range varies depending on how warm (or cold) it is outside, which affects the pressure inside the fuel tank.

When the CNG ECM shuts the system down the onboard computers truck automatically switche back to gasoline.

The LT model's interior is cloth, yet it has all the creature features most pickup buyers want in amid-trim level truck.
The LT model’s interior is cloth, yet it has all the creature features most pickup buyers want in amid-trim level truck.

The changeover happens seamlessly and the only visual indicators being the light on the CNG switch blinks and the familiar gasoline fuel gauge reappears on the dash.


As for the Silverado 2500HD Crew Cab LT is a very comfortable package. The steering overall handling are excellent, the loaded ride stable, and there’s very little road or wind noise in the cab at interstate seeds.

I noticed a little rear suspension kick unloaded, exaggerated when the LT tires are inflated to their 80psi max-load pressure rating.

Drop pressures down to 50psi and the ride is much nicer. The truck also has excellent brakes, and even rolling on work truck LT tires it was one of the best stopping pickups I’ve tested, netting a 60mph-0 distance of 140 feet.

As for interior highlights, the base LT-trim Silverado 2500HD should never get a complaint.

The cloth seats are comfortable, storage space is abundant with a full-width storage tray under the split-60/40 rear bench seat, and there’re enough creature comfort amenities, from Bluetooth to GM’s MyLink, to make time in the cab pleasant for all.


Is the CNG bi-fuel Silverado HD worth it? The answer to that lies solely on one’s expectations: If CNG is readily available, the GGE price is low enough to offset the loss in fuel economy, then, yes, the cost of the $9,500 CNG package makes sense.

Otherwise, if bi-fuel and being environmentally friendly, it’s probably not a good option at this time  compared to opting for propane autogas.


CNG fuel tank looks like a crossbed tool box. Tank holds 17GGE (12GGE useable) and takes up about 1/3 of bed space.
CNG fuel tank looks like a crossbed tool box. Tank holds 17GGE (12GGE useable) and takes up about 1/3 of bed space.


MAKE/MODEL: 2015 Chevy Silverado 2500HD 4×4 CC LT

BASE PRICE: $42,655


  • ◦        Major Options: Bi-fuel CNG ($9,500); Trailering Pkg ($905); LT Convenience Pkg ($1,525); Front Power/Heated Clotth Bucket Seats ($795); 6” Balck Tubeular steps ($700); Chevy MyLink Audio/Nav ($495); Cargo Conveneince Pkg ($435)


ENGINE: 6.0L V-8 Bi-Fuel


  • ◦        Gas: 360hp/380 lb.-ft
  • ◦        CNG: 301hp/333lb.-ft


TRANSMISSION: 6spd Automatic

FUEL ECONOMY (Observed):

  • ◦        Gas: 12 City/15.1 Hwy
  • ◦        CNG: 9.6 City/ 11.6 Hwy


  • ◦        Gas: 36 gals.
  • ◦        CNG: 17 GGE (13 GGE, useable)

MAX TOWING: 13,000 lbs.


  • ◦        CNG: 9.9 sec.
  • ◦        Gas: 9.1 sec.
  • ◦        ¼-Mile:
  • ◦        CNG: 17.6@78.7mph
  • ◦        Gas: 16.8@82.8mph
  • ◦        Braking (60-0mph): 140.2 ft.

*Tests conducted at Gulfport Dragway using Stalker ATS    

2014 Tundra Platinum033

2014 Tundra Platinum Crew Max 4×4

Toyota bumps up the luxury quotient with the 2014 Platinum-level 4×4

By Bruce W. Smith

When I first saw the double-barrelled goat trail the Toyota guys called a road, I wondered just how far along we’d get into the deep woods before their latest iteration of the Tundra 4×4 is was driving would get stuck.

Fifteen minutes later I was emerging from the muddy road none the worse for wear and without any assistance other than from the Tundra 4×4’s traction-control system.

The 2014 Tundra Crew Max had performed equally well a few hours earlier when I’d driven it towing a 9,700-pound equipment trailer over curvy, hill country back roads and one short run down the local interstate.14 Tundra wateer drive_BS25335

It was stable as could be, and quite comfortable with a lot of ponies on tap from the Tundra’s 381hp 5.7L i-FORCE V8 and six-speed automatic.

Anyone that’s spent seat time behind the wheel of Toyota’s Tundra knows it’s not a poser. It’s a well built, spacious and powerful ½-ton.

Although astute Tundra owners will notice minor body design changes to the hood and grille of the 2014 model, and small tuning changes to the suspension, underneath it all it’s the same as a 2013.

What’s different is the high-end trim levels (Platinum and 1794) Toyota added to compete against the Big Three’s premium offerings. When it’s applied to a 2014 Crew Max you get Lexus-like luxury.

Add nearly eight inches more space between the front and rear seat than the standard Double Cab model and you have an excellent people mover – or that extra cab space to haul more stuff to the job or on those weekend outings.

The trade-off for the longer cab is a short 5’6″ bed and slightly reduced towing capacity.

Although most ½-ton owners never pull big trailers, the Crew Max 4×4 is at a slight disadvantage compared to its stablemates with a max towing capacity limited to towing 9,000 pounds where as the Double Cab can pull 9,800 pounds.

(Note: All Tundras require the use of a weight-distributing hitch on trailered weights exceeding 5,000 pounds.)

Towing or unladen, the Tundra’s 381hp 5.7L i-FORCE V8 and six-speed automatic is a really strong package, outrunning all of the competitors 5.oLs I’ve tested to date in a drag race—and out stopping them on the other end.2014 Tundra Platinum towing boat

My test numbers from Gulfport Dragway on the Mississippi Gulf Coast revealed the 5,800 pound 4×4 clips 60mph in just 7.2 seconds and rolls through the ¼-mile  in 15.4 seconds at 92mph. That’s quick for a 4×4 pickup.

And it’s muscular exhaust note sounds pure all the way.

That performance is due in part to the 4.30:1 axle ratios and the close ratio of the six-speed automatic.

That gearing gives a stout launch and smooth power transitions during shifts, which translates into a good tow vehicle.

The Tundra’s weakest aspect: fuel economy. It’s average at best – and that’s if you drive very conservatively.

Toyota hasn’t made any significant changes to the engine since it was introduced years ago, and the 13/17/15 (city/highway/combined) EPA numbers match up with my real-world driving observations.

Steering is light, the brakes quick and firm, and visibility excellent to the front and sides. It’s a big pickup and you feel it behind the wheel.

Seating is firm and the power front seats have more adjustments than you’ll ever need. The plush interior is relatively quiet even at freeway speeds with just a little road or wind noise penetrating the cab.

I put more than 400 miles behind the wheel putting the 2014 Tundra to a variety of tasks from towing a 20-foot bassboat to doing a little off-road exploring.

The Crew Max 4×4 Platinum does it all with aplomb and in surroundings that make you feel deserving of such a nice truck.

 Basic Specifications

  • Make/Model: ‘14 Toyota Tundra Crew Max Platinum 4×4
  • MSRP: $47,320
  • Price As Tested: $48,475
  • Engine: 381hp aluminum 5.7L V-8
  • Transmission: 6spd automatic
  • Axle Ratio: 4.30
  • Curb weight: 5,860 lbs
  • Max Tow Capacity: 9,000 pounds
  • Fuel Economy: EPA: 13/17/15 ; Observed: 14 city/ 18.2 Hwy


  • 0-60mph: 7.2 sec
  • ¼-Mile: 15.4 @ 92mph
  • 60-0mph: 121 feet