Ram EcoDiesel V-6

Oct. 10, 2013

One thing no American truck builder had was a diesel-powered light-duty pickup, and now Ram has one, with the 3-liter EcoDiesel V-6 that’s now optional in the 1500 series half-ton pickups.

Enthusiastic Ram executives showed it off at an event near Westlake Village, northwest of Los Angeles, and they really did have something to brag about. The new light-duty diesel will probably be the only one offered for about a year, when Nissan brings out its revised Titan pickup with a new Cummins 5-liter V-8 diesel.

Already you might be asking, why doesn’t Ram (and Dodge before it), which for 24 years has bragged about its highly regarded Cummins Turbo Diesel, go to Cummins for the light-truck version? Because Ram is now partly owned and pretty much controlled by Fiat of Italy, which has been using diesels from VM Motori, another Italian manufacturer, so it makes business sense for Ram to do so, too.

The V-6 EcoDiesel is a VM Motori product that’s been proven in Europe and elsewhere, Ram executives say, and it has been modified to meet American exhaust emissions standards. As with other diesels here, the EcoDiesel uses cooled exhaust-gas recirculation, a diesel particulate filter, and urea injection that’s the active part of selective catalytic reduction.

Another question would concern the engine’s small displacement of 3 liters, or 183 cubic inches. Won’t the Titan’s 5-liter, 305-cubic-inch Cummins V-8 blow its valve covers off? A few weeks after the Ram event, Cummins showed off the new diesel, and we now know that it will make up to 300 horsepower and 520 to 560 lb.-ft. in the Nissan. So it will probably haul and tow more, and if that’s important, well, wait another year to check it out. But for anyone wanting a diesel half-tonner now can rest assured this little Italian makes more than adequate power and torque numbers and really moves.

Maximum output is claimed to be 240 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft., and it felt like all of that as I ran a sharp white Ram 1500 crewcab pickup over dirt roads on a horse ranch in Ventura County, then out onto public highways—up and down hills and around sharp bends on a road that cut through the coastal mountains and skirted deep ravines on its way to the Pacific Coast Highway, then over more level back roads and urban boulevards to our base at the ranch. The diesel revs not quite as fast as a gasoline engine and is rather quiet, and with the soot and NOx wrung out, there’s absolutely no smoke or smell to the exhaust.

The standard and only transmission is the ZF-made TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic. A rotary shifter on the dash dials in P, R, N and D, while up- and down-buttons on a steering wheel spoke allow manual operation. It works better than you’d think. My thumb got really busy while moving downgrade, and I punched the tranny from 8th all the way to 4th and 3rd to help with retarding, even though the big disc brakes would’ve been more than enough on their own.

The EcoDiesel not only goes and will probably pull heavy loads with its hefty torque, but also delivers fuel economy that’s expected to be better than Ram’s current champ, the Pentastar gasoline V-6’s 23/25 city/highway MPG—said to be the best in a half-ton pickup. My run over the mountains ended with the info center in the dash reporting 26.4 mpg—pretty good if it’s accurate. A couple of other reporters said they got 29 mpg—even better

Partly because it’s a V-6 rather than a V-8, the EcoDiesel is priced at just $2,850 over the 5.7 Hemi gasoline engine. That’ll be hard to resist by anyone who puts on a lot of miles working or playing with his Ram 1500 pickup.