Putting the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel to Work
The vast majority of my reviews focus on the entire vehicle, but my this review of the 2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel focuses specifically on the new 3.0L diesel engine and how well it works as both a daily driver and a work horse. I have included pictures of the Laramie Longhorn Ram in which the EcoDiesel was fitted because, well, it’s a gorgeous truck inside and out. However, this piece isn’t about the two tone exterior with unique wheels and badging, or the plush, luxury level interior.
This piece is all about addressing the absurd misconceptions being spread around the internet about the Ram EcoDiesel engine by people who have no experience with the truck. I will address the negativity in the best way that I know how – by putting this diesel half ton Ram through real world situations that show just how capable this engine is of being a super-efficient daily driver and a super-capable work truck, all in one.
The new 3.0L EcoDiesel engine delivers 240 horsepower and 420lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. This drivetrain combination makes the 2015 Ram 1500 the most fuel efficient truck in the segment with expected numbers of 19mpg around town, 27mpg on the highway and 22mpg combined. More importantly, those fuel economy figures are possible in a truck that will also tow 7,650lbs and haul about 1,040, so while it isn’t the strongest truck in the Ram 1500 lineup, the EcoDiesel in my Crew Cab, 4x4 test truck provides an impressive level of working capabilities considering that it gets better fuel economy than any truck in the half ton segment.
All of those claims are impressive, yet they are the cause of much of the skepticism surrounding the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel engine. Some naysayers who obviously have no experience with the engine insist that it simply has to be a noisy, stinky, smoke-billowing diesel engine that is hard to deal with on cold mornings so driving it has to come with the same downsides of driving a Freightliner semi every day. The fact of the matter is that while the EcoDiesel sounds a little different than my own Hemi Ram 1500, it is no louder than the Hemi. At no point did it create any exhaust smoke at all and the only time you can actually smell the diesel exhaust fumes is when you are standing next to the exhaust tip while the truck is running. The Chrysler Group expected these negative views of diesel technology, so like every other light duty diesel engine sold in the USA, the EcoDiesel is quiet and clean enough that most people wouldn’t recognize it as being any different than any gas powered pickup on sale today.
The Daily Drive
The first test of the 2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel was a day at the Detroit Auto Show, which meant that I was up and out the door before 6am. It had snowed quite a bit the night before and when I left for the show, it was a balmy 6 degrees at my house. I have had a few diesel test trucks in my day that were slow to start on cold mornings like this, but I stood in my nice, warm kitchen and watched through the window as the remote start fired the EcoDiesel to life with no effort. By the time I got into the truck it was toasty warm and the engine was ready to face the fight from my home to Detroit’s Cobo Hall. Needless to say, the 35 mile drive in the snow was a slow one, but the diesel engine didn’t react any differently than my Hemi does in the same situations. Also, after spending 7 hours at the auto show, I headed out to the truck, which had been sitting in a dark, cold garage that whole time and – not surprisingly – it started up right away.
In terms of normal driving, the four wheel drive system made conquering the snow a breeze and when the roads cleared up, I had a chance to see how well the EcoDiesel performed in normal driving conditions. That brings me to another of the misconceptions about the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, as I have had a few people tell me that they test drove one and they expected it to be faster. Now, considering that none of the other diesel trucks sold in the US are considered fast in stock form, I’m not sure why someone would expect the most efficient diesel truck engine in the US to be any different. Really, if “fast” is a concern in your truck buying process, you definitely want to buy the Ram 1500 with the Hemi, as that engine will satisfy all of your high speed truckin’ needs.
That being said, for a truck that is the most fuel-friendly in the segment, the EcoDiesel Ram is surprisingly peppy. You don’t get the same oomph off of the line that you do with the Hemi (obviously), but the EcoDiesel affords the Ram 1500 plenty of low end acceleration and even more midrange pull. It is actually a little quicker from a stop than I had expected, and when cruising at speed, the EcoDiesel allows a very solid level of acceleration when you need to pick up speed suddenly, such as when merging onto the highway or hurrying around slower-moving traffic. As fuel-efficient half ton truck packages go, I believe that the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel offers the most fun to drive factor so while it won’t outrun the Hemi – it provides plenty of performance for daily driving in any situation.
The 2015 Ram EcoDiesel pickup that I tested was expected to return fuel economy figures of 19mpg around town, 27mpg on the highway and 22mpg combined while also being able to tow over 7,600lbs and haul over 1,000lbs. Unfortunately, far too many people seem to think that if you hook up a 7,000lb trailer, fill the bed with 1,000lbs of lumber and drive to the top of Mt McKinley, you will get at least 27 miles per gallon in the process. Like every other truck sold in the US, the fuel economy figures are figured in a normal driving situation, which doesn’t include a bunch of weight in the bed or in a trailer out back. The Ram 1500 with the EcoDiesel engine will get better than 27mpg in the right highway conditions and it will comfortably tow my 5,000lb test trailer – but it won’t do both at the same time.
Most people know this, but since some do not, I wanted to clear that up right away.
With so much skepticism over the impressive fuel economy figures of the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, I wanted to see if I could hit the advertised figure of 27mpg on the highway. To do this, I spent a few hours driving the local highways of Metro Detroit, stopping at one gas station to fill up and then filling up after logging over 200 miles of all-highway driving. During the course of my 3+ hour drive, I averaged right around 65 miles per hour and not only was I able to hit the average number of 27mpg – I exceeded it. During my all-highway drive, with the only stops being for gas and one traffic incident, I averaged 28.3 miles per gallon.
My average fuel economy numbers weren’t quite as good, as the snow, the morning traffic, the towing and the hauling exercises all cut into the figures. Over the course of my best tank of diesel, I averaged just 19mpg, but that included a half tank or so of fuel burned with the trailer hooked up. Based on my experiences, someone who spends a great deal of time driving the EcoDiesel Ram on the highway will have no issues seeing those expected fuel economy numbers.
Puttin’ in Work
So, after seeing how effortlessly the 2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel served as a great commuter vehicle on a bitter cold morning and seeing how it was able to exceed the EPA fuel economy figures, I wanted to see if this little diesel mill could do the work of the bigger engines – both diesel and gasoline.
First off, I headed to the feed store, where the bed of my 2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel was loaded with 20 bags of horse grain weighing in at 50 pounds apiece, for a total of 1,000lbs of cargo out back. That is pretty close to the recommended paying capacity of my Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn test truck, but it was hardly noticeable when driving back to the stables. At cruising speeds on the highway, I couldn’t tell that I had a thousand pounds of grain in the bed and around town, acceleration was barely hampered by all of the added weight out back. I did notice that the Ram didn’t corner as well around town with the loaded bed, but in terms of the relation to the EcoDiesel engine – the weight had no real impact. I imagine that if not for the concern of other components of the truck, this little diesel engine could deal with far more weight loaded into the bed.
For all of my test vehicles that can tow, I have a horse trailer which loads up to right around 5,000lbs. This allows me to see how different vehicles tow relative to each other, so the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel towed the same trailer that I pulled with the Grand Cherokee SRT8 and the Ford 3500 diesel dually. It is a simple two-horse trailer with electric brakes and the integrated trailer braking system of my Ram 1500 test truck worked very nicely (as expected) with my trailer, but even without the aid of the trailer brakes, the Ram had no issue slowing down with my two-horse hooked up out back.
So, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel uses technology that is best known for pulling heavy trailers, but as one of the smallest diesel engines in the US truck market, there are some who question the 3.0L V6 diesel’s ability to perform like a proper diesel. Well, I can say with confidence that the Ram EcoDiesel towed my test trailer as well as any non-HD truck I’ve driven in the past few years. At no point did the small diesel engine seem to be struggling to pull my horse trailer, pulling away from stops effortlessly while also cruising at highway speeds without breaking a sweat. I have also pulled this same trailer with the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel, and I think that the Ram with the same engine pulled it a little better, especially in terms of handling at higher speeds – but that is more about the chassis than the engine itself.
In short, the answer to the question of “can the EcoDiesel do the work that the Chrysler Group talks about” is a resounding yes. I tow very regularly with my own truck and the EcoDiesel pulled well enough that I would recommend it to someone who spends a fair amount of time hooked to a trailer. It might be a small diesel engine, but it brings with it all of the pulling properties that you get from the Cummins – just with a lower capacity and far better fuel economy figures.
The Final Word
If you are looking for a new half ton pickup that offers the best possible fuel economy of a four wheel drive truck, but you also want to be able to tow and haul and much weight as many V8 gas trucks, the EcoDiesel is absolutely the truck for you. This engine doesn’t come with any of the stereotypical downsides of “old diesel” technology yet it is comfortably capable of towing and hauling as much weight as many comparably equipped gas trucks that get far worse fuel economy.
The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is worth every bit of the attention that it has received since being introduced and for someone who wants the best fuel economy possible while still being able to do “truck stuff” – there is no better option on the market today.