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There are two things that auto journalists regularly pine over: diesel engines and station wagons. It would appear that at least one of these objects of affection is shared with the general public. I am referring, of course, to the wave of turbodiesel models that have found their way to showrooms during the past 12 months, with brands from Chevrolet to Mazda outfitting various compact and mid-size models with these efficient alternative engine designs.
Throughout this diesel renaissance diesel-powered light-duty pickups have been conspicuous by their absence. Surely, it would seem logical that a high torque, low-consumption engine like a turbodiesel would be a natural fit for entry-level trucks, especially given the proliferation of these drivetrains in the heavy-duty segment, but it wasn't until now, with the 2014 RAM 1500 EcoDiesel, that pickup buyers have had the chance to sample a diesel engine in a half-ton configuration.
The 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is in some ways Chrysler's great experiment: will truck shoppers be willing to pay a premium for that elusive combination of torque and fuel economy that turbodiesel technology is designed to deliver?
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What's In The Box
It's important to make the distinction between the ultra-gutsy, commercial-grade turbodiesel engines offered by Ram's three-quarter and full-ton pickup trucks and the engine that is on offer from the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel. The six-cylinder mill delivers less than half the displacement of its more established brethren, and as a result it also comes with half the torque. That's hardly a consolation prize, however, as the 3.0-liter engine pushes our 420 lb-ft of twist to go with its 240 horses - more than even the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 that until now stood at the top of the Ram 1500's power pyramid.
There's other good news to go with that generous torque figure, including an eight-speed automatic transmission that adds two forward gears over and above the competition, and a focus on fuel efficiency that should strike a chord with truck owners sick and tired of their every-increasing gas bills. Although Ram has yet to get the EcoDiesel motor officially certified by the EPA, it's looking like a 27-mpg highway rating will end up on the pickup's window sticker, along with 21-mpg city. This would make the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel the most efficient vehicle in its class, without asking potential buyers to give up any trailer-tugging torque (the diesel Ram comes with a tow rating of 9,200 lbs).
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How Does It Drive?
Having already sampled the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 found under the hood of the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel by way of the lighter Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel that was released earlier this year, I was curious to see how well the motor would deal with the pickup's additional mass. I didn't have to wait too long for my answer, as the Ram offered immediate and confident acceleration with only a hint of turbo lag off of the line. At highway speeds, and when cruising around town, the EcoDiesel engine was happy to dump its impressive torque reserves to the rear wheels without a moment's hesitation, putting in a performance that should please current Hemi owners as much as it will make Pentastar drivers wish they'd sprung for the upgrade.
The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is quieter than the brand's heavy duty pickups when underway, an important selling point to non-commercial buyers who want diesel power without the clatter. It's also much smoother to drive, with coil suspension in the rear and a reasonably light V-6 up front. Like most powerful diesel engines, the Ram comes with a urea injection system to keep its emissions clean, and although the replacement interval is predicted to be at every oil change, it's something that owners can do themselves with inexpensive fluid that can be purchased at almost any auto parts store (if they want to avoid the dealership).
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The Cost To Be The Boss
The 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is going to command a few extra dollars compared to V-6 and V-8 editions of the pickup. At nearly $3,000 more than a Hemi-powered edition of the same trim level, diesel devotees have a hard choice to make at ordering time. It's going to take roughly $30,000 to own the most affordable version of the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel - not cheap, but still in line with competitors like the less-efficient Ford F-150 EcoBoost. You can get it in a Tradesman model, or even in the Laramie Longhorn luxury edition of the truck, democratizing its torque and efficiency to a certain degree, although it's a safe bet that diesel versions of the Ram will most likely hover around the middle of the pricing pack.
Diesel engines have been kept out of the light truck game for almost two decades now, with a litany of excuses regarding their weight, their complexity, and general consumer apathy towards the idea of a non-gas pickup. The 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is a bold move from Chrysler that has the potential to lead the way towards a brand new market for efficiency-minded truck buyers, and, if we're lucky, spawn an army of copycats from the likes of Nissan, Ford, GM, and Toyota.
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