2016 Wards 10 Best Engines Test Drive: Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

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Three light-duty truck diesels contend for our 2016 10 Best Engines awards, with the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel V-6 as a two-time returning winner, now bookended by the 5.0L V-8 in the Titan XD, and the 2.8L I-4 in the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon.

The Ram’s turbodiesel hits the sweet spot, with 240 hp and 420 lb.-ft. of torque, with all that trailer-tugging pull available at just 2,000 rpm. The diesel Ram’s maximum tow rating is 9,210 lbs., with max payload at 1,600 lbs. – more than enough to haul a load of dirt or drywall, or tow a good-sized boat or camper.

WardsAuto editors evaluated the EcoDiesel in the Ram 1500 Limited Crew Cab, and I had a chance to test a nearly identical truck towing a 5,800-lb. trailer at a recent Ram program. I also drove a Laramie version on a summer trip with four adults on board and a load in the bed, while towing a 3,500-lb. camper.

No matter what the load, the Ram diesel proves highly capable, towing the camper without a strain, and pulling the heavier load with ease. Perhaps even more remarkable is that the EcoDiesel does its work without any of the usual clatter and harsh engine noise and vibration common in diesels. It sounds so much like a gasoline engine that it’s not unusual for passengers to express surprise that there’s a diesel under that brawny hood.

The EcoDiesel also is a strong performer when it comes to fuel efficiency, posting between 19 and 23 mpg in our mixed driving, often matching the EPA combined estimate of 22 mpg. When towing, the truck posted a respectable 18.5 mpg, but the onboard computer often showed up to 23 mpg at 70 mph.

Getting a diesel in a Ram can be pricey. In the 1500, the diesel engine is a $3,120 upgrade over a gasoline-powered 5.7L HEMI V-8, and a $4,700 premium over the base V-6 gas engine. Our test Limited Crew Cab carried a $60,000 price tag, while the Laramie I tested during the summer checked in at $52,000.

So far, 16 to 17 percent of Ram buyers are opting for the diesel. That’s just shy of the 20-percent take rate projected by the company, but that’s tempered by higher overall sales of Rams as well as a limit on the number of diesel engines available from parent company Fiat’s VM Motori plant in Italy.

Will the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel three-peat? 

Bob Gritzinger

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