DETROIT – If absolute power corrupts absolutely, DaimlerChrysler AG is guilty of absolutely corrupting everybody who has bought aor Dodge product with the company’s new-age powertrain icon, the Hemi Magnum 5.7L OHV V-8.
The Hemi Magnum 5.7L V-8 delivered 30,506 miles of power driving.
And at the end of a year-long test of a Hemi-powered Ram light-duty pickup, the Ward’s staff happily counts itself among the masses corrupted by the 2-time winner of a Ward’s 10 Best Engines award.
The Hemi didn’t exceed just the expectations of jaded auto journalists – its installation rate in products as divergent as the Ram family of pickups and the new300/Dodge Magnum has blown past the estimates of Chrysler’s product planners.
At the rate it’s going – and with several new Hemi-powered models on the horizon – DC may have to put the entire country of Mexico to work in the Saltillo plant where the Hemi is exclusively built.
Its year at Ward’s proves customers who check the Hemi’s option box are making a wise and eminently entertaining decision. The Ram’s logbook is crammed with testosterone-overdosed avowals to the Hemi’s broad-shouldered power delivery and alacrity in accelerating a 2-1/2-ton pickup. Nobody questions the Hemi’s dominance as a muscle motor – although competitors are doing their best in television ads with a lot of fine print flashed at the bottom of the screen.
Moreover, the Hemi was everything one could ask for in terms of reliability. Starting and idling were perfect in any weather, and the 5.7L V-8 never hinted at requiring anything more than routine service – which at less than $100 for a year of hard labor couldn’t be called anything other than dirt-cheap maintenance. (DC did fetch the truck before we had to pay for the overdue 30,000-mile [48,279-km] service, which likely would have raised the scheduled-maintenance by a couple hundred dollars).
That’s not to say owning the Hemi is cheap. The last quarter of the Ram’s long-term test saw the beginning of the upward spiral in gasoline prices, and $2-plus gas acted like cold water thrown on some staffers’ enthusiasm for the Hemi. The powerplant’s overall average of 13.7 mpg (17.2L/100 km) was disappointing, wrote some editors in the logbook, and at the low end of the Ram’s 13 mpg (18L/100 km) city and 17 mpg (13.8L/100 km) highway fuel-economy rating.
Some drivers noted they never saw anything close to 17 mpg, even in gentle, steady-state interstate travel, making us wonder how much longer DC engineers will make Ram buyers wait for the wonderful Multi-Displacement System cylinder-deactivation architecture already first adopted for Hemis powering the new Chrysler and Dodge passenger cars.
Chrysler engineers tell us adapting MDS for Hemis used in pickups and SUVs is a tricky job because the duty cycles are vastly different than for passenger cars – towing and heavy payloads complicate the interaction of MDS with the multitude of other engine-management parameters.
The summation of a year with what appears to be a potential stalwart of the 10 Best Engines list: Nothing but praise for the Hemi’s power, refinement, durability (not to mention the always excellent, rarely tiring exhaust bellow) and reasonable maintenance costs. Meanwhile, one indelible black mark for its extreme thirst, even when judged by pickup-truck standards.
It is impossible not to love the Hemi, though. DC has done an outstanding job not only in designing and building this benchmark pushrod V-8, but in reviving the Hemi name to a new-age degree of brand awareness that probably exceeds the original.
Bring on the Hemi’s brazenly bigger brother, DC. Boldness is what the Hemi is all about.