Ward’s 10 Best Engines competition has recognized outstanding powertrain development for 20 years. This installment of the 2014 Behind the 10 Best Engines series looks at the development of the 3.0L turbodiesel V-6 used in the Ram 1500 light-duty pickup.

Lots of light trucks have great engines, but only one, the Ram 1500 pickup, shares its engine with two Maserati sport sedans: the Quattroporte and Ghibli.

To keep things in perspective, the idea of pickups and sports cars sharing engines is not unusual. The 6.2L L86 V-8 used in GM’s fullsize pickups and SUVs is closely related to the 6.2L LT1 used in the Chevy Corvette. The LT1 has differences, of course, including unique intake, exhaust and lubrication systems as well as special tuning that turns the new Stingray into one of the fastest sports cars on earth.

It’s a story similar to Chrysler pickups sharing the Hemi V-8 with the Dodge Challenger and Charger. Countless other automakers do the same thing. It’s all about flexibility and scalability.

Even so, a pickup truck with an engine also used by Maserati has a sexy ring, no? Did we mention it was a diesel? One of the smoothest, quietest diesels we’ve every tested?

The basic engine was developed in 2008 and 2009 by VM Motori in Italy. Motori, like Chrysler, now is 100% owned by Fiat, along with Maserati, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Lancia. While the ownership is relatively new, Motori has supplied about 800,000 diesel engines for Chrysler vehicles sold in Europe since 1992, such as the 300C and Jeep Grand Cherokee, says Giorgio Garimberti, Group CEO, VM Motori Italy.

“Our relationship is and always was very strong,” Garimberti says. He is especially proud of what VM Motori and Chrysler have accomplished with the 3.0L V-6 EcoDiesel development during tumultuous economic times in the U.S. and Europe.

“We focused all our attention and technology on NVH and fuel consumption, and it is a very, very interesting package,” Garimberti says. Motori also worked closely with castings supplier Tupy in Brazil to use super-strong compacted graphite iron for the block and bedplate to create an exceptionally compact, rigid and quiet engine.    

“Just from the stiffness of the material, most CGI engines end up being 0.5 to 1.5 decibels quieter than the old gray iron engine,” says Steve Dawson, CEO of Sintercast, the company that licenses CGI casting technology to Tupy. “If you put the engineers around the dyno, it’s the first thing they usually comment on.”

WardsAuto editors had the same reaction, noting that even in a truck, the 3.0L V-6 barely is louder than diesels of the same displacement in expensive German luxury cars.

Besides quietness and compact dimensions, power and flexibility are among the engine’s other strong suits, Garimberti says. Not only does it work well in trucks and sport sedans, turning out 420 lb.-ft. (570 Nm) of torque at just 2,000 rpm, its next role will be powering boats as a marine engine, he says.