Car & Driver Tests Drive 2014 EcoDiesel

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Jul 27, 2013
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Ron Sessions of Car & Driver offers his 2 cents on the new full size truck with the a diesel.

Being practical sorts, full-size-pickup owners don’t suffer fools or eco-weenies gladly. But as with the mainstreaming of organic foods and energy-conserving light bulbs and appliances, the prefix “eco” has slowly crept into the pickup-truck vernacular.

Ford kicked things off a few years back with its gas-burning EcoBoost V-6 F-150. Some industry stalwarts dismissed the fancy-pants turbocharged trucks and then got quiet as the blue oval brand grabbed great handfuls of market share, with as many as 40 percent of F-150 buyers choosing the blown V-6 over a traditional V-8. Earlier this summer, GM introduced its new-generation full-size pickups, with a freshly engineered lineup of direct-injected, variable-displacement V-6 and V-8 engines dubbedEcotec3. Now the battle for the wallets of mileage-minded haulers is joined by Chrysler, which is introducing the industry’s first small-displacement, light-duty-pickup turbo-diesel engine. It’s being marketed as—wait for it—the EcoDiesel.

A Shared Cadillac and Ram Engine? It Could Have Happened

The 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 comes to these shores courtesy of VM Motori, a longtime Italian marine-diesel-engine builder and former affiliate of Fiat. Ownership is now, interestingly enough, split 50/50 between Chrysler/Fiat and General Motors. Yes, GM. Industry sources tell us that a version of the EcoDiesel was originally being developed for use in the Cadillac CTS, which makes sense, as any company that wants its luxury sedans to be taken seriously in Europe needs to offer an oil burner. The Caddy version bit the dust in GM’s 2009 march to bankruptcy, but today you can buy a Jeep Grand Cherokee with the engine. The Ram version driven here will be on offer by the end of the year, at an estimated $4000 upcharge over the base 3.6-liter Pentastar gas V-6 (or $2850 more than the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 option).

Chrysler sees its 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 as fulfilling an unmet demand in the full-size-pickup segment and as a complement to its V-6 and V-8 gas engines and the HD trucks’ 6.7-liter Cummins turbo-diesel. Although final EPA estimates aren’t available, Chrysler did announce that it expects highway fuel economy in the high 20s. We have every reason to believe that’s reasonable, as the several-hundred-pounds-lighter Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel is already in production and carries official EPA numbers of 21 mpg city and 28 highway.

Driving Impressions, We Has Them

As with every other turbo-diesel on the planet, the EcoDiesel V-6’s calling card is torque, and lots of it—in this case 420 lb-ft, available from 2000 rpm. We drove on- and off-road north of Los Angeles in a well-equipped (estimated price: $39,940) Ram 1500 rear-wheel-drive crew cab with mid-level Lone Star trim. The truck likely tipped the scales just shy of 6000 pounds, yet the winsome combination of a wide-ratio eight-speed automatic transmission and generous low- and midrange grunt delivered ample acceleration and flexibility.

Underhood, the variable-vane turbocharger does a good job of taming low-speed turbo lag. Even at part throttle, it was easy to make time on back roads or jockey for slots in the ebb and flow of suburban traffic. Chrysler says the 3.0 EcoDiesel engine weighs only 50 more pounds than the Hemi V-8, which is light for a diesel. Keeping extra pounds out of the nose contributes to the EcoDiesel’s feeling of agility, something the big-dog Cummins diesel in heavy-duty Rams can’t claim. Even though the 6.7-liter Cummins in HD Rams offers a sick 30,000 pounds of towing muscle, the EcoDiesel V-6 is still rated for a healthy 9200 pounds.

And there it is. The 3.0-liter EcoDiesel for now has the half-ton diesel market to itself, although Nissan has confirmed it will enter the fray with its next-gen Titan. (GM and Ford are content to sit it out, although the General had an engine basically ready to go before bankruptcy canceled the program.) Such trucks represent a new full-size-pickup sweet spot that combines respectable performance, hauling ability, and fuel economy barely attainable in smaller trucks just a few years ago. Sounds pretty damn practical, no? View Photo Gallery
Seems Ron has no problem with it.
 
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