Friday, February 28, 2014


Finally there is a choice in the types of trucks you can have: light-duty or heavy-duty. The 2014 model year has brought in significant improvements to the entire Ram truck line. Ram has become the first manufacturer to bring to market a diesel engine available in a ½-ton pickup since the ’90s and has revolutionized the ¾-ton by introducing the first-ever factory five-link rear suspension in a heavy-duty application. These trucks have both thrown off the ties that have historically bound their segments, and by breaking with tradition Ram has created two exceptional machines.

There continues to remian many questions about this change: Will the 1500 live up to Ram’s reputation without a Cummins? Will a 3.0L V-6 be powerful enough? Can the Ram 2500 still tow as well as it used to? It was for this reason that we felt it to be our duty to acquire both of these trucks and run them side by side through a series of real-world tests. We set out to not only answer these questions but also to help people decide which truck is the right one for their needs. At the end of the day, not everyone needs a ¾-ton, but everybody should be driving a diesel.

To compare two different classes of trucks may seem like blasphemy to some, but when we look at the hard facts, these two are more similar than they seem at first glance. Keeping things as close to real-world as possible, we ordered our testers outfitted as most would buy them, and as similarly as possible. Both trucks are crew cab four-wheel-drive shortbeds, and both are trimmed in premium packages. The two trucks are also dimensionally similar, as they share the same sheetmetal from the grille back to the C-pillar, and they both come equipped with the same five-link-style rear suspension. Marking the only notable difference in options between our subjects is that the Ram 1500 was delivered with the company’s optional air suspension, Ram Boxes, and 20-inch wheels. And while both are equipped with shortbeds, the 1500’s measures 5 feet 7 inches, and the 2500’s is a slightly larger 6 feet 4 inches.

2014 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel The ’14 Ram 1500 4x4 was delivered with the new 3.0L EcoDiesel engine, ZF 8HP70 eight-speed automatic transmission, and BorgWarner 44-44 transfer case. To keep the test as close to equal as possible, a Crew Cab in Laramie trim was selected. 

And now we take a close look at the 2014 Ram 1500
2014 Ram 2500 Our ’14 Ram 2500 4x4 tester arrived equipped with the 6.7L Cummins engine mated to the 68RFE automatic transmission and BorgWarner 44-46 transfer case. The drivetrain was wrapped in a Crew Cab body with a Laramie Longhorn trim package. 

The highway is where trucks spend most of their life—even four-wheel-drive models—so to adequately test these two we mapped out a 500-mile loop that would take us along both flat highway and up to nearly 5,000 feet of elevation, four different times. Our two professional drivers set the cruise control at 5 mph over the posted speed limit (75 mph) and swapped vehicle position at the halfway point. At the end of our drive, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel netted an impressive 28.47 mpg, while the Cummins 6.7L-equipped 2500 knocked down 19.97 mpg.

On the highway is where the Ram 1500 with the EcoDiesel really excels. Power delivery from the 3.0L V-6 is extremely smooth and incredibly linear, accelerating briskly to well beyond the legal speed limit. While it doesn’t pack quite the same punch off the line as its Hemi-powered brethren (which, at 5.7L, is nearly twice the displacement of the VM V-6), passing is a nonissue thanks to the engine’s 420 lb-ft of torque. Sitting in the cab, one would be hard pressed to tell the truck is even running, let alone powered by a diesel. Ram engineers worked tirelessly to ensure the EcoDiesel was extremely smooth and quiet, and we would say their hard work has paid off. Shifting from the eight-speed transmission is polished and works well at keeping the EcoDiesel firmly in its powerband. Steering feel is effortless thanks to the electric power assist. It has good road feedback and a nice, on-center feel. 

Stepping into the Ram 2500, the power difference is immediately noticeable, along with the increase in perceived turbo lag. The heavy-duty 68RFE six-speed transmission fires off quick and firm shifts, which are much more noticeable than the more refined eight-speed found in the 1500. While quieter than previous generations, inside or out you know when the 6.7L Cummins engine is running. Steering feel is somewhat heavy and a bit dead on center compared to the 1500, which helps to instill confidence when towing and aids in giving the truck a heavy-duty feel. While the Ram 2500 is primarily a workhorse, it rolls down the road straight and smooth, leaving very little to be desired.

One of the biggest complaints about ¾-ton trucks that we have heard over the years has been about ride quality. Traditionally, to achieve the high payload and towing capacities, these trucks have needed an extremely firm suspension. Ram has now turned the heavy-duty world on its head with the introduction of the first-ever five-link coil spring rear suspension on a ¾-ton. Similar in design and upsized 10 percent from the smaller Ram 1500, the new rear suspension provides a smoothness that was previously only achieved with a trailer in tow. The Ram 2500’s ride is not soft, but it is no longer kidney-jarringly stiff. A comparison we can all relate to would be a leaf-sprung truck with 800 pounds of sandbags in the bed. The switch to a three-link-style front suspension provides far greater roll stiffness compared to the previous generation four-link suspension. Overall, we didn’t notice any increase in body roll or negative handling from the new style of suspension—only a greatly improved ride. 

The Ram 1500 chassis and suspension are carryover from the previous model years and performed exactly as expected. The ride is compliant enough to isolate its occupants from highway irregularities, but not so soft as to lose its truck-like feeling. Optioned onto our Ram 1500 was the company’s air suspension system, which replaces the coil springs at all four corners. This system allows for the vehicle to lower into an aerodynamic mode while at highway speeds for better fuel economy, and to rise up when increased ground clearance is required. It also has the ability to self-level to adjust for trailer tongue weight or a payload in the bed. At $1,695, the upcharge for the air suspension is so reasonable, there’s almost no reason not to check that box.

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