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The 2014 Ram EcoDiesel’s turbocharged engine delivers excellent power and best-in-class fuel economy. (Chrysler)
The 2014 Ram EcoDiesel’s turbocharged engine delivers excellent power and best-in-class fuel economy. (Chrysler)

First Drive: 2014 Ram Pickup

Cato: Who buys trucks? More city dwellers than you'd think Add to ...

Chris is a 28-year-old single in downtown Toronto and, while he admits “this probably sounds absurd – especially with high fuel prices,” he wants a big new pickup.

“Aside from the practicality of use there, I just love the look and feel of a truck,” he says.

Then there’s Bill. He, too, is a downtown Toronto dweller and says, “I frequently wonder who the hell needs to drive these beasts. They represent the very worst in North American consumerism, only suited to convey excessive ‘stuff ’ and intimidate others out of their driving lane or off the road. Almost no city, town or even country dweller needs this type of vehicle. There should be a commercial-type tax premium charged for their use of the highway.”

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Two solitudes? Oh, yes. Yet Chris and Bill are practically next-door neighbours. They live in the same world, but see it in utterly different ways. What Bill doesn’t know is that Chris wants a truck for weekends in Ontario’s cottage country – for doing projects in Collingwood when he is “usually in need of something to tow and haul stuff.”

The Chrises in Canada are far more common than Bill might imagine. Those who own full-size pickups really do use them for what they were designed to do. How else to explain the boom in large pickup sales?

DesRosiers Automotive Consultants reports that through the first three-quarters of the year, Canadians bought 233,421 full-size pickups. About one in three light trucks sold in Canada is a Ram or a Ford F-Series, a Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Toyota Tundra or Nissan Titan. Full-size pickup sales are up nearly 12 per cent this year, in an overall market up 3.8 per cent.

For his part, Chris has settled on three options: the Ram 1500, Ford F-150, or a light-duty version of the Silverado or Sierra. That’s typical. Ninety-seven per cent of all full-size pickups sold in Canada are products of Detroit’s three car companies.

So which one for Chris? Given that he commutes to cottage country from downtown Hogtown, and does some light towing and hauling, his best option may be the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel ($36,395, base). Yes, it’s pricier than your base V-6 Ram ($26,995 base) – and similarly more expensive than V-6 rivals from Ford and GM. But the new turbocharged, 3.0-litre EcoDiesel engine delivers best-in-class fuel economy and tremendous power. Towing? Up to 4,173 kilograms or 9,200 pounds.

A cheaper Ram option comes with a 3.6-litre V-6 engine. At 305 hp/269 lb.-ft. of torque, and with the eight-speed automatic transmission, this Ram is good, but the diesel – with its range, fuel economy and power – is better. And it’s sure to last. That’s what diesels do.

Chrysler, in fact, argues that its Ram has been the longest-lasting full-size rig on the market over the past 25 years. Using figures from Polk, Chrysler backs up the argument by noting that 79 per cent of Rams sold since 1987 are still on the road. For Chevy and GMC, the number is 72 per cent, while 66 per cent of F-Series rigs remain in service. If he buys a big pickup he could be still driving it at retirement age.

Chris needs to know, that if he opts for a 2013 pickup from any of the Detroit Three, he’s looking at rich sales incentives to close the deal – unless he buys the diesel Ram, which is new for 2014 and not yet in need of sweeteners. Some versions of the 2013 Ram are available with up to $8,500 in factory incentives. The story is similar for the F-Series and outgoing Silverados and Sierras.

Tech Specs

2014 Ram EcoDiesel Turbo V-6

Type: Full-size pickup

Base price: $36,395 (destination charge $1,695)

Engines: 3.0-litre V-6 turbodiesel

Horsepower/torque: 240/420 lb-ft

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Drive: Rear-wheel drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): City numbers not available/7.8 highway using diesel fuel

Alternatives: Ford F-150, GMC Sierra 1500, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Toyota Tundra, Nissan Titan

*****

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