Irving Oil Limited is a giant in Canada's oil industry; it operates the largest refinery in the country and, though it's based in St. John, N.B., its imprint is seen all over the Maritime provinces, with giant holding tanks, refineries and gas stations all around New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. Needless to say, selling fuel is important to Irving's bottom line.
So how do its company executives feel about the Ram 1500 Ecodiesel, which Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) touts as the most fuel-efficient full-sized pickup on the market? Surely, the huge sales of gasoline-thirsty pickups are good not just for auto makers but also the people that fuel them.
But if every large pickup manufacturer offered a diesel option like Ram does, profits of oil companies wouldn't be just a bit lower; the 3.0-litre Ecodiesel V-6 isn't just more fuel-efficient than its pickup competitors, it rivals the fuel economies of full-sized sedans.
On a recent drive in gargantuan Quad Cab and Crew Cab 4x4s through the Maritime provinces that covered more than 750 kilometres, the average fuel economy – over highways, country roads and even a few city streets combined – was 8.6 litres/100 km in the SLT, with a daily personal best of 8.2. Another driver reached 7.7 for a day. That's even better than the 8.8 litres/100 km for highway driving that FCA officially declares. By comparison, the base Ford Taurus and Chevrolet Impala are both listed at 8.2 litres/100 km in highway driving alone, while FCA's Dodge Charger, with the base 3.6-litre V-6 and all-wheel drive, is listed at 8.6. So the Ram Crew Cab 4x4 Ecodiesel gets similar – better, even – fuel economy to that of a smaller car and can carry the same number of passengers in a large, comfortable cabin, while still able to go off road, tow a boat and carry motorbikes in the bed (which would admittedly impact said fuel economy). If this sounds too good to be true, it's not – these are real-world numbers – there was no hyper-miling on this trip.
So the Ecodiesel means lower profits for oil companies, but for FCA? Not exactly. The diesel option adds $4,700 to the price of the truck, plus an extra $1,000 for the mandatory eight-speed transmission (the cost of which is folded into certain packages), with the least expensive diesel-equipped Ram being $39,295. But with a 25 per cent take rate of diesels in overall Ram sales – and almost a 50 per cent take with the higher trim levels – many consumers are finding the extended range (up to 1,225 kilometres on a single tank), stump-pulling torque at low speeds, and the slightly lower cost of diesel fuel at the pumps is worth it.
You'll like this truck if ... Your luxury ranch is a long way from the nearest fuel station.
- Base price: $39,295; as tested: $60,700 for the SLT Quad Cab 4x4
- Engine: 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V-6
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
- Fuel economy (litres/100km): 12.1/city; 8.8/highway, diesel fuel
- Alternatives: None; no other light-duty, full-sized pickup is offered with a diesel engine
- Looks: As with every full-sized pickup, this Ram is in-your-face macho; without the air suspension and optional steps, it’s a chore to climb into. But while the front end sports that giant, big-rig grille and bulging hood, the whole design is possibly the sleekest of its rivals.
- Interior: Possibly the best interior in the truck world; sure, there is still hard plastic around there, but the places you touch or lay your arms are softer. The switchgear is generally laid out sensibly, and the rotary gear shifter clears up a lot of space in the centre console. All the seats are generous.
- Performance: With 240 horsepower, the Ecodiesel won’t win any highway races. But the 420 lb-ft of torque at just 2,000 rpm is what’s important for hauling, and the Crew Cab 4x4s are rated at up to 3,882 kilograms for towing and a 607 kg payload with the shorter bed.
- Technology: An optional air suspension has the same supple ride but raises or lowers the truck when needed, levels the truck when towing and, at highway speeds, it hunkers down for better fuel economy. Though it offers luxury options such as a heated steering wheel and parking sensors, some safety features on luxury cars, such as emergency brake assist and lane departure warning, are absent.
- Cargo: The Quad Cab, with the shorter rear passenger area, sports a 6-foot-4 bed, while the Crew Cabs can have that or a standard 5-foot-7 bed. The optional Ram Boxes in the truck sides are handy for storage but slightly narrow the bed, though it still fits a sheet of plywood. Inside the cabin, there are hiding places everywhere.
With this combination of fuel economy, lower emissions and capability, why doesn't every truck manufacturer offer a diesel engine?
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.