By on July 14, 2014

IMG_6968

With the new Ecodiesel engine, the 2014 Ram 1500 adds a bit of a European flavor to the most American vehicle of them all – the fullsize pick-up truck. So, how does one look from the view of an European?

Here, I must admit to not being a typical European, when it comes to American cars. As you may already know, I drive a Panther now, and I daily drove a GM B-body for several years. I even paid (little) money to own a Ford Tempo (don’t ask),. but I still live in Europe and drive lots of European cars, so I still have a good idea of what an average European will think about this truck.

First of all, it’s interesting to note that pickup trucks are one of the most common American vehicles here in Czech Republic – and probably even in surrounding countries like Germany or Austria. When you discount for the officially imported stuff – mostly diesel Jeeps, diesel Chrysler minivans and diesel Chrysler 300Cs, the most popular American cars are the pony cars trio, Corvettes, and then the fullsize trucks and luxury SUVs, like Escalade or Navigator. You will never see a Dodge Dart here, and probably not even fullsize sedans like Taurus or Impala. Even the typical US crossovers are extremely rare here – and if something gets imported, it’s usually the “butch” stuff. A Charger. A Durango. But no Equinox or Explorer.

IMG_7248

So large American trucks are not exactly unheard of here. They’re definitely not common, but odds are at least two or three Rams (most popular), F-150s, Silverados or Sierras will be running at any larger town (like mine, with 100,000 people). And in the capital, you’ll probably see one or two every day.

Most of these trucks are highly optioned, shiny V8 ones, never used for any serious work. Most of them probably tow a trailer from time to time, but hardly any will ever get its bed dirty. Quite a big portion of them get converted to LPG, but there are many owners who consider it a “disgrace” to American V8 and insist on pouring loads of gas into their truck. These same people usually frown upon diesel engines, and are probably not the ones who will buy the new Ecodiesel, as it burns the wrong fuel and doesn’t produce the right sound.

IMG_7134

So, to succeed in the European market, the Ram 1500 Ecodiesel needs to cater to several types of customers. It has to persuade the US car crowd that even with the Italian diesel, it’s still American enough and represents a way to finally get into truck ownership without rigging the car with high pressure LPG tanks. And it also has to impress the typical pickup/SUV owner that it is European enough in its frugality, sophistication and road manners.

As you can see from my recent Suburban review, it’s not easy for an American truck to impress an European driver – even one who is rather fond of American automobiles. Suggest buying something like the Ram 1500 to the typical customer in Europe, and you will quite certainly hear something about “primitive technology”, “agricultural suspension” or “ugly, cheap interior”. Not to mention terrible fuel consumption.

But if you follow the suggestion by forcing said person to sit in a Ram 1500 Laramie for a while, the whining will probably quickly stop. While it’s still no Audi when it comes to interior quality, the materials, the craftsmanship and ergonomics are leaps above what an average guy in Europe would expect from American truck. And quite on par with what Europe offers at this price point – a loaded Laramie Ecodiesel costs about $80k incl. VAT, which is about 20% more than a four-cylinder VW Amarok, or about the same as similarly equipped Touareg V6 TDI. And it’s definitely comparable.

IMG_7011IMG_7009

 

Above: My 6′ 6″ boss in the front, and then in the back…

The Ram rids itself of the typical problems of older American automobiles – one that is still noticeable in the last generation of Suburban – that they are smaller on the inside than on the outside. The space inside is stunning. I’ve seen my boss, who is about  6′ 6” sit “behind himself” in the Ram, without having any problems with head or leg room.

With the air suspension and the new coil-sprung four link rear suspension, the Ram even drives well enough for European customers to be satisfied. Above all, the ride is supremely comfortable, and even the handling isn’t half bad, considering the sheer size and weight of the thing. Of course, there can be no talk about steering feel, balance and so on, but the Ram feels stable enough even in mildly swift driving (say, 60-70mph on a backroad). The steering wheel feels much more car-like than truck-like, with just enough assistance and the right size.

But, even without driving the other big US pickups, I can guess that the competition will be on the same level as the Ram. And yet it’s not very likely that F-150s and Silverados start appearing on European roads en masse. The real difference, which can make or break the US pickup on the European roads, is the Ecodiesel engine.

IMG_6996

I have already experienced it (albeit shortly) in Lancia Thema, and I did quite like it, although it certainly wasn’t at the top of its league. Here, the story is a bit different. The Ecodiesel is still not the best V6 diesel out there – and it certainly can’t hold a candle to the likes of BMW 35d or VW/Audi 3.0 TDI biturbo. But in a fullsize pickup truck, it has no direct competition.

This means that even though it’s a little less sophisticated than some of the competitors, it’s still much quieter than any other truck diesel engine. And while it’s not as powerful or as frugal as other V6 diesels, it’s still much more torquey than the V6 Pentastar, much more frugal than the 5.7 Hemi, and still powerful enough to make the Ram lively enough. The ZF eight-speed gearbox is quite smooth and doesn’t seem to shuffle around for gears, like the six-speeder in the last-gen Suburban does.

IMG_7053

If the Ecodiesel fulfills its promise – and everything looks like it will – of being able to run on less than 10 liters per 100km on the highway, it will be the first American fullsize pickup to really make sense in Europe, at least in the last 70 years or so. Its combination of utility and comfort may be enticing for certain European buyers, and the fuel consumption shouldn’t scare them away this time. Yes, the Ram 1500 is still ungodly big, and will be a royal pain to park and drive in countries like UK or France. But here in Central Europe, it’s fairly livable, and, even with taxes and customs added, quite cheap – the top-of-the-line Laramie still costs about the same as a poverty-spec Touareg. The bad thing, though, is that you have to make do with the short bed – the bigger one makes the 1500 truck under EU regulations, increasing the custom duty from 10% to 20%. But it would be too long to park, anyway.

So, will the Europe be flooded by diesel American trucks in the near future? I don’t think so. But I’m willing to bet money that Rams will become much more common (less uncommon) here. And I would venture to say that of the current FCA portfolio, the Ram 1500 would be one of the more successful vehicles on European market. Certainly they would sell more of them than Lancia Themas. And likely even more than Lancia Deltas (I have seen about two of those in the wild, ever).

IMG_7334

And if the VM Motori power plant doesn’t turn out to be a turd, like the 1990s four-cylinder in the Jeeps and Chryslers was, I may be buying one in a few years, to replace the Town Car.

@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic, who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, www.Autickar.cz and serves as editor-in-chief at www.USmotors.cz. After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives a borrowed Lincoln Town Car. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

39 Comments on “European Review: Ram 1500 Ecodiesel...”


  • avatar
    BigOlds

    I used to spend a lot of time in Europe for work, and I noticed a surprisingly large number of US pickups. I never could understand, given their size and consumption.

    FWIW, I saw quite a few in Germany (all Rams) and a lot in Finland, where they seem to like the Fords and Chevies. On the train between Helsinki and Turku it seemed like half the vehicles we rode past were US pickups.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I want this truck, more importantly the drivetrain to prove reliable, durable, & as efficient as they claim.

    My last Dodge diesel was one of my most favorite trucks I have ever owned. I get that the hemi is just as powerful, but I rent them from national when I travel and find it very difficult to return favorable economy with the Hemi. It drops dramatically when you leave the highway and cruise around town.

    An efficient half ton is almost a dream come true!

  • avatar
    Onus

    When i go to Europe i look for the American pickups. Seen one in Russia, The Netherlands, and Belgium. They fit in while in Russia. In Then Netherlands, and Belgium they looks very much out of place.

    Anyway whats the import process for these? It looks like they just change the Reverse lights into turn signals with amber bulbs. Then add a rear fog light, and reverse light. Now what about headlights, and emissions. That is what I wonder about. The standards are very different in that respect.

    I know for ford super duty trucks you can order them with European Headlights per the order guide. I wonder if ram has something similar.

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      The import process is quite simple. You need to make sure the lights conform to EU standards (amber turn signals in the back, rear fog lights, no front-facing amber stuff) – usually done the easy way you see in the pictures, but more and more people use LEDs now to make it look cleaner.

      Emissions are no problem, the US laws are stricter (but you have to have the car tested. KPH speedos are usually already there (although in smaller font), and for small stuff like headlight patterns, DOT approval on the windows and seatbelt instead of EU approval etc., you can get a waiver.

      Altogether, the approval process costs around $1,000-2,000. But for most people, the best way is to use gray importers and either order exactly the car they want, or pick one off the lot. For example, the Laramie I tested will cost something like $80,000 including VAT (slightly over $60k w/o VAT), and I think that at any given time, at least five will be available at showrooms around CZ (plus many, many others in Germany – and importing a car from Germany is totally no-hassle event).

      • 0 avatar
        Onus

        Thats in stark contrast to US import laws. Sounds painless.

        Some good common sense is being exercised. The waivers acknowledge that the standards are not necessary better or worse just different.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          We REALLY overdo it on the import crap here. And really seems like we always have. I’m guessing this is a built-in defense for the domestic manufacturers.

          Though I’m not sure what the rules are once it’s 25+ years old? Or at that age is it -STILL- better to find someone who’s brought it to Canada already, and then import it from there.

          • 0 avatar
            Onus

            21+ for emissions exemption. 25+ for the rest of the stuff.

            There logic says It’s okay to drive something with totally different standards just if it old.

            But, new stuff is somehow unsafe ( DOT / EPA says this when they crush illegal imports ).

            We used to have sane requirements but Mercedes lobbied the federal government as people were grey marketing euro special models. The rest is history.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            That makes no sense. So I can go buy a 1950 Dodge van and drive it around, my legs just inches away from certain dismemberment in an accident – but I cannot import a much safer and modern Mazda Eunos Cosmo.

        • 0 avatar
          Vojta Dobeš

          Only problem (a kinda big one) is that in Czech Republic, you can’t legaly register a vehicle older than 8 years on standard plates, unless it’s imported from EU country. Over 30 years, you can get antique plates (super easy, can keep the red turn signals), but 8-25 years is hard to do – basically, you have to import it to Germany and then import it from there, wasting shitload of money.

          The reason for the 8-year limit is that once the borders opened in 1990s, people were importing loads of crap used cars from Germany, and lawmakers wanted to prevent that (and help new car market, probably). When we got to the EU, we had to abolish the limit for the EU countries, but it remained in place for non-EU.

          • 0 avatar
            mikedt

            I think the thought process is that if you bring in anything 20+ years old, it’s a collectors item and won’t be your daily driver. That and it protects the domestic new/used market.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I would want to be seen in my interesting imported vehicle every day!

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Import through Canada and you will get the truck with metric gauges. It might be easier to get out of Canada with the FTA signed with the EU.

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    I knew a guy, US Navy Chief Petty Officer on the USS Mount Whitney, who had a 4-door F250 (gas) *long bed* in Gaeta, Italy. I have no idea how he managed to drive that beast on some of those roads. I had a hard time with an MB A180 at times.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Is Denker a special American import dealership? I notice the American looking nature of their plates and stickers. You see similar signs here for people running for political office.

    DENKER FOR CONGRESS

    Good work on the pictures. Your boss would fit in here – people would just assume he’s a hippie.

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      Yeah, they’re gray importer, specialized mostly on American cars – although they sell some European ones as well (but mostly imported from US).

      As for my boss – he recently sold is company to start an internet radio/web magazine (this is where I work for him) called http://www.RadioDixie.cz, and focus on American music – mostly outlaw country, southern rock, blues and rockabilly – cars, motorcycles and lifestyle. Which may not make him a hippie, but it definitely fits his “giant Willie Nelson” image :)

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        That sort of description would work as well. I just don’t live in the south, so I see more of the hippie types around here. Thanks!

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        Your boss would probably appreciate the Music Fog YouTube channel which specializes in live Americana in small venues.

        http://www.youtube.com/user/MusicFog

        Vojta, you said that European customers of American pickup trucks prefer high trim level models. Is there any interest in antique pickup trucks? If so, do customers prefer the shiny newly painted look or the patina a well aged truck?

        • 0 avatar
          Vojta Dobeš

          I don’t know about other countries, but around here, I don’t see nearly as much old trucks on car shows as I see older sedans/wagons. And if there are any, the shiny restored ones are probably more common.

  • avatar
    Johannes Dutch

    US pick-ups are everywhere here. Older models and brand new ones, whatever you want. Not as a hobby vehicle, but as pure workhorses. So yes, they do get very dirty. You see, if you buy one for your profession/business they get a registration as a commercial vehicle, just like a van for example. Much cheaper to buy (less tax on top of the factory price) and less road tax. And then you can haul big fat trailers, especially when you install air brakes on both the pick-up and the trailer.

    By the way, running them on gasoline is not an option, that would be financial suicide. Your business will go bankrupt very fast because of the gas bills. So LPG (the cheapest fuel available) is the norm, mostly in an aftermarket US Impco LPG-system with a big tank. A diesel is also possible of course, plenty of Dodges with Cummins diesels around.

    We don’t do chicken-tax here. Buy and import whatever you want, regardless its age. Lots of independent specialists who can take care of it. Who needs official importers, long live grey import !

    Here’s an example of a nearby (renowned and experienced) US pick-up importer and dealer: http://www.pickuptrucks.nl/

  • avatar
    el scotto

    BTSR. RAM Ecodiesel. Autobahn. It’s an article waiting to happen!

  • avatar
    turvo

    While in Spain a couple of years ago I passed a Dodge Ram dually of all things towing a trailer up the autovilla between Cadiz and Seville. I could not imagine for the life of me how he ever drove on any of the side streets around there.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    “When you discount for the officially imported stuff – mostly diesel Jeeps, diesel Chrysler minivans and diesel Chrysler 300Cs, the most popular American cars are the pony cars trio, Corvettes, and then the fullsize trucks and luxury SUVs, like Escalade or Navigator.”

    That just goes to show you that Europeans aren’t particularly fazed by America’s new “Follow the Germans” philosophy. I appreciate that some recent American cars are now very much “world-class”, but they usually manage to be a couple of steps behind every time. In particular, I’m talking about the Cadillac ATS, whose product-planners don’t seem to realize that the E46 BMW they probably benchmarked is quite cramped in this day and age.

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      Yeah. I think this is the general problem of typical US brands trying to make it in Europe. Case in point – small Jeep. Instead of bringing Patriot, which is boxy, brash and Jeep-like (and thus attractive to European Jeep lovers), they brough Compass, which tries to be sophisticated and modern. And fails. Compass can’t compete with RAV4 or Kuga or whatever on ground of being better car, and it isn’t “Jeep-like” enough to compete on the “personality” grounds.

  • avatar
    marjanmm

    Vojta, can you point to the Suburban review? Clicking on your name above supposedly shows all your articles but the Suburban one seems to be missing. Thanks.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Seems like the (hopefully) upcoming Chevy Colorado with the diesel engine would be perfect for Europe. All of the benefits of the Dodge while being a more manageable size.

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      Not sure about that. Will it be as spacious/luxurious inside? Will it look as cool? The Colorado seems more like direct competition to Navara or Amarok to me.

      BTW, isn’t Isuzu D-Max the previous generation Colorado? It was sold here, no one bought it.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      I am not fond of the engine that’s going into the Colorado and Canyon for one reason:

      The cutaway at the auto show clearly showed a timing belt, not impressed at all.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @mnm4ever,
      No the Colorado in Australia is a clunker. The US version is very much more a watered down version. They already get the full compliment of Global a Pickups in Europe


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India