The Truth About Cars » Ram http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 01 Mar 2015 14:00:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Ram http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/ram/ Review: 2015 RAM ProMaster City (with video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-2015-ram-promaster-city-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-2015-ram-promaster-city-video/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 14:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=999922 Please welcome back Alex Dykes as our Road Test editor. Alex will be contributing reviews and video reviews at our re-launched YouTube channel. Click here to subscribe. Everyone has been talking about the Dodge Caravan being sent out to pasture soon, but there is a third badge-engineered Chrysler minivan heading into the sunset as well: […]

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2015 RAM ProMaster City Front-001

Please welcome back Alex Dykes as our Road Test editor. Alex will be contributing reviews and video reviews at our re-launched YouTube channel. Click here to subscribe.

Everyone has been talking about the Dodge Caravan being sent out to pasture soon, but there is a third badge-engineered Chrysler minivan heading into the sunset as well: the 2015 RAM C/V. Behold the replacement: the 2015 RAM ProMaster City. With industry boffins calculating that the class 1 cargo-hauler segment will explode by over 300% in the coming few years, Chrysler is getting in on the commercial action with another Euro model. While the larger ProMaster van is based on the Fiat Ducato, the smaller ProMaster City is an Americanization of the Fiat Doblo. Does the recently formed Fiat Chrysler conglomerate have with it takes to compete with the all-new and all-sexy Transit Connect?

Exterior

Outside it is hard to tell the Doblo and the ProMaster City apart. Both have dual sliding doors and rear 60/40 barn doors that open to near 180 degrees but most of the sheetmetal is shared. New DOT compliant tail lamps and headlights were fitted and the RAM logo and cross-hair grille were grafted to the long nose. Let’s be frank, the ProMaster City isn’t as attractive as the new Transit Connect which wears strong lines and Ford’s new corporate grille. The ProMaster on the other hand goes for rounded corners and a function-over-form front end. RAM boasts that the unpainted black bumpers can be easily replaced without a quote from the paint shop. Shoppers should note that top end models ditch this repair savings for body-colored parts. Style is usually a low priority for most commercial shoppers and the PMC’s funky looks are unlikely to be a turn off. The wagon version may be a different matter.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-005

Interior

Speaking of wagons, the ProMaster City Wagon exists mainly as a “why not?” statement. You see, every PMC starts life as a passenger wagon built by TOFAS (a sort-of contract manufacturer) in Turkey. The completed vans are then shipped to Maryland for “conversion” where the “cargo” vans lose their rear seats and gain a load floor. This is essentially the same process Ford uses to bring the Transit Connect to our shores and avoid paying the dreaded “Chicken Tax.” Because the vans are imported with 5-seats, why not sell a few on the side? That’s the version I had for a week.

It is best to think of the wagon as a utilitarian people and cargo hauler for the avid mountain biking family than a replacement for the American minivan. The difference between the PMC and the Sedona, Sienna, Caravan and Odyssey is stark. You won’t find a third row, fold-int0-the-floor seats, squishy plastics, rear entertainment systems, snazzy audio systems or leather rear captains chars with ottomans. Instead we have a commercial grade Euro-funky interior cast in shades of black and grey. The hard plastic dash and doors will withstand years of abuse and are easy to clean, but not as nice to touch as what you find in Ford’s redesigned Transit Connect.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2

Most of the PMC’s dashboard is lifted directly from the Doblo except for a new steering wheel with audio controls on the back, a new shifter and a touchscreen infotainment system. The gauge cluster is easy to read but the trip computer is unintuitive. Similarly the door release handles also function as the door locks and the electric door lock controls. That took some getting used to. Storage pockets abound but the cupholder count of two is decidedly European.

The Ford is more comfortable as a people hauler because it has a dual mission. You see, the PMC doesn’t need to compete with the Sedona or Sienna, because that’s what Chrysler has the Caravan and Town & Country for. Want a minivan? Go to the Chrysler dealer. Want to haul your portable poodle washing system? Visit the RAM dealer. Ford on the other hand is using the Transit Connect to compete in both worlds, for better or worse.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Cargo Area.CR2

Cargo Hauling

For commercial haulers and the “active families” manufacturers are courting, cargo capacity is king. This is area where the baby RAM starts to shine. With 131.7 cubic feet of widget-moving space in the rear this easily beats the Nissan NV200 and Chevy City Express and barely eeks out a win over the long wheelbase Transit Connect. The RAM also manages to haul longer items thanks to a slightly longer box swallowing 11-foot items from the windshield to the rear doors, 9-foot items from the dash to the doors (after removing the front passenger seat) and 7-foot items from the front seat backs to the rear doors. You’ll notice something missing, there’s no 8-foot measure, and that is the area where every vehicle in this segment let me down, you can’t put a 4×8 sheet of anything in these vans. If you want to haul plywood, you’ll need a Caravan for that once the RAM C/V dies next year.

Loading a widget that’s 4-feet by 4-feet by 5-feet long with a forklift is a cinch thanks to the bi-folding doors, something that the larger C/V has lacked for a while. Sadly you’ll find the payload, although class leading at 1,883 pounds, is not any higher in real terms than the Caravan. This leaves a huge payload gap between the ProMaster City and the 3,922 pound payload of the base model ProMaster. In an interesting twist, the PMC uses an independent rear suspension and coil springs while delivering a higher load capacity than the NV200’s more truck-like rear end.

2015 RAM ProMaster City uConnect 5.0.CR2-001

Infotainment

Although uConnect 5.0 sounds like it would be a smaller version of uConnect 8.4 (the systems found in most Dodge and RAM models) it is actually an entirely different system. Based on a Microsoft O/S and not the UNIX-like QNX that runs the larger system, this software was almost entirely designed by Fiat. It started its life back in 2006 as Fiat’s Blue & Me system found in Europe but Fiat re-designed it to look like the larger uConnect system in 2013 and we’re starting to see it offered as Chrysler’s base infotainment unit. With available TomTom navigation, Bluetooth speaker phone integration and USB media / iDevice support, uConnect 5.0 is a perfectly serviceable head unit. It lacks the smartphone and voice command  functionality you find in the larger uConnect and upcoming revision of MyFord Touch, but it is snappy and easy to use.

Base PMC models skip the touchscreen infotainment system for a basic AM/FM unit with a USB port and four-speakers. Jumping up to the SLT trim adds the touchscreen as standard equipment and makes a 6-speaker package available. That limitation goes for the wagon model as well, in base form you get the speaker grilles but no speakers in the cargo area.

2015 Ram ProMaster City 2.4-liter Tigershark engine with 9-speed, Courtesy of Chrysler

Powertrain

Thankfully RAM chose not to raid Dodge’s compact sedan for the powertrain as Nissan did with the NV200, instead opting for the same 2.4L “Tigershark” engine found in the Chrysler 200. The four-cylinder mill produces 178 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of twist which easily outclasses the NV200 and compares well with the Ford 2.5L naturally aspirated and 1.6L turbo engines. Unfortunately this does not compare terribly well with the average American minivan like Chrysler’s own Town & Country at 283 horsepower. Admittedly the Town & Country is heavier, but the power to weight ratio is still better at the Chrysler dealer.

Helping make up for some of the power defect is a ZF-designed, Chrysler built, 9-speed automatic. (If you want to know more about the 9HP and why it behaves the way it does, check out ZF’s 9HP Transmission Puts Dog Clutches On the Leash.) The 9-speed auto gives the PMC the lowest starting ratio in the segment and the highest final drive making the bulbous RAM the fastest to 30 MPH and the most efficient at 75 MPH. The result is an EPA rating of 21/29/24 MPG (City / Highway / Combined). Should you live in state with higher speed limits the tall 9th gear is a serious advantage. I averaged an impressive 31 MPG on a 70-mile one-way trip with the A/C blowing, cruise control set to 76 MPH and 800 lbs of cement blocks in the rear. If however you commute is in the city, expect that number to drop to the teens.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Wheel

Drive

When you compare the ProMaster City and the Grand Caravan, you’ll notice that the baby-RAM trades 850lbs of curb weight and 105 horsepower for 50% more gears in the transmission. The trade means higher fuel economy as I said, but notably slower acceleration with the RAM taking 9.55 seconds to buzz its way to 60 MPH. That’s Prius territory. Add a thousand pounds and any of these “class 1″ cargo vehicles will feel slow, but the turbocharger on Ford’s 1.6L engine helps it scoot to 60 nearly a second faster. The RAM still bests the 2.5L Ford engine and the Nissan and Chevy.

If you’re after exciting dynamics, you’re looking inside the wrong white box. The RAM has a better feel behind the wheel than the Ford, but raw grip is better over at the Blue Oval. The NV200’s leaf springs and wheezy 2.0L engine are the least exciting of the bunch, but the trade is truly the best city fuel economy. The better dynamics in the Transit Connect are not surprising since it is competing both in the cargo hauler and minivan segments. Is the RAM exciting? No. Is there steering feel? No. Can it out handle the Caravan in the left lane? No. But it can out handle a Prius on your mountain bagel delivery route.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Side View-001

And now we must address the glaring problem that hit me when I looked at the price tag. At $23,130 the Tradesman trim of the City is $1,735 more than the 2015 Grand Caravan AVP, aka the cheapest minivan in America. The Caravan isn’t the freshest minivan on the market, but the interior is still several steps above the ProMaster City. Dodge gives you a 283 horse V6 standard, it can swallow a 4×8 sheet of plywood, the factory payload is just 154lbs lower and it will tow 1,600lbs more. FCA does plan on fixing this, but the fix is killing off the AVP instead of lowering the ProMaster City’s price. This value problem is not unique to the RAM however as the Transit is also more expensive than the AVP. Admittedly suggesting the passenger version of the Caravan over the ProMaster City is “missing the point” a little, but the wagon variant we tested widens the gap to nearly $3,000. If your cash is on the line, my best advice is to skip both the ProMaster City and the Transit Connect and get a Caravan AVP while you can. As long as you don’t need the barn doors in the back or don’t mind a DIY conversion, the discount Dodge is the most compelling option.

 

Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.8 Seconds

0-60: 9.55 Seconds

Average economy: 24.3 MPG over 486 miles

 

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Chicago 2015: 2016 Ram Laramie Limited Sports Fancy Duds http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/chicago-2015-2016-ram-laramie-limited-sports-fancy-duds/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/chicago-2015-2016-ram-laramie-limited-sports-fancy-duds/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 22:12:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=998714 Sajeev delivered his Vellum Venom on this one earlier. Now, it’s time for the rest of the 2016 Ram Laramie Limited’s story. The Laramie Limited offers rhinestone cowboys black leather, real wood trim, silver pinstripes and special badging inside the quad-cab, as well as the latest 8.4-inch uConnect system. The main feature, however, is the […]

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Sajeev delivered his Vellum Venom on this one earlier. Now, it’s time for the rest of the 2016 Ram Laramie Limited’s story.

The Laramie Limited offers rhinestone cowboys black leather, real wood trim, silver pinstripes and special badging inside the quad-cab, as well as the latest 8.4-inch uConnect system.

The main feature, however, is the truck’s updated face. Picking up where the Ram Rebel left off in Detroit, the truck’s chrome grill now resembles a nose thanks to the nostrils on either side. Meanwhile, the “RAM” name takes center stage in many a rearview mirror, while those following behind will get an eyeful of chrome-plated testosterone via the truck’s tailgate.

Other features include: air suspension (1500 only); remote start; power adjustable pedals; heated steering wheel and front seats; Berber carpet floor mats; French stitching; seven exterior colors; and 20-inch wheels.

The Laramie Limited will be offered on 1500, 2500 and 3500 single-wheel and dualie weight classes in two- or four-wheel drive on short- and long-wheelbase frames, with either Crew Cab or Mega Cab mounted on the frame. The 1500 will be first, going on sale in Q2 2015 as a 2015 model, while the 2500 and 3500 will hit the showroom in Q3 2015 as 2016 models.

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Manley: Jeep Wrangler Truck Perfect For Brand, Business Case Not There http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/manley-jeep-wrangler-truck-perfect-brand-business-case-not/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/manley-jeep-wrangler-truck-perfect-brand-business-case-not/#comments Thu, 15 Jan 2015 12:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=983761 The B&B’s only bet for buying a Jeep Wrangler pickup at the moment is to buy a Wrangler, then send it to a third-party for conversion. CEO Mike Manley says he’d love to have such a beast in his brand’s portfolio, as well, but there’s a hitch. According to CarAdvice.au.com, Manley says that while “every […]

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Jeep Wrangler Eliminator

The B&B’s only bet for buying a Jeep Wrangler pickup at the moment is to buy a Wrangler, then send it to a third-party for conversion. CEO Mike Manley says he’d love to have such a beast in his brand’s portfolio, as well, but there’s a hitch.

According to CarAdvice.au.com, Manley says that while “every international market” would take a Wrangler pickup, and that the idea “fits the portfolio exactly,” the business case for the truck still isn’t there.

Part of that case involves Ram: a Wrangler truck would do gangbusters on the showroom floor — the Wrangler made up 25.3 percent of the record 692,248 Jeep products sold in 2014 — but at the expense of the designated truck brand, an issue that has persisted for some time.

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NAIAS 2015: 2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE Adds Aero For High Fuel Efficiency http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-2015-ram-1500-ecodiesel-hfe-adds-aero-high-fuel-efficiency/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-2015-ram-1500-ecodiesel-hfe-adds-aero-high-fuel-efficiency/#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2015 20:45:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=982081 Ram isn’t satisfied with wanting Baja Valley, as the brand sets its sights on Green Valley with the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE leading the charge. Joining the original 1500 EcoDiesel in the lush foothills below Truck Mountain, the HFE improves the former with extensive use of aero throughout. The result is an EPA-certified 29 mpg […]

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2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE

Ram isn’t satisfied with wanting Baja Valley, as the brand sets its sights on Green Valley with the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE leading the charge.

Joining the original 1500 EcoDiesel in the lush foothills below Truck Mountain, the HFE improves the former with extensive use of aero throughout. The result is an EPA-certified 29 mpg on the highway, 21 mpg in the city, and a combined rating of 24 mpg, besting the nearest competitor by 12 percent in the fuel economy game.

The HFE is based on the 1500 Tradesman Quad Cab, boasts a 6-ft, 4-in bed, and rides upon 20-inch wheels. The truck can also be had with the Ram Express’ body-colored face for a more sporty appearance over the standard EcoDiesel. Other exclusives include wheel-to-wheel side steps, a tri-fold tonneau cover, and an HFE badge showing off how awesome it is at saving diesel fuel; considering the fuel’s current price per gallon, that might mean something.

The 2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE is expected to arrive in showrooms late in Q1 2015.

2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE 2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE 2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE 2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE

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NAIAS 2015: Ram Delivers A Rebel Yell Across Baja Valley http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-ram-delivers-rebel-yell-across-baja-valley/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-ram-delivers-rebel-yell-across-baja-valley/#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2015 15:50:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=980249 Ram unveiled the 10th trim addition to its truck lineup at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, the 1500-based Rebel off-roader, signalling the brand’s intent to tackle Baja Valley in so doing [Live photos now available – CA]. Power for the Rebel comes from a standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 VVT, which produces 305 horsepower, 269 lb-ft […]

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ram unveiled the 10th trim addition to its truck lineup at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, the 1500-based Rebel off-roader, signalling the brand’s intent to tackle Baja Valley in so doing [Live photos now available – CA].

Power for the Rebel comes from a standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 VVT, which produces 305 horsepower, 269 lb-ft of torque, and 25 mpg on the highway. The optional 5.7-liter HEMI V8 VVT ups the ante to 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque. Both engines send their power to the rear or all four corners via an eight-speed automatic. Gear ratio for the HEMI is 3.92 in 4×2, 3.21 in 4×4; the Pentastar is 4×4-only, with a ratio of 3.92.

Suspension includes Bilstein front and rear shocks, a 1-inch lift, air suspension, softer rear stabilizer bar, and modified alignment of its independent front suspension. Toyo’s 33-inch Open Country A/T all-terrain tires, mounted on 17-inch silver and black cast aluminum wheels, help improve on-road comfort while providing better snow traction. The combination results in a ground clearance of 10.3-inches.

The Rebel is exclusively a crew cab model with a 5-ft, 7-in bed and optional RamBox. Five colors — Granite Crystal Metallic, Bright Silver Metallic, Flame Red, Bright White, Brilliant Black — are available in either monochrome or two-tone, while the interior is done in Radar Red and Black with Light Diesel Gray and Radar Red accent stitching throughout.

Other features include: a black RAM grill in the vein of Ford’s Raptor; powder-coated billet silver skid plate; front tow hooks; LED lighting; optional backup camera; all-weather mats; and tri-fold tonneau cover.

The Rebel is due in showrooms in early H2 2015.

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Benson: Ram ProMaster City Portfolio Could Expand Via Demand http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/benson-ram-promaster-city-portfolio-expand-via-demand/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/benson-ram-promaster-city-portfolio-expand-via-demand/#comments Tue, 30 Dec 2014 14:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=969937 Right now, one can pick up a new Ram ProMaster City for catering tacos and installing cable down Flower Shop Lane. If that’s not enough, however, Ram might soon have a few more tricks up its sleeve. According to Edmunds, Ram commercial truck operations chief Joe Benson says consumer demand could increase the current ProMaster […]

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2015 Ram ProMaster City 01

Right now, one can pick up a new Ram ProMaster City for catering tacos and installing cable down Flower Shop Lane. If that’s not enough, however, Ram might soon have a few more tricks up its sleeve.

According to Edmunds, Ram commercial truck operations chief Joe Benson says consumer demand could increase the current ProMaster City portfolio beyond the two-passenger commercial panel van and five-passenger people carrier. Possibilities include diesel power, shorter wheelbases, seven-passenger models, a taller panel van, and a pickup variant with drop-down sides for easy cargo-box access.

Regarding the overall picture for Flower Shop Lane, Benson believes combined U.S. sales could climb to 100,000 by 2016, compared to the predicted 50,000 units sold in 2014. The increased demand is likely to come from Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari owners looking to replace their aging units with those from not only Ram, but Ford, Chevrolet and Nissan.

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Trucks, SUVs Best Premium Sedans In Over $50K US Segment http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/trucks-suvs-best-premium-sedans-50k-us-segment/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/trucks-suvs-best-premium-sedans-50k-us-segment/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 14:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961313 Keep those Benzes, BMWs and Audis in the garage, son: $50,000-plus trucks and SUVs are where it’s at for the ballers and players these days. TrueCar says trucks and SUVs account for six of the top 10 best-selling vehicles in the United States market, specifically the segment where transaction prices of $50,000-plus are the norm. […]

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Keep those Benzes, BMWs and Audis in the garage, son: $50,000-plus trucks and SUVs are where it’s at for the ballers and players these days.

TrueCar says trucks and SUVs account for six of the top 10 best-selling vehicles in the United States market, specifically the segment where transaction prices of $50,000-plus are the norm.

The biggest of them all? The Ford F-150, whose projected 2014 volume of 189,776 “will likely surpass total U.S. volume of luxury car benchmarks including BMW’s combined 3, 5 and 7 Series sales or total deliveries for the Audi brand this year.” The Blue Oval will see revenue of $10.8 billion from those high transactions, making up a third of an estimated $33.2 billion for the overall F-Series portfolio.

The demand for looking California and feeling Minnesota is helped in part by a recovering U.S. economy, improved vehicle quality, and a growing supply of cheap gasoline, which is helping the $50,000-plus transaction segment, as well: approximately 8.1 percent of total 2014 sales will transact at that level, up from 6.6 percent in 2013.

Finishing out the podium per TrueCar is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Ram truck lineup, with sales of 76,266 at the $50,000 transaction level, Mercedes taking third with its E-Class at 67,006.

TrueCar 2014 50K USD Transaction Table

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Coast to Coast 2014: Final destination Los Angeles and Final Albert Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/coast-coast-2014-final-destination-los-angeles-final-albert-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/coast-coast-2014-final-destination-los-angeles-final-albert-review/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 16:13:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=958025 Albert made it to Hollywood * You can see all the USA Coast to Coast Reports here! * This is it! After 5.722 miles or 9.209 km Albert and I have made it across the United States of America from Coast to Coast and have arrived in Los Angeles. This is the final instalment in this Coast to […]

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Albert Hollywood 3Albert made it to Hollywood

You can see all the USA Coast to Coast Reports here! *

This is it! After 5.722 miles or 9.209 km Albert and I have made it across the United States of America from Coast to Coast and have arrived in Los Angeles. This is the final instalment in this Coast to Coast series. It features Los Angeles car landscape and impressions, a final long-term review of Albert and my Top 10 highlights of the trip.

Los AngelesNearly there…

The drive from Palm Springs to Los Angeles is supposed to be a breezy 2 hours, which rapidly escalated to 4 hours due to a gigantic highway traffic jam before and upon entering I10. I know some of you suggested to take the Palms to Pines Hwy (74) straight to the Pacific Ocean for a much more enjoyable experience however we opted for the (supposedly) fastest way as we were running out of time and daylight for Santa Monica Pier snaps before returning Albert the day after. Well to tell you the truth I still wish we took the Palms to Pines option because we ended up taking as much time to reach Santa Monica Pier on the excruciatingly boring I10. Oh well, next time…

Albert Santa MonicaAlbert posing next to Santa Monica Pier

Move over Texas, California is where drivers are truly reckless, whooshing past on the right lane at over 100mph. To their credit though, Californian drivers ended up being very predictable in their recklessness, and provided you expect everyone will drive 20mph above every indicated speed limit, it is actually possible to weave through the traffic at high speed driving a full-size pickup truck, an object getting rarer and rare as we approach Los Angeles.

Santa Monica 1The Pacific Ocean at last

I won’t deny it, I got a little emotional when I spotted the Pacific Ocean for the first time approaching Santa Monica Pier. You don’t realize it, but the USA is a very large country and even though I took a much longer route than I could have (but also I believe much more interesting). Can’t help but think of the first Western pioneers travelling on horsecarts in constant danger of being attacked by hostile Native American tribes. Well done you guys. Or maybe I have it all romanced in my head, having watched too many Western movies.

Los Angeles 2Everyday traffic in Los Angeles CA

Back to reality in LA which is, I’d rather be honest for a minute, just one big fat and endless traffic jam. Take a wrong turn to a different interstate and by the time you turn around and find your way back in stalled traffic, even if you take the first exit humanely possible, you’ve just lost 45 minutes right there. For those of you readers who live in LA: I simply do not know how you do it.

Honda Insight Los AngelesHonda Insight in Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles CA

Squeezing Albert through the tiny (one way?) uphill streets of Hollywood Hills in order to find the perfect spot for his selfie enabled me to discover how Hollywood stars, producers, filmmakers and reality TV personalities (can’t use the word star here) spend their money, but also how faithful they are to their first hybrid love. Proof: this first generation Honda Insight papp’ed above. As a reminder the Insight was the first hybrid car to go on sale in the US in December 1999 – 6 months before the Prius.

Toyota Corolla Los AngelesToyota Corolla in Hollywood Observatory, Los Angeles CA

Unsurprisingly, Los Angeles – and in particular the Hollywood area – is the kingdom of Toyota Prius. They are absolutely everywhere and seeing 3 of 4 in a row in traffic is a common occurrence. After all, it’s Hollywood actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, Sandra Bullock, Natalie Portman, Orlando Bloom or Julia Roberts that essentially did all the advertising for this car, so nothing more logical than seeing it plastered at every street corner in Hollywood. The Prius family (also including the Prius c small hatchback and Prius v MPV) is logically the best-selling nameplate in California. True to form, the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla are also very common in Los Angeles as their respective California state rankings (#2 and #5) indicate. The full Californian Top 10 best-sellers were published here.

But let’s beat around the bush no more – I know a lot of you have been eagerly anticipating Albert’s final review.

So here goes…

Albert Hollywood 1

Albert great

The truck we all know as Albert by now is a Ram 1500 ecoDiesel Tradesman Crew Cab 4×4 Model Year 2014. This is the lowest trim level in the Ram Pickup range. All-in-all and I will say this in all honesty, I have been extremely impressed with Albert. This was the first time I got to drive a full-size US pickup truck over a long distance and I was expecting a laborious drive at best. Turns out, the Ram 1500 combines features from a spacious passenger car, some of the convenience of an MPV, the off-road abilities of a crossover and the practicality of a pickup truck. The best of all worlds? Quite possibly so… Here is what I particularly liked about Albert.

30 mpg

FUEL ECONOMY

  • Reaching a 30 mpg average over thousands of miles – even for a short time after a particularly long highway drive – was in my view the most impressive feat Albert achieved during this Coast to Coast trip. The EcoDiesel 3.0L V6 engine is just perfect for this type of vehicle and trip, in fact it makes you wonder why other manufacturers haven’t launched diesel variants for their base full-size pickups yet.
  • Albert’s fuel economy gauge (below the average) updates in real time, and this is a great way to influence it once you digest what triggers it to go up and down as you drive (Essentially driving as smoothly as possible on the highway). Not rocket science but seeing the instant fuel economy vary second by second is a great way to keep you honest – in a less guilty way than the Prius does.
  • Albert’s final fuel economy over the entire trip stood at an excellent 26.2 mpg over almost 6.000 miles. Had I not spent hours stuck in traffic in both LA and New York it would have been even higher, but I guess that brings the ‘city’ mileage into the combined equation and keeps the average realistic. 26.2 mpg combined is outstanding for this type of vehicle and confirms the Ram really is the most fuel efficient full-size pickup around. These figures are actually markedly better than the official EPA fuel economy figures advertised for this specific 1500 EcoDiesel 4×4 model: 27 mpg highway, 22 mpg combined and 19 mpg city. It is also way better than the equivalent all-new 2015 Ford F-150 4WD models: the ecoboost 2.7L gets 23/18/20 mpg highway/city/combined and the 3.5L gets 23/17/19 mpg.

8. Albert New Mexico

HIGHWAY PERFORMANCE

  • This is one of the areas where I had the least expectations for Albert, in fact I was a little sceptical of how comfortable and/or enjoyable a full-size pickup ride would be on thousands of miles of highway, day in, day out. When I set out on this Coast to Coast trip a few of my automotive press colleagues raised eyebrows asking why oh why did I not opt for a sexier ride like a Ford Mustang. My motivation was simple: I wanted to cross the country in a quintessential American vehicle, and the Mustang ticks that box – granted, but one that defines America’s tastes in vehicles like no other. No other country in the world worships full-size pickups like the US and Canada do. In one word, what makes American consumers different to the rest of the world is those pickups. The Ram 1500 being the fastest-growing pickup in US sales in 2014, it was the perfect choice. I was prepared to sacrifice driving pleasure to experience what the majority of Americans do when they roll their full-size pickup truck around. And the truth is I didn’t have to sacrifice much, or anything for that matter.
  • The 3.0L EcoDiesel V6, on top of being very frugal, has also been set up to not let you down when you need it most. The best example of this happened on Californian highways before hitting standstill in downtown Los Angeles. After being stuck in a gigantic traffic jam on the highway, I had to reach LA before the last sunset of the trip to ensure optimal photo exposure. So for two hours I needed to weave through fast-moving yet heavy traffic as fast as physically possible, flirting with speed limits and changing lanes every 10 seconds or less to be sure to advance to the next inch of free highway space as effectively as possible. A good way to test Albert’s psycho driving skills.
  • Californian drivers, in their regimented recklessness, allow this to happen by keeping traffic fluid but most importantly I am happy to report that no other vehicle was able to link Palm Springs to Los Angeles faster than Albert on that stretch of road while keeping within the limits of the law. The engine and its 8-speed automatic transmission responds without delay when called upon to overtake suddenly, giving you torque when and where you need it. Very reassuring and to my view very satisfying for a vehicle of this weight.
  • Pushing Albert above 100mph in New Mexico did not transform the cabin into a whirring, shaking hell in the least. In fact Albert swallowed the increasing speed levels very stoically indeed. Engine noise is (somewhat disappointingly – I miss the gargling diesel sound) kept to a very low level at all speeds: driving at 60 or 110mph brings almost no difference. Certainly not what I expected from a diesel pickup. Pleasantly surprised.
  • When not in need of nervous driving, the Ram 1500 can easily slot itself into a very precise cruise control you can adjust to the mile and that returns to the pre-set figure once you have accelerated to pass a slower vehicle. A standard ‘set and forget’ system common on most vehicles today but a welcome addition to a set of features that made driving Albert on the highway for 6.000 miles a total breeze. Among them also: an ergonomic driver seat that left me with no back pain even after many stretches of 8-hour drive days in a row. You don’t know my back, but it’s still thanking Albert as we speak.

Albert Charleston

CITY DRIVING

  • Taking the wheel in Uptown Manhattan NY on the first day Albert was delivered to me was daunting. The width of the truck and the tiny, double-parked-to-the-brim one way streets did not seem to agree with each other in the least at the start. For the first couple of minutes only though. Very responsive commands and efficient power steering make Albert extremely manoeuvrable and very predictable in its movements.
  • So much so that once used to the enormous size of the vehicle, reverse parking becomes an effortless manoeuvre you could almost achieve with one thumb on the steering wheel (almost). Although I do consider myself a reverse parking ace thanks to very smart French driving school instructors in my youth, I have to admit I didn’t expect Albert to be more nimble than my mom’s good old tiny Peugeot 206. And it was.
  • Driving Albert in America (even in cities) gives it what you could call an unfair advantage as U.S. roads and streets are for the most part built to accommodate this type of pickup truck’s turning circle, however it does work. U can U turn in one go on a majority of roads.
  • Finally as a confirmation of the very low cabin noise review on the highway, you have to prick up your ears to hear the engine when stopped at a traffic light. Stepping out to snap pictures on a busy Manhattan street, it is impossible to guess whether the engine is running or not.

3. Albert Death Valley 1

SUSPENSION AND HARSH CONDITIONS DRIVING

  • A bout of late-night driving in a particularly weakly-lit suburban Dallas street resulted in Albert having a forced speed date with a sizeable middle-street sidewalk: after the initial surprise, the truck’s suspension absorbed the change of terrain admirably and forgave my mistake to the point where the passengers hardly noticed.
  • Admittedly I didn’t push Albert into truly harsh 4WD driving as Monument Valley’s unsealed and sometimes abrupt drive was as close as it came to being unleashed in the wild. Still, it did the job as a willing workhorse would: flawlessly.
  • Albert hardly noticed we ventured into Death Valley. It seemed he was made for this type of harsh climate, and the climb to Coffin Peak was not even sanctioned by heavy engine cooling panting at the end. Nup, silent. Content. Impressive.
  • Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to test Albert’s towing capabilities during this trip, however the next US trip will definitely correct this.

Ram 1500 ecoDiesel Albert gearbox

SPACIOUS, NO NONSENSE INTERIOR

  • At $35.805 base price and $40.495 for the model I have driven, Albert is a lot of truck for the money. Two tall adults could easily fit in the truck bed and sleep there for the night. But where I was clearly surprised to find that much space was inside. Albert is a Crew Cab meaning the equivalent of a large passenger car inside, with a truck bed stuck on the back of it. I wasn’t the only one impressed by interior space: showing Albert’s back row to a few moms along the trip raised more than a few eyebrows. Plenty of leg space both at the front and back added to Albert’s extensive width and a middle front seat folding back means you can fit 6 people quite comfortably in this base Ram.
  • Call me stupid but somehow I am used to having a trunk in which to hide my luggage when I drive. Seeing the open truck bed when I took Albert’s keys I had a half-second of horror thinking my photographer would throw a sizeable tantrum at having to leave his $5.000 photo equipment bags for all to see on the back seats at each of our stops. Not to worry: the back windows are heavily tinted so you can store your luggage there without anyone knowing.
  • The dashboard and commands are simple but sufficient and intuitive for the most part. They may not be complete as as we’ll see further down but this is a functional truck to operate smoothly for sure. You can see a more detailed review of Albert’s commands here.
  • There were some clever bonuses that just put a smile on my face every time I used them. Having started to drive at a time where discmans were all the rage (the CD version of a walkman – if you were born after 1990 just ignore this), I just sigh with contentment every time I step into a car with a USB port. Simple pleasures I know. The gearshift rotary dial on the central console (pictured above) replacing the traditional shift lever on the steering column both freed leg space and made me very happy, as well as the coin holder located inside the central container and keeping Albert in touch with its Tradesman label, roots and target market. Finally the cup holders are both tight and flexible enough to unscrew any bottle with one hand while driving. Very handy indeed.

Albert back Death Valley

Albert improve

Some of these improvement points come from the fact that Albert is the very base Tradesman model and therefore has been optioned-out to the max. Still, I would have expected the below features to be included.

HEADLIGHTS

The Ram 1500 Tradesman Crew Cab 4×4 Spec sheet says one of the exterior features is Halogen Quad Headlamps. They are simply not strong enough and I found myself scrambling to action high beams while already being on high beams. Change the headlights if you buy one of Albert’s brothers.

COMMANDS

Although globally intuitive, there are a few missing elements in Albert’s commands. There are no volume and track rockers on the back of the wheel, which means you have to fiddle with the central console every time you want to change anything. It keeps your eyes away from the road for too long and could be fixed by actually adding a right control bar on the back of the wheel: at the moment there is only a left one. The GPS is also MIA, which is kind of a big deal when crossing the country. Luckily the Google Maps app of my iPhone was totally up to the task and the USB port kept it fully charged at all times.

HEAVY RAIN DRIVING

A caveat here is I drove Albert on arrival in Savannah GA in the worst stormy rain I ever got to drive in in my entire life (true story). Cars were literally stopped in the middle of the highway for lack of visibility, or driving off their lane without realising it. Heavy rain driving is my pet hate, and Albert’s wipers, even maxed out, were not fast enough to handle this type of weather which, based on the comments I got from the locals, seems to be rather frequent in that part of the country. High speed driving under heavy rain did not seem like a great idea either as the weight of the truck can mess with clean braking and the tail tends to wobble a little.

TRADESMAN LOOK

By this I mean Albert’s black front grille and bumper. I will confess I have spent the most part of the trip hesitating between liking this look and not liking it so much. And I still haven’t decided. It does make Albert appear rough around the edges and ready to rumble in a good way. Although I do love the chrome of his higher spec’ed brothers…

Albert Hollywood 2

10 highlights

I’ll finish this series by very subjectively selecting my 10 highlights of the trip, they are all linked to the corresponding reports, just in case you missed any of them. I hope you enjoyed the journey!

1. Elvis Presley museum in Memphis

2. Bourbon Street and jambalaya in New Orleans

3. Blue bird café in Nashville

4. Modern living in Palm Springs

5. Driving Albert through Manhattan

6. Majestic Monument Valley

7. Motel-ing it all through the trip

8. Art deco roadside stops along Route 66

9. Surviving Death Valley

10. Real America in Fort Worth – Texas

Stay tuned for more world travels!

The Photo Report continues below.

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and runs a car sales statistics website and consultancy: BestSellingCars which just celebrated its 4th anniversary.

Los Angeles street sceneColourful Los Angeles street scene

VW Beetle Los AngelesVW Beetle in Los Angeles CA

Nissan Sentra Los AngelesNissan Sentra in Los Angeles CA

Toyota Prius Los Angeles2 x Toyota Prius in Los Angeles CA

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Chrysler Group Introduces PUG Plan For Pentastar V6 Family http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chrysler-group-introduces-pug-plan-pentastar-v6-family/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chrysler-group-introduces-pug-plan-pentastar-v6-family/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 12:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=957330 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chrysler Group has big plans for its venerable Pentastar engine family, all in the name of improved fuel efficiency and power. Automotive News reports the Pentastar Upgrade — or PUG — will include turbocharging of current naturally aspirated mills, direct injection and other technologies, with the first updated 3.6-liter V6 to turn […]

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chrysler Group has big plans for its venerable Pentastar engine family, all in the name of improved fuel efficiency and power.

Automotive News reports the Pentastar Upgrade — or PUG — will include turbocharging of current naturally aspirated mills, direct injection and other technologies, with the first updated 3.6-liter V6 to turn up in 2015 under the bonnet of the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The next engine under PUG will be a 3.2-liter V6, which will replace the current 3.6-liter unit powering the Chrysler Town & Country when the next-gen model enters showrooms in 2016. The new engine will be paired with the nine-speed automatic found in some trims of the Jeep Cherokee, and is expected to deliver a 25 percent improvement to fuel economy over the current arrangement’s 17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway EPA rating.

Should all go as planned, the aforementioned 3.6-liter could also help the Ram 1500 take the gasoline-efficiency crown back from the Ford F-150 EcoBoost, which it lost to said truck in November.

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2015 Ram 700 Newest Entrant In Mexican Compact Truck Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/2015-ram-700-newest-entrant-mexican-compact-truck-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/2015-ram-700-newest-entrant-mexican-compact-truck-market/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 11:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=939625 For some, the Chevrolet Colorado’s “technology and stuff” is just what they need in a truck. For others, however, the mid-size pickup’s footprint is still a tad too big. If you call Mexico your home, Ram has just what you need. According to Jalopnik subsidiary Truck Yeah, the Fiat Strada-based 2015 Ram 700 hails from […]

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2015 Ram 700

For some, the Chevrolet Colorado’s “technology and stuff” is just what they need in a truck. For others, however, the mid-size pickup’s footprint is still a tad too big.

If you call Mexico your home, Ram has just what you need.

According to Jalopnik subsidiary Truck Yeah, the Fiat Strada-based 2015 Ram 700 hails from Brazil — where the Strada is also assembled — and battles against the Chevrolet Tornado and Volkswagen Saveiro in the Mexican market. Both single- and extended-cab versions are available, beginning at $14,000 USD for the stripper model, $18,000 for the Adventure trim (which also offers a locking-diff and digital inclinometer for off-roading adventures).

Under the bonnet, a blast from the past moves the front wheels: the 115-horsepower 1.6-liter Fiat E.torQ. The four-pot 16-valve SOHC mill is derived from the Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth Neon’s 2-liter unit, and has been in production as the E.TorQ since 2011.

Regarding its name, the 700 was planned to be called 750, but instead took the name to identify a payload capacity of 705 kilograms, or approximately 1,500 pounds.

As for the possibility of seeing the 700 in the United States, Ram and parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles haven’t said much on the subject. Though FCA could get around the Chicken Tax by assembling U.S.-bound units in Mexico if need be, low fuel prices and consumer demand outside of enthusiast circles are another matter.

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GM Mid-Size Twins Best Similarly Equipped Full-Size Pickups In Fuel Economy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/gm-mid-size-twins-best-similarly-equipped-full-size-pickups-fuel-economy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/gm-mid-size-twins-best-similarly-equipped-full-size-pickups-fuel-economy/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 12:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=906401 As full-size pickups do their best to eke out as much fuel economy as possible, the upcoming Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon are set to deliver a combined 21 mpg once they leave the lot for the road. Autoblog reports the GM twin mid-sizers will net owners 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg […]

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2015 Chevrolet Colorado + GMC Canyon

As full-size pickups do their best to eke out as much fuel economy as possible, the upcoming Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon are set to deliver a combined 21 mpg once they leave the lot for the road.

Autoblog reports the GM twin mid-sizers will net owners 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway in two-wheel drive models equipped with a six-speed auto mated to the 305-horsepower 3.6-liter direct-injection V6. For comparison, a Ram 1500 4×2 with the Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 sending power to the back through an eight-speed auto offers a rating of 17/20/25; the outgoing Ford F-150 4×2 with its 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 and six-speed auto delivers 16/18/22 mpg; and the Chevrolet Silverado C15 4×2 brings 18/20/24 mpg through its larger 4.3-liter V6 and six-speed auto.

Those wanting all four wheels to do the climbing up that hill will find the Colorado’s and Canyon’s ratings falling to 17/20/24 mpg, though they still best the Silverado K15 4×4 (17/20/22), Ford F-150 4×4 (15/17/21) and Ram 1500 4×4 (16/19/23).

As for trucks closer in size to the duo, Jalopnik subsidiary Truck Yeah says the two-wheel drive models are more than able to throw down against the Nissan Frontier 4×2 (16/18/22 mpg) and Toyota Tacoma 4×2 (17/19/21 mpg).

GM adds that a 2.8-liter Duramax is in the offing for 2016, with figures ready for perusing closer to launch time.

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Ram Trucks Remaining True To Steel Until 2020 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/ram-trucks-remaining-true-steel-2020/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/ram-trucks-remaining-true-steel-2020/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 11:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=899106 Though Ford and General Motors may be exchanging their iron fists for aluminum gloves in this upcoming battle atop Truck Mountain, Ram plans to remain beholden to the steel until 2020. Reuters reports two sources close to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ plans for Ram’s truck offerings proclaim that while significant changes will come to the trucks […]

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TTAC-2014_Ram-EcoDiesel-front (1)

Though Ford and General Motors may be exchanging their iron fists for aluminum gloves in this upcoming battle atop Truck Mountain, Ram plans to remain beholden to the steel until 2020.

Reuters reports two sources close to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ plans for Ram’s truck offerings proclaim that while significant changes will come to the trucks in 2017, the switch to aluminum is not among them. Maintaining the status quo would prevent alienation among its commercial consumer base, as well as keep production costs low from not having to convert steel parts to aluminum.

The plan echos what FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne told investors in May, stating the use of the metal would be “better suited in other vehicles than pickup trucks.” Instead, Ram will focus on more fuel-efficient engine-transmission setups, stop-start technology, and other methods of meeting 2018 U.S. emissions and fuel economy standards.

As for what happens after FCA’s current five-year plan comes to a close in 2020, the automaker isn’t saying much on the subject of an aluminum Ram beyond that no decisions have been made thus far, according to representative Rick Deneau.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-2014-ram-1500-ecodiesel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-2014-ram-1500-ecodiesel/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 19:10:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=868082 Although diesel and pickups go together smoothly in our minds, this is the first light-duty diesel-powered pickup truck available in our market since before I was born. I wasn’t born yesterday. The Ram to which I’ve been granted the keys over the last number of days features the enticing new 3.0L turbocharged diesel engine, but […]

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TTAC-2014_Ram-EcoDiesel-front (1)

Although diesel and pickups go together smoothly in our minds, this is the first light-duty diesel-powered pickup truck available in our market since before I was born.

I wasn’t born yesterday.

TTAC-2014_Ram-1500-EcoDiesel-Laramie

The Ram to which I’ve been granted the keys over the last number of days features the enticing new 3.0L turbocharged diesel engine, but it’s also a four-wheel-drive, Laramie-trimmed, crew cab-bodied pickup with a vast array of options.

It isn’t just a pickup. It’s a luxury limo, a work truck, a fuel miser, an all-weather traveller, a style statement, a secure vault, and a family car.

You don’t need your Ram EcoDiesel to be a $70,090 (CDN) Laramie model like the one Chrysler Canada sent me. A Quad Cab will perhaps suffice for those without rear-facing child seats. The V6 diesel is available in trims other than Ram’s high-end Laramie model. You won’t be required to tick off all the checkboxes on the options sheet. And though the new engine can take over a review, the Ram 1500 is good enough that the diesel isn’t the only positive part of the experience.

TTAC-2014_Ram-EcoDiesel-badging
The 240-horsepower V6 diesel generates 420 lb-ft of torque at just 2000 rpm. Not at all unlike other diesels, there’s still a moment of hesitation when the throttle is first applied, during which the owner of a Hemi-engined Ram will say to himself, “I ain’t sure she’s got enough pies in the oven.” Thankfully that moment is brief, and the swell of torque enjoyed when overtaking on a rural two-lane is something Pentastar Ram owners ought to try at least once.

The diesel doesn’t deserve full credit. It works in conjunction with an excellent 8-speed automatic. You’re always in the right gear, and the next gear is only a blink away. Together, they make for a tremendously refined powertrain. There’s a hint of dieselly clatter when manouevring in tight spots, back and forth in a nine-point turn. (Thank-you to the Elantra and Civic drivers in Herring Cove, Nova Scotia, who boxed me in. I needed my father’s help to direct me out, which wasn’t embarrassing at all in front of my wife and mother.) But overall, this diesel has been forcefully silenced with enough sound deadening to hush a crowd of guffawing fishermen.

Better yet, the Ram diesel doesn’t use very much fuel, not by pickup truck or even large crossover standards. In the real world, where I can fill the tank, measure the distance travelled, and then calculate consumption by re-filling the tank, the Ram used 13% more fuel than its onboard computer led me to believe. Yet at 20.1 mpg, in mostly urban driving, we used 9% less fuel than we did in a 5.3L V8-engined GMC Sierra tester last fall, and that Sierra was driven mostly on the highway. (We also used 16% less fuel in this diesel Ram than we did in the Pentastar V6 Ram last summer.)

Then again, for American customers, the EcoDiesel is a $2850 option on this Laramie model, over and above the Hemi V8 and $4000 more than the 3.6L V6.

The premium might not matter as much once you start driving the EcoDiesel, once you see how slowly the fuel gauge needle falls, once you solidify your long-held belief that Truck = Diesel. With our family of three in the cabin, a cooler full of sandwiches and chips and pop in the bed, and Ramboxes full of hoodies and blankets, we picked up my parents for a picnic on a hill high atop the ocean outside the city. But we were hardly consuming any fuel, relative to other pickup trucks, so without a moment’s thought we extended our journey from York Redoubt to three different coves and one little harbour.

That’s the kind of freedom that, once paid for on transaction day, diesel owners enjoy throughout the rest of their ownership period. You don’t convince yourself of the long-term financial benefits of a sunroof, and you shouldn’t need to establish the economic advantages of this diesel, either.
Regardless of the engine under the hood, Ram’s crew cab body, like the full-fledged four-doors from Ford and GM and Toyota, is huge inside. Stretch-out-your-legs huge. The bed is shortened, but the available leg room and under-seat storage is truly luxurious whether the seats are leather-clad or sheathed in cloth. It won’t be long until the feature count of a high-priced premium vehicle of today will underwhelm, but space will always equal luxury.

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Two-tone paint, heated leather seating up front, dual-zone climate control, and Chrysler’s big 8.4-inch UConnect are key Laramie features. It also says Laramie three times inside and once outside. (This Laramie badging tags along with four “Ram” mentions outside and eight inside, the Ram logo which appears twice outside and once inside, and just two exterior “EcoDiesel” badges, both of which the truck-loving teens on our street felt were the exact opposite of truckish toughness.)
Our test truck, optioned quite nicely by Chrysler Canada’s PR department, included numerous expensive options, which in U.S. speak would cost $1295 (RamBoxes, which we used on a couple occasions for big grocery loads), $1695 (air suspension, which with 5 modes can be rather useful), $995 (power sunroof), $500 (leather buckets), $600 (side steps), and then more than $4000 in smaller options. Plus the diesel powerplant.

The seats won’t massage, the sunroof isn’t panoramic, there’s no blind spot monitoring or adaptive cruise or even a soft-opening tailgate. By the standards of $70,000 luxury cars, this is under-equipped. But it’s still luxury living, particularly when one considers the flexibility of the package.
I remain convinced that by a small margin, Ram offers the best-handling pickup truck lineup. This is most noticeable when encountering the expansion joints of an overpass mid-corner, where the Ram will feel perfectly normal and other trucks skitter, even if only a little. Yet by an equally small margin, the structure of GM’s new trucks feel stronger and more solid, and the overall sensation is of the superior work truck. (This sensation was clarified during back-to-back drives on an off-road course at an event sponsored by, yes, GM.)

We’re hair-splitting now though, and it would surprise me if the new F-150 isn’t the superior truck in most aspects. At least until the Ford’s competitors receive their own updates. And so the cycle goes.

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I prefer the Sierra/Silverado’s rear seat design; the wider availability of F-150 configurations locally available to me; the simplicity of Ram’s UConnect; the exterior design of the Ram; the silence of a Sierra’s cabin; a column shifter rather than the Ram’s rotary dial; the upcoming Ford’s freshness. The Ram’s touch screen needs to be canted more toward the driver, the fuel gauge should be larger, the dual glove compartments aren’t that large, there’s no built-in helper to enable jumps into the bed.

But it’s easy to see why Ram is picking up market share. The aluminum-intensive 2015 F-150 aside, Chrysler has brought Ram to the forefront of truck awareness by offering us things other truck makers aren’t providing, most notably in the form of the 8-speed automatic and this light duty V6 diesel.

With Ram offering the power we require and the fuel efficiency we dreamed of, do we really need to measure the trivial interior quality differences, the slight towing capacity disparities, and the narrow pricing discrepancies?

A diesel engine might just negate arguments that aren’t typically settled in the Ram’s favour. Especially since, where I live, diesel costs 20 cents less per gallon.

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Ram Truck Lineup Adopts SAE Towing Standard From 2015 Forward http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ram-truck-lineup-adopts-sae-towing-standard-from-2015-forward/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ram-truck-lineup-adopts-sae-towing-standard-from-2015-forward/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=867234 The Society of Automotive Engineers recently introduced a new designation standardizing maximum towing ratings, with the aim of sorting out the mess automakers have made with their internal measurements of towing capacity. Called J2807, the new system’s first champion is none other than Ram, who have gone all-in with the standard. Autoblog reports all 2015 […]

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The Society of Automotive Engineers recently introduced a new designation standardizing maximum towing ratings, with the aim of sorting out the mess automakers have made with their internal measurements of towing capacity. Called J2807, the new system’s first champion is none other than Ram, who have gone all-in with the standard.

Autoblog reports all 2015 light- and heavy-duty Ram pickups will use J2807. The new ratings are as follows:

  • Ram 1500 with 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 – 7,600 pounds
  • Ram 1500 with 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 – 9,200 pounds
  • Ram 1500 with 5.7-liter Hemi V8– 10,650 pounds
  • Ram 2500 with 6.4-liter Hemi V8 – 16,300 pounds
  • Ram 2500 with 6.7-liter Cummins inline-six diesel – 17,970 pounds
  • Ram 3500 with 6.4-liter Hemi V8 – 16,420 pounds
  • Ram 3500 with 6.7-liter Cummins inline-six diesel – 30,000 pounds

Automakers wanting to use the SAE towing standard must put their offerings through a battery of tests, ranging from handling checks, to being able to climb a grade without slipping below a designated speed. No word on when other manufacturers will adopt J2807.

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European Review: Ram 1500 Ecodiesel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/european-review-ram-1500-ecodiesel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/european-review-ram-1500-ecodiesel/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 13:27:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=865297 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 […]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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2015 Ram ProMaster City Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/2015-ram-promaster-city-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/2015-ram-promaster-city-revealed/#comments Thu, 26 Jun 2014 04:01:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=848418 Pulling up to the intersection of Flower Shop Lane, Contractor Boulevard and Utility Road is the Fiat Doblò-based 2015 Ram ProMaster City, the second van to emerge from Ram’s relationship with Fiat Professional. The unibody van can be had in either Wagon or Tradesman Cargo base trim with SLT trim as an upgrade to both […]

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Pulling up to the intersection of Flower Shop Lane, Contractor Boulevard and Utility Road is the Fiat Doblò-based 2015 Ram ProMaster City, the second van to emerge from Ram’s relationship with Fiat Professional.

The unibody van can be had in either Wagon or Tradesman Cargo base trim with SLT trim as an upgrade to both bases, and boasts a total of eight configurations involving security panels and rear and side windows. Cargo volume comes to 131.7 cubic feet with a width of 60.4 inches above the wheel wells, 48.4 inches in between. Height is 51.8 inches, with a step-in height of 21.5 inches, and payload capacity is 1,883 pounds.

Up front, the Tigershark 2.4-liter I4 with MultiAir2 technology puts 178 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels via its nine-speed automatic transmission. The transmission has a final-drive ratio of 3.73:1, good for improved fuel economy over the Ford Transit Connect, Nissan NV200 and Chevrolet City Express, as well as a nil-to-30 mph time of 3.7 seconds. ESC — one of 34 safety features on-board, including brake/park interlock and rearview camera — keeps it all together while making deliveries, and the van’s Uconnect helps maintain contact between provider and customer during service calls.

The ProMaster City variants will drive off the container ships to all 2,300 Ram dealerships later this year from the TOFAS plant in Bursa, Turkey, with upfitting to be handled at the Chrysler Group Transformation Center in Baltimore, Md., and Mopar contributing to the customization. No price has been given thus far.

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JD Power Initial Quality Study Shows GM, Hyundai, Porsche Leading The Pack http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jd-power-initial-quality-study-shows-gm-hyundai-porsche-leading-the-pack/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jd-power-initial-quality-study-shows-gm-hyundai-porsche-leading-the-pack/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 12:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=846905 J.D. Power has released their U.S. Initial Quality Study for 2014, where General Motors, Hyundai and Porsche earned top marks despite consumers still struggling with the gizmology taking over their vehicles. Autoblog reports GM’s Buick, Chevrolet and GMC captured more awards than anyone else in the 2014 IQS, with six vehicles winning in their segments. […]

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2013 Buick Encore, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

J.D. Power has released their U.S. Initial Quality Study for 2014, where General Motors, Hyundai and Porsche earned top marks despite consumers still struggling with the gizmology taking over their vehicles.

Autoblog reports GM’s Buick, Chevrolet and GMC captured more awards than anyone else in the 2014 IQS, with six vehicles winning in their segments. Meanwhile, Hyundai and Porsche were ranked best overall mass-market and premium brand, respectively, where the former reported 94 issues per 100 vehicles reported in the first 90 days, 74/100 for the latter. Porsche also dominated the IQS, having the best score of all brands surveyed.

On the other end of the scale, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles ranked poorly in the study, with Fiat holding dead last at 206 problems per 100 vehicles reported in the survey period. Jeep came second-to-last with 146/100, while Dodge was just below the industry average at 124/100. Only Ram and Chrysler fared the best, matching or just exceeding the average of 116/100.

Part of the results may be due to automakers pushing the envelope on technology and new features to make consumers’ lives easier. J.D. Power Vice President of Global Automotive David Sargent says “almost all automakers are struggling” to introduce these pieces “without introducing additional quality problems.” In turn, some consumers are noting the technologies involved are “hard to understand, difficult to use, or [do] not always work as designed.”

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Reader Ride Review: 2014 RAM 1500 V6 LoneStar Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/reader-ride-review-2014-ram-1500-v6-lonestar-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/reader-ride-review-2014-ram-1500-v6-lonestar-edition/#comments Sun, 08 Jun 2014 21:37:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=840121 Little known Bark M. fact: Although I have been most likely to be seen behind the wheel of a rear-wheel drive car with at least a mild sporting intent in the last ten years or so, I spent my youth sitting huddled in the folded-down, side-facing seats of a 1985 Nissan 4X4 King Cab pickup […]

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Little known Bark M. fact: Although I have been most likely to be seen behind the wheel of a rear-wheel drive car with at least a mild sporting intent in the last ten years or so, I spent my youth sitting huddled in the folded-down, side-facing seats of a 1985 Nissan 4X4 King Cab pickup truck. My mom, in what was certainly one of the more selfless moves seen since Simon of Cyrene, traded in her Brown Car Appreciation Society approved Ford LTD on the Nissan so that she could more easily transport our BMX bikes back and forth to the tracks of the Midwest.

I am also the only resident of my street in God’s Country, Kentucky, to NOT own a truck. The assortment of F-150s, Silverados, and RAMs in my subdivision often strike a chord of envy within. When it’s time for the Boss to be permanently retired to Sunday Driver status, it will likely be replaced with a full-sized truck, mainly just so my neighbors don’t suspect me to be some sort of Communist.

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Therefore, I was overjoyed like Stevie Wonder when a Reader Ride Review suggestion came in from the DFW Metroplex. Doug had just purchased a 2014 RAM 1500—and, most intriguingly to me, it was outfitted with Chyrsler’s excellent V6 Pentastar. This is the sort of thing that makes Reader Rides so much more compelling to me than OEM-approved junkets. They almost always bring the top trim levels with the biggest engines. And, of course, because Doug lives in Texas, he got the Lone Star edition (don’t tell anybody in Texas, but it’s exactly the same as the Big Horn edition), which includes a Class IV receiver hitch, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and (most importantly) a full-sized Uconnect screen.

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I met Doug at the Hotel Palomar in North Dallas, where due to our limited mutual availability, I had to make the sacrifice of skipping wine hour to take a drive around the campus area of Southern Methodist University. Doug is an incredibly busy stay-at-home dad, with two kids aged 8 and 13, and also with several years of honorable military service behind him. As such, he was able to leverage his USAA member status to get a pre-negotiated deal under $30K on the much-needed Quad Cab version.

The RAM 1500 is, simply put, a masculine truck. Resplendent in True Blue, which is the one color in the CDJR palette that works on everything, Doug’s ride looked much more high-dollar than it actually was. Among the Maseratis and Benzes parked conspicuously in the Palomar’s valet area, the RAM fit in, secure in its role as Texas royalty.

“I came from the land of three-row SUVs, and I really wanted to get away from that,” said Doug as we pulled out of the parking lot onto Mockingbird Lane toward SMU. “I wanted a pickup next, but I wanted a newer design, which ruled out the F-150. It was really a toss-up between the RAM and the Silverado. The Silverado was probably the better truck, but the RAM was the better car. This is going to be a fifteen-year truck for me, with several coast-to-coast drives included, so I didn’t want to feel like I was cooped up in a Chevy Sonic or something.” Easy there, Caroline. He didn’t mean it.

I began to see what he meant about the drivability of the RAM as we cruised at low speeds along the tree-lined main drag of the campus. While certainly not as luxurious as the Laramie editions, the Lone Star cloth eight-way adjustable seats were supportive and comfortable. At 5’9″ on a good day, I sometimes find the seating in full-sized trucks to feel too…full-szed. This one didn’t, at all. Visibility, both forward and rear, was spectacularly good. Even in rush hour traffic, the RAM was surprisingly facile in its ability to make quick lane changes.

Bumpy roads were another issue altogether. If the RAM felt like a cruiser on smooth pavement, it quickly reclaimed its trucking identity over the broken stuff. As we moved slowly through a construction zone, every bump and crack in the road was communicated directly to the driver’s seat.

Another interesting feature of the RAM is the dial selector on the dash used in place of a standard column shifter. Seeing a knob with “PRND” on it was a real jamais vu mind screwer. While it freed up a significant amount of room around the hands for driving, Doug says that he often forgets to shift back to “P” when he goes to turn off the motor. I did, as well, when I was done with the test.
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Although the natural beauty of the campus (both arboreal and human) made it tough to leave, I wanted to test the RAM’s abilities on the twisted arteries of Dallas’ highways. Having driven both Chargers and Challengers equipped with the Pentastar, I was expecting a bit more grunt from the RAM than I got when I put my foot down to enter the on ramp. The 8-speed transmission was nearly rippleless in its gear selection as I accelerated down the slope toward the merging point on 75 south, yet the delivery of power was lacking. There’s just no easy way to get around it—the V6 RAM is slower than you’d want it to be, and perhaps not as strong as it needs to be. While fine for most applications, I would be concerned about trying to merge when towing anything bigger than a jet ski.

Dallas traffic is no joke, and especially not at 5:30 PM on a Tuesday. The RAM had little trouble sliding around in it, though, and even with somebody like me who’s used to driving a much smaller vehicle, spots just seemed to appear for me when I wanted to change lanes. Undoubtedly, the chrome bumpers and the horns on the grill must have inspired fellow commuters to make way. We made our way downtown, then turned back around to head north to return to the Palomar where, unfortunately, our drive time had to end.

When I asked Doug why he chose the V6 over the Hemi, he replied that it really came down to two things: cost and fuel economy. While the four grand difference in sticker price is certainly significant, the observed fuel economy over the twelve hundred miles that the truck had experienced in its life was 16.7, according the truck’s computer. Doug said that he’s actually getting about 17 and a half. However, both are considerably lower than EPA estimates.

Doug’s RAM seems to fit his life perfectly. When I asked him if he had any regrets after a month of ownership, he said, “None.” While he hasn’t done any serious “truck work” with it, it has seen duty as a mulch hauler and as a household project assistant.

For my money, I’d have to consider—do I really want a truck? Doug did, which made this choice easy. He’s over the whole third-row CUV thing. Plus, it’s Texas, where owning a truck is essentially a birthright and owning a minivan is grounds for deportation.

If I did, I think that I’d have to step up to the Hemi, fuel economy be damned. After all, how much worse could it really get? If not, I’d get exactly what I did get in real life for the same money—a Ford Flex SE. Better fuel economy, bigger interior, and just as capable for the vehicle’s intended use. In fact, I just used it to haul some mulch and fill dirt today. Of course, now I have to vacuum it.

Thanks again to Doug for volunteering his gorgeous new truck for our Reader Ride Review. TTAC is coming to your town soon—don’t forget to let us know if you’d like us to review your ride!

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Marchionne’s Grand Vision For FCA Faces Hard Financial Road To Success http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/marchionnes-grand-vision-for-fca-faces-hard-financial-road-to-success/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/marchionnes-grand-vision-for-fca-faces-hard-financial-road-to-success/#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 12:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=817858 Though Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne’s five-year plan announced this week may be ambitious, analysts are raising questions about how the plan will be funded — and how much will be needed — if it is to be successful, let alone live up to Marchionne’s vision. Automotive News Europe reports a large part of […]

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Sergio Marchionne - FCA

Though Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne’s five-year plan announced this week may be ambitious, analysts are raising questions about how the plan will be funded — and how much will be needed — if it is to be successful, let alone live up to Marchionne’s vision.

Automotive News Europe reports a large part of the problem for the plan, according to Bernstein Research analyst Max Warburton, is debt:

Much as we admire the ambition and think elements are achievable… it is hard to find conviction on the financing of the plan. Fiat is weighed down with huge debt, burdened by financing costs and is only thinly profitable. It’s (sic) cost of capital is huge.

Warburton adds FCA’s grand plan and its potential capital expenditure and R&D appear to be unaffordable and not prudent for investors, stating the company would need “a capital raise” for any part of the plan to pan out.

Aside from its debt, FCA also faces sales challenges from markets that are peaking or slowing down, with the European market being the biggest drag upon the automaker. However, independent analyst Marianne Keller said that with the recovery now taking place in Europe, paired with North American profits and a strong Jeep brand, Marchionne could “pull it off”; Marchionne himself announced during the five-year plan’s unveiling that he was considering a mandatory convertible bond to bring the needed financing for the plan.

Finally, FCA’s Q1 2014 results — a net loss of 319 million euros compared to a net profit of 31 million euros the year before — serve as a sign for both the company and its investors that FCA has more hard road ahead, a view best summed up by Macquarie Group analyst Jens Schattner:

If it was so easy just to launch new products to be successful in this industry, why wouldn’t everybody do exactly the same.

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Detroit Three Forging V6 Future Atop Truck Mountain http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/detroit-three-forging-v6-future-atop-truck-mountain/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/detroit-three-forging-v6-future-atop-truck-mountain/#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 10:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=815434 For five decades, the powerplant of choice for Truck Mountain has been the venerable V8. With powerful V6 engines from Ford, General Motors and Ram being favored for more and more consumers of full-size pickups, however, the V8 could soon find itself occupying a smaller niche along the mountain. The New York Times reports Ford […]

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ford f-150_r

For five decades, the powerplant of choice for Truck Mountain has been the venerable V8. With powerful V6 engines from Ford, General Motors and Ram being favored for more and more consumers of full-size pickups, however, the V8 could soon find itself occupying a smaller niche along the mountain.

The New York Times reports Ford is leading the way toward a V6 future, with 57 percent of all 2014 F-150s possessing an EcoBoost V6 under the bonnet, 47 percent of which have the 3.5-liter twin-turbo delivering the goods with 365 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque; the remainder opt for the naturally aspirated 3.7-liter, capable of 302 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque. The shift toward the V6 — which began upon increased EcoBoost production last autumn — is in stark contrast to 2013, when over 50 percent of F-150s sold had V8 power.

Further, Ford expects the 2015 all-aluminium F-150 to have a V6 in over 70 percent of trucks sold. To prepare for this sea change, the Blue Oval is dropping the 6.2-liter V8 while adding a 2.7-liter EcoBoost in its stead, leaving only the 5-liter V8 for those who tow heavy loads frequently.

Meanwhile, General Motors and Ram are unleashing their own V6 offerings to customers clamouring for the right balance of fuel economy and power. In particular, Ram’s EcoDiesel 3-liter holds a class-leading 28 mpg on the highway, while the 1500 HFE’s 3.6-liter — once outfitted with stop-start and an eight-speed automatic — holds the top spot for fuel economy in its class with 25 mpg on the highway. As for sales, GM’s new 4.3-liter V6 accounts for 20 percent in 2014, while Ram’s lineup may approach 30 percent by year-end.

In regards to the future, the Detroit Three are forging a path toward the 30-mpg full-size truck through nine- and 10-speed automatic transmissions and four-cylinder engines — such as the 2.5-liter I4 found powering the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon mid-size twins — in addition to the V6 strategy.

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Chevrolet Offers Incentives, Extends Truck Month To Take Back Sales Crown http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/chevrolet-offers-incentives-extends-truck-month-to-take-back-sales-crown/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/chevrolet-offers-incentives-extends-truck-month-to-take-back-sales-crown/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 13:02:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=788658 Though Ram knocked Chevrolet off the monthly sales throne for the first time since August 1999, the brand is ready to reclaim their part of Truck Mountain by offering incentives and extending their annual Truck Month into April. Automotive News reports brand vice president Brian Sweeney threw down an additional $1,000 on the hoods of […]

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2014-Chevy-Silverado _12_

Though Ram knocked Chevrolet off the monthly sales throne for the first time since August 1999, the brand is ready to reclaim their part of Truck Mountain by offering incentives and extending their annual Truck Month into April.

Automotive News reports brand vice president Brian Sweeney threw down an additional $1,000 on the hoods of 2014 Silverado double-cabs in pursuit of “the heart of the pickup market.” Furthermore, Chevy’s second Truck Month boosts incentives offered last month, dropping a maximum discount of $8,974 into the bed of the Silverado 2500 HD crew cab or $8,162 for the light-duty double cab V8 model.

Lease offerings were also boosted for the reclamation battle, as one email from a Northeastern United States gave details for a regional lease agreement of $269 per month with $1,900 due upon signature; the Ram’s terms were $259 per month, but with a higher down payment of $2,999 upon signature.

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Booming Van Sales Driven By Small Business http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/booming-van-sales-driven-by-small-business/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/booming-van-sales-driven-by-small-business/#comments Fri, 28 Feb 2014 15:25:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=757265 In a sign the broader economy is on an upswing, small business owners who use commercial vans in their business are replacing their aging equipment with new vans, fueling a boom not seen since the start of the Great Recession. USA Today reports as small businesses begin to invest in their companies once more — […]

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Florist Vans

In a sign the broader economy is on an upswing, small business owners who use commercial vans in their business are replacing their aging equipment with new vans, fueling a boom not seen since the start of the Great Recession.

USA Today reports as small businesses begin to invest in their companies once more — and with borrowing on the rise with loosened credit now available — commercial van sales rose to over 40 percent since 2010. The winter weather failed to put a dent in sales, rising 9 percent in January as auto sales fell 3 percent in the same period. IHS Automotive, in particular, expects sales to grow 27 percent overall between 2013 and 2015, with over 400,000 units leaving the lot for the wrap shop annually.

Though the commercial van market has been dominated by Ford, Mercedes-Benz and General Motors, more automakers are entering the market with offerings of their own, such as Nissan’s NV series and Ram’s minivan-based Cargo Van. As a result, total small van sales — such as the Ford Transit Connect and Nissan NV200 — were over 53,000 units in 2013, while 259,000 large vans were sold in the same period.

More vans are expected to enter the market this year, including the Nissan NV200-based Chevrolet City Express and Fiat Doblo-based Ram ProMaster City.

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2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Pulls 28 MPG Highway http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/2014-ram-1500-ecodiesel-pulls-28-mpg-highway/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/2014-ram-1500-ecodiesel-pulls-28-mpg-highway/#comments Wed, 05 Feb 2014 16:32:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=733673 Truck Mountain may still be held by the soon-to-be-lightened Ford F-150, but the fuel-efficiency battle in the valley below is already underway, thanks to Ram’s 1500 EcoDiesel pulling the highest mile-per-gallon highway rating of any light truck in the United States at 28 mpg. Through an announcement made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s FuelEconomy.gov website, […]

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2014 Dodge 1500 EcoDiesel

Truck Mountain may still be held by the soon-to-be-lightened Ford F-150, but the fuel-efficiency battle in the valley below is already underway, thanks to Ram’s 1500 EcoDiesel pulling the highest mile-per-gallon highway rating of any light truck in the United States at 28 mpg.

Through an announcement made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s FuelEconomy.gov website, the 1500 EcoDiesel also nets 20 mpg in the city to create a combined rating of 23 mpg; the four-wheel drive variant offers 27 mpg on the highway, 22 combined.

Fighting alongside its brother, the 1500 HFE’s 3.6-liter V6 gasoline powerplant puts out 25 mpg on the highway, 18 in the city, and a combined rating of 21 mpg.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles began assembly in late January at their Warren Truck Assembly Plant in Detroit, with deliveries expected by dealers — who will be allowed to place their orders February 7 — later this month. Once on the lot, expect to pay $30,465 to start, just $2,850 more than to purchase a 1500 that could answer the question about whether or not it has a Hemi. Trim levels available with the powerplant include Tradesman, SLT (both excluding short-bed/regular cab combos), Outdoorsman, Big Horn, Laramie and Laramie Longhorn.

The light-duty diesel pickup — the first to be offered since General Motors sold such trucks in the mid-1990s — is powered by a 3-liter V6 made by FCA subsidary VM Motori S.p.A. in Italy, and produces 240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of stump-pulling torque, which is sent through a TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic to the bed and bonnet.

Aside from being fuel efficient, the 1500 EcoDiesel is also green thanks to its ability to use B20 biodiesel, and its urea-enhanced exhaust treatment system. The system, which comes with a particulate filter and selective catalyst reduction as well, reduces smog-producing nitrogen oxide emissions, allowing the truck to be compliant with pollution standards in all 50 states. The urea used to treat the exhaust must be replaced every 10,000 miles.

As far as sales are concerned, FCA has high hopes for demand of the 1500 EcoDiesel. Ram boss Reid Bigland estimates that up to 30 percent of 1500 sales will be diesel-powered.

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Turbos, Diesels Rule Top 10 Engine List in 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/turbos-diesels-rule-top-10-engine-list-in-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/turbos-diesels-rule-top-10-engine-list-in-2014/#comments Fri, 13 Dec 2013 11:30:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=678850 ‘Tis the season for year-end Top 10 lists celebrating and lamenting all things in the world of life, and the automotive industry is no exception. Ward’s Automotive has announced its list of the 10 best engines for 2014, and it’s a turbodiesel-intercooled festival of power this year. The winners on the 20th anniversary of this […]

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Audi 3.0 TFSI Engine

‘Tis the season for year-end Top 10 lists celebrating and lamenting all things in the world of life, and the automotive industry is no exception. Ward’s Automotive has announced its list of the 10 best engines for 2014, and it’s a turbodiesel-intercooled festival of power this year.

The winners on the 20th anniversary of this list are as follows:

  • 3.0L TFSI Supercharged DOHC V6 (Audi S5)
  • 3.0L Turbodiesel DOHC I6 (BMW 535d)
  • 3.0L Turbodiesel DOHC V6 (Ram 1500 EcoDiesel)
  • 83 kW Electric Motor (Fiat 500e)
  • 1.0L EcoBoost DOHC I3 (Ford Fiesta)
  • 2.0L Turbodiesel DOHC I4 (Chevrolet Cruze Diesel)
  • 6.2L OHV V8 (Chevrolet Corvette Stingray)
  • 3.5L SOHC V6 (Honda Accord)
  • 2.7L DOHC H6 boxer (Porsche Cayman)
  • 1.8L Turbocharged DOHC I4 (Volkswagen Jetta)

Of note, Ford’s three-pot EcoBoost marks the first time an automaker won a spot on the list with only three cylinders, while Fiat scores a first-time win with its 83 kW electric motor found in the 500e. On the other end, only two engines from last year’s list returned — Audi’s 3.0-liter TFSI and Honda’s 3.5-liter V6 — while six of the 10 are oil-burners, a first for Ward’s.

General Motors scored two wins this year for the first time since 2008 with the Cruze’s 2-liter turbodiesel I4 and the new Corvette Stingray’s 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8. Among trucks, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is the sole winner, based on the strength of its 3-liter turbodiesel stump-puller.

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Ram to ProMaster the City in Late 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/ram-to-promaster-the-city-in-late-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/ram-to-promaster-the-city-in-late-2014/#comments Tue, 03 Dec 2013 15:57:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=669458 On the heels of “the biggest thing to happen in the commercial world” that is the Ram ProMaster — whose page links back to our review, of course — the Italo-American truck division has announced the introduction of the ProMaster City in late 2014. The ProMaster City is expected to go up against the Ford […]

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Fiat Doblo

On the heels of “the biggest thing to happen in the commercial world” that is the Ram ProMaster — whose page links back to our review, of course — the Italo-American truck division has announced the introduction of the ProMaster City in late 2014.

The ProMaster City is expected to go up against the Ford Transit Connect and the Nissan NV200/Chevrolet City Express in the battle for the hearts and wallets of many a florist, caterer and cable installer.

Much like how the Fiat Ducato provided the framework for the ProMaster, the Fiat Doblo will provide the foundation for the ProMaster City as it becomes an Americanized delivery machine. The treatment will include adding more transmission/engine combos, an automatic transmission as an option, and slight changes to the design to appeal to the North American market.

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