2019 Ram 1500 ETorque First Drive - Fresh Horses

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
2019 ram 1500 etorque first drive fresh horses

If the pithy sub-title to this review sounds familiar, give yourself a pat on the back. Or an extra carrot during feeding time. “Fresh horses” is a term deployed to describe steeds that riders substitute in place of the exhausted horses that grew tired during a long ride.

When Ram introduced its new 1500 pickup back in April, it was clear to all that the company shovelled many cubic acres of cash into revamping its exterior, chassis components, and interior. Lighter, sleeker, and more luxurious, about the only thing missing at launch were tweaks to the venerable Hemi V8 – an apparent lack of fresh horses, right?

The company promised tweaks in the form of a forthcoming mild hybrid system appended to both the truck’s V6 and V8 engines. Now, those fresh horses are here and we had a chance to let them run.

Fair warning: there will be ample technical detail in addition to driving impressions. Those who are solely interested in the butt dyno can skip to that section, located towards the end of this review. I appreciate your enthusiasm. Thanks for clicking.

Now we’ve gotten rid of those losers, let’s jump into the meat of this mild hybrid system as it pertains to the 2019 Ram 1500. Marketed under the eTorque banner, a key intention is to deliver gains in fuel economy. As an aside, they should have given it a more “truckified” name like PowerWatt or VoltMax or Continuity Drive. I hear Flux Capacitor was already taken.

Anyway, the eTorque system comprises a belt-driven motor generator unit with a 48-volt battery pack. Chief amongst its responsibilities is to enable a quick and seamless start/stop function, allowing the mechanical starter to rest until the next ignition cycle. It also provides a short-duration torque addition to the engine crankshaft in certain driving situations, a trait which smooths out power delivery. The unit also handles brake energy regeneration duties, said to improve system responsiveness and efficiency.

The 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 is now available only with eTorque, while it appears as a $1,450 option on the 5.7-liter Hemi V8.

The underhood bits of the electrified system are surprisingly different depending if it is lashed to the six- (305 hp/289 lb-ft) or mighty eight-cylinder (395 hp/410 lb-ft) engine. The Pentastar eTorque unit is liquid cooled and mounted on the front of the engine. The Hemi eTorque unit is a Marelli system, air cooled and mounted toward the top of the engine in the traditional alternator location. Think of them as fraternal brothers: same parents, similar dispositions, completely different looks.

Both eTorque motor generator units employ a pair of belt tensioners to keep the 8-rib drive belt tight when the unit is generating electricity or adding torque to the crankshaft. Keen-eyed readers will note the Hemi engine has separate belts for the water pump and eTorque system.

No matter the number of cylinders, the belt-driven motor generator unit replaces the traditional alternator. With the gas-powered engine running, this unit feeds 48-volt current to a 430 watt-hour lithium-ion Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC)-Graphite battery. The battery pack includes a 3-kilowatt DC-to-DC converter to maintain the battery’s state of charge and convert 48 volts to 12 volts to power the Ram 1500’s accessories and charge its conventional 12-volt lead-acid battery.

This 48-volt battery is about the size of a carry-on suitcase and resides in the truck, mounted vertically to the cab’s back wall on the driver’s side. Absent of removing seats, carpet, and a copious amount of trim, one would not know it is there. The case is insulated to dampen noise from the dual cooling fans. Cooling air is drawn from inside the truck and vented via the built-in cabin exhausters. Everything – underhood bits, new battery, the works of it – apparently add about 90 pounds to the truck.

Driving impressions? Well, for starters, the stated additional torque numbers (up to 90 lb-ft for the V6 unit and 130 lb-ft for the V8) cannot simply be added to existing torque ratings. Rather, those numbers are potential launch torque additions, extra units of twist available very early in the rev range. There are a gazillion variables (ambient air temperature is one) at play, so it is also incorrect to broadly state each engine receives that much extra torque off the line.

However, the eTorque does contribute to a feeling of more oomph when accelerating from rest. A drive in an V8 eTorque Ram proved the unit’s worth during start/stop instances, where the engine alit in jig time compared to other systems I experienced.

Helping the transition is a brake pedal sending signals from an incremental-type switch, rather than an on/off-style switch. Mike Raymond, Chief Engineer for Ram 1500, said this allows the truck to know when the driver is starting to release the brake pedal, signalling eTorque to get on the go and prepare for internal combustion. The start/stop is defeatable via a handy button mounted near the 4×4 controls.

On the road, the eTorque system in a truck with standard rear end gears offered more kick-in-the-pants under initial acceleration compared to a standard Hemi, an engine with whose power delivery I am endlessly familiar. This alertness is a bonus, considering the eTorque could’ve solely been a fuel economy play.

Ram expects a two or three mpg bump in fuel efficiency on the V6 (final EPA numbers aren’t in yet). The feds have rated the Hemi, though, to the tune of +2 mpg city and +2 mpg combined when compared to the non-electrified V8. Your author averaged an indicated 20.2 mpg on a two-hour drive over mixed surfaces. Diesel? Don’t expect that until at least next year. Math nerds will note spending $1,450 to get a 2 mpg gain will take seven years to pay for itself, assuming 15,000 miles of annual driving at an average fuel price of $3/gallon.

Hitching a V8-equipped Laramie Longhorn to a 6,000-pound horse trailer amplified the eTorque’s eagerness to shove the Ram off from a standing start with increased vigor. Prodding the throttle from rest elicited an initial briskness not found in the standard Hemi but the extra huff disappeared once up to speed.

Here’s another takeaway: what else will FCA do with this technology? And where else will it appear? A Ram exec said the system is not intended to provide more juice to, for example, line the bed with multiple 110V outlets (there are two in the cab and one in the RamBox already) but imagination dictates one could, just maybe, deploy electric power-adders. As for eTorque’s application elsewhere, there’s nothing stopping FCA from installing it on anything that’s powered by a Pentastar or 5.7L Hemi. Those in the know say that course of action is all but assured.

Fresh horses, then? Well, fresher, at least. It’s not an all-new powerplant, but an eTorque equipped Ram definitely makes better use of the existing engine’s available ponies. Like real-life fresh horses, the driver is provided a smoother and more energetic ride. The Ram’s bonus is that these steeds will also eat fewer oats.

[Images: Matthew Guy/TTAC]

Join the conversation
3 of 101 comments
  • 427Cobra 427Cobra on Aug 24, 2018

    As an admitted Ford Fan-boy, I have to say that I just cannot warm up to the current Ford truck styling. To me, they look like a bad Chinese knockoff of an American truck. When it came time to replace my 2000 SuperDuty V10 4x4 supercab (which I loved), I looked at a leftover 2015 SuperDuty, but they just wouldn't deal on it. I instead bought a 2016 Ram 2500 crew cab short bed 4x4 with the 6.4L Hemi & 4.10 gears. Got a GREAT deal on it, & I've been extremely happy with it... no issues whatsoever, though the transmission programming could be better. I got over 19 mpg on a camping trip to Mammoth. I LOVE the styling on the '19 Rams... and hope it carries over to the heavy duties.

  • El scotto El scotto on Aug 24, 2018

    Has the Ozzie been banned? I kinda miss his missives about the chicken tax, Australia's far superior auto engineering, how evil the UAW is, and how the US of A artificially protects their domestic automotive market. It kinda gave me a sense of finality. New QOTD: Which two commenters should be paired together? To be fair, TTAC could make it an anti-something 5some. Rack and stack the top five anti/pro-Japanese, top five anti/pro-GM, top five anti-pro Ford, top five anti/pro CUVs/Trucks. We see (and sometimes read them) on a regular basis. I think that voting for the top five in any selected category would only be fair. Clear the air so to speak.

    • Lie2me Lie2me on Aug 24, 2018

      I'm guessing BAFO is on his annual vacation to the states to visit relatives. He always lies low when in the US, because I think he has a real fear that someone here will hunt him down ;-)

  • Jim Bonham Full EVs are not for everyone, they cannot meet all needs. Hybrids do a much better job of providing the benefits of EVs without most of the drawbacks. I have a hybrid sedan with plenty of room, plus all the bells and whistles. It has 360 hp, AWD, does 0-60 in just over 5 sec.(the instant torque is a real benefit), and I get 29 mpg, average. NOT driven lightly. I bought it used for $25k.Sure, it's a little heavier because of the battery, motor, etc., but not nearly as much as a full EV. The battery is smaller/lighter/cheaper and both the alternator and starter motor are eliminated since the motor assumes those functions. It's cool to watch the charge guage show I'm getting energy back when coasting and/or braking. It's even cooler to drive around part of the time on battery only. It really comes in handy in traffic since the engine turns off and you don't waste fuel idling. With the adaptive cruise control you just let the car slowly inch along by itself.I only wish it were a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV). Then, I'd have A LOT more EV-only range, along with even more of that instant torque. The battery would be bigger, but still a fraction of the size of a full EV. I could easily go weeks without using much, if any gas (depending upon my commute) IF I plug it in every night. But I don't have to. The gas engine will charge the battery whenever it's needed.It's just not as efficient a way to do it.Electric companies offer special rates for both EVs and PHEVs which lower your operating cost compared to gasoline. They'll even give you a rebate to offset the cost of installing a home charger. You can still get federal (up to $7,500, plus some state) tax credits for PHEVs.What's not to like? My next daily driver will be a PHEV of some kind. Probably a performance-oriented one like the new Dodge Hornet or one of the German Hybrid SUVs. All the benefits, sound, feel, etc., of a gas vehicle along with some electric assist to improve fuel economy, performance, and drivability. None of the inherent EV issues of cost, range anxiety, long charging times, poor charger availability, grid capacity issues, etc. I think most people will eventually catch on to this and go PHEV instead of going full EV. Synthetic, carbon-neutral eFuels, hydrogen engines, and other things will also prevent full EVs from being 100% of the fleet, regardless of what the politicians say. PHEVs can be as "clean" (overall) as full EVs with the right fuels. They're also cheaper, and far more practical, for most people. They can do it all, EVs can't.
  • Ron rufo there is in WaSHINGTON STATE
  • ToolGuy @Chris, your photography rocks.
  • ToolGuy No War for Oli.If you have not ever held a piece of structural honeycomb (composite sandwich) in your own hands, try it.
  • ToolGuy You make them sound like criminals.