Eats utes for breakfast, drinks fuel like a sailor? Well, not quite, because when we tested the 5.7-litre Hemi V8 that exclusively powered the RAM 1500 pick-up until now, it proved surprisingly frugal … for a huge petrol donk, that is. But with the recent release of the RAM 1500 Laramie V6 EcoDiesel to the Australian market, you can now have your big slice of American pie and eat it too.
Sure, some of the charm of driving around in a Ram 1500 is the fact it has a stonking great V8 under the ‘hood’ that pumps out a more-than-handy 291kW (395hp in the old language), but for those who can live without that top-end poke and the sweet V8 soundtrack, the new 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine is a more-than-worthy Ram powerplant.
Powertrain & Performance
THE ECODISEL is essentially the same VM Motori 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engine that powers other FCA product including the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the obvious benefit in choosing the oiler over the petrol V8 is the former’s better fuel economy, which brings much greater touring range, no doubt attractive to those who intend to tow a large ’van and the like over long distances.
This diesel is no one-trick pony; as well as impressive fuel economy it also packs a decent punch in the torque stakes, producing a meaty 569Nm at 2000rpm. By contrast, the Hemi V8 only makes 556Nm at a considerably higher 3950rpm. Yep, for those who have heavy loads to carry and/or big trailers to haul, the EcoDiesel suddenly starts to make a lot of sense.
Like all Ram 1500s, the V6 EcoDiesel is an auto-only proposition, scoring the same eight-speed TorqueFlite transmission as the Hemi V8, with the same gear ratios. Even the final-drive ratio is the same 3.92:1 offered with the Hemi V8 for those who want a 4500kg towing capacity, but in the case of the EcoDiesel the maximum braked towing capacity is limited to the class-average 3500kg. For the record, the third option in the Ram 1500 line-up is the Hemi V8 with a taller 3.21:1 final drive ratio, and like the EcoDiesel this model has a 3500kg towing capacity.
The Ram 1500 runs a selectable on-demand full-time 4x4 system operated via small buttons on the dash below the gear-selector dial, allowing the driver to choose between 2WD, 4WD Auto, 4WD Lock and 4WD Low.
At $109,950, the Ram 1500 Laramie 3.0L V6 EcoDiesel doesn’t come cheap – that’s a full $10K more than the equivalent Hemi V8 1500 Laramie – but like its petrol-powered stablemate it’s packed with creature comforts and standard equipment.
The Ram 1500 Laramie is also a lot of ute for the money, measuring 5817mm long and 2017mm wide, with a long 3569mm wheelbase. And while its relatively modest 735kg payload doesn’t match dual-cabs like the Ranger or Hilux, the Ram’s tub is enormous at 1712mm long, 1687mm wide and a full 1295mm between the wheel arches.
On-road ride & Handling
CLIMB ABOARD the Ram 1500 and fire up the engine and one of the first things you notice is just how quiet it is. There’s no diesel clatter at idle and even a blip on the throttle results in a muffled response.
There’s no doubt about it: the V6 oiler is one of the smoothest turbo-diesel engines around, and the Ram adds to this feeling of refinement thanks to an abundance of sound-deadening material that ensures the cabin is whisper quiet, even at freeway speeds. Sure, there’s a hint of wind noise around the mirrors, but it’s nothing too intrusive, and road noise is also well-suppressed.
Performance isn’t what you’d call scintillating, but the V6 EcoDiesel Ram ain’t no slouch either. Ask it the question and it answers with linear acceleration, pulling all the way from idle to the 4500rpm redline, where the auto will smoothly grab another gear that sees the Ram continue on its way. You need to keep an eye on the speedo on the open road because the unfussed and quiet way in which the Ram goes about its business could soon see you exceed the speed limit without realising it.
Like most of the dual-cab 4x4 utes on the market the Ram 1500 has independent front suspension, but you won’t find leaf springs on its live-axle rear-end; instead there’s a live-axle with coil springs, which no doubt aids the impressive unladen ride quality. Even as road surfaces deteriorate the Ram remains composed and predictable, with the electric power-assisted steering offering good feel and feedback.
You could be forgiven for thinking a vehicle this big wouldn’t be much chop on crook secondary backroads, but again it surprises with its impressive ride quality and assured handling. Push it through corners and it holds its line nicely with minimal body roll, and it doesn’t get unsettled by minor mid-corner steering corrections.
Those big 20-inch rims wear 275/60R20 Hankook Dynapro HT tyres that offer a reasonable sidewall, which no doubt aids ride quality; on the road the tyres provide plenty of grip and surefootedness when cornering, without generating too much noise. They also work well on gravel roads, and slipping the Ram into 4WD Auto ensures there’s plenty of traction on slippery road surfaces.
If you’re used to driving a dual-cab ute, the Ram 1500 won’t feel all that big when driving around town … until you try to park it, that is. Yep, it’s certainly long, so you’ll need to choose your parking spaces wisely. However, a decent steering lock results in an acceptable 12.1m turning circle, and deep windows and big mirrors aid outward visibility.
Claimed fuel consumption is an impressive 11.9L/100km and (unusually) we bettered that on test, recording an impressive average of 9.6L/100km over 800km of commuting, highway, freeway and backroad touring, as well as a modicum of sand driving – when you consider the Ram 1500’s size and its brick-outhouse aerodynamics, that’s some seriously impressive fuel economy.
By comparison, when we recently tested a Ram 1500 Hemi V8 with the same 3.92:1 final drive ratio, it recorded 17.6L/100km. With a generous 98-litre fuel tank, the diesel Ram should do a shade over 1000km between refills compared to just over 550km for the petrol model.
The third Ram 1500 Laramie option – the Hemi V8 with a taller 3.21:1 final drive ratio – has a claimed combined fuel consumption figure of just 9.9L/100km. However, a real-world figure would likely be closer to 14L/100km unless most of your driving was on the freeway, so there’s no doubt the V6 EcoDiesel is the pick of the range for those who need to travel long distances between fuel stops.
WITH LIMITED approach and ramp-over angles, off-road performance is not the Ram 1500’s forte, but having said that, it has reasonable ground clearance and vital underbody components are tucked up and out of harm’s way, as well as protected by a series of crossmembers and bash plates.
Not wanting to damage the unprotected sills (side-steps are optional on this model) we took it pretty easy off-road, with a run along some soft river sand and a few rough bush tracks. Even with tyre pressures dropped to 16psi, the Ram wasn’t all that happy in the sand with the transmission left in Drive, as it wanted to upshift too early resulting in a loss of momentum. Manually shifting using the buttons on the steering wheel improves sand performance markedly, but there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a big, heavy truck with a hefty 2715kg kerb weight.
Despite the limited off-road angles, the Ram offers decent wheel travel up front and impressive axle articulation at the rear, and if you exceed that, the electronic traction control works well at arresting wheel spin despite the road-oriented highway-terrain tyres. Low-range gearing is excellent, with an overall reduction in first gear of 48.7:1.
Cabin & Accommodation
THERE’S PLENTY of space inside the Ram 1500 for all occupants, but taller drivers might find head room a bit tight and the driver’s footwell is cramped due to an intrusive transmission hump. Nevertheless, the driver’s seat offers a good range of power adjustment and nice lumbar support; there’s pedal adjustment and the steering wheel offers tilt (but no reach) adjustment.
The front seats are heated and ventilated, while the rear seats offer heating only. The generous cabin means there’s plenty of storage throughout including a wide centre console with large bins and a double glovebox, and there are a number of 12V power outlets and USB ports.
You’ll easily fit three adults across the wide rear seat, and they’ll all be pleasantly surprised by the leg room on offer, as well as the rear air-conditioning vents. The split rear seat bases fold up and there are pullout platforms that provide a flat load area, so if you haven’t filled the rear with occupants you’ll be able to stow large items behind the front seats.
The conversion from left-hand drive to right-hand drive by the Walkinshaw Group has been very well executed, with important controls such as the gear selector and 4WD selector shifted across to the driver’s side for ease of access. There’s plenty of black leather and trim throughout the cabin, but this is contrasted by silver and faux woodgrain trim pieces and a light grey roof lining, which adds to an overall feeling of spaciousness. Fit and finish isn’t perfect, with a couple of loose trim pieces on our test vehicle, but it’s pretty damn good.
In addition to the massive centre console, other cabin highlights include the bright 8.4-inch colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, the seven-inch multi-view instrument cluster and the awesome Alpine sound system. A power tilt/slide sunroof and opening rear window are also standard Laramie-spec items.
WHILE IT only has a 735kg payload capacity, the Ram’s tub will appeal to those carrying large items. The tub comes with a spray-in bedliner and has four cargo tie-down points in the corners of the tub’s floor.
The big tailgate features assistance so it’s not nearly as heavy to operate as you’d expect, and it locks with the remote key fob. Standard load-tray illumination is another handy feature, and a soft tonneau cover and heavy-duty tow bar are offered as optional accessories.
When it comes to vehicle recovery, there are two big recovery points up front and, with a 50mm hitch at the rear of our test vehicle, the usual variety of rated recovery receivers can be used.
The Ram 1500 Laramie features most of the other stuff you’d expect to find on a high-end vehicle such as remote keyless entry, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, Bluetooth connect, fog lights, cruise control, heated door mirrors, parking sensors, reversing camera, TPMS, rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights (and auto high beam) and more.
On the safety front the Ram 1500 Laramie scores driver and front passenger airbags, and front seat side and curtain airbags; traction, stability and trailer sway control; electronic brake force distribution; hill start assist; and three child seat anchors.
THE 3.0L V6 ECODIESEL will be the Ram 1500 Laramie many buyers have been waiting for, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint in either the economy or performance stakes; but at $10K more than the petrol Hemi V8 equivalent, you probably wouldn’t buy it for the fuel economy advantage alone. The V6 EcoDiesel’s trump cards are its far superior touring range, it’s abundance of low-rpm torque and its surprising refinement.
On the downside, the V6 EcoDiesel can’t match the Hemi V8’s optional 4500kg towing capacity, and at 735kg its payload is 65kg less than its petrol-powered sibling; but if you’ve been hanging out for the oiler, you certainly won’t be disappointed.
If you’re after a full-size turbo-diesel American pick-up that’s backed by a three-year/100,000km warranty, the Ram 1500 Laramie 3.0L V6 EcoDiesel is a worthy contender.
Off-road talents tested on 4x4 reviews
RAM 1500 LARAMIE V6 ECODIESEL SPECS:
Engine: 2988cc V6, DOHC 24v turbo-diesel
Max Power: 179kW at 3600rpm
Max Torque: 569Nm at 2000rpm
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic
Crawl Ratio: 48.74:1
4x4 System: On-demand 4WD with low range
Construction: Ladder chassis/4-door pick-up body
Front Suspension: IFS with coil springs
Rear Suspension: Live axle with coil springs, 5-link
Wheel & Tyre: 20-inch alloys with 275/60R20 HT tyres
Kerb Weight: 2715kg
Towing Capacity: 3500kg
Departure angle: 23.7°
Rampover angle: 17.1°
Approach angle: 15.2°
Wading depth: N/A
Ground clearance: 235mm
Fuel Tank Capacity: 98 litres
ADR Fuel Claim: 11.9L/100km
On-test Fuel Consumption: 9.6L/100km