For the 2014 Ram 1500, it is what's under that's the big news -- under the hood, that is. Exterior and interior changes are minimal on this pickup that was completely revamped for 2013.
The spotlight is shining on Ram's new 3.0 EcoDiesel V-6 light-duty diesel engine. On sale beginning the fourth quarter of the year, the 2014 Ram is priced starting at $24,200, plus $1,095 destination. The Ram 1500 competes with the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra.
New this year are a few technology systems that aren't readily apparent in the way touch screens and rearview cameras are, but make a difference in ride comfort and fuel efficiency. Systems like the variable displacement compressor, humidity sensor and pulse-width modulated blower sound like a physics lesson, but to non-science majors, they manage cooling to make the engine more fuel efficient, moderate temperature changes, de-fog the windshield and reduce noise in the cabin.
The pickup is available in three sizes: regular, crew and quad cab, and even the "smallest" of the bunch is like a third-stringer on the Notre Dame football team -- big. Bed sizes are a 5-foot 7-inch, a 6-ft. 4-in. and 8-footer.
Engines include a 3.6-liter V-6 making 305 horsepower and 296 lb.-ft. of torque. It is also available with 4x4 and on crew cab models for the first time this year.
Next up is a 4.7-liter V-8 making 310 horses and 330 lb.-ft. of torque. Topping the engine lineup is a 5.7-liter V-8 HEMI that makes 395 horsepower and 407 lb.-ft. of torque, which has the best payload, towing capacity and fuel economy in its class, says Ram.
The big news for 2014 is Ram's 3.0-liter V-6 EcoDiesel, which is rated at 240 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft. of torque. The EcoDiesel delivers more torque and better fuel efficiency than gas-powered motors in the segment, Ram folks boast. All V-6 motors (gas-powered and EcoDiesel) are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, while a six-speed automatic transmission is standard on V-8 models.
Visually, the Ram's front end is dominated by the signature cross grille and acres of chrome, and the truck's LED headlamps are wide rectangles inserted in the broad hood. The pickup doesn't sacrifice beauty for brawn, though: optional chrome trim, artfully angled front lighting, and thoughtful character lines sculpted in the hood, along the sides, and across the tailgate add panache. Ram also has "active grille shutters" that open and close, depending on the need for air flow and, thereby, add increased fuel efficiency.
Inside the cabin, large proportions and squared-off edges abound, but soft-touch textures and clever design elements provide a certain degree of elegance. The dash is a wide, smooth arc with a center stack that serves as command central, with symmetrically laid out knobs and switches for climate control and the AM/FM/CD stereo.
The three-spoke steering wheel has integrated controls, and sits in front of an instrument cluster with eye-catching gauges that are like off-kilter concentric circles: the fuel gauge, for example, sits just off-center within the speedometer.
There is seating for up to five, depending on the cabin configuration. Front bucket seats are separated by a sizable console that can hold a laptop, tools or other gear; the console has a 115-volt socket, and two 12-volt access points are neatly tucked into a tool box-style drawer. Rear seats have good shoulder and leg room. Standard is vinyl or cloth upholstery, depending on trim level, with leather seating available or standard on one of the many configurations higher in the lineup.
A bevy of updated technology features includes the newest version of the touchscreen-enabled, infotainment system UConnect, which can make the truck a mobile hot spot. Lower end models get a smaller, non-touchscreen version with an AM/FM stereo system, while the more upscale trims get a larger screen (up to 8.4 inches) with increased functionality, such as navigation and Bluetooth access. Voice controls are optional, as is an expanded SiriusXM satellite radio channel lineup that includes new Latino channels. HVAC controls can be accessed by using the UConnect touchscreen or via manual controls that are built into the stack below the screen.
2014 RAM 1500
VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 3-passenger 2WD Regular Cab pickup
BASE PRICE____________________ $24,200
MOTOR TYPE___________________ 24-valve V-6 turbo-diesel
HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 240 at 3600 rpm
TORQUE (lb.-ft.)________________ 420 at 2000 rpm
TRANSMISSION_________________ 8-speed automatic
OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 209.0 in.
TOWING CAPACITY______________ 9,200 lbs.
TURNING CIRCLE_______________ 39.5 ft.
FUEL CAPACITY________________ 26 gal.
EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ TBD