Ram's all-new EcoDiesel 1500 pickup is now off the assembly and already motoring the road with a truck-load of accolades, including its recent win as the "Truck of Texas," an annual award given by the Texas Auto Writers Association.

Texas has the top truck sales in the world, so when the all-new 2013 Ram 1500 won last year's competition, it was big news; but when the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel also won this year's competition, it was even bigger news, as the pickup was competing against all-new, half-ton models from Chevrolet and Toyota, as well as a bevy of tough trucks from Ford.

While the half-ton Ram 1500 truck isn't new for 2014, its powertrain is. The new EcoDiesel engine is a 3.0-liter V-6 that produces 240 horsepower at 3,600 rpm and 420 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,000 rpm and is matched to Chrysler's eight-speed transmission. It offers a 9,200-pound maximum towing capacity; it can travel up to 700 miles on a tank and is biodiesel capable.

We drove the 2014 Ram EcoDiesel on two occasions recently, evaluating it in southern California on a drive route that was comprised of tight and winding mountain and canyon two-lanes, as well as along the busy coastal Route 1. We also had the opportunity to pull heavy loads with a variety of trailers, hauling small and large boats and a tractor, much like many owners will do with this truck and this high-torque powertrain. We also joined in the Texas Auto Writer's event, where we were able to compare it to the competition over ranch roads, a somewhat rigorous 4WD course and in back-to-back towing exercises.

The first thing we noticed was the quietness of the diesel, especially from inside the truck; unless you're motoring with a heavy throttle pressure, you won't know it's a diesel. The single give-away in the cabin of the pickup is the DEF gauge, located in the gauge cluster; this is the readout for the diesel exhaust fluid that is added to the urea tank to clean the truck's tailpipe emissions, as is required of all new diesels in the U.S.

The turbocharged pickup truck is a beauty to drive with its whopping low-end torque and eight-speed transmission (you can manually shift with a +/- button), but slightly beastly on the narrow canyon roads in California, because of its size. Despite its heft and girth, the Ram maneuvers well and won high praise from us, for the ride quality of its air suspension and overall prowess, when towing in Texas. Of note is a stronger parking gear for drivers who might park their Ram 1500 with a trailer on a steep grade.

The pickup is available in regular, crew and quad cab; bed sizes are 6-foot 4-inch and 8-foot. The Ram's front end is dominated by the signature cross grille and chrome, and the truck's LED headlamps are wide rectangles inserted in the broad hood. The pickup doesn't sacrifice beauty for brawn. 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 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.

Seating accommodates 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.

The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel has a starting price premium $2,850 over a "similarly equipped" Ram 1500 with a 5.7-liter Hemi engine, which starts at about $38,000. It's projected that diesel buyers should recover this premium in less than three years at today's fuel prices. The automaker hopes that 15 percent of Ram 1500 buyers will opt for the EcoDiesel.

SPECIFICATIONS

2014 RAM 1500 ECODIESEL

VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 2/3-passenger 2WD full-size pickup

BASE PRICE____________________ $40,850 (as tested: $41,945)

MOTOR TYPE___________________ 24-valve EcoDiesel V-6

DISPLACEMENT_________________ 3.0-liter

HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 240 at 3600 rpm

TORQUE (lb.-ft.)________________ 420 at 2000 rpm

TRANSMISSION_________________ 8-speed automatic

OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 204 in.

TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb)___ 39.5 ft.

TOWING CAPACITY______________ 9,200 lbs.

FUEL CAPACITY________________ 26 gal.

EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway (estimated)