2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Tradesman - First Drive

A regular cab diesel work truck with an eight-speed transmission, 8-foot bed, and vinyl floors

Apr 22, 2015
Photographers: Trevor Reed
We don't get to drive as many work trucks as we would like. Usually, manufacturers' "press fleets" are packed with fully loaded models with thousands upon thousands of dollars of added equipment listed on the window sticker. You can't blame the automakers for wanting to show off all the latest and greatest features their new models have to offer, but we also like to see what you can get for a lot less money. That's why we jumped at the chance to spend a weekend with a 1/2-ton '14 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Tradesman model with vinyl floors, hand-crank windows, and a few functional option packages that added up to just $32,520 out the door—which is around $8,000 less than a similarly equipped diesel-powered, regular cab 3/4-ton '14 Ram 2500 Tradesman.
We used our time with the work truck to test it both on- and off-road while hand-tabulating the real-world fuel economy. We also filled it with a load of tree branches for transport to a green waste facility and handed the keys to a farmer who is currently shopping for a new 1/2-ton truck and tagged along as he did his nightly rounds to get his opinion. Here is what we found during our time behind the wheel.
Photo 2/10   |   2014 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel Tradesman Driver Side View
EcoDiesel and Eight-Speed Transmission
We started our road test with the exceptionally quiet EcoDiesel Tradesman edition of the Ram 1500 on the crowded streets of Los Angeles, where the engine and transmission combination performed great. Although there is a bit of electronic throttle hesitation/turbo lag, which makes the truck feel a little less snappy than a gas-powered 1/2-ton V-8, there are always gobs of torque available. While the transmission shifts often, we wouldn't call it obtrusive or "shift-happy." The gear changes are dialed in to maximize the performance of the engine and keep it working inside its torque band, allowing it to squirt in and out of lanes and keep pace with other vehicles in stop-and-go freeway driving. While we did not do any towing, the truck was equipped with an integrated trailer brake controller and a tow/haul mode. Our only complaints about the transmission would be the electronic gear selector that uses a dial mounted low on the center console instead of a shifter on the steering column, and the thumb-operated manual shift buttons that are not very usable.
After commuting with the truck, we escaped the city for a 140-plus-mile trip north over the steep Grapevine pass with a full tank of fuel. Using cruise control whenever possible and trying to stay less than 10 mph above the posted speed limits, we watched the trip computer's average fuel economy figures creep upward from 28 mpg to 29, and then into the 30s. After filling the tank, we calculated the fuel economy based on the odometer readings and were impressed to see the trip average was 30.48 mpg.
Photo 3/10   |   2014 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel Tradesman Drive Selection Shift Knob
Photo 4/10   |   The ZF 8HP70 eight-speed shiftable automatic transmission works in perfect harmony with the EcoDiesel engine. Unfortunately, it uses a low-placed electronic dial for drive selection, and the manual shift buttons on the steering wheel are hard to reach.
Off-Road Performance and MPG
After reaching Kern County, we loaded the bed with tree branches and took them to the local green waste facility. Next, we picked up a friend and drove the EcoDiesel Ram into the oil fields, where white regular cab work trucks are the vehicles of choice for employers. We traveled some familiar dirt roads and were impressed by the smoothness of the suspension. The coilover front setup is comfortable and capable (even with the weight of the diesel engine up front) and, unlike a truck with leaf springs in back, the Ram's rear end soaks up bumps and has less axle hop than we are used to, which is a very good thing.
The traction control works very well and only kicks in when needed (which should help keep heavy-footed employees from getting into trouble with the 420 lb-ft of torque on tap), but it can be turned off for when more conventional, tire-spinning driving is needed to climb steep hills. The front bumper is designed to help fuel economy with its low-hanging spoiler, but it can plow into the dirt unexpectedly until you get used to its close relation to the ground. The steering system is electric but feels good, is very predictable, and works well in all the driving conditions we threw at the truck, including some sideways blasts on wide dirt roads.
Even with no regard for fuel economy while driving off-road, the EcoDiesel returned a very respectable 20.11 mpg during this period. Our final tank of fuel was used driving in city traffic and on a highway trip south over the Grapevine (that included lots of stop and go once we got into Los Angeles County), resulting in an average of 24.48 mpg.
Photo 5/10   |   We used the Ram to do some light work transporting a pickup bed full of orange tree branches. The spray-in bedliner is standard (although it can be deleted for a discount) and the Velcro-secured Tri-Fold tonneau cover costs $500. The cover kept the load secure (as multiple signs leading to the green waste dump warn you may incur fines for failure to do so) and the bed was easy to clean using just a hose and a broom.
Work Truck Amenities
A work truck isn't supposed to be luxurious, but some modern conveniences are definitely welcome. The model we tested came equipped with just a few options, but the $650 Uconnect 5.0 audio and phone system seems like a good investment. Along with a 5-inch display, it includes Bluetooth phone connectivity with a built-in microphone and voice-control functions, so your employees should be easy to reach even while driving. The system is much easier to use than previous versions of Uconnect, and it comes with a year of SiriusXM satellite radio service.
There are two USB charging hubs and two 12-volt ports (one of each in the lower dash, and in the center armrest/seatback) along with an audio input jack. The standard air conditioning is simple, with only three easy-to-use knobs with familiar controls, which is just how we like it. Manual windows are just what you would expect, and the vinyl floor is easy to clean. Powered trailer-tow mirrors are not available on this model, so unless towing is the primary duty of the pickup (adjusting the manual mirrors was a pain), we would probably suck it up and order the $735 Power and Remote Entry Group. This package provides foldable, heated, standard-size power mirrors, remote power door locks, door map pockets, and power windows with a one-touch down function. Except for the reduction in size of the mirrors, this option seems like it would add a lot of usable value to the truck.
Photo 6/10   |   During a highway-only trip north over Southern California’s Grapevine we set the cruise control and watched the trip computer as the mpg progressively increased. At the end of our 140.4-mile drive, we calculated that the truck had achieved 30.48 mpg.
What We Learned
We racked up more than 415 miles in the '14 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Tradesman, driving it in various conditions ranging from gridlock traffic to dirt roads to flat-highway cruising at 70-plus mph. It performed just like you would expect a 1/2-ton to in all the conditions we tested. Even with some off-road romping in the mix, we ended up with an end-of-test fuel economy of 25.02 mpg. That's more mpg than the EPA highway ratings for the six-cylinder versions of the '14 Chevrolet/GMC 1500, Ford F-150, or Toyota Tundra. While our first drive calculations are not as scientific as the EPA cycle, they seem to confirm (or maybe even exceed) the 20 city/23 combined/28 highway mpg government ratings for the EcoDiesel-powered truck. The current difference between the price of diesel and gasoline ($2.11 to $2.78 on average, nationwide), along with the added cost of the diesel drivetrain, can reduce the impact of the fuel economy savings, but the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Tradesman should definitely be in consideration for anyone searching for a 1/2-ton work truck.
The '14 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Tradesman is equipped with a 3.0L V-6 that makes 240 hp at 3,600 rpm and 420 lb-ft of torque. It features a colilover front suspension with short and long A-arms and a coil suspension in the rear that provides a good ride both on- and off-road.
White regular cab pickups are a common sight around the foothills of Kern County, California. We took the '14 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel on the same roads used by oil field workers and found it to be comfortable, with plenty of power to climb two-wheel-drive-friendly inclines while returning more than 20 mpg.
Specifications
Vehicle: '14 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Tradesman
Body style: Two-door regular cab longbed
Engine: 3.0L V-6 EcoDiesel
Transmission: ZF 8HP70 eight-speed shiftable automatic
Drive type: Two-wheel drive
Cab: Steel
Pickup box: Double-walled steel
Frame: Steel ladder frame
Front suspension: Independent upper and lower short and long A-arms with coilover shocks and stabilizer bar
Rear suspension: Five-link with live solid axle, track bar, coil springs, and shock absorbers
Steering type: Electric power assist
Steering ratio: 17.9:1
Steering wheel turns (lock-to-lock): 3.3
Turning diameter: 45.1 feet
Rear axle: C235mm (9.25 inches)
Rear axle raito: 3.55:1
Braking system: Four-wheel antilock brakes with dual-rate tandem diaphragm vacuum
Front brakes: 13.2x1.1-inch ventilated discs with single-piston calipers
Rear brakes: 13.8x0.87-inch disc brakes with single-piston calipers
Tires: P265/70R17 Goodyear Wrangler SR-A black sidewall all-season tires
Wheels: 17x7.0 steel wheels
Curb weight: 5,088 pounds
GVWR: 6,600 pounds
Maximum payload: 1,510 pounds
Maximum trailer tow rating: 8,200 pounds
Dimensions
Overall length: 231.0 inches
Overall width: 79.4 inches
Overall height: 74.4 inches
Wheelbase: 140.5 inches
Front track: 68.0 inches
Rear track: 67.5 inches
Front ground clearance: 9.0 inches
Rear ground clearance: 8.7 inches
Front approach angle: 15.7 degrees
Rear departure angle: 24.1 degrees
Ramp breakover angle: 19.2 degrees
Engine Specifications
Engine: 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6
Configuration: V-6 60 degrees
Displacement: 3.0L (182 cubic inches)
Power: 240 hp at 3,600 rpm
Torque: 420 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm
Maximum engine speed: 4,800 rpm (electronically limited)
Bore x stroke: 3.27x3.60 inches (83x92 mm)
Head material: Aluminum alloy
Block material: Compacted graphite iron (CGI)
Valvetrain: Dual overhead camshafts with 24 valves
Fuel system: Common-rail, 29,000 psi (2,000 bar), and solenoid injectors
Fuel type: Ultra-low-sulfur diesel
Oil capacity: 10.5 quarts (7.8 liters)
Coolant capacity: 12.0 quarts (11.4 liters)
Emissions controls: Cooled EGR, oxidation catalyst, diesel particulate filter, and SCR with urea injection
Transmission Specifications
Transmission: ZF 8HP70 eight-speed shiftable automatic
Photo 7/10   |   The Tradesman model we tested included an integrated trailer brake controller that’s part of the $330 Trailer Tow Mirror and Brake Control Group option. The traction control on/off and tow/haul buttons are mounted nearby.
Gear ratios:
First: 4.71:1
Second: 3.14:1
Third: 2.10:1
Fourth: 1.67:1
Fifth: 1.29:1
Sixth: 1.00:1
Seventh: 0.84:1
Eighth: 0.67:1
Reverse: 3.30:1
Final drive ratio: 3.55:1
Standard Equipment
Exterior Features
Trailer tow hitch with four-pin connector wiring
Seven-pin wiring harness
Advanced multistage front airbags
Supplemental side-curtain front airbags
Electronic stability control
Antilock four-wheel disc brakes
Speed Control
Sentry Key theft-deterrent system
Power accessory delay
Locking tailgate
Manual door locks
Manual windows
Spray-in bedliner
Class IV receiver hitch
Halogen quad headlamps
17x7.0 steel wheels
P265/70R17 Goodyear Wrangler SR-A black sidewall all-season tires
Fullsize spare tire
Automatic headlamps
Tinted glass windows
Black door handles
Black front/rear bumper
Black grille
Interior Features
Air conditioning
Tilt steering column
Front armrest with storage compartment and three cupholders
Media Hub with USB and audio input jack
Six speakers
12-volt auxiliary power outlet
Electronic vehicle information center
Rearview manual day/night mirror
Behind seat storage bin
Black vinyl floor covering
Optional Equipment
Customer Preferred Package 28B
Tradesman package
3.0L V-6 EcoDiesel engine: $4,000
800-amp maintenance-free battery
Maximum-duty engine cooling system
Oxidation catalyst
Cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system
Diesel particulate filter (DPF)
Selective catalytic reduction (Urea-DEF) system
26-gallon fuel tank
3.55:1 rear axle ratio
8HP70 Eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission: $500
Trailer Tow Mirror and Brake Control Group: $330
Folding Trailer Tow Mirrors, Trailer Brake Control
Uconnect 5.0 AM/FM/BT: $660
Temperature and compass gauges
Uconnect Voice Command with Bluetooth
Integrated Voice Command with Bluetooth
5-inch touch-screen display
SiriusXM Satellite Radio with 1-year subscription
Rearview mirror with microphone
Overhead console
Rear sliding window: $140
Tri-Fold tonneau cover: $500
Pricing
Base price: $25,195
Base price: $29,695 (including diesel engine package and transmission)
Destination charge: $1,195
Price as tested: $32,520
EPA Emissions Ratings
MPG: 6
Smog rating: 5
CO2: 5 (438 grams of CO2 per mile)
EPA Fuel Economy Ratings
City: 20 mpg
Highway: 28 mpg
Combined city/highway: 23 mpg
Observed Fuel Economy
Highway only: 30.48 mpg
City and off-road: 20.11 mpg
Highway and city combined: 24.48 mpg
Test average: 25.02 mpg
First Drive:
Pros: Plenty of torque, excellent transmission performance, and smooth ride.
Cons: Electronic throttle/turbo lag and low-mounted dial-operated transmission shifter.
Our take: A great choice for people shopping for a 1/2-ton work truck.
Farm Truck Testing
To get an independent view of how the diesel-powered Ram 1500 compares to the competition, we gave the wheel to Walt Fisher, the owner and operator of Fisher Cattle Company and Orange Grove RV Park in Edison, California. Walt currently drives an '08 GMC Sierra 2500HD with 240,000-plus miles and is shopping for a 1/2-ton truck for his daily driving along with some towing. When we pulled up with the diesel-powered Ram, he immediately gave it the once-over, checking out the engine bay and tires and pointing out where he would mount a gooseneck hitch. He said the towing capacity would not be a concern since he already has a fleet of four diesel work trucks in addition to his GMC for extra heavy loads. Walt took us on his evening rounds for his businesses, and after driving on some rough farmland roads and over a few train tracks, he said the truck had "all that you need out of a 1/2-ton—and more" (we assume the "more" means the diesel torque).
Photo 8/10   |   2014 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel Tradesman Engine Bay
When told about the fuel economy we had experienced, Walt said he grew up with the mentality of "How much mileage does that thing get?" and that fuel economy is a "huge" factor in all of his decisions about what to purchase, whether it's a truck, tractor, or an airplane (Walt is also a pilot). He plans to buy a crew cab shortbed 1/2-ton truck but prefers to wait until a model has been out for at least a couple of years because, "There are things that can't be tested until they are in the real world...there's a reason they have recall notices." While Walt is willing to wait to replace his truck, after driving the coil-sprung Ram, he convinced a plant manager in Colorado to check it out, which resulted in him going home with a 3/4-ton Ram 2500 diesel with a factory fifth-wheel hitch and air springs.
Photo 9/10   |   2014 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel Tradesman Walt Fisher
Photo 10/10   |   The 9 1/4-inch rear axle in the 1/2-ton Ram is supported by coil springs, shocks, and a multiple-link setup that uses trailing arms and a Panhard-style track bar.

Sources

U.S. Department Of Energy
Washington, DC 20585
202-586-4403
www.fueleconomy.gov
Ram Trucks
Aubum Hills, MI 48321
800-726-4636
www.ramtrucks.com

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