Ram Truck has been doing a terrific job of differentiating itself from the rest of the half-ton market. While everyone else in the class chases each other for towing supremacy and the best numbers on paper, Ram takes a different tack. It still offers plenty of towing capacity -- up to 10,200 pounds -- but the company has made a point of offering features and options no one else does. The Ram 1500 is the only half-ton of the five out there that offers a coil-spring rear suspension. It's the only one with packages such as the Outdoorsman and the Tradesman and features such as the RamBox and racks for fishing rods and guns.

Based on Dodge's enthusiasm for blazing its own unique trail, we should've figured Ram would be the first to offer a diesel option in its half-ton. We'd heard rumors that Ram might be introducing it, yet were pleasantly surprised when the company made the official announcement. This marks the first such option in any half-ton in 25 years and the first time since 1978 Dodge/Ram has offered one in a half-ton. From what we understand, Ram released information on the diesel a little earlier than it had originally planned, so as of press time, we only have preliminary data on the use of the turbodiesel in the Ram 1500.

For model-year 2014, the Ram 1500 will be available with a turbodiesel option. It is the same EcoDiesel engine built by VM Motori that will be offered in the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Like in the Grand Cherokee, it will be paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission called TorqueFlite in the Ram. It's safe to say that in the pickup, the 3.0-liter V-6 will offer similar power output as in the Grand Cherokee, which is 240 hp at 3600 rpm and 420 lb-ft at 2000 rpm.

This is the first diesel option in any half-ton in 25 years.

As is the case with any diesel, the key power output number is torque, and if the performance numbers of the engine in the Grand Cherokee translate to the engine of the Ram, the torque of the diesel 1500 would be the same as that of Ford's EcoBoost. However, in the Ram that peak torque would be available earlier -- the EcoBoost's peak torque is at 2500 rpm. And that 420 lb-ft is higher than that of the current 6.2-liter V-8 offered in the GMC Sierra Denali (417), more than what the Ram's and Tundra's 5.7-liters put out (407 and 401), and close to that of Ford's 6.2-liter (434).

This addition to the lineup would mean the number of engines available in the Ram would stay at three: the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, the EcoDiesel, and the 5.7-liter V-8. The 4.7-liter SOHC V-8, which had been around for 15 years, is no longer being produced. Essentially replacing the 4.7-liter with the EcoDiesel improves the Ram 1500 lineup's fuel economy, as the 4.7 had the worst mpg- - 14 mpg city/20 highway with 2WD -- and the diesel will have much better fuel

Because Ram Truck hasn't yet released all the information on the Ram Diesel, we are making some educated guesses about what to expect with the engine. The Grand Cherokee's turbocharged EcoDiesel uses watercooled exhaust-gas recirculation, plus selective catalytic reduction, to make the engine 50-state legal, and that should remain the same in the Ram application. On the Jeep, the diesel exhaust fluid refill spot is behind the fuel door, next to where you would fill the Grand Cherokee with diesel; we expect that to be the same case with the Ram. If the DEF tank (8.5-gallon in the Grand Cherokee) is located near the frame rails, that would be a logical refill location, in addition to being convenient for the driver.

Ram Truck has made a point of offering features and options no one else does.

We also hope the impressive 10,000-mile service interval -- which also applies to the amount of time between DEF refills -- will carry over to the Ram light-duty diesel. The use of this diesel engine is also significant for Ram in that this will be the first consumer truck in its lineup to require use of DEF. In the 2500 and 3500 trucks, the Cummins doesn't yet, even though DEF is needed in the 3500/4500/5500 Chassis Cabs.

Something else we hope translates from the Grand Cherokee to the Ram is the fuel economy. Ram expects to have best-in-class fuel economy with other engines, but the diesel should add to the high mpg numbers the truck will provide, and this Ram should overtake the HFE (high fuel economy) model, the 2WD 1500 with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and the eight-speed automatic, as fuel-economy champ, while potentially offering more than 150 lb-ft additional torque. The EPA city/highway numbers for the HFE Ram are 18 and 25; if the Ram gets the same fuel-economy rating as the Grand Cherokee with the EcoDiesel, that could mean numbers around 22 mpg city and 30 highway for a rear-drive truck. It's even possible that, with some of the fuel economy aids on the HFE model, the Ram could get better mileage than the EcoDiesel Grand Cherokee, but that depends on how far Ram is willing to go for fuel-economy supremacy.

We don't expect towing capacity to change with the new engine, and, from what we can tell, the truck's weight will not increase significantly with the addition. In the Grand Cherokee, the EcoDiesel weighs 4 pounds less than the 5.7-liter, but the aftertreatment setup -- including the SCR exhaust, urea system, and a full tank of diesel exhaust fluid -- weighs an additional 106 pounds, for a net gain of only 102 pounds over the V-8 (312 more, net, than the Pentastar). We also anticipate the GVWR will stay the same, so the only thing the weight gain would likely affect is payload capacity. We hope the diesel will be offered with a regular cab longbed layout, as that would be a great option for work trucks.

We won't know more details about the 2014 Ram Diesel until closer to its official release. It's expected to go on sale in the third quarter of 2013. Pricing will be important in determining whether the diesel will be a success. In Jeeps, added cost is around $4500, but there may be a different pricing strategy for the Ram. If the option is too pricey, it might scare some people away. However, if Ram prices this option just right, it will have a huge success on its hands that will force the other OEs to take notice.