Few powertrains in the 1/2-ton truck segment have been as eagerly anticipated as the 1/2-ton diesel in the Ram 1500. The last time there was this much intrigue and excitement in the class was over Ford's similar-sounding, but very different EcoBoost gasoline-direct-injection V-6 in the F-150. Ram was bringing back to the market something the 1/2-ton segment had not had for nearly three decades. Ram market research showed there was significant interest in a 1/2-ton diesel. We know it will be popular among certain buyers. But will it be as big a hit as Ford's EcoBoost?

We expect there will be high initial demand from early adopters and Ram and diesel enthusiasts who buy it for the newness and novelty aspect. But the question remains whether it will have the longer-term enduring popularity as EcoBoost has provided for Ford. As hard as Ram worked to keep the cost down on the EcoDiesel option, it still represents a $2850 premium over the Hemi V-8, and a more than $4000 premium over the base Pentastar V-6. While that's an impressively low price premium for a diesel engine option, it's still high compared with the EcoBoost and other upgrade engines in the 1/2-ton segment.

The powertrain's appeal also lies largely with the potential buyer's expectations and desired attributes. If fuel economy is high on the list, the EcoDiesel is a star, with highway fuel economy projected to be 27 mpg or higher, 2 mpg higher than the next-best Pentastar V-6. But in terms of acceleration and maximum towing capacity, the EcoDiesel is a mid-pack player in the context of today's 1/2-ton environment. Our fully loaded Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4x4 waddled on to the scales at a portly 6091 pounds, on the heavier side of the 1/2-ton spectrum. Consequently, acceleration times were definitely not top of class with an 8.9-second 0-60 run and 16.7-second quarter mile. Both times trail comparably-equipped F-150 EcoBoost by around 2 seconds.

The EcoDiesel proved its worth in three days of hard testing, where its average fuel economy was more than double that of some of the other competitors. And the engine's robust 420 lb-ft of torque proved itself by happily towing a trailer and hauling a payload without drama. While not a firecracker off the starting line, the EcoDiesel's abundant mid-range torque made for relaxed high-speed cruising loaded and unloaded, and highway-speed passing was confident.

The rest of the truck's attributes, from its styling, technology, suspension, ride quality, and overall refinement that made the 2013 Ram 1500 Truck of the Year all carry over and, added to the innovation of the EcoDiesel, helped make the Ram stand out among the contenders once again. We think the EcoDiesel makes the Ram 1500 a balanced, capable package that can be used as an everyday commuter with fuel economy comparable to that of a midsize sedan or compact crossover, with ample payload and towing capacity for recreational pursuits like a towing a ski boat, personal watercrafts, or a travel trailer. That target buyer is probably less concerned about its quarter-mile and 0-60 times, and more attracted to its fuel efficiency and well-rounded overall package.

The question for Ram is how many buyers are looking for that? We think the EcoDiesel could have a sustained take rate of about 20 percent of Ram 1500 sales. We don't see it reaching the 40 percent of Ford's EcoBoost soon, mainly due to American's continued fears of fuel availability and price, which in our experience are largely unfounded (every other station generally offers diesel), and the price premium of both the engine and the fuel pencil out over the long run with the significant improvement in fuel economy.

Those willing to take the plunge into the first 1/2-ton diesel truck in more than 25 years will be rewarded with a refined, comfortable, capable truck that delivers on capability, while offering class-leading economy and technology.


2014 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn EcoDiesel
BASE PRICE $50,110
PRICE AS TESTED $57,025
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck
ENGINE 3.0L/240-hp/420-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 6091 lb (57/43%)
WHEELBASE 140.5 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 229.0 x 79.4 x 75.5-79.6 in
0-60 MPH 8.9 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.7 sec @ 81.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 134 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.69 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON Not yet rated