2016 is shaping up to be a good year for Ram, since they are beating their competition across multiple areas. Ram can now check fuel economy off their list, because the 2016 Ram 1500 Tradesman has the best fuel economy of any other full-size pickup truck currently out there; and it does it without sacrificing power or utility. It’s thanks in part to the EcoDiesel engine that’s available on the Tradesman trim level, as well as the design and engineering behind it.
Even though it’s still a full-size truck, weight is the enemy of fuel-efficiency, and the EcoDiesel engine couldn’t do it all alone.
The engineering behind the Ram 1500 truck has to be good, especially if it can get best-in-class fuel economy without sacrificing size. The base curb weight of the Ram Tradesman 4x2 is 4,703 pounds, which is standard among pickup trucks out there. The overall dimensions of the Ram 1500 are about 19 feet long, just under 7 feet wide, and about 6 feet tall.
With a truck that’s built for work with an average size, how is its fuel-efficiency so good?
The answer to that question; aerodynamics. The aerodynamics of vehicles are often underrated and overlooked, especially when it comes to trucks. Ram made sure to add a few tricks that help reduce wind drag, which means the truck’s engine needs to work less. Therefore, it causes less fuel to be consumed when going down the road.
Leading the way in innovation and aerodynamics for the Ram 1500 on some models are the active air grille shutters. Ram says these are a key component of their evolved aerodynamics technology, and it’s clear to see why. The Active Air Grille Shutters are designed to open and cool the engine when required. Keeping the engine cool helps it run better, but sucking in all that air can’t be good for wind drag. Which is why Ram designed the shutters to close automatically during highway speeds to reduce said drag.
Note: these shutters aren't available on the Tradesman, but are still worth mentioning. Because the trims they are available on only get 1 less mpg than the class-leading Tradesman trim. Which speaks volumes about Ram’s attention to aerodynamic design.
However, available on the Tradesman are some features that you wouldn’t think help improve aerodynamics, but they actually do. A tonneau cover for the bed is a common sight on trucks now and days, but it serves a much bigger purpose than just keeping items in the bed dry. While the tonneau cover is on, the wind can’t push down and into the bed. Instead, it just rolls off the back of the truck. That added pressure would typically make the engine work harder and consume more fuel. Along with the tonneau cover, the available wheel-to-wheel side steps are also strategically designed and placed to help improve aerodynamics.
On top of this, you can see how the front-end, hood, sides, and roof are all shaped to let the wind peel off the truck. I don’t want to spend anymore time on aerodynamics, but they are an important part when it comes to the fuel economy of a vehicle. Almost as important as the engine.
The 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 engine might not get as much power as the standard V8, but it’s the one that gives the most fuel-efficiency. Besides, the 240 horsepower is plenty for a truck this size, and the 420 pound-feet of torque provided is more than enough to tow anything you can think of up to 9,210 pounds. Combined with a payload of 1,600 pounds, this EcoDiesel engine is one of the most advanced light-duty truck engines Ram has ever made.
Not only is it fuel-efficient and surprisingly strong for a light-duty engine, but it’s emissions compliant in all 50 states thanks to certain components in the advanced design.
For a comparison purposes, let’s look at the two other engines offered in the Ram 1500 truck-lineup. The 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine comes standard on most trucks, and gets 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. It sits at 305 horsepower, but puts out significantly less torque at 269 pound-feet. This results in a decreased towing capacity, 7,610 pounds, which means that for utility purposes the EcoDiesel engine can outperform it while still getting better fuel economy. Even the legendary 5.7 Hemi V8 engine is barely outperforming the EcoDiesel engine. It puts out 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque, but gets painful fuel economy; 15 mpg city and 22 mpg highway.
The fact this EcoDiesel engine is getting 21 mpg city and 29 mpg highway while putting out almost just as much torque and towing capacity as the Hemi V8 is a true testament to the advanced design of this engine.
Another often overlooked component that plays into fuel economy is the transmission. The transmission is what delivers the power from the engine to the wheels, and a smoother working transmission means better fuel economy. The Torqueflite eight-speed automatic transmission on the Ram 1500 does just that, thanks to the thermal management system. This system optimizes the Automatic Transmission Fluid temperatures. This way, the transmission doesn’t run too hot. This allows the transmission to work much smoother and easier, increasing the fuel economy and performance of a vehicle.
Ford and Chevy can’t be too happy with Ram this year, and I don’t blame them. 2016 is the year Ram is leaping ahead of the competition in numerous ways; and the 21 mpg city, 29 mpg highway sealed the deal for best fuel economy in a full-size pickup. The new F-150 falls surprisingly short in terms of fuel economy compared to the Ram. Standard, the F-150 full-size pickup only gets 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, making the Ram 3 mpg more efficient. A 3 mpg that Ram enthusiasts and manufacturers are jumping for joy with I’m sure. For Chevy, the Silverado 1500 is coming in at a very close third with 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, 1 less mpg than Ford.
Now that we know the engine isn’t the only factor in terms of fuel economy, it’s easy to see how Ram was able to pull ahead of the competition. The little things like the aerodynamic design and features along with a smooth-shifting transmission all add up, and work together to give the Ram 1500 the official title of the most fuel-efficient full-size pickup truck in 2016.