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2019 Ram 1500 is Motortrend Truck of the Year

Source: MotorTrend

Americans ask more of our trucks than we do of any other vehicle. In any given week, the average half-ton pickup might find itself commuting like a sedan, hauling a bed full of bricks and sand, towing some Jet Skis, navigating muddy ranchland, or exploring off-road trails. It’s no wonder that we bought 2.8 million of the things last year.

The best-selling pickup in the United States last year—and indeed in every year for the past four decades—has been the Ford F-Series. But our 2019 Truck of the Year should give pause to prospective Blue Oval loyalists (or buyers of any truck, for that matter) because there isn’t a truck out there that so precisely hits the diverse needs of the segment better than the 2019 Ram 1500.

The fifth-generation Ram 1500 is the latest in a long line of evolutionary leaps for Fiat ChryslerAutomobiles’ bread-and-butter truck. The newest version, more than any other, seems poised to meet the needs of the 21st century truck buyer, with more variety, capability, comfort, convenience, and value than ever before.

ADVANCEMENT IN DESIGN

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but there’s no arguing that Ram retains its reputation for stylish functionality. “Best-in-class: sophisticated without going over the top,” editor-in-chief Ed Loh said.

The 2019 Ram 1500’s clean-sheet redesign throws out many of the design cues we’ve come to expect from a Ram pickup—while still being unmistakably Ram. Gone are the crosshair grilles, mini-Mack fenders, and even the traditional Ram badge in most places. Instead, the 1500 provides buyers a choice of seven grilles and three head- and taillamp designs. Its 15 wheel designs feature stronger six-bolt hubs, ranging from an off-road-friendly 18 inches to an urban cowboy 22-inch style. And that’s on top of your typical pickup choices of extended or crew cab and bed sizes of either 5-foot-7 or 6-foot-4. A regular cab and 8-foot bed are expected next year.

“I love the styling,” road test editor Chris Walton said, eyeing the Ram 1500 Rebel. “It’s like the Viper of Rams.”

The interior updates, from the volume-grade Big Horn all the way up to the luxurious Limited, are even more impressive. Every Ram cabin has the tools needed for both work and play. The Ram’s configurable center console turns the space into an office, with room inside to swallow a bag and laptop, space for your phone and drinks, and a center console lid that can function as a desk.

When it comes to technology, Ram provides three versions of its Uconnect infotainment system, including a choice of an 8.4-inch or Tesla-like 12.0-inch touchscreen. “The center stack layout is a combination of Volvo (screen), Audi (switches), and Jaguar (rotary shifter),” Walton said. “The clever center console (phone charger/pocket, sliding bins, and side pockets) is something Honda would do. Ram has done its homework on picking the benchmarks for both design and packaging.”

Although a Silicon Valley-aping infotainment suite will certainly draw eyeballs in showrooms, the cabin’s functionality and furnishings are even more impressive.

Crew cab versions feature a flat floor in back and seats that flip up, allowing you to store valuables in the safety of the cabin. RamBins, hidden underneath the rear floormats, have grown in size to better accommodate hitch receivers or ratchet straps. In a first for pickups, the new Ram 1500’s higher trim levels have a rear bench seat that reclines up to 8 degrees and is heated and cooled, as well. Ever been chauffeured in a truck before? Now you can be.

We were particularly impressed by the level of fit and finish. Every trim, from the base Tradesman up to the Limited, furnishes at least one two-tone cabin treatment, injecting a bit of personality and style into the cabin at any price point. Unlike some of its competitors, Ram took the profitable luxury market seriously by offering two flavors of luxury trucks—the saddlebag-equipped (seriously) Laramie Longhorn and the thoroughly modern Limited.

“GM has to be kidding, going up against this with the High Country and Denali,” features editor Scott Evans said. “This is a luxury interior. Look at this wood! This leather! The metal, stitching, design, attention to detail! The leather on the grab handles! Cadillac could learn a thing or two by spending an afternoon in this cabin.”

Hyperbole aside, he’s right. The Ram’s cabin ain’t just good for a truck. It’s good, period.

ENGINEERING EXCELLENCE

Looks can be deceiving, and you’d be forgiven for thinking the 2019 Ram is a bit old school in its approach. Freed from the obligation (and expense) of chasing maximum payload and towing capacities with all-aluminum construction, the Ram team instead invested in a shotgun approach to improve capability, efficiency, and performance. Underpinning it all is a new high-strength steel platform, 4.0 inches longer and about 17 percent lighter than the old chassis. The aerodynamic sheetmetal is largely built from steel but with the strategic use of lighter metals for a total weight decrease of about 200 pounds.

Like the previous version of the Ram 1500, our 2019 Truck of the Year continues to come standard with a coil-spring rear suspension (now with frequency dampers), which slightly sacrifices towing and payload capacity in favor of a better ride when compared to leaf-sprung competitors. A four-corner air suspension with five ride heights and load leveling is available, giving the best of both worlds when it comes to ride and performance.

“It’s really a surprise on the road,” testing director Kim Reynolds said after a stint in an air suspension-equipped 1500. “It’s way more refined and sophisticated than the GMs. Steering is fluid and quality-feeling.” The standard suspension won praise at the expense of its competitive set, too. “The coil-spring suspension is better in the Ram than the ride in any of the GM trucks,” MotorTrend en Espanol managing editor Miguel Cortina said.

Despite the minor diet, maximum payload is up to 2,320 pounds, and max towing capacity rises to 12,750 pounds, besting Chevrolet, GMC, Nissan, and Toyota’s half-ton offerings (though shy of Big Daddy Ford’s max towing by 450 el-bees).

Things get even more impressive under the hood. Embracing global realities, two of the three available Ram 1500 engines come with supplemental electric motors to improve fuel economy and performance. These mild-hybrid powerplants, dubbed eTorque, use small starter-generators and a tiny 0.43-kW-hr battery stashed in the rear wall of the cab to aid the stop/start system and provide torque assist to allow the engines to lug around at cruising speed in four-cylinder mode longer and without having to downshift.

The eTorque system is standard on the base 3.6-liter V-6, which makes 305 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque, and is also available for a small premium on the top-level 5.7-liter V-8, which turns out 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. A non-eTorque 5.7-liter V-8 generating the same output as the eTorque version slots between the two electrified mills. (Because these motors aren’t assisting when the engines’ are generating peak power and torque, they don’t affect those figures.) An eight-speed automatic is standard across the line, as is rear-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive, limited-slip or locking rear axles, and three final drive ratios are also available.

The base eTorque V-6 is a lot of engine for the money. It makes its torque higher in its rev band, but it makes good use of the power it has. “It feels powerful even though it’s a V-6,” associate online editor Kelly Pleskot said. Evans agreed, adding that it “doesn’t have the torque of the V-8s, but it has plenty of power; the deficit only manifests itself when passing on Arizona’s 75-mph freeways.”

In back-to-back driving of our otherwise identically equipped V-8 Ram 1500 Longhorn and Limited models, Evans was one of the few judges who could feel the Limited’s eTorque assist at work. “I find the eTorque drivetrain a bit smoother through the revs and shifts and when accelerating up steep grades,” he said.

The fuel economy benefits of the eTorque V-8s show up in our data, but towing performance is a bit of a wash; all of the Ram V-8s, eTorque or not, performed nearly identically in both instrumented tow tests (where the Rams towed between 6,600 pounds and 11,400 pounds) and in our Davis Dam frustration test, which saw our V-6 Ram tester tow 4,020 pounds and the V-8s tow 7,780 pounds.

PERFORMANCE OF INTENDED FUNCTION

Despite the many hats we expect our trucks to wear, at their heart, they are beasts of burden. To that end, the 2019 Ram 1500 excels.

The most important part of any pickup is its bed, and Ram continues to deliver. The bed rails have been raised 1.5 inches to increase cargo volume, and the optional RamBoxes grow in size with minimal impact on bed space.

Some previous Ram innovations carry over, including the segment’s best combo bed extender and cargo divider, which stashes against the cab when not in use, and a CHMSL-mounted camera that looks down into the bed so you can triple-check your tie-down work while on the move.

The ability to access the bed is arguably as important as its construction. Missing GM’s standard bumper steps, Ram makes up for it with its option sheet. One of the air suspension’s many benefits is its access height mode, which lowers the bed’s step-up height to match that of the bumper step. For those who skip the air suspension, Ram also offers a kick-down rear step that stashes up and away behind the rear bumper.

Ram made towing improvements, too. For those who simply want to hitch up and go, Ram makes life easy. The rearview cameras have high resolution, making it easy to hitch up without a spotter. Trucks equipped with blind-spot sensors have an extra party piece, too; after you hitch up and make a couple of turns, the blind-spot sensors will determine the length of your trailer and increase the size of the alert zone to include the trailer length.

As for straight-up towing, the Ram 1500 is rock-solid, especially when equipped with the air suspension. Towing the exact same 8,300-pound trailer as the GMC Sierras and Chevrolet Silverados, the Rams feel so much more confident and just plain happy while at work.

EFFICIENCY

Pickups aren’t traditionally known for fuel efficiency, but that didn’t stop Ram from easing the pain at the pump. Lots of credit goes to the lineup of eTorque engines, but Ram also worked hard at ensuring the new 1500 is as aerodynamic as possible without sacrificing the utility of its pickup body. Its segment-best 0.357 Cd is achieved using grille shutters and spoilers integrated into the trailing edges of the roof and tailgate. On trucks without air suspension, an air dam deploys automatically at 35 mph; those with air suspension get an aero-mode ride height.

The result is that Ram has the most efficient V-8 in its class; the V-8 eTorque is EPA-rated at 17/23/19 mpg city/highway/combined with rear drive or 17/22/19 with four-wheel drive. Non-eTorque Ram V-8s net 15/22/17 (rear drive) or 15/21/17 (four-wheel drive) mpg. Our Real MPG testing of the V-8 models generally falls in line with the EPA’s results, but our eTorque V-8-powered 1500 Limited 4×4 beat the feds’ numbers with an 18.7/22.6/20.3 score.

The one weak point would be the hard-working V-6 eTorque powerplant. EPA-rated at 20/25/22 mpg with rear drive and 19/24/21 mpg with four-wheel drive, our Big Horn 4×4 model achieved an unimpressive 15.4/19.7/17.1 Real MPG score.

VALUE

With pickup trucks, value is ultimately relative over a life of hard knocks and long miles. But we were impressed by the breadth of the Ram lineup. The base Tradesman model starts at $33,390 and should need little more than a spray-in bedliner and tow hitch to be ready for work. The volume Big Horn model is even more impressive. One step up from the Tradesman and starting at $40,090, the Big Horn models offer two-tone interiors, a smartphone-friendly 8.0-inch touchscreen, and more. Editors lauded our two Big Horn testers for their premium-feeling materials and high amount of content for the dollar.

Where Ram makes the biggest value argument is surprisingly in its two most expensive trims: the $52,685 1500 Laramie Longhorn and $55,285 Limited. These two luxe trucks simply blow the competition out of the water. They offer the tech that contractors and civilians alike require and expect, and quite a few luxury automakers could learn a thing from the way Ram matches colors, textures, and materials in these cabins. And it’s a bargain, considering our loaded Ram Limited tester stickered for $68,340, about the price of a comparable GMC Sierra Denali and less than an equivalent F-150 Limited.

BRINGING HOME THE GOLD

No segment is more competitive or more important to Detroit’s automakers and blue-collar American workers than half-ton pickups. These trucks are the face of their brands—purchased, driven, and loved by millions. They’re dependable commuters, tools, and toys that form the backbones of our families. With such a diverse skill set needed, it’s easy to just miss the target. But the Ram 1500 hits the bull’s-eye. No pickup in the segment better balances capability, efficiency, value, and quality. The Ram 1500 retains its old-school appeal while being refreshingly modern in style and substance. It’s refined and sophisticated without surrendering its dirty-fingernails roots. For that, the Ram is our 2019 Truck of the Year.

4 Best Things About Owning a Chrysler Pacifica

If you have a large family, you can’t do without a roomy, reliable vehicle to get you and your children from place to place. This is why so many growing families choose minivans. They’re perfect for vacations and road trips as well as everyday trips to school, sporting events and other activities. If you’re ready to shop for your next vehicle, you should see what the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica can do for you.

Gas Mileage

 

While it’s true minivans don’t get the best gas mileage compared to other vehicles, you’ll love the fact you can drive on the highway for more than 530 miles on a single tank. You can even go 361 miles on city road between fill-ups. The Pacifica has a 19-gallon tank and gets 28 miles per gallon on the highway and 19 miles per gallon on city roads. It takes regular unleaded gasoline.

 

Engine

 

You’ll use your Pacifica for just about every traveling need, so it’s essential that it has a reliable engine. You’ll feel at ease knowing it generates 262 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm and 287 horsepower at 6,400 rpm. The Pacifica has a 3.6-liter, 24-valve. V6 DOHC engine with variable valve timing.

 

Safety

 

Every vehicle needs to come with the best possible safety features but this is especially true when you’re transporting your entire family. This minivan has rear door child safety locks to keep your young riders inside at all times. It also has stability control and traction control, both of which will come in handy during less-than-ideal road conditions.

 

Other Conveniences

 

You’ll also appreciate the keyless entry and universal remote that come with this vehicle. You’ll also make good use of the rearview camera and the electric power steering.

 

Come to Woodbine Chrysler today and take the Pacifica for a spin. You’ll fall in love with its looks and functionality.

How the 2018 Jeep Cherokee can up Your Off-Roading Game

Finding the right new car to buy can be stressful and time consuming, especially if you like driving off the beaten path. The new car might need to handle a fun day off-road while still getting you to work safely the next morning. That can make you feel like you’re looking for the best of both worlds, which isn’t always easy. The 2018 Jeep Cherokee has a super comfortable interior to add that element of luxury to all your off-roading adventures. If you’re looking for a hint of opulence in the interior combined which spectacular off-road abilities, the Jeep Cherokee could be an excellent option.

When shopping features, you have your choice of engines. You may want the more powerful choice if you regularly tow, but both engines can withstand the test of the wild and run smoothly on the open road. The four-wheel drive along with five different terrain modes could make the Jeep Cherokee one of your weekend essentials. The interior boasts cushioned and adjustable seats with plenty of room for passengers. There are several materials you can use to customize, namely cloth, vinyl and two different types of leather.

 

If one of your main concerns on a long trip or day off-road is the music, the Jeep Cherokee has an infotainment system that is intuitive to use. The standard system includes an audio system with six speakers operated by touch screen, but you can upgrade your speaker count to nine. Also included in the standard system is Bluetooth and parking sensors, but there are plenty of extras that can come in handy. A wireless charging pad, navigation, air conditioning and a Wi-Fi hot spot are all available.

 

All of the convenient features of the 2018 Jeep Cherokee can help make both your special trips and every day commutes more enjoyable. For more information about how the Jeep Cherokee can up your off-roading game, visit the experts at Woodbine Chrysler.

3 Reasons Your Family Will Love The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

From its spacious, comfortable interior to its plentiful safety and entertainment features, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is well-positioned to become your family’s signature vehicle. If you’re in the market for a new or used family vehicle from Woodbine Chrysler, give this Kelley Blue Book’s Best Buy Award winner some consideration.

Comfortable Interior

 

The standard maximum seating capacity of seven means the Pacifica’s ideal for you and a single passenger or for you and a group of family or friends. The driver’s seat features an 8-way adjustment and the passenger’s a 4-way adjustment, allowing you to experience a full range of comfort as you take the wheel or relax as a passenger.

 

Safety Features

 

As with any vehicle, safety is paramount to your driving experience, and never more so than when you’re carrying precious human cargo. Four-wheel ABS brakes, brake assistance and driveline traction control give you the responsiveness you need in a vehicle when you’re out on the road. The minivan also features height-adjustable front and rear seatbelts, nine airbags and rear child safety locks.

 

Entertainment Options

 

No matter whether you’re toting toddlers, teenagers or seniors, it’s likely they’ll fall in love with the standard entertainment features that make any trip more pleasant. Wireless phone connectivity, a primary monitor touchscreen, speed-sensitive volume, voice-activated radio and six speakers are sure to thrill your passengers.

 

Whether you’re the driver or someone else takes a turn, the steering wheel-mounted audio controls can make life a little easier, allowing you to keep your hands on the wheel while listening to music or talk radio. Optional entertainment features include internet access and an entertainment system with DVD and digital media.

 

For these three reasons and many more, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica from Woodbine Chrysler may be just the ticket for your family’s next vehicle. Bring your clan to the dealership and gauge their reaction.

No Matter Which Trim You Choose, the 2018 Ram 1500 Has Many Incredible Options

The 2018 Ram 1500 makes a strong showing in light-duty trucks. From the line’s basic Tradesman to its exclusive Limited Tungsten edition, this tough truck is impressive at every level. At Woodbine Chrysler, we can help you choose from the many options available, including the off-road-ready Rebel.  

 

Selecting an Engine 

 

The 1500 offers a choice of three powerful engines. The standard is a 3.6-litre, 305 hp V-6. Strong and efficient, it delivers 269 lb-ft of torque. Next up is the 3.0-litre turbodiesel. Also a V-6, it produces 420 lb-ft of torque. Delivering 27 mpg on the highway in both rear-wheel and four-wheel drive, it’s a definite leader in its class. The 1500’s top-of-the-line engine is a 5.7-litre Hemi V-8, with 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. The base engine is a six-speed automatic, with the other two featuring eight speeds. 

 

Body Styles and Standard Features 

 

The 2018 Ram 1500 is available with a regular two-door cab, a quad cab with four doors and an even roomier crew cab that can comfortably seat six. Depending on your cabin selection, you can choose between a standard-length bed, short bed or long bed. A spray-in bed liner comes standard, along with 17-inch wheels and a full-size spare tire. Other features include a rear backlight and a Class IV trailer hitch. When properly equipped, this tough truck can tow up to 10,620 pounds. Inside the cabin, a Radio 3.0 user interface comes standard, along with a USB port and a 3.5-inch driver’s display. 

 

Trims and Upgrades 

 

Eleven trim options give you plenty of upgrades with the 2018 Ram 1500. The cab’s standard vinyl upholstery can be upgraded to premium leather, with add-ons like heated seats and a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel.  Multiple enhancements are also available for wheels, chrome, lettering and lighting, and the infotainment package can be upgraded to include an 8.4-inch center display complete with navigation and a premium audio system. 

 

This impressive list of possibilities just gives you a glimpse of what the Ram 1500 has to offer. Visit Woodbine Chrysler to see the complete picture. 

The 2016 Dodge Durango

The 2016 Dodge Durango isn’t a carlike crossover, and it isn’t an off-road-focused SUV. Instead it’s somewhere in between—a longer, three-row vehicle closely related to the Jeep Grand Cherokee and built from the architecture that brought us the Mercedes GL-Class and M-Class

The Durango, to distill it down to the essence, is a utility vehicle with considerable rugged capabilities and exceptionally nice road manners. With handsome, sauve styling, a refined cabin feel, and superb performance, it’s one of the best ways to go if you have a growing family…and a boat to tow on the weekends.

Whether your idea of what a utility vehicle should be is soft and organic, or whether you’re a fan of boxy SUVs with brush guards and roof carriers, you’ll probably come to an agreement that the Durango is one of the better-looking three-row SUVs on the market. It combines some of the traditional, with a good dose of contemporary sculpting. The classic SUV stance is set up by the big crosshair grill, as well as a silhouette that doesn’t arch too much in any way—or taper. It’s just boxy enough without looking slab-sized. LED racetrack lighting, one of the latest Dodge family traits, forms a ribbon of light across the tail.

Inside, almost none of the truck-like heritage has been carried over. The soft, flowing dash has thin metallic rings framing the major controls and a large touchscreen to rule the infotainment world. With leather upholstery, woven red inserts and red stitching, and white trim rings on the dials, the Durango feels less like an on-a-budget utility vehicle and more like a luxury SUV, done right.

Last year marked the debut of a red Nappa leather interior for the R/T model; this year all models get new wheel finishes, four new exterior colors, and a few new appearance packages the combine gloss black and body-color details—aesthetically building a bit more on the Mopar motorsports and muscle-car cues elsewhere in the Dodge lineup.

Dodge Durango performance

The Durango includes the same, excellent new eight-speed automatic transmission that’s used in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and other Chrysler products. It’s controlled via a stylish rotary shifter like the one used in the Ram 1500 and Chrysler 200, as well as paddle-shifters for all models. A pair of strong engines is available: the standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 making 290 horsepower (or 295 hp) and 260 pound-feet, and a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 making 360 hp and 390 lb-ft. Both are helped by the eight-speed auto to achieve acceptable fuel-economy numbers. HEMI feature so-called Fuel Saver Technology (cylinder deactivation), while V-6 models now include engine stop-start technology (ESS), and all models have a selectable Eco Mode that changes throttle sensitivity and transmission shift points to maximize fuel savings.

All that said, the Durango is still especially thirsty in V-8 guise. Ratings slide to 14/23 mpg, or 17 mpg combined. And with all-wheel drive, it’s pegged at 14/22 mpg or 16 mpg combined.

It may be worth it if you tow or need just an added amount of ruggedness, though. The Durango also offers a choice between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, depending on the model. Two different AWD systems are used; V-8 models get a low-range transfer case, while V-6 models use a simpler a single-speed unit. Towing capability tops out at 7,400 pounds with the V-8.

Seating for up to seven (or optional seating for six, with available second-row dual captain’s chairs) is one of the Durango’s top selling points. Its third-row seat is quite usable compared to other models this size, and it’s split 50/50, able to be folded flat into the floor. The standard second-row layout folds forward, too, to greatly expand cargo space. Dodge says there’s room for a six-foot couch and a coffee table, or to carry 10-foot 2x4s.

Dodge Durango safety and features

The Durango scores well in crash tests and comes with a very impressive set of safety features, including seven standard airbags, full-length three-row side-curtain bags, and active front headrests. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross path detection are available, as are adaptive cruise control with stop, and Uconnect Access, which includes some emergency and roadside-assistance services.

The smooth instrument panel resembles the one in Dodge’s Charger sedan, and can house either a five-inch or 8.4-inch Uconnect touch screen in the center stack. As in other Dodges, the gauges are made up of a seven-inch reconfigurable TFT screen.

The Durango is offered in SXT, Rallye, Limited, R/T, and Citadel models, with all but the SXT and Rallye getting the 8.4-inch Uconnect system that wraps together audio, climate controls, calling functions, and in some cases navigation. Turn instructions, audio info, or trip info can be displayed on the gauge cluster as well.

In recent years, Dodge has been pushing the Durango up the luxury ladder, first with a Limited model—leather upholstery, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and the 8.4-inch Uconnect system—and now with a Citadel model that piles on even more like the Beats by Dr. Dre audio system (10 speakers and a subwoofer). There’s an available HDMI and Blu-ray rear entertainment system, with screens integrated in the back of front headrests and a remote. And Uconnect Access Via Mobile also has voice-command capability (including to read text messages) and enables media apps for streaming audio like Pandora or Slacker.

2015 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman Quad Cab 4X4 EcoDiesel

The 2015 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman Quad Cab 4X4 EcoDiesel. (FCA)

The 2015 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman Quad Cab 4X4 EcoDiesel. (FCA)

The Canadian new-vehicle market is expected to hit a new record when the numbers for 2015 are tallied.

Minivans and cars are falling from favour, replaced by SUVs and CUVs. But one thing remains constant — Canadians love pickup trucks.

During the past year I have tested seven pickups: Canyon, Colorado, F150, Ram, Sierra, Silverado and Tundra. They were powered by four-, six- or eight-cylinder engines and prices ranged from $30,000 to more than $70,000.

One stood out. The Ram EcoDiesel.

Like many Canadians, I understand and appreciate pickups. I own one (not a Ram). They have tremendous versatility, are able to carry or tow big and heavy items while providing spacious accommodation for five full-sized adults.

The trend is toward more attention forward of the cargo box, with comfort, convenience and features that rival luxury cars — combined with more people space than any car.

One thing pickups cannot provide is decent fuel economy. Until now. The average fuel consumption of those seven pickups tested last year was in the mid to low teens, (11.7-17.2 litres/100 km) on a combination of city and highway driving.

I am talking real-world numbers, not those generated in a laboratory or on long level stretches of road with a steady throttle opening. Here in the Maritimes we see very little of that type of road as ours are more likely to have hills and curves — conditions that require constant throttle adjustment.

Combine that with a heavy right foot and my numbers are always going to be well below that claimed by the manufacturers and proud owners who are always quick to remind me that they have done far better.

But my boat was rocked this year by the Ram EcoDiesel. Over my usual 350-km test route, it used slightly more than half as much fuel as the others.

During a subsequent four-province journey of more than 2,500 km, the big (5,700 lb) Ram EcoDiesel returned a stunning average of 9.6 litres/100 km at an average speed of 93 km/h.

That number may not impress if you have no experience with pickups. As indicated above, under similar conditions, the competition ranged from 11.7 to 17.2 litres/100 km.

The EcoDiesel numbers are even more impressive given that the vast majority of those miles were at 110 km/hr. At 100 km/h, the mileage was in the 8s!

This from a loaded ($54,000), luxurious, big four-door pickup that tipped the scales at almost three tons on the road.

2015 Ram EcoDieselI won’t go into the usual description of the amenities, comfort, etc., of a pickup at this price point. Suffice it to say the big rig was a wonderful companion during those 27 hours on the road.

The lofty perch proved an excellent platform and provided great visibility whether in the freezing rain and light snow of an early morning in northern Quebec or driving rain in PEI that same evening.

The excellent ride, comfy seats, excellent climate control system, easily deciphered infotainment system and relatively quiet cabin helped pass the time.

Those same features are readily available in other pickups.

The full-sized ones all offer diesel engines — but these big and extremely powerful units are workhorses, designed to allow the truck to carry or tow massive amounts.

The EcoDiesel is what I would call a light-duty diesel, a 3.0-litre V6 from VM Motori, an Italian company with a relationship to Chrysler, sorry FCA, dating back to 1992. Fiat bought the company in 2013.

The EcoDiesel offers more torque than the vaunted Hemi V8 and paired with the ZF eight-speed automatic, better fuel economy. Much better.

BUT — and here is the flip side of the coin — the EcoDiesel is expensive and you have to rely on high mileage and reasonable diesel fuel prices to recoup that extra cost. Driven with even a slightly lighter right foot, the Ram EcoDiesel will easily match the Natural Resources Canada rating of 8.8 litres/100 km.

No other full-size pickup can even approach that number. This engine, paired with the mandatory eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, adds $5,700 to the cost of the Ram truck.

That would buy an awful lot of gasoline.

If you plan on keeping the truck for years and/or accumulating high mileage, the EcoDiesel will make up that difference — while providing effortless real-world power and the ability to go more than 900 km on a tank of fuel.

More than most bladders!

The specs

2015 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman Quad Cab 4X4

  • Price: $43,195 base; $57,615 as tested, including freight
  • Engine: turbocharged, 3.0-litre DOHC V6 diesel, 240 horsepower, 420 lb.-ft. of torque
  • Transmission: eight-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive with two-speed transfer case
  • NRCan rating (litres/100 km city/highway): 12.1 / 8.8; observed 9.6 overall
  • Tow rating: 4,713 kg (9,200 lb)
  • Length: 5,817 mm
  • Width: 2,017 mm
  • Wheelbase: 3,556 mm
  • Weight: 2,457 kg
  • Competition: Ford F-150 Diesel
  • Options on test vehicle: Premium seat package ($1,000): 10-way power driver’s seat, 60/40 split/folding rear seat, 115-volt power outlet, fold-flat load floor with storage; Customer Preferred package 28T ($1,000): 265/70/17 on/off-road tires, tow hooks, class IV hitch, anti-spin differential, auxiliary rubber floor mats, transfer case skid plate, front suspension skid plate, two-tone paint, HD rear shock absorbers; Luxury Group ($725): electroluminescent instrument panel, auto-dimming rear view mirror, power folding heated mirrors with turn signal indicators, universal garage door opener, leather-wrapped steering wheel, overhead console; Comfort Group ($700): heated front seats and steering wheel, dual zone automatic climate control with humidity sensor; Rear Camera & Park Assist Group ($875): Parkview rear camera, front and rear park sensors; Soft tri-fold tonneau cover, $450; eight-speed automatic transmission, $1,000; 3.0-litre EcoDiesel engine, $4,700; rear window defroster, $225; UConnect infotainment system with 21-cm touch screen and media hub, $800; 20-inch semi-glass black aluminum wheels with 275/60R20 all-season tires, locking lug nuts, $600; spray-on bedliner, $550

Canadian Chrysler dealers eagerly await redesigned minivans

Source: Globe and Mail

Sales of minivans are dwindling in North America, but they’re still a big deal at Pothier Motors Ltd. – and an even bigger deal at the auto maker that supplies the Falmouth, N.S., dealership.

Minivans are a key franchise for FCA Canada Inc. (Chrysler), which ships Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country models from its Windsor, Ont., assembly plant to Pothier. So dealership president John Pothier understands the importance of the $2-billion (U.S.) investment FCA Canada’s parent company is making to redesign the people haulers.

The redesigned model will be introduced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Jan. 11.

“It’s going to be huge for them,” said Mr. Pothier, who is president of the Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership. His store sells about 100 to 125 new Dodge Grand Caravans and Chrysler Town & Country models annually, representing about 20 per cent of Pothier’s annual new vehicle sales.

That’s the same share of new vehicle sales the minivans represent for FCA Canada. The Town & Country and Grand Caravan outsell the entire lineup of Chrysler, Dodge and Fiat passenger cars by almost two to one.

The Grand Caravan on its own is the second-best-selling vehicle in the auto maker’s lineup after the Ram pickup, even though the company’s minivan sales have fallen 10 per cent this year.

Spending $2-billion to upgrade a vehicle whose sales have fallen in a segment that has also slumped might normally be considered folly, but minivans have been one of the flagship vehicles for Chrysler since Lee Iacocca, the legendary chief executive officer of Chrysler Corp. at the time, drove the first one off the line of the Windsor Assembly Plant in 1984.

A decade later, the auto maker added a third shift to the Windsor plant and the factory has been rolling at full tilt since then – with the exception of a temporary shutdown when Chrysler LLC was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009.

Chrysler has held the lead in the segment by continually offering features that kept it ahead of the competition, notably the first driver’s side sliding door on a minivan in 1996.

Industry sources said one of the innovations on the 2017 model will be foot-activated sliding doors and rear liftgate.

The auto maker has said there will also be a hybrid version of the vehicle.

The Chrysler twins combined lead the minivan segment in both the U.S. and Canadian markets, but the numbers are working against them. Minivans grabbed 7.4 per cent of the U.S. market in 2000 and nearly double that at 14.5 per cent in Canada, where the vehicles have always been more popular.

In 2015, minivan market share slumped to 2.8 per cent in the United States and 4.5 per cent in Canada amid soaring sales of crossovers, which have some of the utility of minivans, but none of the stigma.

That steady decline from 2000, when auto makers sold more than 1.5 million minivans, led several companies to abandon the market, including Chrysler’s Detroit-based rivals Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. and South Korea-based Hyundai Motor Co., whose Entourage model was discontinued after just four years in the market.

Nonetheless, industry analyst Joe Phillippi, who heads AutoTrends Consulting Inc., said he believes the segment has stabilized and should grow modestly as more millennials start having children.

“There’s a demographic cohort that really do view minivans as a great value, as a people mover for the family,” Mr. Phillippi said.

He points to his own daughter, a mother of three children, whose family owns a Honda Odyssey minivan and a Ford Explorer crossover.

“There’s a soccer game or tournament for each kid virtually every weekend fall and spring,” he said. “Being able to haul all their stuff, coolers, it’s a lot easier in the Odyssey than in the very trendy-looking Ford Explorer.”

The original plan for the redesign of the Chrysler minivans was to replace both of them with a single model, the Town & Country. But the Canadian and U.S. markets differ.

Sales of the models are about even in the U.S. market, but Canadians bought 46,927 Grand Caravans last year, compared with 9,001 Town & Country models.

Mr. Pothier said he keeps just one or two Town & Country minivans in stock in Falmouth, compared with about 30 Grand Caravans.

So Canadian dealers have urged the auto maker to retain the Dodge Caravan name and the less expensive version of the vehicle in Canada.

“I do not sell a lot of Town & Country [models],” said one Chrysler dealer in Western Canada. “The customer profile we sell Caravans to are not going from the yacht club to the private golf club.

Two New Special-edition Jeep Models are Coming Soon!

Source: Autogo.ca

It seems as though FCA can’t get enough of creating different versions of the iconic SUV. After unveiling the Jeep Wrangler Red Rock Concept at the SEMA show, the brand will be presenting the 2016 Jeep Wrangler Backcountry at the Los Angeles Auto Show next week.

But that’s not all. The 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Night will also make its appearance. The new edition of the hot-rod SUV features a glossy black finish of the roof, the rear spoiler, the front grille as well as the B and C pillars. It also gets satin black front trim piece, badging and split five-spoke 20-inch alloy wheels. Inside, the SRT Night also offers Black Laguna leather upholstery with silver contrast stitching and black chrome instrument bezels. Three paint colours are available, including Velvet Red, Billet Silver and Granite Crystal.

As for the 2016 Jeep Wrangler Backcountry, it’s based on the Sahara version, but boasts a winter theme with powder-coated bumpers, black 17-inch Rubicon alloy wheels and a black fuel filler door. It also comes with a black hardtop, while a body-colour hardtop is optional. The Backcountry’s cabin includes piano black vent rings, door handles and grab handles. The console lid and door panels also get vinyl wrappings with gray stitching, black leather and mesh-trimmed seats, a nine-speaker Alpine stereo and slush mats. Five paint colours are available, including the exclusive Xtreme Purple in addition to Hydro Blue, Bright White, Granite Crystal and Black.

Both these special-edition models will be on sale in Canada. The Wrangler Backcountry will arrive at the end of November, while the Grand Cherokee SRT Night will hit showroom floors in the beginning of 2016.

2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel 3.0 V6 4X4 Quad Cab

The 2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel 3.0 V6 4X4 Quad Cab. (TODD GILLIS PHOTOS)

The 2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel 3.0 V6 4X4 Quad Cab. (TODD GILLIS PHOTOS)

With our friends in the U.S. getting set to celebrate their Thanksgiving in a few weeks, today’s tester was something I was thankful for through our Canadian turkey long weekend.

Thankful because it was a pickup truck, so fitting all our stuff on the covered cargo bed for a wet and windy family road trip to Cape Breton was not an issue.

But I was more pleased because it averaged 8.2 litres/100 km from Dartmouth to Inverness and back.

That result bettered its EnerGuide 8.8L/100km highway fuel economy rating!

The Warren-Michigan-built 2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, in Quad Cab 4X4 trim, was indeed a fuel miser for a pickup fully capable of hauling five humans, towing 9,200 pounds and carrying a payload of up to 1,400 pounds.

All of that haul-tow ability came courtesy of its torquey 3.0-litre EcoDiesel V6 engine which was partnered to its TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission.

Together, the powertrain system provided an outstanding combination of fuel efficiency and an impressive 420 lb-ft of torque, which resulted in explosive acceleration from a standing start.

That’s actually more torque than the 5.7-litre Hemi-endowed Ram!

Driving in and around the city was an effortless task, while parking and backing up into and out of tight spots was aided by, err, my careful driving and its available ParkView rear back-up camera and its Park-Sense front and rear park assist system (options for $875).

Front and rear heavy-duty shock absorbers (extra heavy on the rear) noticeably softened up the rougher portions of one dirt road we visited.

At highway cruising speeds, the 3.0 diesel churned along smooth and quiet at just barely 2,000 rpm. Power was more than at the ready when called upon for a quick pass manoeuvre while quick lane changes were done with car-like agility.

My tester sat atop P275/60R20 BSW all-season tires on 20×8-inch semi-gloss black aluminum wheels ($600) which looked great with its Blue Streak Pearl paint.

Braking down from speed was exceptional.

Aiding in the Ram’s excellent highway, city and rougher dirt-road drive characteristics was a cabin that provided great comfort for front-seat passengers aboard its premium cloth bucket seats.

My 10-way powered driver’s seat included two-way lumbar support, which made for a content lower back on our long-distance drive.

My test week was on the chilly side where we experienced our first few frosty mornings, so I appreciated the heatable seat.

I also liked that my Ram asked me, on its touch screen, upon cold-morning startups if I wanted the various heat settings that it so kindly chose for me.

Its HVAC system worked to perfection quickly clearing the frost-bitten windows and warming up the cabin to toasty faster than it took my toaster to pop the kids’ Pop Tarts.

As all that was going on, the steering wheel was heating up, too; and not just at the three and nine positions either as the heat spread the entire circumference of the leather-wrapped wheel.

Rear-seat passengers also had the option to warm their bottoms. All that heat was part of the comfort group ($700).

Highlighting the Ram’s centre-stack area was its swag Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen which was simple to use and navigate when it came to selecting stations on FM or satellite radio, getting music from my iPhone, or managing the various vehicle settings. It’s easily one of my favourite infotainment setups.

Its media hub also included an SD card slot along with USB and auxilliary input jacks; the convenient 115-volt power outlet powered my son’s laptop on the C.B. drive.

There were plenty of cubbies and drink holders throughout, while the deep armrest bin could hide said laptop.

I only had a couple of complaints about my tester — there were no running boards to make entry easier and the rear seat cushions were a tad on the hard side.

I did like that the 60/40s folded up flat, exposing a wide, spacious cargo space for a lot of stuff (think tool boxes and whatever else contruction-type folks haul to and from the job site).

On the whole, the Ram 1500 Outdoorsman EcoDiesel, with its 4X4 capability, is an excellent all-road, all-weather driver that offers good cargo-haul and towing capability.

I felt comfortable behind the wheel in all drive situations and appreciated my commanding view of the road.

The interior on my tester’s trim level was fantastic and its Uconnect is one of the best infotainment systems in the industry.

Yes, I was thankful for my week with the Ram 1500, but like my mother’s delicious Thanksgiving turkey stuffed with my father’s awesome dressing, it had me longing for more.

 

The specs

2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Outsdoorsman Quad Cab 4X4

  • Engine: 3.0-litre EcoDiesel V6
  • Transmission: eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic
  • Horsepower: 240 hp
  • Torque: 420 lb-ft
  • EnerGuide fuel economy ratings (litres/100km): 12.1 city, 8.8 highway (realized 12.2 city, 8.2 highway)
  • Fuel tank: 98 litres
  • Towing: 9,200 pounds; includes tow hooks, Class IV receiver hitch
  • Other features included: electronic shift-on-the-fly part-time transfer case; four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes; tire pressure monitoring system; remote keyless entry; engine block heater; air conditioning; cruise control; fog lamps; anti-spin differential rear axle; front and rear rubber floor mats; transfer case skid plate shield; front suspension skid plate; steering-wheel-mounted audio controls; auto-dimming rear-view mirror; dual-zone climate control; power folding exterior mirrors, soft tri-fold tonneau cover, navigation ready
  • Base price: $43,195

Price as tested: $57,615

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