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.
I 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!
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