The 3.0L diesel V-6 in the Ram 1500 returns to the Ward’s 10 Best Engines list for 2015 by methodically edging out its direct competition. Let’s ponder the list.
Its most formidable powertrain rival was the 3.0L I-6 in the all-new BMW X5, a stout, fine performer that delivers impressive real-world fuel economy and comparable horsepower and torque. Versions of this engine have made our list three times since 2009, including last year.
Chrysler’s 3.0L, which comes across the pond from Fiat’s VM Motori, gets the nod for performing about as well as one of Bavaria’s finest at a fraction of the price. A Ram diesel can be had for $31,000, compared with the X5 diesel’s starting price of $57,000.
The Ram also wins for being the first modern light-duty diesel in a fullsize pickup, whose work cycle is well suited for torque-rich combustion ignition. Filling this gaping hole in the segment clearly has paid off for Chrysler. Even with a $4,700 premium over the base V-6, the diesel take-rate among Ram buyers is about 20%, outpacing expectations.
Through November, light-duty Ram sales have been brisk, at 383,155 units, according to WardsAuto data. A 20% take-rate means 76,631 diesels on the road this year. Meanwhile, BMW has sold 40,933 X5s through November. BMW’s diesel take-rate has gone as high as 30%, which means 12,280 X5 oil-burners.
Sales generally are a marginal factor in 10 Best Engines judging, but they are hard to ignore in the case of the Ram. Chrysler’s onto something.
Next up is the 3.0L diesel 5-cyl. in the Ford Transit van, a massive cargo hauler that made firm believers out of two 10 Best Engines judges, including this one.
The Ram narrowly bested the Transit diesel in fuel economy and clearly offered superior noise attenuation. The cargo van we tested was like a big drum inside with a lot of hard surfaces while the fully loaded Ram 1500 was passenger-friendly and remarkably quiet. Not exactly a fair fight here.
Finally, Ford’s all-new F-150 presented the Ram with a considerable challenge for its excellent NVH and drivability. The Ram and F-150 were the only two pickups in this year’s competition.
Ford’s new 2.7L EcoBoost V-6 is quiet and moves the truck well, but the F-150’s real-world fuel economy was disappointing, lagging the Ram diesel by a wide margin, even with the new stop/start system working often.
True, modern diesel technology is not cheap. Urea-dosing selective catalytic reduction, high-pressure fuel injection and sound encapsulation can add thousands of dollars to the sticker, but the benefits are worth it.
Among them: high resale value, confidence on freeway entrance ramps and the unexpected joy of consuming fuel at a rate that routinely surpasses the EPA estimates.
And in the case of the Ram 1500, the diesel sound that used to annoy now is ideally tuned to be downright soothing while capturing the steely work ethic necessary for a long-haul delivery route.
Finally, a compact, efficient, powerful diesel just seems so right in a fullsize pickup. They go together like sweat and equity.