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By BOB GRITZINGER | Contributing Editor
A big percentage of the pickup truck-owning American populace rarely needs the kind of capability their vehicle has to offer. But for those who do–the ones who regularly carry heavy or unwieldy loads or tow campers or boat trailers–there’s probably not a better choice on the planet right now than the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel.
I recently spent a week driving a 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 EcoDiesel, challenging it with a real-world camping and paddlesports trip to northern Michigan. Our load included four adults, three kayaks, tents, chairs, tarps, coolers and other assorted gear, while towing a large pop-up camper also loaded with gear. While this load could hardly be considered large by some standards, I’d consider it fairly representative of the level of use by many truck owners.My test EcoDiesel’s resume included a 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel engine (a $4,270 option); 8-speed automatic transmission ($500); leather-trimmed bucket seats and heated rear seats and a full-length floor console ($500); upgraded Uconnect with navigation ($500); Laramie package including monotone paint and body-colored fender flares, automatic high beams and wipers, and keyless locking and ignition ($495); and a spray-in bedliner ($475). Bottom line? Base price: $44,485; as tested: $52,620 (with $1,195 destination charge).
That’s a lot of money for any vehicle, but in this case the one option worth every penny is the strong, silent and efficient diesel engine, which produces 240 hp and a monster 420-lb-ft of torque. That’s the kind of twisting power that makes easy work of any kind of hauling or towing job. It’s worth noting even the Ram’s standard 5.7-liter HEMI V8 is higher in horsepower but only produces 410-lb-ft of torque—the key measure when it comes to pulling off the line, especially with a load. Maximum towing capacity for my tester was listed at 7,660 pounds, more than enough to pull my fully loaded 3,500-lb camper around like a toy. But the best part is that the diesel does all this work while posting an EPA estimated fuel economy of 19 mpg city/27 highway (compared to 15/22 for the HEMI). During our 450-mile trip, the Ram EcoDiesel averaged 18.5 mpg. While that’s at the low end of the diesel’s economy estimates, it should be noted that it was recorded under the least favorable conditions for fuel economy, with a full load of passengers, piles of gear and a camper in tow, running at freeway speed most of the time.
Our trip got underway by loading up kayaks and gear in the truck bed, using the available tie-down hooks and corner catches to make sure our boats were secure. I would have liked a few more hooks higher in the 20-inch-deep bed walls, but we were able to make do with what the Ram offered. Next up was a simple hookup of the camping trailer, made much easier by watching the hitch and ball alignment in the rear backup camera. Handy.
“Maximum towing capacity for our tester was more than enough to pull my fully loaded 3,500-lb camper around like a toy. The best part is that the diesel does all this work while posting an EPA estimated fuel economy of 19 mpg city/27 highway.”
Even with a four passengers, we still had room in the cab for backpacks and other gear that needed protection from the elements. The Crew Cab provided substantial leg room, with 41 inches available up front and another 40.3 inches in the rear seats (vs. 34.7 inches of rear seat leg room in the Quad Cab).
Comfort was not an issue. But the topper became immediately evident when the college-age passengers tapped into the Uconnect Access onboard Wi-Fi. Pandora became our soundtrack, and not too much farther along the laptop computer came out as one passenger had to research, write and electronically file a college history paper en route. “This is my new favorite place to do school work,” he declared.
Upon arriving at our destination, unhitching the camper and unloading the boats, the truck and its multiple electrical outlets and heavy-duty 800-amp battery became a central location for powering air pumps, providing web access and charging phones. Hauling cumbersome loads of kayaks to the river and back also proved easy work for the big pickup.
Heading home after a long weekend of river paddling and camping, my tired crew had no complaints about settling into the cool, comfortable confines of the Ram and taking a nap—driver excluded, of course!