2013 Ram 1500 V6 – a Full-sized, Full-powered Work Truck with 25 MPG Highway

2013 Ram 1500 V6 4x4

Imagine a pickup truck with 305 horsepower in output, up to 6,500 pounds in towing capacity, an 1,800 pound cargo bed carrying capacity, and that still gets highway fuel efficiency better than most vans and cars on the road. If you can do that, you'd be imagining the all-new Ram 1500 for 2013. It's a truck that gives a kick in the pants to a vehicle segment that has long been stagnating behind the others.

The manufacturer says

Ram 1500: The most recognizable pickup on the road – delivers best-in-class fuel economy with a truckload of pioneering, fuel-saving systems including a more fuel efficient and more powerful 3.6-liter V-6 engine and first-in-segment technologies: eight-speed automatic transmission, stop-start system, thermal management system, pulse-width modulation and active aerodynamics, including grille-shutters and air suspension.

Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Ram Trucks
  • Year, Model: 2013 1500 V6
  • Class, Type: Full-sized pickup
  • Propulsion system: Gasoline
  • Base Price: $23,585
  • MSRP as tested: Approx. $30,000
  • Availability:
  • Very soon

Overview

Normally, the words "pickup truck" and "fuel efficiency" do not go together. Most of us who look at the vehicles of tomorrow and the advanced, eco-friendly vehicles of today think of trucks and sport utilities as the anti-thesis of what we prefer. But the times, they are a changin' and while trucks and SUVs in the 1990s may have been gas guzzling behemouths, today they are becoming extremely efficiency and utilitarian vehicles.

For the working man, a pickup truck is a staple. Where I live, in Wyoming, trucks of all shapes and sizes are everywhere. There are small Isuzu flatbeds, huge big rigs, and in between many, many examples of full-sized pickups in light- and heavy-duty configurations of every imaginable make, model year, and state of distress. Yet in the past couple of years, some real changes in fuel efficiency have been arriving in the world of pickups that most would have thought unimaginable just a few years before that.

While Ford's EcoBoost is becoming a best-seller in the light-duty pickup class and General Motors' Ecotec is hitting the streets in SUVs of all types, Chrysler has been relatively quiet.

Until now.

The Ram 1500 series will debut the company's new way of doing things in their Ram Truck division and, I'm told, later on throughout their other brands' SUV and crossover lineups as well. While the truck itself looks the same on the outside, nearly everything under its skin has been changed. Believe it or not, the Ram's outline is actually fairly aerodynamic. By adding a few tweaks here and there, though, Chrysler was able to get even more out of it. To the point now that the 1500 has a coefficient of drag at only 0.360, comparable to many mid-sized sedans. Last year's 0.386 Cd wasn't bad either, actually, and this has been one of Ram's strong points compared to the competition.

Much of the new air flow improvement has come thanks to slight changes in the body moldings and with the introduction of standard active grille shutters, which close at higher speeds when the engine requires no cooling, improving aerodynamics considerably.

That's just the beginning, though. The real upgrades are in the powertrain. The V6 engine sports an awesome 305 horsepower without utilizing any high-cost increases in pressure or turbo charging, making it cheaper and less complex than the EcoBoost or Ecotec. Coupled with the all-new 8-speed transmission, though, this means excellent economy in a relatively simplistic package, keeping things low-cost and less environmentally demanding to build.

Electric-assist power steering, more efficient air conditioning compression, better air management into the engine, the addition of side rails to reduce air flow around the rear tires.. all adds up to much higher efficiency. Available stop-start on all engines also improves fuel savings and standard fluid thermal management to increase "warm up" time and thus engine efficiencies in both heating and cooling itself also means better economy.

So while pickups may not be the most efficient vehicles on the road, in terms of versatility, power, and ruggedness, they can be awful close if this new standard set by Ram begins to pervade the segment.

What we like

Great-looking truck with all the bennies and few down-sides for the work-a-day person who needs utility but doesn't want to burn up too many resources. Ram has set a new standard.

Great ride and strong performance both on and offroad in this truck. It's not likely you'll miss your big V8 engine once you've driven this V6 for a while.

What we don't

Interior not as well-fitted as some comparable competitive models, even when cross-comparing top fittings, though at base, the Ram has definite advantages.

Some package options are very pricey.

Conclusions

A great truck that will definite shake up the segment and get automakers to start re-thinking their pickup truck designs. When asked what they would do if Toyota or Ford were to come up with a strong V6 competitor to this truck, the Ram representative (Nick Cappa) said.. "Oh, we're not done yet."

Test Period Length and Limitations
Truck was driven in both on and offroad situations in Caribou, Colorado at about 10,100 feet in elevation down to about 5,000 feet (Boulder, Colorado). Truck was driven on surface roads, highways, and in non-extreme (dirt track) offroad. Total time in the truck was about 2 hours.

Edited 10/1/2012 to reflect new EPA released MPG numbers.

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