I’ve already noted how impressed I was with our Ram 1500′s Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 and Torqueflite 8 eight-cog automatic transmission. It’s supposed to be the most fuel efficient gasoline full-size truck powertrain combo on the market in America today. Our 4×4 tester is rated at 23 MPG highway by the EPA. So could we hit that number?
It looked encouraging at first. After the usual hard first day, where I used the truck on my weekly paper route and saw lackluster trip computer readings of around 18 MPG, fuel economy slowly creeped up past the 20 MPG mark with a quick highway jaunt I took with my father after I got off work on day two of the test. With the cruise control set at 65 MPH on flat sections of a state four-lane highway, I was able to observe as high as 33 MPG on the instantaneous fuel economy readout that could be displayed on the Ram’s thin-film transistor (TFT) info screen located in the gauge cluster.
The last couple miles of that trip would somewhat mar my fuel economy record, however, as the truck went into “limp home” mode — a small issue owing to a wiring harness that had worked its way loose over the truck’s short 720-mile life to that point, according to Ram. During that last couple of miles, the truck showed seven or eight MPG on the instantaneous readout, and my tank MPGs dropped back below 20.
That wiring harness issue was quickly sorted by the nearest Ram dealer — impressive because the 2014s weren’t even on sale yet at the time of the test — and the truck ran smooth as butter after that. However, presumably because the dealer service techs had to drive the truck around town a bit to make sure everything was tip-top before handing the truck back to me, the MPG displayed for this tank of fuel dropped to 18.
In the four days that remained in my test week with the Ram 1500, I was impressed that the MPG display steadily ticked upward. The hilly terrain in my part of the country can sometimes prove challenging to a vehicle when fuel economy is the goal, but the Pentastar V6 proved powerful when needed and relaxed at most other times, and the Torqueflite 8 seamlessly found the best gear for the terrain no matter where I roamed, never seeming to hold out the revs too long nor get too close to bogging the engine. By the end of the test, I had eclipsed my day two best, sending the Ram 1500 back with 20.5 MPG displaying on the screen.
I’m not put off by the wiring harness issue. Pre-production units like our test Ram 1500 are not assembly line-built, and Ram’s warranty claims data showed no previous incidents like mine with production 2013 Rams, the first year of this powertrain combination, according to Ram officials. My impression of the Pentastar and Torqueflite 8 remain overwhelmingly positive, perhaps only to be eclipsed if the coming Ram 1500 EcoDiesel proves even more fun to drive and at the same time more frugal.
It is my hope that we get the chance to test a Ram 1500 EcoDiesel someday, indeed. But it is also my hope that we get another Ram 1500 with our test truck’s gasoline V6 and the respectable Torqueflite 8 to test — mostly because I feel certain that, barring another anomaly, I can match or perhaps even beat the EPA fuel economy estimate. That’s something that would be quite an accomplishment in Tennessee hill country and would give the Ram ultimate fuel economy bragging rights in my neck of the woods. Some truck owners I talked to near the end of the test week were all but flabbergasted the hulking four-door Ram 1500 Big Horn 4×4 could break 20 MPG. Imagine how surprised their expressions would be if I were to get 23, 24, or even 25 MPG out of a second Ram 1500!
Think about it like this: I once owned a 1994 Nissan Hardbody. In two-wheel drive, regular cab guise with a five-speed manual transmission, it seldom did better than 24 MPG. The fact that a four-wheel drive, roomy, 300-plus horsepower behemoth like the Ram 1500 is rated to get within one MPG of that on the highway — and that it seemed to be headed for that very fuel economy neighborhood in our testing — is pretty incredible stuff.
Disclosure: Ram provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.