2013 Ram 1500 pickup hauls in more power with less gas
Even with gas prices swelling above $4 a gallon, improving fuel economy hasn't been the motivation for most models unveiled at this year's New York Auto Show. Until this: the 2013 Ram pickup, a thorough reworking of the most important vehicle Chrysler sells with tech such as an eight-speed transmission to transform a two-ton pickup a gas sipper.
Talking about fuel economy in a full-size pickup might seem counterproductive, but no class of vehicle owner spends a larger share of their income on fuel costs. Boosting efficiency by two miles per gallon at today's gasoline prices can save a typical pickup truck owner $500 a year — a far greater payback than many hybrid car models can produce. Ford's move to sell its F-150 with a twin-turbo V6 showed truck buyers were willing to take a smaller, more efficient engine, as long as it could still get the job done.
Detroit's automakers have roared back from the collapse of 2008 by building better cars, but full-size pickups remain the heart of their business. Last year, Chrysler sold 244,763 Ram pickups — more than all Chrysler models combined. With Ford and Chevy models a few years old, the timing for a reworked Ram claiming the best fuel economy of any pickup couldn't be better.
While the Ram gets an improved interior, a few exterior tweaks and the kind of touch-screen entertainments that have become required equipment, engineers focused most of their energies on hunting for every tenth of a percent improvement in efficiency. The biggest change comes from swapping Chrysler's ancient V6 for the modern 3.6 liter Pentastar V6, good for 305 hp and 269 ft-lbs of torque and at least 20% better fuel economy. The 5.7-liter Hemi V8 also gets a few modifications to generate 395 hp and 407 ft-lbs, and both engines now offer start-stop systems.
It's beyond the engine where Chrysler engineers applied every fuel economy trick they could come up, starting with the first eight-speed transmission in a pickup. (Ram also turned the shifter into a dashboard-mounted rotary knob, freeing space on the floor.) Shutters in the grill close to lower drag at speed; electric power steering reduces engine strain; the air suspension drops the body a couple of inches at highway speeds. The transmission even sports a heating unit to warm its fluid quicker for maximum efficiency — a trick Bentley uses in the Continental GT.