Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Is the 2014 Dodge Ram 1500 Diesel all it appears to be?

You could argue that gasoline cars and trucks are quickly going to their grave, coughing a cloud of toxic dust along the way. The prevalence of new turbo diesel vehicles, electric vehicles and diesel hybrids on the market today is a testament to the fact that consumers are beginning to demand more efficient vehicles that will cost less to operate over their lifetime than many of the older vehicles on the road today. The 2014 Dodge Ram 1500 equipped with the Ecodiesel engine option appears to be just the thing that car buyers in America are looking for. 

The new Ram 1500 is a departure from the norm in the domestic pickup truck market in more ways than one, but it comes on the heels of a resurgence in interest in diesel fuel technology, in no small part due to the skyrocketing price of gasoline. Americans like their vehicles big, brash, and loud, but with this new call for efficiency, there were precious few options available. You can’t really modify a gasoline powered vehicle to use less gas without taking away some performance aspect in another regard, and you can’t tow anything with today’s breed of hybrid and electric vehicles. Fortunately, diesel has become the answer.

You’d be right to wonder what the Ram 1500 Ecodiesel has that other vehicles don’t, and how it departs from the diesel technology that foundered on American shores so badly in the 1980s. In answer to that, it’s important to bear in mind that there has been 30 years of progress in the automotive field since then, and with Europe so avidly using diesel fuel, it has been they who have greatly pushed the technology to where it stands today. 

To begin with, engineers wanted to address the properties that were found lacking in the early diesel vehicles. They were slow, inefficient, dirty and noisy. While they were well built for the most part, they were unpleasant to drive, and since diesel fuel was more expensive that gasoline, it didn’t make sense for most consumers to make the switch. Obviously, that trend is reversing these days. In fact, it may not be long before the price of gasoline eclipses that of diesel fuel. 

Ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel is the culprit behind diesel’s move to a cleaner reputation. It uses 97% less sulfur, which can damage the emissions control equipment on late-model vehicles. While enthusiasts will readily tell you that removing that equipment is a great way to boost power, it is also where those great sooty clouds of smoke come from. There is a second little thing that has helped diesel, though.

In the 1980s, turbochargers weren’t known to add nearly as much power as they do today, and so weren’t utilized on diesel engines. Today, however, practically every diesel engine on the road utilizes a turbocharger (or sometimes two) to overcome the dogged slowness that diesel engines contend with in their 0-60 times. It may just be that you could thank Volkswagen’s TDI line of vehicles for bringing the idea of turbocharged diesel engines to everyday awareness, but it’s trucks like the Dodge Ram 1500 Ecodiesel that will really benefit from it. Since the Ecodiesel is really just a relatively small six-cylinder engine, it needed something extra to give it the extra “oomph” to ensure it could tow enough to stand with other pickups in its segment from Chevrolet and Ford. The turbocharger does just this. 

With all the benefits of a full-sized pickup truck, and relieved even of the drawback of being ridiculously expensive, (the starting MSRP is just around $28,000,) the 2014 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel and its 28 miles per gallon fuel economy just might start the sort of revolution we all hoped would come when gas crested $3.00 per gallon, in a time long ago when we thought $4.00 per gallon was impossible. 

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