Before the issues of 2008, every truck manufacturer had a small displacement diesel in the works. All dropped them. Along comes Fiat and buys up Chrysler (now a long acronym, FCA US LLC, or FCA Canada Inc.), and along comes a Fiat sourced 3.0L in the Dodge Ram. No not a Cummins, nothing like a Cummins to drive or otherwise. You will have to wait for the Nissan Titan to see the new 5.0L Cummins. The 3.0L engine in the new Dodge Ecodiesel features a 240hp @3600rpm and 430 lbfts @2000RPM. Towing capacity up to 9200lbs, and payload of 1400lbs. An 8-speed automatic backs this engine. From the Ram truck site: 8L/100K highway (35mpg), 11.3L/100K city (25MPG). From what I understand Dodge expected sales of this new engine platform to make up 25% of the 1500 truck class, which to this point has not been reached. Early issues with the engine have been resolved but higher that gasoline diesel prices, cost of DEF fluid for emissions and initial cost of purchase all weight into purchase price.
Our Dodge test:
The vehicle was well equipped featuring the air suspension, which lowers the vehicle on the highway to reduce wind drag. As tested just over $55,000.00 taking into account local discounts at time of writing. Keep in mind our testers are loaded with options to let journalists play with all the toys. The diesel engine option is $5,700.00. To ally any fears over an "unknown in North America" engine, despite it being used for years in Europe, the engine warranty is 160,000K. It sounds nothing like a Cummins, really when inside you don't hear anything relating to diesel engine noise unless you really step on it. No tire spinning here, just a surge of diesel power. The front suspension felt "heavy" over my 2012 Hemi Ram. The engine, despite the use of aluminum heads, is heavier than the V8 gas engine, which also impacts towing capacity and payload - but all diesel trucks are impacted this way in all classes. After a couple days it wasn't noticeable as I got use to the handling feel.
Outside the truck you can hear a slight diesel "tick" otherwise it's no different than any modern quiet truck. However fuel numbers were very impressive helped along by the 8-speed automatic keeping the diesel in the right torque curve. Flat driving, making an effort to drive economically, I managed below 6L per 100K (42MPH). Average highway with variable terrain still netted better that the post 8L/100K (37MPG). Overall mixed driving for the week tallied in at 10.5/100k or 26MPG. Why a 1500 diesel and why not a 2500 or 3500 with the 6.7L Cummins? It really come down to fuel consumption, this engine is pretty stellar in this area. Are you a road sales guy packing on lots of miles each year? Or rely on your truck for work site duty and it stays running a lot this would be the truck for you. Tow 10,000lbs or more regularly? Choose the larger Cummins offering. The 1500 class of trucks tend to have a more compliant suspension for those long trips and you can't dispute those fuel numbers, they were impressive for its class. Beyond a little front-end weight, which was easy to get use to it, the truck drove and handled like any of its gas counterparts. I was impressed overall but I still think I would step up to a Cummins in the Dodge line up if in need of that diesel pulling power.(click images below for larger pictures)