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Mechanical, Electronic Advances Boost Ram 1500's Fuel Economy

August 2012, TruckingInfo.com - Feature

by Tom Berg, Senior Editor, Senior Editor - Also by this author

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Chrysler Group's 2013-model Ram 1500 pickup trucks are getting major mechanical and electronic advancements that will increase fuel economy and performance, while comfort and styling are also improved, officials said
Smoother aerodynamics are standard while projector-beam headlamps and LED tail lamps come with upscale Ram 1500 pickups for 2013.
Smoother aerodynamics are standard while projector-beam headlamps and LED tail lamps come with upscale Ram 1500 pickups for 2013.
during an unveiling in mid August. Engines, transmissions and an optional air suspension headed the news.

The company's Pentastar V-6, newly available in 1/2-ton Ram 1500s, got major billing for its high mpg ratings. Paired with an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission, it boosts a Regular-cab pickup's fuel economy rating to 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway - 20% better than the previous V-6 powertrain and the highest EPA numbers in the full-size pickup world, officials said.

Aside from more modern design and more ratios in the "TorqueFlite 8" transmission, the Pentastar V-6 is helped by electric power steering that reduces parasitic drag, as does "thermal management" of engine and transmission fluid temperatures, and weight loss from high-strength steel and aluminum executives explained.

Active grille shutters close to reduce air drag when cooling air is not needed, which improves aerodynamics. Some Ram models will be available with automatic engine off-on capability to save gasoline during prolonged stops, they said.

The 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 with variable valve timing, which replaces an older, simpler 3.7-liter V-6 with a 6-speed automatic, produces up to 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. It can tow up to 5,630 pounds, almost three times the old engine's tow rating. The Pentastar V-6, previously introduced on Chrysler-made cars and SUVs, is an option over the now-standard 4.7-liter V-8.

The optional 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, meanwhile, is still the Ram's high-performance engine with 395 hp and 407 lb-ft. Initially it will continue using the 6-speed automatic, but the 8-speed will become available early next year.

A new "e-shift" rotary knob offers basic P, R, N, D, L selections, while buttons in the steering wheel allow manual up- and downshifting of the 8-speed. The dash-mounted knob replaces floor and column-mounted transmission selectors.

An optional four-bag air suspension smooths the ride over rough surfaces, and offers five height levels: Normal, with 8.7 inches of ground clearance; Aero, 3/4-inch lower to reduce wind drag; Off-road 1, 1.2 inch higher; Off-road 2, 2 inches higher; and Park or "kneeling," 2 inches lower than Normal to ease entry and exit for passengers and make cargo loading and unloading easier.

Gauges have new designs, and the instrument panel includes a 3.5-inch color display that shows up to 300 items of information, depending on model and equipment chosen. Infotainment features include a next-generation Uconnect system with an 8.4-inch color-touch screen that operates the sound system, heater-air conditioner, wireless connection via the Sprint cell network, and other functions. Manual controls, though, can still be used.

Software updates will be periodically uploaded via Uconnect. Sirius XM broadcasts will be displayed using "high-definition" identification. Human Machine Interface icons and labels allow intuitive operation, with voice recognition allowing audible commands, Ram executives said.

The Ram presentation in a converted warehouse in Nashville, Tenn., included nine console and dashboard designs that will accompany specific infotainment choices and trim packages in various Ram pickups. Interior decor rises in poshness and comfort with the trim level: ST, SLT, Sport, Laramie and Laramie Longhorn.

As before, 2013 Ram 1500s will be available with two-door Regular and four-door Quad and Crew cabs. A 6.4-foot-long bed will be available with the Crew Cab, which formerly came with a shorter bed, while short beds can be equipped with Ram Box storage compartments. Quads and Crews will be assembled in Warren, Mich., while Regular-cab trucks will be built in Saltillo, Mexico.

Pricing is slightly more than 1% over 2012 models, a Ram announcement said. It ranges from $22,590 for a Tradesman Regular Cab shortbed 4x2 to $47,420 for a Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4x4. Destination charge is $995. Among options are the Pentastar V-6 with TorqueFlite 8, which lists at $1,000 over the standard 4.7-liter V-8 with 6-speed automatic, while the air suspension system is priced at $1,595.

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