In 2014, Ram Trucks became the first brand to offer a full-size, light-duty pickup truck with a diesel powerplant in the US market. Apart from delivering stellar torque for towing and hauling just about anything that could be towed or hauled, the 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 proved to be the engine for the fuel-conscious buyer; EPA estimates for the 2018-model-year truck put combined fuel economy at up to 23 mpg, which is better than any petrol engine in the segment.
Now, the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brand is extending fuel savings to its petrol-powered full-size trucks, releasing a pair of mild-hybrid “eTorque” powertrains that punch above their weight in terms of efficiency. Standard on the 2019 Ram 1500 with 3.6L Pentastar V6, and optional on trucks equipped with the 5.7L Hemi V8, eTorque works in conjunction with the pickup’s new, lighter curb weight and lower drag coefficient to deliver a measurable increase in fuel efficiency.
For a detailed description of how eTorque operates, click here, but suffice it to say that the system sees the regular alternator replaced with a belt-driven motor/generator powered by a 480-Wh battery pack and some clever algorithms.
This week, we were fortunate enough to be invited out to Kentucky in order to try out the 2019 Ram 1500 eTorque for ourselves, driving a sampling of trucks with both V6 and V8 engines under the hood. Curious to know how it works in practice? Then read on.
A Smooth Haul
What’s most noticeable about the 2019 Ram 1500 eTorque is how smooth and quiet the truck is. Part of that is thanks to NVH-reducing measures, like the acoustic glass that’s found its way into the new model’s windshield and side windows, which cuts down on road and wind noise, blocking out unsavory racket. Part of it is the five-link, coil-spring rear suspension, a Ram trademark since 2009, which now features newly-designed progressive-rate coil springs that help keep the truck level and planted whether towing/hauling thousands of pounds, or transporting nothing but the driver.
And part of it is thanks to the eTorque system itself, one of whose functions is to smooth out gear changes by dragging on the engine’s crank pulley as it reduces rpm during an upshift, and supplementing torque to the engine to help it increase rpm during a downshift. The former function helps the belt-driven motor/generator to recapture some energy for the battery pack, and both functions help the engine match its speed with the drivetrain more quickly, meaning less torque interruption.
The 2019 Ram 1500 eTorque is fitted with Auto Start/Stop as standard, but worry not: while such systems are often coarse and unpleasant, the Ram’s is silky smooth and hardly noticeable. The hybrid system’s 480-Wh battery pack provides enough power to keep accessories going for quite some time while the engine takes a breather, and when it’s time to set off again, the electric motor gets the truck rolling again, smoothly and imperceptibly transitioning straight back to engine power. We didn’t detect any of the usual shake or shudder that’s typically found in other Auto Start/Stop systems.
It doesn’t hurt that the Hemi Ram’s fuel-saving four-cylinder mode has also gotten a lot smoother, FCA’s engineers having fitted a pair of tuned mass dampers directly to the frame – one on either side – to oscillate out-of-phase with the engine and all but cancel out any undesirable vibrations. Cylinder-deactivation is, like Auto Start/Stop, one of those fuel-saving technologies that we’ve come to expect to introduce a lot of unpleasantness, but once again, Ram’s solution is utterly unimpeachable; we were unable to feel any difference between the Hemi’s normal and four-cylinder modes.
It’s Down To The Ounces
Of course, most important of all with any hybrid system is the question of fuel savings, and here, too, the 2019 Ram 1500 eTorque delivers. Official EPA numbers aren’t in yet, but Fiat Chrysler says it is anticipating an extra 2 mpg from Hemi-equipped trucks, and an extra 3 mpg from Pentastar models (compared to 2018 figures). Our time with the Hemi eTorque seems to bear this out; we observed approximately 20 mpg driving on tight, winding country roads with plenty of stops. EPA testing of an equivalent 2018 model produced a result of 17 mpg on the combined cycle.
Bear in mind: the driving we were doing was arguably a bit closer to “highway” than to “city” in terms of stops and starts, but we didn’t exactly go easy on the throttle, nor did we get a chance to do much cruising.
There’s still more to the story, though, because according to FCA, the Auto Start-Stop feature alone saves about 1.7 ounces of fuel for every 90 seconds that the truck is shut off at a stop – at least in the Hemi-powered truck. Remember: the eTorque’s big, 480-Wh battery pack drives the accessories while the engine is temporarily shut off, so you can continue to crank your tunes, blast the HVAC fan, and charge your cell using one of the Ram’s five USB ports even when you’re not idling.
Get stuck at ten traffic lights for 90 seconds apiece and you’re looking at about 17 ounces of fuel savings – more than an eighth of a gallon. That’s not nothing.
Ultimately, the 2019 Ram 1500 eTorque is smooth, quiet, comfortable, and capable of taking a real, measurable bite out of your refueling costs without much trade-off. The whole eTorque system weighs around a hundred pounds, and the battery pack and electronics, though located within the cabin, take away nothing from storage or occupant space. It comes standard in the Pentastar V6 Ram 1500 for 2019, costing $1,450 as an option on Hemi-equipped trucks, and even if you don’t care a lick about fuel economy, consider this: the 2019 Ram 1500 Hemi can tow an extra 1,140 pounds with eTorque than without it, earning a best-in-class (for a V8) 12,750-pound max. tow rating.
The all-new, 2019 Ram 1500 Hemi eTorque is available now, and Pentastar models are slated to arrive at dealers shortly.