Armed with a substantially upgraded Ram 1500 pickup and 20% improvement in fuel efficiency, Chrysler hopes to lure buyers from competitors even though truck owners are fiercely loyal to their brands.
The 2013 Ram 1500 has a new engine and eight-speed transmission while introducing Chrysler’s first stop-start system and an air-suspension system to adjust clearance. Pricing starts at $23,585, including a $995 destination charge. Pricing went up about 1% across the lineup.
With a V6 engine, the Ram will get 25 mpg on the highway, which is 2 mpg better than the competition — a figure Ram plans to emphasize in marketing.
Chrysler picked Ram to introduce start-stop technology that turns off the engine when idled and restarts upon acceleration. It is a feature on a new high-fuel-efficiency 2013 Ram for customers who cite fuel economy as a major consideration in choosing a pickup. The HFE version gets 18 mpg in the city.
“I am going to be the only one in the marketplace with a new truck,” said Robert Hegbloom, director of the Ram brand. “Its fantastic timing.”
The window of opportunity for America’s third most-popular pickup to claim economy leadership could be 12-18 months:
General Motors is expected to introduce an all-new Chevrolet Silverado next fall and Ford will follow with a new F-150 in 2015, according to a Merrill Lynch report. An all-new Ram isn’t expected until 2017.
“We are delivering what customers are looking for,” Hegbloom said. “The attributes that we changed were the things we needed to change and work on.”
Originally, the upcoming model was due for a less-extensive mid-cycle refresh. But in January 2011, the Ram team won approval to proceed with a host of new technology to improve fuel efficiency, aerodynamics and power.
The 2013 model hits showrooms in October with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine generating 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque and an eight-speed transmission replacing the old four-speed. The extra gears contribute to fuel economy of 17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway.
Ram will continue to offer its 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine that could also have leading fuel-economy numbers when it goes on sale early next year with the eight-speed transmission.
The Ford F-150 pickup gets 16 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway with the 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine — less than the 17/23 mpg with the regular 3.7-liter V6 engine that doesn’t have direct injection or turbocharging.
Improved fuel efficiency has been a boon for Ford, which has sold more than 200,000 pickups with an EcoBoost V6 since it was introduced on the 2011 F-150. Ford isn’t making powertrain changes for its 2013 model, but there are reports it plans a lightweight aluminum body for the next F-150.