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Car Report: The Ram 1500 has great fuel economy

Monday - 8/18/2014, 5:12am  ET

The Ram 1500 (WTOP/Mike Parris)
The Ram 1500 is the first back-to-back winner of the Motor Trend Truck of the Year Award. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
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WASHINGTON -- The Ram's full-size light-duty trucks were redesigned in 2013 and named Motor Trend Truck of the Year.

This year, the Ram has earned the honor once again, making it the first back-to-back winner. The Ram beat out the redesigned Tundra and GM trucks, which I liked a lot with their improved rides and interiors.

So can a new engine that isn't a V8 -- a staple for full-size trucks -- be worth your money?

After spending a week in the loaded $59,010 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited Edition, I didn't miss the big Hemi V8. I'd strongly consider the extra $2,850 V6 EcoDiesel engine, which was a smooth partner on road trips and still had decent power.

There's a little bit of diesel engine sound when the truck is idle, but once underway, it's hard to tell you're driving a diesel. The eight-speed automatic is a nice transmission. It was very smooth and quick to downshift when I needed to make a pass.

The rotary knob, used to control the transmission, takes getting used to; it's different than what you're used to seeing and using, especially in a truck.

The fuel economy is a big plus for the EcoDiesel engine. I saw 27 mpg on a highway trip and 23.3 mpg over 531 miles with a good amount of city and highway driving.

This is the best mileage I've seen from a full-size truck. So if you do a lot of driving and towing, the extra cost of the EcoDiesel really starts to make sense. Just know when you hit the gas pump that diesel fuel is more costly than regular fuel.

The interior was also a pleasant surprise, though maybe a little over-the-top in the Limited Laramie trim level, with the western-themed touches and saddle buckles on the seat backs.

Other than that, the leather is really nice; the heated and ventilated front seats are good for long trips. The lower dash has some hard plastics behind the steering wheel and below.

There is a good amount of room for three rear-seat passengers, with cool hidden compartments in the floor for extra storage. The bed comes with lockable storage.

At first, I thought that feature was a waste. By day three, I was a big believer in the RamBox cargo system, although it does take away some bed space.

One lingering question, though: Is there a safety release for people trapped in the 18-inch deep cargo box?

The Ram also has a system called Uconnect that has NAV, radio and access to apps, all in a nice large 8-inch touch screen, plus voice command to enable hands free operation of radio, phone and the NAV system. The Uconnect system is easy to use and there are some controls for the audio system mounted on the steering wheel and large knobs on the system on the dash.

The Ram 1500 Laramie Limited with the optional air suspension has one of the best rides I've experienced in a truck. It's very refined and smooth, and when cruising, the suspension will lower to help improve fuel economy.

It drops even lower to aid in getting in and out of the truck when parked. The Ram is anything but small, but I still had no trouble driving or parking in the city. A good camera and front and rear sensors kept me honest, but this still a very large vehicle.

The Ram 1500 is a big-time player in the full-size light duty truck market, and with the addition of a EcoDiesel V6 it now offers something no else has -- a fuel-saving engine that still offers decent performance and close to the same towing capacity of the big V8.

Editor's note: Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by STI, FMI or Event Solutions for the purpose of this review.

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