American automakers are facing a do-or-die moment in regards to fuel economy. Heavily reliant on gas-guzzling trucks and SUV’s, Ford, Chrysler, and GM have got to figure out a way to make their number-one sellers suck down less gas. While Ford bets on EcoBoost and GM focuses on weight savings, Chrysler has announced that for 2013, the Dodge Ram will get start-stop engine technology and an 8-speed automatic transmission that could help raise highway fuel economy to 24 mpg.
Chrysler is implementing an 8-speed automatic across much of its lineup, with impressive results in terms of fuel economy. When combined with the new Pentastar V6 in the Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger, the 8-speed auto can deliver up to 31 mpg on the highway in a full-size sedan. Not too shabby.
Now Chrysler plans on implementing that same engine/transmission combo (though tuned for truck duty, rather than cruising) in the Ram 1500. The 3.6 liter V6 will deliver 305 horsepower and 269 ft-lbs of torque, matching other V6 competitors in the full-size truck market. But the Pentastar V6 will be the only one available with start-stop technology, and it will also include active grille shutters and an air-ride suspension that lowers the pickup at highway speeds, reducing drag. There are other aero enhancements done as well which, when combined with the 8-speed auto, Chrysler promises will deliver fuel economy gains of at least 20%. That would put the V6 engine at around 17 mpg city and 24 mpg on the highway. A 24 mpg, gasoline-powered full-size truck? Who would have thought.
Granted, the Ram 1500’s Pentastar V6 lacks the 420 ft-lbs of torque found in Ford’s EcoBoost V6 F-150…but it will also probably cost a lot less too. Detroit has mostly given up on the mid-size truck market, what with vehicles like the Ford Ranger and Dodge Dakota recently ceasing production (though the Chevy Colorado soldiers on, and will in fact get a sexy replacement next year). But if they can bring the fuel economy of full-size trucks on par with those of full-size sedans, there will be a lot of happy small-business owners. So what is it going to take to combine the V6 with some natural gas technology?