2019 Ram 1500 eTorque First Drive | Edmunds

2019 Ram 1500 eTorque First Drive

Think Fuel Economy, Not Torque

Although the all-new 2019 Ram 1500 is already in dealers and in our own garage, something has been missing: the base V6-equipped variant. Ram is debuting the V6 models later this year in order to prioritize the release of the more popular V8 models.

Nevertheless, the changes introduced with the V6-equipped Ram will undoubtedly boost its desirability.

Revised V6 and Transmission
For the skinny on the changes elsewhere to the Ram 1500 for 2019, head over to our First Drive.

Let's dive right into changes ushered in with the V6-equipped 2019 Ram 1500 then. Its engine is the updated version of the corporate 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that's found elsewhere in Fiat Chrysler vehicles. Compared to the 2018 Ram's V6, the new V6 has a higher compression ratio (now 11.3:1) and a two-stage valve lift system, among other refinements. Output is unchanged at 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, though the new engine's peak torque arrives later in the rev range (4,800 rpm instead of 4,175 rpm). V6-equipped Rams also receive the TorqueFlite 850RE eight-speed automatic found in the current Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee, replacing the 845RE found in outgoing V6 Rams.

While the changes to the V6 don't liberate any additional grunt, efficiency has improved. That's even before you consider the fuel-saving effect of eTorque, which is a mild hybrid system that's standard on the V6 and optional on the V8. There are some differences between the implementation of eTorque on the two engines, but they're fundamentally both belt-driven starter generator (BSG) systems with a 48-volt twist. This jump in voltage broadens eTorque's capability over earlier 12-volt mild hybrid efforts by other automakers. Still, eTorque essentially boils down to a fancy stop-start system with side benefits.

2019 Ram 1500

eTorque's Bits and Pieces
Ram's eTorque mild hybrid system consists of a belt-driven 48-volt motor/generator, an integrated inverter, a short run of power cables, and a small module situated behind the rear seats. The module houses a 430 watt-hour lithium-ion battery pack and a DC-DC converter that spits out the 12-volt current used by the rest of the truck. The latter allows eTorque to take the place of the conventional belt-driven alternator.

These relatively simple hybrid systems don't add much weight. The eTorque system on the V6 Ram adds about 105 pounds to total curb weight, or 90 pounds on the V8 Ram. The reason it's less with the V8 is because the V8 system is bundled with a lighter aluminum spare wheel and a smaller 23-gallon fuel tank. (The standard V8 tank holds 26 gallons; a 33-gallon tank is optional.) Max payload and towing capacities for eTorque-equipped V8 Rams, naturally, drop by a hair compared to regular V8 Rams.

2019 Ram 1500

Saving Fuel Is the Point
While the eTorque system is capable of delivering a max of 90 lb-ft of torque to the V6's crankshaft (130 lb-ft in the V8), it does so only at very low engine speeds. As such, the peak power and torque figures you're familiar with are unaffected by the presence or absence of eTorque. Furthermore, eTorque does not provide electric-only propulsion. Instead, the idea behind eTorque is to bolster fuel economy.

When you lift off the throttle or lightly brush the brake pedal, eTorque provides regenerative braking by applying a load to the motor/generator to produce electrical energy that's then stored in the battery. Later, during low-rev acceleration events, the battery delivers this juice to the motor/generator to provide torque assistance to the engine. We're talking small amounts of assistance here and there to fill in little dips in the gasoline engine's power delivery. The eTorque system is capable of doing this in chunks measured in milliseconds. In so doing, eTorque relieves the engine of the propulsion burden, one tiny chunk at a time.

eTorque also functions as a very refined stop-start system for the same reason. Its ability to fill dips and flatten bumps in the engine's power delivery helps make stops and starts smoother and more responsive than they would be with a conventional 12-volt-based stop-start system. At low engine rpm, the mild hybrid system also helps quicken gear changes and reduces shift shock.

If you give the Ram 1500 full throttle from a standstill, eTorque's boost to propulsion is already on the wane by the time the accelerator pedal touches the carpet; at 1,200 rpm, eTorque's torque contribution declines sharply. Beyond 2,000 rpm or so, eTorque is essentially along for the ride, propulsion-wise.

The Fuel Economy Upside
Although final testing hasn't yet been completed for V6 models, the EPA city and combined fuel economy numbers of the 2019 Ram 1500 V6 are expected to be 2 to 3 mpg higher than the 2018 model. That improvement cannot be attributed solely to eTorque; rather it also reflects the new truck's lighter weight, slipperier shape and more efficient V6 engine. The system's effect is more noticeable when you examine V8 models. EPA numbers for a four-wheel-drive V8 eTorque truck are 19 mpg combined (17 city/22 highway). These figures are 2 mpg higher for combined (and city) and 1 mpg higher for highway than for the V8 without eTorque.

Two mpg may not sound like a whole lot, but for a light-duty truck, it's big. When it comes to the actual amount of fuel (and associated dollars) saved, 2 mpg is more meaningful in a Ram than it is in an already miserly compact hybrid car. Ram engineers are confident that eTorque's fuel economy numbers will be readily achievable in the real world, too.

However, eTorque's influence intrinsically relies on low-rev operation. If you option your V6 Ram with the shorter 3.55 or 3.92 axle ratios instead of the standard 3.21, the engine's operation will skew toward somewhat higher revs any time the truck is moving. Likewise, switching on tow/haul mode has a similar effect. eTorque will still help in both of these cases, but its effect will be blunted somewhat.

2019 Ram 1500

What It's Like to Drive
We drove eTorque-equipped versions of the V6 and V8 Ram, and the overriding impression is one of civility. eTorque is largely invisible in operation. The nature of the mild hybrid system's integration is such that the engine behaves in a way that is utterly familiar — there's no engine-off coasting or electric-only operation, and unusual noises are limited to the occasional faint whoosh of the battery's fan.

The flip side to the power delivery's familiarity is that there's no noticeable uptick in available thrust either.

When applying the brake pedal, the handoff between regenerative braking and the friction brakes is well-executed. Light brake pedal applications have a slightly synthetic hybrid-y feel if you're really looking for it, but it's nothing to get worked up about.

The stop-start function of eTorque makes for shudder-free shutdowns of the engine and restarts that are devoid of lurches. It also responds snappily enough that even stop-start-averse folks will probably be won over. Gear changes are exceptionally smooth, whether at eTorque-assisted low revs or at higher engine speeds.

The Most Refined Pickup
A Ram crew cab with the V6 drives in an unstressed and competent way, and we'd happily recommend the V6 if you're shopping for a new Ram. Mind you, the V8's shove is even better, and so is its mellifluous engine note. But there's always the money factor. On a Big Horn Crew Cab 4WD truck, for instance, the V8 is $1,195 dearer than the V6, and adding eTorque to the V8 costs an additional $1,450. It will take years for the fuel savings of eTorque to equal what you paid up front, but the value will be there eventually.

The 2019 Ram 1500 has uncommonly elevated refinement among full-size pickups, and eTorque's modest enhancements to drivability only burnish this impression. Even if its fuel savings are on a multiyear timetable, its improved manners can be enjoyed daily. The 2019 Rams with the eTorque-equipped V8 are available today, and the V6 will hit dealers by the final few months of 2018.

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