2014 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel: Oregon Road Trip, Colder Weather in Bend
December 16, 2014
The second phase of our trip saw us leave the Oregon coast behind in our 2014 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel and head inland to Bend. Along the way we stopped in Eugene to pick up our eldest daughter at the University of Oregon. I also refilled it (had it refilled; pump-your-own-gas in not allowed in Oregon) with more diesel before the four of us headed farther east.
This was only our second fuel stop after 1,140 miles on the road. The first had been in Willits, Calif., some 557 miles behind us. Our friendly Eugene station attendant added 21.451 gallons, which works out to 26.0 mpg. Not bad for a tank that was almost exclusively comprised of meandering two-lane roads that hugged the coastline, wound alongside rivers and climbed over more than a few grades and hills, including a handful of trips up Dad's half-mile long 15-percent driveway.
Bend is on the east side of the Cascade Range, and when we arrived there was snow on the ground. It had snowed a few days earlier, and it was fairly cold, but not yet Polar Vortex cold. Still, this gave us the chance to appreciate a couple of cold-weather Ram features.
In was 39 degrees the next morning, and as the engine started and settled into an idle I began to feel a warm sensation in the seats and on the steering wheel rim. It was the Auto-On Comfort feature I had first noticed in June at the warm end of the weather spectrum. I had forgotten all about it.
I had found the system's cold weather trigger point, the one that spontaneously turns on the driver's seat heater and the heated steering wheel. It was a pleasant surprise.
As the manual states, the automatic cold-weather activation temperature is 40 degrees. It was 39F the first day I noticed it, and on subsequent mornings when the outside temperature was 41F or 42F the seat and steering wheel heaters didn't come on.
The threshold temperature isn't adjustable, but the factory selection seemed about right. I appreciated the extra heat at 39F, but I didn't miss it at 42F. And if I'd felt differently the button was close at hand.
Later on, my brothers-in-law and father-in-law piled in for a little exploring through the nearby national forest. At one point we tried a back way into Newberry Crater on a forest service path, and the snow cover left over from the previous week's storm got thicker as our elevation increased.
The pushbutton 4x4 engagement buttons are ganged just below the rotary shifter knob in a prominent location. With no pause or fanfare the Ram seamlessly shifted on the fly into 4-High and continued up the mountain, the diesel engine pulling steadily all the while with the tachometer dithering between 1,200 and 1,500 rpm.
The Ram's factory tires provided decent grip in conditions that alternated between snow, ice, slush and mud, but eventually we got to a place where the snow was too deep to continue and we found nothing but snow machine tracks. Our randomly selected goal was still 800 feet higher in elevation, so we turned back and wandered off to a different part of the forest where there was a lava tube cave instead.
Through it all, the low-end grunt of the Ram's diesel engine made the whole trip feel effortless. It never broke a sweat. This was nothing.
Say what you will about fuel economy, payback time and the relative price of the fuels, but I'm an increasingly big fan of the way this diesel powertrain feels nonchalant and untaxed when it's asked to do a little work.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 19,800 miles