Photography by Julia LaPalme
If a magician doesn't have a dazzling new trick up his sleeve, he'll likely whip out a deck of cards and put a new spin on an old favorite. Dodge did just that by -- presto! -- giving the Ram the largest turbodiesel in the segment. Indeed, Ram HDs come to market this year with the biggest, cleanest, most powerful Cummins turbodiesel the lineup has ever seen. It's the first diesel to meet the strict 2010 emissions regulations -- almost three years early -- thanks in large part to several pieces of the Mercedes-Benz-developed Bluetec system. The new Cummins is almost 1.0 liter larger, now displacing 6.7 liters in its trademark inline-six configuration. Horsepower is increased significantly to 350 (up 25 from the previous 5.9-liter I-6), and torque is now 650 pound-feet at 1600 rpm, up from 610.
While the new Cummins has the largest displacement among its competitors (the Ford Power Stroke is a 6.4-liter V-8 and GM's Duramax uses a 6.6-liter V-8), it makes nearly identical horsepower and torque numbers.
Dodge says the new 6.7-liter has longer service cycles (every 7500 miles) and a longer predicted engine-rebuild life cycle (every 350,000 miles) than its competitors. Additionally, this new diesel uses a variable-vein turbocharger and includes an exhaust brake (a segment first) to help with heavy-duty loads, allowing for more controlled engine braking and less resulting brake wear.
Backing up the bigger turbodiesel is a new six-speed automatic transmission smart enough to know how to adjust to empty versus loaded torque loads. It also has a thumb-controller switch that allows the driver to select or lock out specific gears without the shifter's need to be in manual mode -- similar to the auto trans in the GM six-speed truck.
As impressive as the Cummins is, it would be unfair to minimize the impact of the transmission, which does a tremendous job of smoothing out the 1-2 shift and 2-3 shift at low speeds with the hammer down (as when merging onto the freeway from a dead stop with a 12,000-pound trailer).
The new Cummins is currently available in 2500 and 3500 model Rams (regular, Quad, and Mega Cabs). The engine option costs $6100; the six-speed transmission adds another $1575.
|2008 Dodge Ram HD Cummins I-6|
|Vehicle layout||Front engine, RWD/ 4WD, 3/5/6-pass, 2/4-door pickup|
|Engine||6.7L/350-hp/650-lb-ft t'diesel OHV 24-valve I-6|
|Transmissions||6-speed manual; 6-speed automatic|
|Curb weight||6100-6600 lb (mfr)|
|Length x width x height||227.7-249.7 x 79.5-96.0 x 73.8-80.6 in|
|0-60 mph||9.2-9.3 sec (MT est)|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||N/A|
|On sale in U.S.||Currently|