Ram Trucks has managed to eek out another mile per gallon from the already fuel-efficient Ram 1500 EcoDiesel pickup, proving the Detroit Auto Show wasn’t all about brawny off-road trucks. Ram’s new class-leading numbers are EPA-certified at 21 mpg city, 24 mpg combined, and 29 mpg highway. The upgraded mileage comes thanks to the HFE, or High Fuel Efficiency package. But technically, the Ram HFE is no different than any other Ram EcoDiesel, including its engine, transmission, and gearing specifications. It all comes down to equipment packaging and aerodynamics.
Engineers figured out the low-optioned Tradesman trim level combined with the shorter Quad Cab and six-foot, four-inch bed offers the slipperiest shape of the truck line. Add to that the prior knowledge of the wheel-to-wheel running boards and a tonneau cover’s ability to cut drag, and you’ve got the most aerodynamic Ram yet.
This makes the HFE a full 12 percent more efficient than the next-closest competitor, the 2.7-liter EcoBoost-powered 2015 Ford F-150, rated at 26 mpg highway.
For current Ram EcoDiesel owners, adding the same tri-fold tonneau cover and extended side steps would likely result in improved fuel economy as well. Just don’t expect 29 mpg with a four-wheel-drive, Crew Cab truck.
Thankfully Ram didn’t neuter the Ram of its towing and hauling capabilities with tall gears, skinny tires, or a wimpy ECU tune. The truck is still able to haul 1,614 pounds in the bed and tow 8,050 pounds on the hitch.
The Ram HFE still makes use of the Active Grille Shutters that open and close depending on cooling needs of the engine. When shut, air is diverted up and over the truck rather than through the engine bay and frame rails. Surprisingly, the truck comes standard with 20-inch wheels. Ram says the Goodyear tires provide the least rolling resistance of the truck’s current crop of stock rubber. Also available to dress up the base Tradesman is the body-colored front fascia from the Ram Express trim level. Selecting the HFE is the only way to get that sporty fascia and EcoDiesel on the same truck.
Spotting a HFE Ram is obviously best done by the HFE badge on the tailgate. Otherwise, the truck looks normal to the casual observer. The Ram Express front fascia, side steps, and tri-fold tonneau cover are the other give-a-ways as to the HFE’s fuel-sipping capabilities.
Laramie trim package shown/Not optional on HFE
There’s no difference here: all the same adornments – or relative lack thereof – found in the Tradesman trim level are present. Cloth seats and the base radio are the norm. Ram hasn’t announced detailed packaging yet, but things like power windows and locks might even be an optional extra as they are of the standard Tradesman trim level.
As a whole, the Ram HFE offers seating for six on its two bench rows. Rear leg is more compromised than in the larger Crew Cab, but there’s enough space for teens.
At the heart of the operation is the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6. No modifications were done to the drivetrain at all, so things are just as they are on a non-HFE Ram. The compact diesel produces a respectable 240 horsepower at 3,600 rpm and 420 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm. Bolted to that is the TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF that provides smooth shifts and quick responses.
Having driven a few Ram EcoDiesels, I can say the truck really does perform well. The average consumer probably wouldn’t even notice the engine from behind the wheel. Accelerating to 60 mph only takes 8.5 seconds and NVH is well controlled, even at full throttle.
Ram did not announced pricing for the HFE trim level at its launch. Expect a nominal price hike over base Tradesman EcoDiesel price of $34,610 to cover the added wheels, side steps, and tonneau cover.
Ford’s new 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 is the next best choice in the fuel economy show down. Rated at 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway, the EcoBoost is only a few mpgs under the Ram. Considering an EcoBoost-equipped F-150 costs less than the Ram EcoDiesel and the difference in gas and diesel fuel prices, overall running costs would likely be cheaper with the Ford.
The twin-turbocharged V-6 isn’t afraid of work either. Boasting 325 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque, the engine is able to lug around an 8,500-pound trailer.
Pricing for the 2.7-liter EcoBoost F-150 starts at $30,275 when equipped with the extended cab and six-foot, six-inch bed.
Like Ford, Chevrolet doesn’t currently offer a HFE-style trim package. The Bow Tie has done it before with the XFE Silverado, but getting the most mileage from Chevy requires sticking with the V-6.
In the similarly configured Double Cab, Standard Box Silverado equipped with the 4.3-liter V-6, the EPA rates the truck at 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. Towing does trail the others here, coming in at 5,600 pounds. Power ratings are also in third place at 285 horses and 305 pound-feet. Customers can jump to the 5.3-liter V-8, however, for the extra power while getting 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.
Prices for the so-equipped Silverado start at $31,325 for the V-6 and $1,095 more for the V-8.
The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE offers class-leading fuel economy while retaining great levels of towing and hauling capabilities. I suspect this will become a popular trim package thanks to the inevitable marketing coming its way and its (estimated) low cost. Of course, you can buy a lot of fuel with the $4,000 you saved by sticking with the 3.6-liter V-6 gas engine, especially considering the price difference between diesel and gasoline.
Either way, Ram now builds a full-size truck that gets darn near 30 mpg. That’s an impressive feat, to say the least. Expect the Ram HFE in dealers this spring.