Confused loyalties (or; which truck to buy)

I have a confession to make; I have a bias.

You probably already knew that, and suspected it all along.  I have long loved the Ford F-150.  To me this is the golden standard in pickup trucks.  Many will tell you that, if the opportunity came, I would buy one of these trucks without hesitation.  That loyalty wavered slightly when I did a review of a 2012 Silverado, but didn’t falter.

But I have another, older, bias.

When I was much younger, and far less wise than I am now, I was a Mopar head.  My first car was a 2000 Chrysler 300M, and a good portion of my heart does miss that car dearly.  Growing up I loved all things Dodge.  In fact, my high school self would have laughed in your face if you told him he would want to buy (no less be owning) a Ford.  There was only one truck for that young man; a Dodge Ram.  I took great pride in spouting “if you can’t dodge it, ram it”.

Now we find ourselves in the year 2013.  Much has changed since then.  Dodge (and Chrysler in general) has done a poor job with product development through the shaky times approaching and following 2008, losing a lot of respect in the process.  While they did have the awesome Hemi V8 engines, they didn’t have much else.  Reliability and build quality have always been issues.  The Dodge Ram has long lagged behind Ford and GM across the board when it comes to specs.  Performance, mileage, towing; all of it.  In fact, I wouldn’t even consider buying a Ram in recent history at all.  I had the chance to drive a 2013 around recently.  They’ve improved the styling of the truck so it looks great but I found myself unimpressed with the uConnect system and the interior.  Just, all aspects of the interior.  While it wasn’t shoddy, it simply didn’t stand up to the F-150 or new GM Sierra’s interiors.  Those two trucks are tightly built and have a solid and comfortable ride.  Dodge Ram was a fun truck to drive with it’s Hemi engine, tons of pep and noise, but that didn’t make up for having to sit in it while you drove it.

There are improvements that make the Ram more compatible now.  A new 8 speed transmission brings the highway mileage of the Hemi to a respectable 30 mpg while boosting the towing to class-leading numbers (GM and Ford are developing an 10 speed of their own).  A new line of engines in the 2014 Sierra are just as fresh and powerful, however, the 5.3 V8 offering lots of power and nearly identical mileage to the Dodge.  Ford has chosen to invest in a powerful turbocharged V6; something I’m admittedly still not sold on.  Reliability and real towing capability are still big question marks in my mind.  As such I’d be more inclined to buy one with the 5.0L V8, which only manages 28 mpg.  It also lacks some of the towing capability of the V6 EcoBoost.

So the Sierra is the way to go then, right?  Maybe.  The F-150 still has a strong allure power to me despite being slightly behind the two.  It’s not behind enough to take it out of contention as the Dodge was.  There are enough tech features combined with great ride to keep it in the running.  Put a 2014 Sierra and a Ford F-150 in front of me and I’d take a very, very long time choosing one.  In the end it may be the Sierra – simply for mileage sake.

Mileage holds all the cards.

I should preface this next section by making a simple statement: I love diesels.  It’s one of those unchangeable facts of life.  They are fuel efficient, powerful and long lasting.  And (this is a real reason in my crazy brain, so go with it) in the event of total societal collapse they can be fueled with filtered vegetable oils.  Pickup trucks traditionally only have a diesel option in the 3/4 and 1 ton options.  They’re big beasts with big, expensive to maintain diesels that cost a whole lot of money.  A guy like me driving 5km in the city with nothing to tow has NO reason to own a truck that substantial.  Has never stopped me from wanting one, though, if for one reason; a diesel engine.

Recently Dodge decided they wanted to take my heart and toy with it.  Earlier this year they announced an EcoDiesel option for the Ram 1500.  I was flabbergasted.  Long have I maintained that what our half ton truck market needed was a good medium sized diesel option.  In fact, there just aren’t enough diesel options period.  Upon doing this they threw a wrench into my carefully and well though out truck buying matrix.  Official specs on the truck aren’t released yet but reviews are already coming in glowing.  Driving.ca raved about the ride while making bold statements like “the minute truck owners experience the 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel, I can say with certainty they will never look back on gasoline.”  MotorTrend recently subjected various versions of the EcoDiesel to their real life mileage tests and found the 25% improvement on the PentaStar V6 to be completely true.

But will it tow?

The biggest issue with the fuel sipping V6 options in all these trucks is their towing capability is laughable.  Now I realize the humour in my concern for towing capability without having anything to actually tow, but it is something I look for.  Initial claims on the Dodge website say the EcoDiesel can tow up to 7,200lbs.  Respectable; much better than the V6 options.  Most likely more than enough for me.  Motor Trend then used a number as high as 9,200lbs (Update: confirmed by Dodge on Twitter).  It triggered an infinite loop that caused my mind to implode; a fuel efficient half ton diesel pickup truck that can tow.  Better mileage and towing capacity than current minivans is an incredibly strong argument for someone who wants to own a truck, but keep the cost of living down.  Diesel trucks also traditionally hold their value better (as much as a Chrysler product can; fact is they depreciate like a rock sinks in water), and are in higher demand.

I’m beating around the bush, but you knew that already.  The fact I’m avoiding just stating that if, at this very moment, I were to buy a truck it would be a 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel.  They are not the better truck, but that diesel makes a strong, delicious argument.  My hands are tied.

Ford, GM; please take me out of my misery.  Introduce a similar diesel.  I want to be able to buy a real truck again.

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