2013 Ram 1500 Powertrain: Deep Dive


(Editor's note–It's not often that a completely new or significantly redesigned pickup truck explodes onto the U.S. market. But that what the 2013 Ram did when introduced at the 2012 NYIAS. We knew this truck had a lot of meaning to Ram Truck, but we're guessing this truck is likely to cause quite a stir at both Ford and General Motors, not to mention Nissan and Toyota. And it's for that reason we're taking a deeper look into the vehicle and its new technology, broken into several discreet stories, each focused on an aspect of the truck that has been recreated. No doubt you've seen and read quite a few stories that do a good job of hitting the highlights, but there is more. And that's what we're attempting to bring you here in this series. If you're not interested, then don't read it. But if you'd like to know more about the truck likely to change and push the tragectory of what kinds of pickups we'll see in the near and far future, feel free to read on.)

Quite possibly the biggest news the 2013 Ram 1500 is the replacement of the entry-level 3.7-liter V-6 engine with the more powerful and efficient Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6. In addition to this all-new engine for Ram, the half-ton truck will be offered with a segment-first ZF eight-speed transmission called TorquFlite 8. The new transmission will also be offered as an option for the 5.7L Hemi V-8 offering and standard on the Pentastar. The new-for-2012 six-speed 65RFE transmission will be standard for the older 4.7L V-8, and optionally available for those who prefer to keep the center-console auto-stick option for the 5.7L.

New V-6

The Pentastar engine has seen great success with other Chrysler vehicles, and it looks to have some impressive numbers behind it, especially when compared with the aged 3.7-liter V-6 it replaces. We’re told the new engine produces 305 horsepower and 269 pounds-feet of torque; that’s 42 percent more hp and 13 percent more torque. (The previous V-6 made 215 hp and 235 pounds-feet of torque). Ram is reporting the new V-6 setup will go from zero to 60 mph 3 full seconds faster with the Pentastar engine.

Although final numbers have not been released, Ram says the combination will be the fuel economy leader in the segment and provide more than 20 percent better gas mileage in equivalent packages.

For those who may not be familiar with the new Pentastar engine (it already has seen great success in both the Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee), it uses a 60-degree all-aluminum block and head with integrated exhaust manifolds, dual overhead cams, cast aluminum pistons, six-bolt main bearings and forged connecting rods. High-flow, tumbled intake ports and a 10.2:1 compression is all controlled by a large engine control module for the best balance of fuel, power and refinement. There are no twin turbos or cylinder deactivation, however.

Despite the relatively high compression ratio, the Pentastar is designed to run on 87 octane fuel and is E85 capable. The powerplant includes variable valve timing with dual-independent cam phasing, providing nearly 90 percent of the engine’s peak torque from 1,800 to 6,400 rpm.

The increased power means that Ram now can offer the V-6 option with four-wheel drive and with the crew cab, neither of which was offered with the previous V-6.

TorqueFlite 8

The new 8HP45 and 8HP70 transmissions will be offered across the board among all three engines. The lighter-duty eight-speed will be the only match for the V-6 engine, and its torque capacity is 332 pounds-feet. The heavier-duty eight-speed has a torque capacity up to 515 pounds-feet.

The new TorqueFlite 8 doubles the number of gears the previous V-6 trans offered, with an impressive bandwidth of gears, starting with an extremely low 1st gear at 4.71:1; then 2nd, 3.14:1; 3rd, 2.10:1; 4th, 1.67:1; 5th, 1.29:1; and sixth; 1.00:1. There are two overdrives with 7th at 0.84:1 and 8th at 0.67:1.  The Reverse gear is a strong 3.30:1. The eight-speed is standard with the Pentastar and an option for the 4.7- and 5.7-liter V-8s. Standard transmission for the V-8s will be the 65RFE six-speed.

The eight-speed transmission offers a segment first e-shift rotary dial; it’s an easy hand-reach on the center stack. The dial replaces both the column and center-console automatic stick shift. The on-dash dial is easily identified and simple to use, with settings for Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive. If this system looks familiar, the electronic selector is already used in some Class 6, 7 and 8 big-rigs.

This new program allows for quick “blind” transitions from Drive to Reverse and back again for rocking out of snow or mud, or to get out quickly from busy parking lots or work sites. The new transmission does offer manual shifting on the front right (at 3 o’clock) part of the steering wheel, where there are “shift –“ and “shift +” buttons. The detents also allow the driver to lock out certain upper gears, if needed, to allow the transmission to hold rpms at the highest gear for situations like heavy hauling or towing. 

The electronic transmission has more than 40 different shift maps as well as a learning program that can move back and forth depending on various inputs from the entire vehicle. The software also takes variables into account, such as engine torque gradients, kickdown events, longitudinal and lateral acceleration, hill detection, friction detection, downshifting history and shift mapping over time. Other parameters integrated into the computer include vehicle speed, stability control and temperature. The idea is that all shifting results are tuned to the proper requirements needed for just about any driving situation.

Another benefit of the extra gears and their extra-wide ratios is that the axle gears can be lowered for lighter weight and smaller size, and to allow for even better fuel efficiency. Although four gear ratios will be available across the Ram 1500 lineup, most of the trucks will have either 3.21:1 or 3:55: 1 ring-and-pinion gears. More aggressive gearing, such as 3.92:1 and 4.10:1 ratios, are likely to be used, but we would expect only on limited performance offers, such as an R/T or  yet-to-be-named version.

The V-8s

Both V-8s will continue to use the existing 4.7-liter V-8 and the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 (90-degree cast-iron block, aluminum heads), and both will come standard with the 65RFE six-speed transmission, with the new eight-speed an option on most trim packages.

As we mentioned earlier, the 4.7-liter is no longer the base engine for 4x4s or crew-cab models; both will now be available with the V-6. The Hemi V-8 will continue to offer the four-cylinder deactivation Eco mode that can offer between a 5-percent and 20-percent fuel advantage, depending on driving habits. And don’t forget about the Hemi’s deceleration fuel-shut-off feature that is specifically designed to help save gas. 

Although fuel economy numbers have not been released yet, we would expect both V-8s to offer incremental fuel economy gains with their new transmission. Previous EPA gas mileage ratings for the two V-8s with two-wheel drive were 14/19 mpg city/highway with the 4.7-liter and 14/20 mpg for 5.7-liter. The four-wheel-drive ratings were  13/18 mpg with the 4.7-liter  and 13/19 mpg with the 5.7-liter. We would assume that unless Ram can drastically improve the fuel economy numbers for the smaller V-8, the 4.7 will remain the lowest take-rate engine of the family. We assume that’s why most Ram 1500s — as much as 80 percent, we’re told — are sold with the Hemi.

Transfer Cases

Both four-wheel-drive options look to be carryover models from Borg-Warner. The first is the part-time two-speed 44-45 transfer case that will be available with all three engines and multiple trim packages. Selector choices include 2WD, N, 4WD LOCK, 4WD LOW. The second Borg-Warner transfer case option is the 44-44 “on-demand” system that allows for an “auto” mode that can be selected at any time and will adapt to all road conditions. Selector choices for this model inlcudes 2WD, 4WD Auto, N, 4WD LOCK, 4WD LOW. This four-wheel drive system will only be offered with the Hemi V-8. 

The setup in the part-time system is a rotary dial on the dash (will usually be mated with the 65RFE), while the full-time-capable selector uses a set of push button settings just below the 8-speed transmission’s knob. To help keep the driver informed of exactly what the tires, suspension and transfer case are doing, there is a dedicated information screen (in the 7-inch screen space between the speedometer and tachometer) to communicate all the incoming data and settings.

We should note that neither of the transfer case options are connected with the air suspension option so all the settings available for the 4WD air suspension Ram will be available for the 2WD air suspension Ram. 

The powertrain setups will undoubtedly be a huge improvement for the Ram half-ton and possibly help it gain market share in its fiercely competitive segment. Which, of course, means neither Ford nor GM will remain standing still as a result of these announcements.


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