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Dodge also brought along comparable diesel models from Chevy and Ford for side-by-side tests in hauling 5500 pounds of payload and towing a 13,500-pound trailer. Drivers could quickly switch between vehicles and cover a short mountain course to compare pulling power, ride & handling, interior ergonomics and even such esoteric features as visibility with tow mirrors. With aggressive but manageable low-end torque, the Dodge matched its best-in-class claims against all the competitors. A radar speed gun was positioned below the summit of San Marcos Pass so drivers could record top speed in each vehicle, and the Ram never lost. Dodge engineers invited the press to try other tests while towing, such as side-stepping clutch at idle while parked uphill. The Ford and Chevy often coughed and died but the Dodge recovered with enough torque to pull up the hill under zero throttle.

The new Cummins “600” engine simplifies life for the heavy-duty lineup and gives Dodge a strong foundation for an important segment in its overall truck strategy. The venerable V-10 has been dropped from the Ram 2500/3500, although you can get it in the 1500 as part of the wicked 500-horsepower SRT-10 package. The base engine in the 2500/3500 is the 345-horsepower Hemi, but 73 percent of all Ram heavy-duty customers spend the extra $5,760 to get the diesel option. Dodge used to offer a standard and High Output (HO) diesel engine, and the HO engine was not available in California. Now the Cummins “600” is the only diesel in the Dodge lineup and it’s certified for all 50 states.

“California was always under-represented for us,” says Frank Kelgon, vice president of the Dodge truck product team. “Our market share and volume went up but California was stagnant because of the diesel limitations. There’s now a tremendous opportunity for us in California with the “600” diesel.”

Cummins’ development of the new Ram “600” diesel is a showcase of technology that will be found on all future diesel engines as emissions standards tighten. A Bosch common rail fuel system capable of handling upwards of 23,000psi (around 4000-5000psi at idle) is the hardware, but a very sophisticated engine management computer makes the fuel-delivery decisions.

With electronically controlled fuel injectors and such high pressure in the fuel lines, an injection strategy can be developed to deliver optimum power and a more complete combustion to reduce emissions. Instead of pushing one large spray of fuel into the cylinder on the compression stroke, engineers can program the computer to send small “pilot” injections before and after the main injection. By varying the timing and volume of the pilot injections as well as the main injection, engineers can fine-tune the engine for various loads and rpm.

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