First Look: 2006 Dodge Ram 1500
By: Mike Magda, Editor Posted: 06-20-05 18:01 PT
© 2005

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The emphasis was on fuel economy, interior comfort and ride refinement when Dodge unveiled its new 2006 Ram 1500 pickup. Not that officials didn’t remind everyone the truck still has best-in-class horsepower and road-dominating big-rig styling—qualities that Dodge enthusiasts expect out of their rides. But clearly the message was designed to combat the image of gas-guzzling mayhem in a time when overall fullsize truck sales are down slightly from last year. And poor fuel economy is one reason offered for the slowdown.

Through the first five months of 2005, total fullsize pickup sales stood at 951,742 units, less than 1 percent off from 958,546 units same time 2004. But a closer look at the numbers reveals only Dodge Ram and Ford F-Series are dragging down the industry. Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra are all up in sales for the same time period. In fact, Dodge Ram sales are down 8.8 percent for the year, so the timing for a new and improved model that may appeal to gas-conscious consumers is perfect.

Key to the improved fuel economy is a cylinder deactivation system on the 5.7-liter Hemi engine. When engaged, four cylinders—two cylinders from each bank—will shut down to lower the fuel demanded by the engine. When more power is required, the cylinders are activated within 0.040 second for what Dodge officials call a seamless transition. Called Multi-Displacement System (MDS), the concept is similar to the Displacement on Demand system from General Motors that is available only in cars at this time but expected to hit the truck line soon.

“Ours is an elegantly simple system,” praises Mike Donoughe, vice president of body-on-frame product development at the Chrysler Group. “Part of that is based on the benefit of designing MDS in from the beginning (of the Hemi program). It requires only four components: new camshaft, wires, solenoids and special lifters. We’re able to make it very cost efficient and virtually transparent to the customer.”

Depending on driving style and road conditions, MDS could improve fuel economy up to 20 percent. Official EPA mileage figures were not released, but Donoughe said the city/highway numbers of 14/18 for the current Hemi would improve by at least 1mpg on both ends.

MDS will not alter the Hemi’s 345-horsepower rating or play with the peak torque of 375 lb-ft., which is tops of any V8 engine offered in a 1500 fullsize truck except for the low-volume Silverado SS, which has a 6.0-liter engine rated at 345 horsepower and 380 lb-ft. That same engine is also available in GMC Sierra Denali crew cab and selected trims of the Extended Cab. The Hemi is offered in the Ram regular cab, Quad Cab and soon-to-be-released MegaCab.

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