May 20, 2012

Albert Vandervale

In 2011, both Chevrolet and Ford upped the diesel power wars with new engines offering power ratings close to the 400 HP and 800 ft lbs. This left Dodge a bit out-in-the-cold when it came to performance in its Cummins Engine platform. For this reason, last year, our truck of the year fell to Ford; mostly on its merit of a good smooth engine, but also because it has the best interior of the bunch. Dodge kept the sales rolling though, with their “free” diesel sales promotion - making their diesel trucks, on average, $10,000 less than the other big “two” while still being able to offer a solid truck with legendary Cummins power under the hood.

In mid 2011, Dodge stepped up their game and introduced a upgraded power rating for their 6.7L Cummins, featuring a full 800ft lbs. of torque - slightly above the other two brands - but still lower on the HP side, at 350hp. Other nice styling changes and technological advancements put the new model square in the middle of the other trucks on the market. While the Dodge does not offer the ride quality of the Chevy, it is very close, and much improved. The interior of the Dodge is not quite up to Fords, but it too is very close - with much improved seating, and stylish dash and interior finishes.

What I was most impressed with, was the changes to the Cummins. I was always left feeling like I was driving a tractor in the Dodge (and don’t get me started on the bad seats inside). It just felt like the power came on more like something off the farm, rather than a modern street driven vehicle.That has changed substantially with the new engine – and it still is the only truck of the three that does not require a diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) additive to meet the stricter emission standards, brought in for 2010.

The power is now applied as smoothly as the other trucks, with an even power curve from the bottom to the top of the RPM range. Down shifting to pass on the highway results in quick gear changes by the 6 speed automatic transmission, as well as a proper power curve, to keep your load rolling up any grade (Dodge is also the only truck to offer a manual transmission option still). It keeps its “Cummins” sound outside, and a sound controlled (quieter) atmosphere inside.

We had a chance to drive the special edition Longhorn (re: Ford King Ranch take off). The interior offered very nice leather seating, with not-overly-offensive stitch work throughout, with matching graphics painted into the gauge work (the buckled saddle bags on the backs of the seats were a bit much, though). From the heated and cooled seats to the heated steering wheel and comfortable layout of gauges and controls, the truck would be a pleasure to drive on any type of long trip: hauling your fifth wheel, cruising with your camper, or simply as is.

While it may still be tough to match the ride quality of the Chevy platform, the new Dodge is the closest I have ever come to wanting to drive a truck every day. Nice job Dodge - I even like the seats!

May 20, 2012