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2019 Ram 1500 eTorque: First Drive Review

Ram truck loyalists, don’t despair; the introduction of the 2019 Ram 1500 eTorque’s mild hybrid system is not some sort of pickup Armageddon. At the risk of readers not continuing beyond the first paragraph, here’s the bottom line: While adding a couple of extra miles to the estimated combined miles per gallon, the eTorque system provides decidedly more torque in high-demand, low-speed situations, such as accelerating from a traffic light, while smoothing power delivery during shifts. Is that a bad thing? We don’t think so.

In most respects, the 1500 eTorque shares stats and features with the redesigned regular 2019 Ram 1500 models. We won’t retrace that ground. What we think you do need to know is that at some point in the future, nearly every vehicle on the road will be in some way, at least in part, powered by electricity. At this stage of the game, though, consumers shopping the 1500 will need to weigh the improved fuel economy and low-end power against the additional cost.

An option on the 5.7-liter Hemi V8, eTorque will be standard on all 1500s with the 3.6-liter V6.

eTorque?

Rather than a full-blown hybrid system, such as those found in a Toyota Prius or a Hyundai Iconic, in which an electric motor can actually drive the wheels, the eTorque system replaces the alternator with a belt-driven 48-volt motor/generator. Whether it’s the V6 or the V8, eTorque engines still deliver the same peak torque and horsepower of their non-hybrid counterparts. For the V6, that’s 305 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. The V8 numbers are 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque.

So what does eTorque bring to the party? In the V6, the eTorque motor output is 10 hp and 39 lb-ft of torque. Added output in the V8 is 16 hp and 49 lb-ft of torque. The belt drive acts as a multiplier, increasing torque in the V6 to 90 lb-ft and 130 lb-ft in the V8. None of these numbers are added into the peak hp or torque because as engine speed increases, benefits of the electric motor decrease. But at low speeds, the eTorque influence is noticeable when some extra acceleration is needed, such as when hauling or towing uphill.

Counting the Miles

Just as with the non-eTorque versions, an 8-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission distributes power to the wheels. Ram did alter the shift mapping, but it’s essentially the same transmission. Standard in all V6 1500s, eTorque elevates mileage in V6 models to best-in-class. Some of this is due to the mild-hybrid technology, and some is due to fuel-saving measures benefiting all 2019 1500s, such as lighter weight aluminum components, improved aerodynamics, automatic start/stop and so forth. Although eTorque adds a little weight back into the total, Ram managed to reduce mass in the redesigned 2019 1500 by 225 pounds.

Government estimates put fuel economy for the V6 eTorque at 18mpg city/25 mpg highway with the V8 eTorque posting 17 mpg city/23 mpg hwy. The gas-only V8 1500 delivers an estimated 15 mpg city/22 mpg hwy.

Calculating maximum range depends on the 1500’s configuration and fuel-tank capacity, but with eTorque, the V6 highway range can be as much as 825 miles, while the V8 boasts a maximum 759 mi.

Could’ve Fooled Me

There is nothing overt about eTorque or the truck under whose hood it resides. If you want to show off to the world that you are sipping smaller gulps of fuel, you’ll need to roll down the window and yell it to people. There is nothing in the way of badging advertising it’s a hybrid, mild or otherwise. Unobtrusively tucked away behind the rear seat, the small suitcase-size battery doesn’t cannibalize any serious passenger or storage space.

Although the driver gets a sense of a little extra drag from the regenerative brakes that return a bit of energy to that hidden air-cooled battery, just about every other aspect of eTorque operation is totally transparent. There isn’t even a light on the instrument panel signaling eTorque engagement. What you might notice, if you are looking for it, is that the engine start/stop operates more smoothly than most passenger cars.

Because upon restarting, the electric motor feeds enough power to get the engine spinning and the wheels rolling, the truck begins moving forward a bit before the engine actually reengages. Restarts are practically seamless. There is a button to turn off stop/start, but why would you? Even shifting is a little smoother thanks to eTorque regulating power delivery with each gear change.

Nothing Lost in Translation

If doubts about capability are preventing you from seriously considering the eTorque technology, worry no more. If the regular Ram 1500 can do it, so can the 1500 eTorque. Want 4-wheel drive? It’s available on both the V6 and the V8 eTorque models. The same three rear-axle ratios are available in eTorque versions. Tow limits depend on a variety of factors, and nearly every 1500 configuration has its own tow limit, but at the top of the heap is a rear-wheel-drive 1500 Hemi V8 eTorque Quad Cab with the 3.92 axle. It’s capable of towing up to 12,750 pounds.

The Skinny

On the national media drive for the updated 2019 Ram 1500 eTorque, we spirited examples of the mild hybrid along the roads outside of Lexington, Kentucky. Had we not known we were piloting eTorque versions, we may well have not realized it. Our Laramie-trimmed 1500 eTorque was comfy and surprisingly quiet. From the driver’s seat, you won’t mistake this for anything but a big-honking truck, but its sophistication is quite impressive.

Yes, But How Much?

Ram isn’t releasing the V6 1500 eTorque for several weeks, but the base price, including factory destination fee, will be $33,390. eTorque Hemi V8 versions will begin at $36,035.

Last Word

Consumers must decide if the extra $1,450 added to the bottom line for including eTorque on V8 models is offset by the additional low-speed oomph and smoother shifts it provides. At current per-gallon prices, recouping the extra cost through fuel savings will take years. Overall performance, however, shouldn’t enter into the decision making. Every once in a while you’ll need to pop the hood and look at the motor/generator mounted at the front of the engine to remind yourself you drive a mild hybrid.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle’s manufacturer.

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