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Ram eTorque Hemi First Drive: A hybrid that truck owners can love

by Patrick Rall on

Many Dodge and Ram truck owners cringe at the suggestion of a hybrid Hemi half-ton, but having driven the new eTorque Hemi-powered Ram 1500 Longhorn around Lexington, Kentucky, I don’t see any downside to this new option. Keep in mind, if you are really that opposed to having a hybrid truck, you can get the refreshed Ram right now with the non-hybrid Hemi, but if you want a truck that combines Hemi power with improved fuel economy and smoother driving dynamics – the eTorque is a great option.

No Compromise

I’ve recently spent time in a 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel with the non-hybrid V8 and during that time, I got a good feel for the power and responsiveness of the Hemi. The addition of the eTorque system doesn’t diminish the performance of the overall powerful feel of the 5.7-liter Hemi, with the same throaty roar and impressive acceleration in any situation both with and without the hybrid assist system.

In fact, if you didn’t tell someone that it was a hybrid, the odds are good that they would not be able to tell. This is especially true when you consider the fact that there are no hybrid badges or logos of any kind on the eTorque-equipped Hemi Ram 1500s. Some hybrid packages offer less performance and in some cases, hybrid braking systems have an odd, mushy feel, but the eTorque Hemi Ram exhibits none of the common issues about which hybrid drivers complain.

Impressive Fuel Economy

Whenever you discuss any hybrid vehicle, the key focus is going to be fuel economy and that is the case with the 2019 Ram 1500 with the eTorque Hemi. The EPA rates this hybrid Hemi with four wheel drive as offering 17 miles per gallon in the city, 22mpg on the highway and 19mpg combined, but while driving roughly 100 miles around Lexington, I saw an average number of 20.2 miles per gallon.

Our drive started in the city with a short stint on the highway, but the majority of the drive route was through small towns with plenty of stop lights and hills. In other words, we didn’t drive on a bunch of flat roads out in the middle of nowhere, nor did we spend the whole time cruising on the highway where fuel economy numbers are at their highest. Instead, I drove the hybrid Hemi Ram fairly hard through rural Kentucky and made no efforts to get good fuel economy, but I still averaged 20.2 miles per gallon – which I think that is mighty impressive. Again, that is in a loaded, four wheel drive truck with the largest cab configuration and all of the gadgets getting better than 20mpg over the course of roughly 100 miles of mixed driving, with a heavy city bias.

I believe that an owner who is trying to get excellent fuel economy will easily be able to exceed my numbers, as I drove the Longhorn test truck how I drive my own Hemi Ram. There was no going easy for better fuel economy numbers – I drove the new Ram eTorque with the intent of getting the most of the Hemi power and I still got better than 20mpg.

Smoother Drive

We often talk about smooth rides, but with the Ram 1500 with eTorque, the hybrid system makes for a smoother drive in a variety of ways. The eTorque system is designed to improve fuel economy and driveability by providing up to 130 lb-ft of torque when the torque output from the Hemi engine is at its lowest. This includes initial acceleration from a stop and during periods of sudden acceleration while cruising in a higher gear, both of which are common attributes of mild hybrid systems. This makes acceleration from a stop smoother and quicker, as the eTorque system provides that torque as soon as you touch the throttle, even when the engine is turning on from the auto start/stop system. This electric torque application makes the truck quicker under normal acceleration, but it also helps with fuel use during those periods of acceleration. Also, the system makes for more responsive acceleration when cruising and asking for a bit more power and speed.

Now to be clear, I am not saying that the eTorque system will make the Hemi Ram significantly quicker on a hard launch or a high-speed highway pull, but in normal driving conditions, the hybrid system makes for smoother acceleration and sharper throttle response.

Where the eTorque system also makes an interesting difference is in helping the 8-speed transmission shift smoother. Any time that the transmission shifts, there is a pause in power delivery and that pause in power is felt as a slight hesitation. The eTorque system works with the transmission computer to apply torque during upshifts and downshifts, lessening the impact of that down-power time during shifts. You still feel the shifts, but they are far less noticeable while also smoothing out the acceleration process by providing constant torque during the shifts.

Smoother shifts might not be something that applies to a Ram truck owner who wants to chirp the tires when it hits second and third, many people who use their pickup for a daily driver will appreciate the smoother shifts and acceleration. When driving around Lexington, I liked the smoother shifts, especially when driving a bit harder gives you the crisp positive shifts that you would want from a Hemi-powered Ram truck.

Improved Towing

I tow a two-horse trailer with my own Hemi Ram regularly and I have pulled my 5,000-pound test trailer with every new Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 over the past five years. I also had a chance to pull a 3,500-pound, two-horse trailer with the hybrid Hemi Ram, and it is only a touch better, but in a way that makes a significant difference.

When starting up from a stop on a steep uphill grade with any truck, there is a jerk when the engine applies the power needed to pull the load up the hill. However, the eTorque all-but-removes that hesitation in power and the jarring jerk to the trailer and the precious cargo.

When stopped with the hybrid Hemi Ram, the eTorque system preloads as soon as you begin to lift your foot off of the brake pedal. When you touch the accelerator, the electric drive immediately provides the 130 lb-ft of torque to get the truck moving in the milliseconds before the power of the engine ramps up. As a result, there is no jarring jerk on the trailer on the steep hill, making the process of towing the horse trailer smoother and more comfortable for the horses, too.

A Loveable Hybrid Truck

Even if you hate the idea of a hybrid truck, the eTorque system is easy to love, as the application of this electric assist system in no way changes the feel or the performance capabilities of the 5.7-liter Hemi. When you drive a Hemi Ram with the eTorque system hard, it feels just like a similar truck without the hybrid system, but when you drive an eTorque-equipped truck in normal daily driving situations – even when driving a little harder than the average driver – the hybrid Hemi offers impressive fuel economy capabilities.

Add on the fact that it offers smoother shifts and smoother acceleration even with a trailer hooked up and you have a Hemi-powered Ram that does many things better than a non-hybrid model – all without having any negative impact on the feel of the Hemi truck. At $1,450, eTorque isn’t all that expensive, especially for someone buying a loaded, high-end truck like my $68k Longhorn test truck. At that price point, $1,450 is hardly a noticeable increase in exchange for better fuel economy, improved trailer towing capabilities and a smoother drive in most situations.

Patrick Rall was raised a Mopar boy, spending years racing a Dodge Mirada while working his way through college. After spending a few years post-college in the tax accounting field, Patrick made the jump to the world of journalism and his work has been published in magazines and websites around the world.


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