Which V8 should you choose in a Ram 1500 pickup?

Okay, so that thing has a Hemi, but which one? We go over the pros and cons of each power source

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Ram has a good business with his pickup trucks, continuing his brash in-yer-face styling cues originally introduced nearly 30 years ago and still enjoyed by his customer base. Numerous finishes are available, appealing to those who like colored trucks (*raises hand*) or to those who believe there is no plate quite like chrome.

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Unlike some of its competitors, the Ram 1500 doesn’t currently offer turbocharged V6s or hybrid powertrains with built-in generators that can power an entire campground. What it does offer is a hodgepodge of tried and true engines, most of which are accompanied by sonorous soundtracks and the ability to be hammer-fixed.

The brand recently introduced a so-called ‘mild hybrid’ version of its 5.7L Hemi V8 engine, technology that uses a degree of electrification to save fuel.

Which one is right for your needs? Let’s find out.

Current

Introduced in its current form nearly two decades ago, the venerable 5.7L Hemi V8 makes 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers haven’t really changed in about fifteen years, apart from a bump of five ponies and three units of twist in 2013. Still, they’re a healthy increase from the initial output of 345 and 375 when the company introduced this engine for the model year. 2003.

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Adding the “eTorque” suffix to this motor brings to the party a 12-cell lithium-ion battery and unique 48-volt technology (also called a belt-starter generator), tools that – exactly zero horsepower and adding zero torque to the truck’s stated output, compared to a non-eTorque Hemi. A Ram 1500 pickup powered by the 5.7-liter Hemi eTorque has exactly the same total horsepower as a pickup without the electric helpers — 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque.

Where’s the beef? Ram advertises a 130 lb-ft increase in ‘starting torque’ for the hybrid engine, leading some to wonder why the electrified Ram isn’t getting a higher twist rating. The bottom line is that electric motors and petrol engines tend to reach their peak power at vastly different times, meaning one cannot blindly add up the power of those disparately different parts of the powertrain.

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Where it is doing making a difference is during initial acceleration, when pulling away from a standstill. Since a petrol engine naturally delivers much less than its advertised maximum power at low engine speeds, those extra torques (most of which show up for work as soon as an eTorque driver hits the accelerator) make the truck feel like it has more power in some scenarios than a non-eTorque Ram. And, to be clear, technically it does – just not at its stated peak.

To tow

According to Ram’s own numbers for the ’22 model year, the Hemi eTorque is slightly less capable than its non-electrified brother when it comes to towing. If we look at the usual configuration of a four-wheel drive Tradesman Crew Cab with a 5’7″ short bed, we see that the standard Hemi can carry up to 11,270 pounds if properly equipped with the right tow package and 3.92 gears in the rear. By comparison, a Hemi eTorque (designated by BSG for “belt-starter generator”) can tow £11,200.

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This difference can be attributed to the extra weight of the eTorque gubbins — that aforementioned belt-start generator and those batteries behind the back seat — as the addition of mass to a truck reduces the amount it can safely carry.

Why? Give thanks (or blame) to the concept of GCWR, an acronym that stands for “Gross Combined Weight Rating.” This is the number that determines how much a particular truck and its trailer are allowed to weigh when added together. That number is 17,000 pounds in both the standard Hemi V8 and Hemi eTorque V8 in the body configuration described in the last paragraph, leading us to conclude that the drag difference is due to an ever-small increase in the mass of the truck when the electrified engine is selected (5,246 lbs vs. 5,305 lbs).

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Availability

Not much to say in this category other than the fact that most new trucks are in short supply these days due to infernal and seemingly never-ending supply chain challenges. However, customers should remember that Ram is currently selling two completely different Ram 1500 pickup trucks: the new body shape that debuted for the 2019 model year; and the old body style, which has been around ever since Adam was an oak picker 2009.

The Hemi eTorque is not available in the older trucks, which is technically called the “Ram 1500 Classic”, a model limited to the 3.6L V6 and the traditional 5.7L Hemi. Those wanting the eTorque will have to look to the top rungs of the new Ram 1500, as electrification isn’t available on all gear.

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Economy

According to the NRCan leaders, a regular 5.7 liter Hemi V8 should deliver 16.1 l/100 km in the city and 11.0 l/100 km on the highway, which amounts to a combined output of 13.8 l /100 km. For model year 2022 and newer vehicles, NRCan cost $1 per liter of fuel, so we used a multiplier of 1.9 to get more realistic numbers in today’s harum-scarum economy. Based on those numbers, an owner driving 20,000 miles per year can expect to pay about $5,244 in fuel costs.

Does an eTorque Hemi, with its efficient start-stop system and mild-hybrid guts, offer anything in the way of fuel economy? The answer, as you might expect, is yes – but only. NRCan estimates the thing at 13.4 l/100 km on a city bike and 10.5 l/100 km on the highway, together good for a total score of 12.1 l/100 km. The big advantage when driving in the city, where the start-stop system is given ample time to do its job, is obvious. Based on the same driving habits as in the previous section, it’s estimated that the eTorque will take $4,598 in fuel costs off your wallet. An annual savings of more than six hundred dollars should not be ignored.

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Long term costs

Maintenance for the 5.7L Hemi and 5.7L eTorque Hemi are broadly similar in terms of oil changes and other routine care. It is important to pay attention to any messages that appear in the information center on your truck’s dashboard, as it will tell you when certain types of maintenance – such as mentioned oil changes – are required. Remember that if someone uses their Ram 1500 for regular towing or in other harsh conditions, maintenance reminders will be more frequent. In terms of initial cost, the eTorque is generally about $1,200 more expensive than the stock V8, an amount that pays for itself thanks to the fuel economy benefit.

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