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Pickup trucks: Wise County’s best seller

By Roy J. Eaton | Published Saturday, April 6, 2013

There was a time when no self-respecting pickup owner would buy one with a six-cylinder engine under the hood. They were for business and city fleets and wouldn’t do the work that most buyers wanted to do.

But the times, “they are a changin’” – and you can credit Ford for that, with the introduction a few years ago of the EcoBoost V-6 engine that Ford says offers the power of a V-8 with the fuel economy of a V-6 in its F-150 pickups.

BIG SELLER - The 2013 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup is a big truck that offers full-sized SUV comfort on the interior.

BIG SELLER – The 2013 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup is a big truck that offers full-sized SUV comfort on the interior.

Customers agreed, and the sale of Ford F-150 pickups with six-cylinder engines are now greater than those with the 5.0 liter V-8. The V-8 buyer gives up about two miles per gallon while both engines boast 360 horsepower.

But the big news this year comes from Chrysler and the all-new 305-horsepower Pentastar V-6 engine, combined with an eight-speed automatic transmission in the Ram 1500 pickup.

Thanks to Robert Bishop, general manager of Klement Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram, we’ve been driving a 2013 Ram 1500 crew cab for several weeks, and it is an impressive truck.

As the window sticker says, “your mileage may vary,” but Mark Jordan, our general manager, checked his mileage on a round trip to our printing plant in Bowie and said he got 24 miles per gallon. Those who know that Mark has a well-earned lead-foot reputation, understand this is more than impressive for this big truck.

The truck Robert loaned us was equipped with the popular “Lone Star Equipment Group” that included everything from satellite radio to a back-up camera. It carried a window-sticker price of $37,070 including transportation from the Dodge truck plant in Warren, Mich.

I’m not a regular pickup driver, but after a week behind the wheel of the Ram 1500, I can say it matches or exceeds the comfort of the full-sized SUVs I regularly drive. The eight-speed transmission is flawless in its shifting, and the five-year, 100,000-mile power train warranty should offer great assurance to anyone buying the truck.

The engine-transmission combination, plus an attractive design face-lift, have earned the Ram 1500 dozens of “Truck of the Year” awards, and if our experience with the big truck is any indication – they are well-deserved.

There is no segment of the automotive industry more competitive than pickup trucks, and Chevrolet and GMC are not sitting idly by watching Ford and Dodge walk away with the customers.

When the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups hit the showrooms in a few months, they will have V-8 engines that GM says will outdo the mileage of the V-6 Ford.

The new Silverado/Sierra with GM’s 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V-8 engine will get one highway mile per gallon better than the F-150 with the Turbo-Charged V-6 engine. That will still fall short of the 25 mpg promised by the Ram 1500.

There is no group of owners more loyal to their “brands” than full-sized pickup truck buyers. Toyota and Nissan learned quickly that the loyalty of Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge Ram and GMC owners trumped their claims of superior quality.

But the Ram 1500 is not the only impressive Dodge we have driven lately. Again thanks to Robert Bishop, we drove a 2013 Dodge Durango for a few months.

The Durango competes in the showrooms with the Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia. The Durango has the advantage of offering a V-8 engine while the others offer only V-6 power.

Lisa Davis, our advertising sales manager, and I shared time behind the wheel of the Durango, and we both came away impressed. “It was wonderful, just the right size,” said Davis who also normally drives a full-sized SUV.

The V-8 Durango we drove offered a competitive 18 mpg during the time we drove it. It was equipped with the mid-level “Crew” trim package that included leather seats, satellite radio and a third seat that adults could actually ride in. We even crammed three adults into the third seat for a short trip – we wouldn’t recommend that for more than a few miles. Like all its competitors, the third seat folds conveniently into the floor for additional cargo space.

The joys of keyless ignition and a super-simple Bluetooth connection were hard to give up when we returned the vehicle to Klement Dodge.

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