To highlight the improved fuel economy of its completely redesigned 2013 Ram 1500 pickup, the Ram Trucks division of Chrysler provided production-line ready as well as several prototype models to the media for a test drive event held in Nashville, TN, earlier this month – showcasing in particular the official fuel economy rating for the 2013 Ram 1500 equipped with the new 305-hp 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine, mated to a new 8-speed "TorqueFlite 8" automatic transmission.

The company said official Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testing established an 18 miles per gallon (mpg) fuel consumption average for city driving and 25 mpg for highway driving.

Mike Raymond, head of Ram 1500 engineering, noted at the event that the new 3.6-liter V6 engine and 8-speed transmission combination offers 42% more horsepower and 13% more torque yet at least 20% better fuel economy in comparison’s to the truck’s previous 3.7-liter V6 powertrain.

[To watch a video clip of Raymond delving into the details of this new powertrain combination for the 2013 Ram 1500, click here.]

He added that Ram’s new 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine – equipped with what the company calls “fuel saver technology” and variable-valve timing – cranks out 395 horsepower and 407 lb.-ft. of torque while providing at least 10% better fuel economy when compared to Ram’s 2012 V-8 powertrain package.

“The cost of fuel is now so extremely important within the ‘total cost of operation’ or ‘TCO’ calculation, if you will, for pickup truck users,” Bob Hegbloom, director of the Ram Truck division, told Fleet Owner. The company officially unveiled the 2013 overhaul of its Ram 1500 pickup at the New York Auto Show back in April this year.

“This shift is of course application specific – these trucks are first and foremost viewed as ‘tools’ by these users for their businesses; it’s got to deliver,” he said. “But today, fuel economy is a primary factor in that ‘tool selection’ process. It’s become one of the key buying requirements in this segment.”

Chrysler executives also noted that the 2013 Ram 1500 trucks equipped with 5.7-liter V8 engines at the ride and drive event were “prototype” models being used for powertrain testing; thus they  didn’t come with production-level trim packages. They added that 5.7-liter V8 equipped versions of the 2012 Ram 1500 are still undergoing have not fuel economy testing with the EPA, so no fuel mileage stats are being made public yet.

Chrysler said the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for the  for thefor2013 Ram 1500 will average just over 1% higher than the MSRP for its 2012 models. Starting price for the 2013 Ram 1500 will be $23,585, including $995 destination charge, with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine and TorqueFlite 8 transmission combination offered as a $1,000 option over the 4.7-liter V8 engine/6-speed combo offered on Ram's Tradesman models.

Raymond added that “High Fuel Efficiency” or “HFE” model designations for the 2013 Ram 1500 are going to be offered, with the 2013 model lineup scheduled to start production in September and begin reaching showroom floors by October. “HFE” designated trucks also feature especially low drag coefficients – 0.36 versus 0.376 for its “normal” models – to improve the pickup’s aerodynamic shape and thus lead to fuel economy gains.

Raymond said that weight savings along with aforementioned “fuel saver technology” are part of the overall equation necessary to gain fuel savings. “We needed to attack on two fronts: the powertrain, in terms of weight and lower friction, as well the many other pieces of the vehicle itself,” he explained. “It takes a lot of incremental steps across the board to deliver a huge gain in fuel economy.”

For starters, he noted that the new 3.6-liter V6 engine and TorqueFlite 8-speed combination is 76 lbs. lighter than the 2012 Ram 1500’s powertrain. Other chassis changes – such as lighter steel wheels – wrung another 54 lbs. of weight out of the new truck.

Raymond also pointed out that the new 8-speed TorqueFlite transmission doubles the amount of gears compared to Ram 1500’s previous four-speed version, which means the rpm “gap” between gears is much smaller – requiring less fuel to be burned between gear shifts.

Other “fuel saver technology” improvements include: a new thermal management system that quickly raise engine and transmission fluid temperatures helps reduce parasitic losses, improving fuel efficiency by 1.7%, according to Ram’s figures; a “stop-start” engine feature that can boost fuel economy by up to 3.3% or about one mile-per-gallon for the truck's city drive cycle; and a new electronically adjustable air suspension system that provides five height settings, one of which aimed at improving aerodynamic performance at highway speeds.

The “stop-start” feature, by the way, will be a standard feature on all HFE model 2013 Ram 1500 pickups equipped with either the new V6 or V8 engine option.

“It’s all about bringing more fuel economy ‘enablers’ to the pickup truck segment now,” Raymond said.