Pick-up trucks can be handy things to have. Besides being a mandatory tool to have around a job site, non-tradesmen like me find them quite useful for towing a trailer, taking a load of brush to the depot or hauling home the fruits of an afternoon at IKEA. If your truck has four doors you can even take the family down to Disney World. However, all this utility has traditionally come at a price... at the pumps.
Domestic car makers now seem to be working at taking some of the sting out of having to refuel the family workhorse by packing them with smaller (yet, thanks to technological innovations, still powerful) motors. Let’s take a look at some of the options!
For the truck lover who’s built Ford Tough, there is a 3.7L V6F150. The power plant in this old favourite puts out 307 horses and 278lb-ft of twist. If you just need traction at the back wheels, this truck will return 17mpg in the city and 23mpg on the highway. Of course, if you want the 4x4 you’ll be giving up a mile or two on the EPA rating. To me these numbers aren’t bad considering they beat the truck we used to have by a few MPG, and ours was considerably smaller and much less powerful.
Can it tow? Well, depending on your configuration (and I’m pretty sure there are more ways to configure an F150 than there are plastic surgeons in Rio) the naturally aspirated V6 F150 can tow from about 5500lbs – 6500lbs. That should be enough for most people’s toys.
Ford not your thing? Ram offers a 3.6L powered 1500 with an 8-speed automatic that gets even better fuel economy. And at 305hp and 269lb-ft of torque, the output is comparable to the offering from the blue oval. So is towing, since she’s rated for 6500lbs.
The one thing that the Ram has going for it that the Ford doesn’t is higher snob appeal points. The transmission is the same ZF unit found in a Rolls Royce or an Audi A8. Plus it has a rotary gear selector like a Jaguar. Very posh... accept most people probably aren’t looking for snob appeal in their trucks, so this may in fact work against the Ram (although I bet 99.9% of people just won’t notice and/or care). What most people will appreciate is that this transmission is part of the reason why in this truck they could see up to 25mpg on the highway.
For those of you who prefer to salute the general, GM’sSierra/Silverado can be had with a new 4.3L V6. Rated at 285hp, it’s at about a 20 horse disadvantage to the previous two offerings. But what it lacks in the equestrian department, it makes up for it with 305lb-ft of torque. As a result, it can tow about 700lbs more than the Ram. Now you could tow a boat and three or four kegs of Guinness.
The GM V6 also has the added benefit of being fitted with cylinder deactivation... so under lighter loads it operates as a V4. According to the reviews I’ve read, this is pretty seamless and the only way you would ever know it’s on is because the display in the dash tells you. This results in fuel economy that falls essentially between the Ford and Ram.
Just to illustrate how far we’ve come in the last couple of decades, here are the specs (base motor option) for each of these vehicles from the 1994 model year:
Ford F150 – 4.9L I6, 145hp, 265lb-ft, 4700-5700lbs max towing, 14/18mpg
Ram 1500 – 3.9L V6, 175hp, 225lb-ft, 3600lb max towing, 15/19mpg
GMC Sierra – 4.3L V6, 165hp, 236lb-ft, 4400lb max towing, 15/21mpg
I don’t know about you, but I see a vast improvement in today’s base model trucks in regards to utility, power and fuel economy. Not too shabby.