One of the most amazing things about today’s trucks isn’t just how powerful they are, but how much power they make from a small amount of fuel.
Horsepower ratings are soaring through the roof these days, but fuel consumption simply isn’t. The pickup truck manufacturers are pouring all their engineering talent into producing more power from less gasoline or diesel fuel.
Here are two big ways they’re doing it.
Ford made a big impression in the pickup truck market with its turbocharged EcoBoost engine in the F-150.
By fitting a turbocharger to a V6 engine, Ford has effectively dispelled the notion that six-cylinder trucks are less capable than a “real,” V8-powered truck.
The EcoBoost system offers the good fuel economy of a V6 along with towing and acceleration performance more commonly associated with V8s. It’s basically like driving a V8 engine with better gas mileage.
Other pickup truck manufacturers offer turbocharged diesel engines that get impressive mileage for long-haul towing. And they’re reported to be working on turbocharged gasoline engines of their own for the future after seeing Ford’s sales success with EcoBoost.
Another innovation is actually not so new: cylinder deactivation.
General Motors pioneered this concept decades ago, although early engineering glitches derailed it for a time. The idea is to only fire all eight cylinders of a V8 engine when they’re needed — say, under heavy acceleration or when towing big loads of cargo — and running on four or six cylinders the rest of the time.
This concept makes sense. Realistically, when a pickup truck is simply maintaining its speed and cruising down the highway, a four-cylinder engine would be perfectly adequate. It’s just passing and accelerating where the V8 power really comes into play.
By deactivating cylinders when their power isn’t necessary, today’s newest engines can often act like a four-cylinder, six-cylinder or eight-cylinder powerplant depending on the conditions at any given moment, which can really help their fuel efficiency.