Pickup trucks are not the first vehicles most people think of when the topic comes to fuel efficiency. Although these indispensable workhorses of the U.S. economy play a vital role in housing, repair & maintenance, and of course, recreation, they’re not exactly the most economical. In recent years, however, there have been some major improvements in pickup fuel economy. The biggest gains have been seen in full-size models, with the 2013 Ram 1500 V-6 and Ford F-150 V-6 being two noteworthy examples. Let’s not forget that GM still produces the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra Hybrid (although it seems most customers have.) In commemoration of Earth Day 2013, we’ve rounded up the top 10 most fuel-efficient pickup trucks on sale today, and a sneak peak at a few fuel-sipping models to come. It is much too soon for a retirement party, but the V-8 engine seems to be losing its clout with buyers of full-size pickup trucks. For the first time in about 50 years, many big-truck customers no longer consider a six-cylinder engine to be a downgrade. “The V-6s today are V-6s in name only,” says Doug Scott, truck group marketing manager at Ford. “The technology that we have been able to apply has really resulted in much better power output, while at the same time achieving much better fuel economy.” By Ford’s estimates, roughly 57 percent of F-150 pickups are now shipped with V-6 engines. The 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6, developing a V-8-like 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, is now the model’s most popular engine. Last year, Ford’s 5-liter V-8 was the most popular engine in the F-150, accounting for more than 50 percent of sales. But in the fall, Ford increased EcoBoost production. By December, the V-8 was taking a back seat to the boosted V-6.
Most trucks are the biggest gas guzzlers out on the road. Many have mileage in the low teens. There are several things that cause trucks to have poor mileage. First, trucks are typically much heavier than regular cars, not to mention, most have powerful engines like V8’s. They use up tons of gas to pump out high horsepower. Regardless of these issues, there are a few trucks out there that can get good gas mileage.
A V-6 typically improves fuel efficiency by several miles per gallon over a V-8. Ram holds bragging rights for class-leading fuel economy, with its EcoDiesel V-6 rated at 28 mpg on the highway. Its most-fuel-efficient V-8 gets 22 mpg on the highway.”In just over three years, we have been able to sell over 500,000 EcoBoost-equipped F-150s,” Scott says. “The engine has gotten more popular, and we have been in a better position to meet that demand.” Although many consumers believe buying a truck for towing or hauling means sacrificing fuel economy, we think good gas mileage and traditional pickup truck capabilities aren’t mutually exclusive. To prove it, we’ve compiled a list of six pickups that achieve great fuel economy and can still handle your chores, whether they include off-roading, heavy-duty towing, hauling materials to a job site or just cruising around town.
Although Chevrolet’s base-level four-cylinder single-cab Colorado may seem tempting due to its low price and great gas mileage, we’d skip the midsize truck’s two-seat models and go straight for the four-wheel drive Crew Cab. That’s because four-wheel drive Crew Cab variants of the Colorado trade the truck’s lethargic inline four for a powerful 3.5-liter five-cylinder, which provides a satisfying 242 horsepower – and, despite the power bump, only a slight efficiency penalty versus the 185-horsepower four-cylinder. The five-cylinder is also no stranger to workhorse duty, thanks to a 4,000-pound towing capacity and a robust 242 pound-feet of torque.
Although hybrid versions of Chevrolet’s Silverado pickup and its GMC Sierra twin have never sold in huge numbers, there’s no denying that the full-size trucks are great on gas. Although the pickups’ EPA rating of 20 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway aren’t up to the standards set by some hybrid cars, the figures are impressive considering the pickups don’t use a tiny four- or six-cylinder but rather a brawny 332-horsepower 6.0-liter V8. That puts the most efficient Silverado and Sierra models among the pickups’ best performers – and their 6,000-pound towing capacity means they’re no slouch when the discussion turns to heavy-duty use, either.
It’s hard to deny the impact Ford’s turbocharged EcoBoost engine has on the full-size pickup market. For the first time ever, truck buyers have access to an engine that achieves eight-cylinder power and torque – 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet at just 2,500 rpm – yet impressive six-cylinder fuel economy of 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. The fact that the muscular powerplant costs less than $1,300 extra in most configurations is icing on the cake – and it leaves us wondering why anyone would opt for the truck’s 5.0-liter V8, which offers less power and less torque while consuming more fuel.
Honda’s midsize Ridgeline is an easy inclusion on any list of fuel-efficient pickups. Capable of towing an impressive 5,000 pounds, the car-based Ridgeline features a standard 3.5-liter V6 that produces 250 horsepower and achieves fuel economy ratings of up to 21 miles per gallon in highway driving. While the Ridgeline is no heavy-duty machine, it’s great for around-town driving – and its innovative, well-designed bed should put it near the top of the list for any city dweller interested in a pickup “just because.” With more than eight inches of ground clearance, it’s also capable of tackling the occasional off-road trail.
Although heavy-duty pickups like the Ram 3500, Chevrolet Silverado HD and Ford F-Series Super Duty don’t have to submit to EPA fuel economy tests due to their size, many truck shoppers believe the Ram’s Cummins diesel is among the most robust, fuel-efficient heavy duty truck engines on the market. With a strong 350 horsepower and an eye-popping 650 pound-feet of torque available at just 1,500 rpm, the engine is certainly potent – but it’s hard to believe such an enormous engine could also achieve good gas mileage. Nonetheless, in spite of its big numbers, most reviewers report around 15 miles per gallon in mixed city and highway driving – not bad for an engine that motivates the Ram 3500 to tow nearly 23,000 pounds.
Although many pickups boast strong gas mileage figures, no truck offers the all-out fuel efficiency of the four-cylinder Toyota Tacoma. Among the most dependable trucks on the planet, four-cylinder Tacoma models equipped with the pickup’s standard manual transmission can achieve an EPA-rated 21 miles per gallon in the city and a whopping 25 mpg on the highway. Sure, the small truck doesn’t offer stellar towing capacity – and with just 159 horsepower, it’s no stoplight racer. But in the realm of small pickups that offer great mileage and bulletproof reliability, the Tacoma is king of the hill – especially considering its starting price of around $17,000 including destination.
The Ford Ranger has a 4-cylinder, 2.3-liter engine, with a five speed manual transmission. It has the best mileage on the list. It can get 22 miles per gallon in the city, and 27 miles per gallon on the highway. The Ranger comes with a 17 or 19.5 gallon tank. At an average tank size of 18.25 gallons, that means you can drive approximately 400+ miles to your tank. That is pretty good for a truck. At 27 miles per gallon on the highway, that rivals some regular cars. The Ranger starts at only $17,000, so you are getting a truck for a great price with good gas mileage.
The Sierra is also a hybrid and gets similar fuel economy ratings to the Silverado. It also gets around 21 to 22 miles per gallon no matter where it is driving. You need to make sure you get the hybrid, since the regular Sierra gets around 12 to 13 miles per gallon. The Sierra will run over $35,000 as a hybrid. It also can use E85 ethanol fuel and save you some money there.
What it means to you: Just because you’re buying a truck doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice at the pump.
GREAT TIPS: How to Get Better Gas Mileage
If you want to get better gas mileage, there are some tips that you can use to help. Many people are wasting tons of gas just by the way they drive. There are many simple fixes you can do that can help you increase fuel economy.
Tighten Your Cap
Whenever you fill up, check your gas cap. Make sure it is on tight because if it isn’t, you can be losing gas due to evaporation. Over 100 million gallons evaporate while in the tank every year.
Check Your Tires
Keep your tires inflated. Having tires low on air can decrease your fuel efficiency by three to five percent.
Lighten Your Load
Having a lighter car enables it to get better gas mileage. If you have an SUV, there may be a roof rack that you don’t need. You also may have unwanted things in your trunk that can be weighing you down. It may seem small, but every bit helps.
One of the biggest reasons we waste so much gas is due to constant stopping and starting. This happens while city driving a lot, which is the reason why highway fuel economy ratings are higher than the city ratings. Plan around peak travel times and rush hour if possible. If you can drive unobstructed you will increase your gas mileage. Use your cruise control when you can.
Change Your Oil
Having the right motor oil for your engine is important. You should be using the recommended oil type from your manual, or a friction reducing oil. The more friction that is reduced, the more gas mileage your car will get. This can improve gas mileage over 10 percent.
Change Your Air Filters
Make sure your air filters are not clogged. Clogged air filters can decrease your gas mileage up to 20 percent. This should be checked constantly as it has a big effect.
Obey the Speed Limit
The speed limit is not just a made up number. 55 miles per hour actually is a great speed for fuel consumption. Anything faster, and your fuel efficiency goes down. Observing the speed limit is a way to get better gas mileage. You will be saving gas, as well as driving more efficiently with that gas.
Turn off Your Air Conditioner
Lastly, roll down your windows and turn off your air conditioner. The higher your air conditioner is on, the more power and gas you are using. Once you achieve highway speeds, put your windows back up and turn on the A/C if you need it. The greater drag of having the windows down at high speeds off sets the advantage of not using the air.