With electric pickup trucks from Ford, GM, and others—including newcomers like Rivian—looking likely to arrive in the next few years, the truck field could be on the verge of a clean, quiet, tailpipe-emissions-free shakeup.
That said, you wouldn’t know this segment as being poised on a revolution. Progress in the efficiency and fuel economy of full-size trucks the past few years hasn’t come so rapidly, and it’s fair to sum it up as a series of small steps, canceled strategies, and sometimes contradictory moves.
The Two-Mode Hybrid system, for instance, that was to be potentially used in GM and Ram full-size pickups was essentially canceled earlier this decade for being too expensive, after its development bills were paid but before it could ride the next wave of expensive gasoline, for instance. And the light diesels that were long promised finally arrived—to a lukewarm reception in the wake of the VW diesel scandal.
Where does that leave gasoline pickup truck fuel efficiency now, in 2019? Each of the traditional Big Three—GM (Chevrolet, GMC), Ford, and Fiat Chrysler (Ram)—are positioned with a very different powertrain strategy. While real-world numbers are obviously going to be different—and vary dramatically in real-world hauling and towing use—here’s where the gas versions of the full-size trucks rank today.
2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn
The most fuel-efficient model in the 2019 Ram 1500 lineup is the HFE, a trim level of the Ram 1500 slotting above the rather basic SLT, Express, and Tradesman (work truck) models but below various other models that include much more equipment and a more lavish cabin. The Ram HFE is also the most fuel-efficient full-size truck, at 20 mpg city, 26 highway, with an EPA combined rating of 23 mpg.
For 2019 Ram has dropped the diesel from the lineup, instead opting for the 3.6-liter V-6, equipped with an 8-speed automatic transmission, and the eTorque 48-volt mild-hybrid system. It also gets the taller 3.21 axle ratio.
The engine and transmission aren’t the full story. For 2019, Ram cut 100 pounds of weight from the frame and 225 pounds from the truck as a whole. The new Ram 1500 also has active grille shutters and is, according to the company, the segment’s most aerodynamic truck, at a 0.357 coefficient of drag.
2019 Ford F-150
The 2019 Ford F-150 achieves almost the same rating as the Ram 1500 HFE, but misses it on a rounding error. Models with the 2.7-liter turbo V-6 engine are rated up to 20 mpg city, 26 highway, for a combined rating of 22 mpg.
Several other models in the F-150 lineup manage more than 20 mpg combined. The 2WD F-150 with the 3.3-liter V-6, for instance, is rated 19/25 mpg city/highway and 22 combined.
Separately, if you include diesel, the Ford F-150 hits a high for the class with its available 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6, where it reaches a peak 22 mpg city, 30 highway (25 combined) in 2WD form. A 3.0-liter Duramax diesel inline-6 will be available in GM’s full-size trucks this year but hasn’t yet been EPA-rated.
2019 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ concept
GM has introduced a new turbocharged 2.7-liter inline-4 that replaces the 4.3-liter V-6 in some of the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 lineup. While it gets the best EPA combined rating of the Silverado lineup (21 mpg), the outgoing V-6 got a better highway rating (24 mpg, versus 23 mpg).
The 2019 Chevy Silverado with the 5.3-liter V-8 includes GM’s new Dynamic Fuel Management, with a claimed 17 different modes of cylinder deactivation and the capability to effectively operate the engine on one to seven cylinders via a complex algorithm.
We look forward to testing these systems out in real-world driving—and understanding, once again, that these official numbers are really just the starting point.