Truck Gas Mileage

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Ford Truck With EcoBoostWill pickup truck gas mileage ever get significantly better? Why can’t they build a truck that gets 40 mpg? 

Trucks are designed to carry and tow heavy loads, so they must be heavier and stronger than passenger cars. Weight is a primary component in the fuel economy equation: The higher the weight, the lower the fuel economy. Aerodynamic drag is also a big factor in the highway fuel economy of pickup trucks. A pickup’s inherent boxy shape is utilitarian, but adds considerable wind resistance.

Today’s full-size pickup trucks are more efficient than trucks of just a few years ago, but it’s still not uncommon for a truck to deliver mpg only in the mid-teens. The best overall full-size pickup fuel economies can be found on the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid and the GMC Sierra Hybrid. These trucks use mild-hybrid technology to achieve low-20s truck mpg.

All full-size pickup manufacturers offer 6-cylinder gasoline engines, which naturally deliver better truck gas mileage than 8-cylinder models when empty or lightly loaded. Many truck owners, however, think those don’t have enough power to move big loads. One notable exception is the Ford F-150 with the EcoBoost 6-cylinder engine. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 produces 365 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. That’s V8 power, yet the EcoBoost F-150 has impressive fuel economy ratings of 16 mpg for city driving and 22 mpg on the highway.

When moving a really big load in a heavy-duty pickup, you can’t beat the performance of a modern three-quarter- or 1-ton pickup. Diesel pickups are more expensive to purchase initially, but their longevity, 30 percent better fuel economy (than gasoline-powered models) and higher resale value help make them a wise long-term investment.

The best way to get better mpg from your truck is to operate it more efficiently. Simple changes to the way you drive (read How to Get Better Gas Mileage) can add up to big savings over time.

— Todd Kaho, Editor and Publisher, FrugalDriver.com 

Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company