The tightening CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards enacted by the previous administration are finally hitting home, and have automakers looking at engine setups that normally wouldn’t be considered for trucks. After decades of being too shy to dance with the power making temptress known as boost (beyond anything that is diesel) American manufacturers have become rather smitten with using boost on normally anemic, small displacement engines to pump up their power numbers and make them usable in applications they normally wouldn’t, such as full size trucks.
Why? It used to be full size trucks and SUVs were exempt from CAFÉ standards, but that changed after a new mindset came in with the previous administration, and the immense popularity of trucks and SUVs garnered them much more attention from the pollution police. With the boom lowered, automakers looked to the first area that would help them improve fuel economy, weight. This was a major factor in Ford shifting to all-aluminum construction on its F-150 trucks. Once the weight savings options (ones that didn’t prohibitively drive up productions costs or reduce capability) were exhausted, the next place to look for more economy was the powertrain.
ABOVE: One of the new engine options for the all new 2019 Chevrolet and GMC half-ton full-size trucks is a 2.7 liter, turbocharged gasoline four-cylinder engine. It replaces the current 4.3L V-6 in the regular, base model trucks, while the 4.3 will remain the base engine for work trucks. The turbo four will be rated at 310 horsepower and 348 pound-feet of torque, but as of this blog no dyno charts have been shared to show what RPM those peak numbers will come at.
Ford has been employing an Ecoboost twin-turbo V-6 in its F-150 line for a few years now, a compromise to give the trucks similar hauling power to a V-8, but with the fuel economy of a V-6. For the updated 2019 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, GM has announced that in regular 1/2 ton pickups, the 4.3L V-6 based off the Ecotec 3 series V-8 (derivative of the new LT series V-8s in the cars) will be replaced with a new, 2.7 liter turbocharged four-cylinder.
While no dyno charts have been released yet, Chevrolet is saying the new engine will be rated at 310 horsepower and 348 pound-feet of torque. To compare, the modern 4.3 V-6 (which will still be the base engine for 1/2 ton work trucks) is rated at 285 horsepower at 5300 rpm, and 305 pound-feet of torque at 3900. Not a huge difference in terms of power, and it is tough to compare without the peak power rpm numbers for the new four-cylinder.
Obviously the four-cylinder will be an MPG winner, at least under the testing conditions those numbers are determined with. But out in the real world, how will this engine hold up? Feedback on the Ecoboost V-6 has been mixed, with some saying it’s great, and others saying it’s as thirsty/thirstier than a V-8 and its hauling ability isn’t that great. As with a lot of things, driving style and usage play a big factor. How will GM’s turbo four perform when it’s not in a strict testing environment, but in the hands of real drivers? Since this engine isn’t being used in the work truck trim levels, it does make one consider that when it comes to doing more than just moving the truck, the turbo four might not be up to the task. Another interesting player in all of this, the new 3.0L inline-six turbo diesel engine that will be available in the half-ton pickups. No real specs have been released on this engine yet, but it promises to be a pretty capable engine that would have the great fuel economy modern diesels are known for. And it marks the return of an inline engine to GM’s full-size trucks after an absence of over 30 years.
What do you think? Would you rather have a naturally aspirated V-8 or large V-6 under your hood that doesn’t have to rely on boost, or a small displacement turbocharged four-cylinder or V-6 that uses boost to make the necessary power to get the job done? Let us know here or on our Facebook page where we’ll be posting this question at a later date.