By Aaron Bragman
In an age of gasoline-electric this and turbo-diesel that, traditional truck enthusiasts may think that the world is passing them by, that the days of the big V-8-powered pickup truck may be numbered. With federal fuel economy mandates becoming increasingly strict and global concerns about carbon dioxide emissions growing, the justifications for driving big trucks with big engines are dwindling. The popularity of Ford's twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 engine only feeds the fear that big V-8s may not be long for this world.
But fear not truck fans, the auto industry hasn't given up on you yet - in fact, for the 2014 and 2015 model years, we're seeing a new crop of V-8 gasoline engines that are more powerful, more efficient and cleaner than ever. Why? Because these big engines mean big profits, and there's still a demand (albeit a significantly smaller one than in previous decades) for the capability and power they provide.
Chrysler and GM each have a new offering: a new 6.2-liter EcoTec3 V-8 for GM's high-end pickups and SUVs, and the biggest Hemi ever put in a recent Chrysler truck - a new 6.4-liter gasoline brute coming next year in the Ram 2500 Heavy Duty that's rumored to be possibly making an appearance in a future high-performance light-duty Ram 1500 as well. Over at Ford, the big 6.2-liter "Boss" V-8 carries on unchanged for 2014.
GM's 6.2-liter EcoTec3 is a new engine appearing in its redesigned trucks. It's considered as much an up-level luxury motor as a workhorse engine, appearing in the top trim levels of the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra as well as the company's newly unveiled 2015 GMC Yukon Denali SUV. GM says that it is the most powerful light-duty engine on the market, delivering 420 horsepower and 460 pounds-feet of torque, enabling an estimated towing rating of 12,000 pounds. It's an advanced engine as well, featuring all-aluminum construction - rare in a world of mostly cast-iron engine blocks.
Over at Ram, there's a new light-duty diesel V-6 engine making news, but the other motor making Ram's competitors sit up and take notice is the one coming initially in the 2014 2500 HD, a 6.4-liter Hemi engine making 410 horsepower and 429 pounds-feet of torque. Right now it's only slated for the HD, but given the competition's plans to put their big gas engines in their top-end luxury light-duty trucks, we wouldn't be surprised to see this motor work its way into a fancy 1500 as well. At least one of our staff thinks this motor would be perfect for a production version of the Ram Rumble Bee concept. Unique on this motor (in HD models anyway) is an optional dual-alternator system, which whips up a class-leading 380 amps, more than enough to keep the fog lights blazing. Like many of the other new engines, the 6.4-liter Hemi features technology designed to improve efficiency and emissions, such as cooled exhaust-gas recirculation, variable-valve timing and cylinder deactivation. Ram is backing up the new engine with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty that includes free towing to the nearest Ram dealer, if needed.
Ford updated its big engine for the F-150 for the last model change in 2010, the 6.2-liter "Boss" (even though Ford doesn't officially call it that) that appears in both the light-duty trucks and the Super Duty. It's the top engine choice in the F-150, appearing as an option on the higher-spec trim levels. The same engine appears in the Super Duty as well, with a few minor changes, such as a bigger alternator. The engine differs from the GM and Chrysler motors in that it's an overhead-cam motor - both of those competitors are still using tried-and-true pushrod valve trains, but Ford has figured out how to squeeze pushrod-style low-end torque out of an SOHC motor. With a new F-150 expected soon, we would not be surprised to hear of updates to the next big Ford V-8 as well, perhaps accompanied by a longer powertrain warranty (Ford's comes up a bit short when compared with GM and Ram).
We've scanned the stats from the Detroit Three automakers and assembled a handy reference sheet for you stat lovers out there. Here are the top gasoline engines in the latest crop of big pickups.