Texas Truck Showdown 2016: MPG Mileage Test

Ram Track 1 II

By Brian Wong, Cars.com

We put our four mpg contenders through a mileage drive in and around the Houston area. Each of the trucks ran a 120-mile loop twice: once without payload and once with 1,500 pounds of rock salt in the bed.

Our drive route was flat with little elevation change, and traffic was light for the most part, which helped each contender quite a bit. The majority of the drive loop was spent on open highways, and although there were sections of street driving, our calculated numbers skewed heavily toward EPA-estimated highway fuel-economy figures. We ran the second loop with each truck going in the opposite direction of the first loop, using the same roads and highways to avoid Houston's morning and evening rush-hour congestion.

Here are the results for the empty loop:

TTS16_MPG_MPG_Empty_F

How They Ran Empty

The 2016 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, not surprisingly, won both loops by a good margin, turning in numbers better than 30 mpg (better than its EPA highway figures) when empty and loaded. We did have some fuel-filler issues on our empty loop with the Ram due to diesel foaming with the capless filler hose, which can be a problem even if you literally see fuel going up to the cap. That forced us to rely on trip-computer mpg numbers for the Ram for our data. Calculations for the other trucks were done the normal way: We divided the number of miles driven by the measured gallons of fuel. We should note that we reset the trip computer for the Chevy and Ford at our first fillup; base Tundras like our tester do not have trip computers. (Editor's note: We'll revisit this fuel-economy issue at a later date and will retest the Ram EcoDiesel as soon as we're able.)

In terms of ownership costs, Ford recommends premium for the 2015 F-150's EcoBoost engine (although all the factory performance and EPA fuel-economy numbers were calculated with regular unleaded fuel), while the 2016 Chevrolet Silverado and 2016 Toyota Tundra use regular unleaded. The Ram, of course, runs on diesel.

Given that all our pickups were driven at or near the same speeds and in the same way, we weren't surprised the Ram outperformed the other larger V-8 gas engines by more than 25 to 30 percent. What did surprise us was how well the Chevy V-8 did with its new eight-speed transmission, offering better fuel-economy numbers than the F-150's V-6 and the Tundra's smaller V-8 (both those trucks are a good deal lighter than the Chevy as well).

And here are the results for our loaded loop:

TTS16_MPG_MPG_Loaded_F

Ram rear wheel dyno II

How They Ran Loaded

This is where things get interesting. As noted earlier, our test loops in the Houston area were quite flat, so we knew from past experience that our loaded fuel-economy calculations weren't likely to be too much different from our empty numbers. But we weren't prepared for three of the four trucks delivering better fuel economy while loaded than their respective empty loops.

The Toyota, which had the smallest calculated payload capacity and was maxed out with our 1,500 pounds of rock salt and adult male driver, predictably experienced more than a 15 percent drop in fuel economy. However, each of the other trucks interestingly got slightly better mpg numbers with the extra weight. So the big question is why. We think the primary issue involved here, after talking with our test drivers, is that they tended to drive the pickups a little differently with full payload capacity. They were just a little smoother when accelerating and braking to give themselves a larger safety margin.

Additionally, since the Chevy Silverado has a smart, aggressive cylinder-deactivation feature in the engine (which came on just as often loaded as it did when empty), eight speeds to choose from and a rear end that actually had a lower aerodynamic stance on the road, it's probably not surprising that it did better when loaded either. And the Silverado had a bed cover over the rock salt load, which improved aerodynamics. In some ways, the same holds true for the Ford, although we deactivated the engine's stop-start feature to keep things apples-to-apples. We assume many of those same issues also relate to the Ram, the heaviest of our competitors.

How We Tested

Our four drivers rotated at three different points on the drive route so that each person drove each truck one time on each loop. All four trucks stayed together as much as possible, adhering to all posted speed limits. When filling our test trucks, we used the same fuel station, the same pump and the same double-click-filling method. Each truck was filled at the beginning and end of the loop.

All the pickups were driven with all the windows up, the air conditioning turned on and transmissions in Drive. Cruise control, Eco modes and stop-start were not used at any point during the trip.

Cars.com photos by Evan Sears and Angela Conners

Overview | Acceleration | Braking | Mileage | Results

 

Ford F-150 MPG run 2 II

 

Comments

The test loop was way too short to get accurate readings, especially with a diesel and the foaming issues. But it was still evident with the gas burners. I don't believe that any of the trucks got better milage with a load than without. The messed up readings were due to random variations such as in filling the tank, the effects of which would have been reduced with a longer test. I would like to see a do over.

"although we deactivated the engine's stop-start feature to keep things apples-to-apples"

How is de-activating a standard feature on one truck fair when the others were all left as you received them? Now, if you had tested the truck with and without the feature that would have been intersting.

@Walt, I agree, although the Ram MPG is impressive, this test was done a bit sloppy, a short trip like that is not a good overall mpg indicator as a lot can change in another 200 miles of driving, plus using the trip computer as your defined results, sounds like something Big AL would do, maybe he used a different name and was a tester on this test?

@walt. exactly right. cannot believe they don't use measured fuel jugs to precisely add fuel to tanks. Dumb, frankly.

What a nonsense procedure to have the loaded trucks return better mileage.
If you are driving differently, then there really is no point of driving unloaded.
How about you drive half of the trucks loaded, with the other two unloaded; then repeat. That way the pace is the same.

How do you turn off cylinder deactivation to keep it fair when also throwing a diesel in the mix, which seems pretty unfair itself. And a 120 miles? Please. This is why everyone thinks their Tahoe gets 27 mpg. Pretty disappointed in this test. Seems totally amateur for a site that seems to be the go-to place for all truck news. Don't let those standards slip!

@ truck4dayzzzz,

" And a 120 miles? Please. This is why everyone thinks their Tahoe gets 27 mpg."

Now thats funny right there! So true

Early prediction on the results tomorrow. Silverado 8 speed trans beats the Ford 2.7 ecobust in FE for most tests. 5.3 engine in V4 mode is approx. 2.65 displacement, less than the Ford. Given the Chevy is probably running higher compression than the ecobust, I believe driving the trucks empty will result with the Chevy getting better FE.

Posted by: GMSRGREAT | Feb 14, 2016 8:49:49 PM

I called it last night that the silverado would get better FE than the FORD when empty. Take that TOM a.k.a LAMO and shove it up your tailpipe.

Better loaded mpg than empty is bs. You cannot defy the laws of physics. Conspiracy to make toyota look bad. The hatred is real in Mark.

I would like an explanation as to why the 8 speed chevy that PUTC has tested in these last two tests has returned excellent fuel economy, while the 8 speed chevy in the canadian truck challenge that PUTC linked to returned quite lousy fuel economy. I don' think you have a choice of rear ends with 8 speed silverados (all 3.42) so that shouldn't be it.

Thats kinda garbage that the Fords stop start was disabled. That would be like disabling the chevys cylinder deactivation. Just because the other Trucks dont have it doesn't me Ford should be penalized.
Its about max fuel economy.

I have to join the chorus line criticizing the mpg test. Using the vehicles lieometer for mpg is as lame as it gets. Every test I've ever read says those things are inaccurate.

Loaded mpg better?

Driving habits do affect fuel economy but another factor is perhaps the box full of gear changes aerodynamic drag?

I had one trip in my truck taking a load of gear to a school camp out over 200 km and my mpg was the same as a few 900 km trips south with my family on board and the box almost empty.

This may show that once a truck is up to speed especially on flat ground that aerodynamics and tires play a much bigger role in mpg than weight.

Keep things apples to apples .... By deactivating start stop tech?? By having a truck with a bed cover over the rock salt load?? How is that apples to Apples? You didn't stop the cylinder deactivation on the Chevy (bc you can't) so why deactivate the the start stop tech on the ford? Run the trucks the way they are intended to run as efficient as they can run. And the dodge you didn't even run empirical gas readings you simply went by the trucks mpg readout? Worst review you have done to date!

Looks like the general consensus(other than the idiots, like RCOB and GMSHAVESQWHEELS) it seems as this test should be noted as BS, and PUTC looses more credibility.....

And the dodge you didn't even run empirical gas readings you simply went by the trucks mpg readout? Worst review you have done to date!


Posted by: Wrigley | Feb 15, 2016 11:17:20 AM

Recording the fiat mpg using the dash computer may have helped. The last test the dash fuel computer was optimistic by 4 mpg over hand calculations. But the fiat would have been the MPG winner regardless.

Keep things apples to apples .... By deactivating start stop tech?? By having a truck with a bed cover over the rock salt load?? How is that apples to Apples? You didn't stop the cylinder deactivation on the Chevy (bc you can't) so why deactivate the the start stop tech on the ford? Run the trucks the way they are intended to run as efficient as they can run. And the dodge you didn't even run empirical gas readings you simply went by the trucks mpg readout? Worst review you have done to date!
Posted by: Wrigley | Feb 15, 2016 11:17:20 AM

Wow. Agree. That was a pretty poor decision by PUTC. smh.

Well, so much for the EcoThirst.

If you want a gas engine pickup, buy the Silverado.

The diesel Ram is sipping fuel like expected.

The Ram EcoDiesel is actually perfroming very similar, almost exactly as that Australian guy on TTAC had done.

@Big AL, my advice is for you to go out and actually drive these vehicles before commenting on what you think they will do

I have to join the chorus line criticizing the mpg test. Using the vehicles lieometer for mpg is as lame as it gets. Every test I've ever read says those things are inaccurate.

Posted by: Lou_BC | Feb 15, 2016 11:11:51 AM
-------------

The latest generation of trucks seem to be quite accurate. The Fiat, Ford and GM trucks especially, since they're direct injection. Not hard with modern computers and highly precise injections to know how much fuel is being consumed.

I've always hand calculated and even though I'm Canadian I calculate as US MPG since 1. all vehicles come with the US and metric readout and I'm comparing to mostly US publications and info and 2. litres per/100km never made sense to me. I relate to MGP better.

If I had a dime for all of my fellow oil patch buddies that are getting 25mpg US+ with their lifted trucks I'd be rich. I've only been able to prove one of them wrong since most are happy not knowing he truth lol The one I did show was happy that he was getting well over 20mpg but a calculation at the pump onsite showed around 12.5mpg US.

It still amazes me how most people really have no clue how fuel economy works. They just can't wrap their head around the simple distance vs. consumption formula and seem to think a split second snapshot in time is real fuel economy.

magnum74 - funny you say that. I have never been able to get my brain to accept litres per 100 km. I always do imperial mpg. I recall the change to metric in grade school. It does make sense to be metric since every country in the world with the exception of Burma and USA are metric.

I have an app on my phone from pitstoplog.com that is great for calculations so I no longer need to figure it out.

lol, the Ecodiesel has shown it's onboard computer mileage is on par with many other tests.

Motor Trend, Edmunds, Diesel Power, and this site have previously reported good mileage that is online with their 30 plus here.

This is the HFE Ecodiesel.

Four Wheeler magazine got 18 OFFROADING their 4x4, you might be lucky to see 14 or 15 from these 4x2s.

As for their test on the Hemi, they likely screwed it up. (They have made mistakes, you realize?) Like the Colorado in the v-6 Annual Physical.

My 2007 Dakota was within 2% accurate, my Ram 2010 1500 4X4 was within 1.5%, my 2013 Dart 1.4 was within 1 percent. But to be 20% off? Really?

The only one off that near that close I have seen is my wife's 2015 1.8L Sentrack SL, it'seems always about 10%, but we also found the odometer to be showing over 2% less miles. Maybe it has one speedometer calibration for two tires that vary about 1/4", because we have the taller 205/50R 17 tires, as opposed to 205/55 R 16.

How they put in fuel needs to be consistent as well. TFL Trucks run it until it turns off and 1 click is not consistant, and here Mr Pickup might have suggested or done that.

It'seems not a good idea to keep tapping the pump to get in that last half a gallon either, if you want you EVAP system to keep working, anyway.

I put mine on the slowest setting when it gets almost full, when it shuts off that's what I go by.

Why would you turn off Ford's start/stop feature? Isn't this a Maximum MPG challenge? That would be like shutting down GM's cylinder deactivation feature! What brain dead idiot made that decision?

Agreed Jim.

I have to agree with those questioning the results, though the explanation of each driver handling the truck differently is a logical one up to a point. A loaded truck is going to see worse fuel mileage overall and I'm betting that taking the route in reverse is the major factor here. City driving at the end of a loop is going to have a much greater effect on measured fuel mileage than city driving at the beginning of the loop. This might have been more accurate if A) the loop began and ended at a station well out of the city and B) the loop was a minimum of 200 miles. I would also have either a fixed weight that did not exceed the load limit of any one truck or selected weights that, when including the heaviest driver, just reached the GVWR of each truck. A flat 1000 pounds in each truck would have been more equitable than 1500 pounds which overloaded the Toyota specifically and possibly the Ram.

@Road Whale - the route must have been as flat as Taylor Swift to see virtually no difference in empty and loaded mpg.

I wonder if the load settling the truck was enough to affect them sloshing a few extra litres of fuel into the tanks. Just a random thought.

In haven't read all the comments so I apologize if someone has already mentioned what i'm about to say. One of the factors that has helped the loaded FE numbers is improved air flow or more specifically less air turbulence underneath the vehicle. These newer trucks are not punching such a big hole into the air any longer. Those front lower air dams and winglets in front of both rear wheels on the Chevy help direct more air around rather than underneath the the vehicle. Air flowing underneath creates turbulence and drag. GM started decreasing aerodynamic drag with the 2014 redesign of their twins. Ford has since followed that lead (as usual) with their redesign. However, the improved FE when the FORD was loaded was mainly do to it being crushed toward the ground as it struggled to carry the weight. Lower ground clearance, less turbulence.

Better mileage while loaded? NO way possible.

Using the dash display for the Ram? Not a good idea. The display on the Ford is usually 1 to 1.5 optimistic. Ram may be off too.

This test needs a re-do. On a longer circuit. In typical U.S. terrain with some hills, towns, and curves. THEN we'll see real numbers. All these trucks will be in the teens with the Ram in the low 20s then.

@GMSRGREAT sorry but you're wrong.

At boulevard speeds the aero factor is zip. At speeds above 60mph, yes!

But at the 'round-town' stop/go driving scenario it is not a factor. It certainly would not account for the disparity in this story about loaded trucks doing better than empty.

From the article :
Our drive route was flat with little elevation change, and traffic was light for the most part, which helped each contender quite a bit. The majority of the drive loop was spent on open highways,

Sorry for the partial post:
From the article:
The majority of the drive loop was spent on open highways, and although there were sections of street driving, our calculated numbers skewed heavily toward EPA-estimated highway fuel-economy figures.

Never underestimate aerodynamic drag. Carrying extra weight really only increases fuel consumption during stop and go traffic or hauling up hills. 1500 pounds isn't a lot of weight to haul on level highways as long as you have your tires properly inflated.

GMSRGREAT - 1,500 lbs is what, 25% of the weight of the pickup?
Once rolling it doesn't take a lot of power to compensate for it.

Another factor I mentioned is the load in the box will affect airflow. Almost like adding a tonneau cover.

I noticed that my F150's mpg doesn't change a huge amount with gear in the box or family on board. My best ever is 20.4 mpg. One trip was 200 miles round trip with the box full of gear for a school camp out and the other 2 times where with the family on board and some gear in the box on a couple of 500 plus mile trips through the mountains.

Driving style, terrain, and weather conditions seem to have a much bigger effect on mpg than load with a 1/2 ton.

@lou_BC : Agreed. I know so many people who have done nothing more than lift their truck and they immediately increase their fuel consumption.

Aero impact on the average driver's FE is hugely exaggerated. Nothing in this story changes that.

If vehicle speed is 60+ any aero enhancements will be a huge factor. Not at boulevard speeds.

Sorry.

Aero impact on the average driver's FE is hugely exaggerated. Nothing in this story changes that.

If vehicle speed is 60+ any aero enhancements will be a huge factor. Not at boulevard speeds.

Sorry.

Posted by: papajim | Feb 17, 2016 2:45:13 PM

You ever ride a motorcycle.

Shutting off the Ford's Start / Stop system is ridiculous. However, not knowing your route, perhaps it really was a non-factor? Unless there were a lot of traffic lights, it really wouldn't factor in much.

Using the RAMs computer is not fair, either. Nevertheless, I do not doubt it achieved the best economy.

Finally - there is no way those pickups, loaded with 1500lbs, would get better economy. DOES NOT MAKE SENSE! I prefer TFL's fuel economy loop - although hardly scientific, it basically uses cruise control and therefore eliminates the possibility of lead-footed drivers outdoing themselves



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