By G.R. Whale
Half a century ago pickup trucks looked more similar than today, and many were purchased based on what was underneath — whether the parts there were from the truckmaker or from a particular brand that supplied the component. A Dana 70 axle or NP205 transfer case may have been more important to a buyer than the latest exterior styling.
Today, engines and transmissions are all that remain in terms of choices for pickup truck buyers. It began with Mitsubishi, Navistar and Cummins supplying diesel engines to truckmakers along with transmissions from manufacturers such as Muncie, BorgWarner, Getrag, Aisin and ZF.
And truck buyers immediately wanted more engine and transmission options. When Dodge added the Cummins BT5.9, torque went way up and fuel economy doubled, yet owners complained because they couldn't get a Dodge Ram with an 8.3-liter Cummins C-Series engine and Allison 3000 transmission, even though the two clearly would not fit under the hood. Now the Cummins ISB6.7 delivers nearly the output that the 8.3-liter engines did 25 years ago — on less fuel and with far fewer emissions.
Should a drivetrain choice in a pickup be the most important issue in a new truck purchase? Was it for you? Or do you base your decision on whether the drivetrain is gas, diesel, hybrid or which manufacturer offers the most options? In a perfect world, how would you power your next pickup? Let us know in the comment section below.
Cars.com graphic by Paul Dolan; manufacturer image