What's More Important In Today's Heavy-Duty Pickup: Power or Fuel Economy?


Ford and General Motors have announced stunning power figures and improved fuel economy for their 2011 heavy-duty diesel pickups but what's more important to you: power or fuel economy?

Would you trade less engine grunt for better mileage? Have today's HD pickups become too powerful or is too much torque never enough? Discuss!


You can never have too much power if you're actually towing and hauling with these trucks.

As long as i can average 15mpg the hp and tq cap is sky high.

I really think fuel economy isn't a large factor at all when a buyer is looking at available trucks....as long as the truck receives decent mpg's (13-16) then keep increasing the hp and torque numbers. The more power the better in my opinion, unless of course you arn't towing or hauling, then its quite useless

Fuel economy is important in light-duty and compact trucks, since most people who drive those trucks tend to use them heavily as commuters and secondly as work vehicles, for the occasional errand or helping a friend haul his stuff. It is not important in heavy-duty pickups, at least until suburban poseurs begin driving them to make up for their lack of masculinity.

The HD trucks with their diesel engines are at the point that if we kept the Torque, let's focus on mileage. Anytime you can get per gallon the better. If I could increase my 2007 2500 Silverado from 10 MPG to 15MPG when pulling my 5th wheel, I'd be a very happy camper. I'd also do a lot more towing. Besides there are some long distances between fuel stations in Montana.

I want my mpg!!!! Cue the music....

Irrelevent question.

With a diesel engine, generally, as efficiency increases so does power. Thats what makes diesels the best piston engines (not even factorying any other factors).

There are plenty of diesel rigs in the 600hp-1000hp at the rear wheels that NO JOKE get above 20mpg. 25+ is easy with an economy tune and the eco tune still boosts power some.

The reason recent (2007.5-2010ish) diesels engine have gotten such shitty fuel mileage is because of the BS emissions standards impossed on us!!!! The emissions equipment on our engines as well as the ECM and other electrical component tuning loaded on our engines to placate the EPA BS emissions standards absolutely KILL efficiency!!

That being said- Efficiency is power. They go hand in hand.

Plus, you cant have to much power...ever!

Fuel economy is important, if my 2010 emissions truck could get the same mileage as a pre 2007.5 emissions truck I would be less likely to remove emissions components. (not that I would do such a thing)

I never found a task my trucks (2007 duramax LBZ, 2010 Ram cummins) haven’t been able to do with the ~350HP 650TQ.

Is there any way we can repeal these emissions laws?

If the engineers can increase power and torque throughout the power band then everybody wins because if you can do the same amount of work at a lower rpm that means less fuel.

I have an idea. Why not offer two diesel engines? One designed for power and one designed for mileage. Kind of like a big block and a small block. It wouldn't be that hard to do either, after all, they already designed the engines (GM 4.5L/Ford 4.4L/5.0L Cummins) all they have to do is put them in. Let the consumer decide with their wallet which they prefer.

an engine with 600~700 of torque is good enough.....and with 300~ 400 HP is ok......we dont neew too much torque
or horse power

we need better fuel economy....


While I do agree that the new emission laws imposed have put a hurt on the fuel economy of these beasts, obviously with some initial reports coming out about the new Superduty getting in the mid 20's, and the new GM probably the same, that the engineers have worked around this hurdle all the while maintaining clean emissions and huge power #'s which I think most people agree is a good thing. Unless you are at the drag strip the days of black coal spewing out the pipe are numbered.

Irrelevent question.

Posted by: Garrett


Good call.

even if gas reaches 8 dollars a gallon, i couldnt care less. if your in the market for any type of truck, you shouldnt be concerned with the gas mileage. if you are, then a truck isnt for you. you can never have enough horsepower and torque. but you cant get worse gas mileage lol.

I am with Paul why not offer two different Diesel engines for a 3/4 ton truck! The 1/2 tones only need a good well rounded engine for fuel mileage and the larger trucks can have a option for a heavy hauler! There is no reason that the 3/4 are the only trucks with a Diesel option!

How said studebaker brand sometime, torque is more important than horsepower, and fuel economy, I think too. But everything in a engine must to be improving besides other.

To be honest I'm kind of surprised at how many commenters don't care about fuel economy. For those that don't, what do you use your trucks for? I come from a Jeep background where diesels are the preferred tow rigs, and the superior fuel economy of diesels over gassers in towing applications is a big reason why diesels are so popular, among the guys I know that have diesels anyway. Improved fuel economy and the utility of a pickup bed where the two driving reasons we went from a Suburban to a diesel truck. Our '06 SRW Megacab 3500 easily got twice the fuel economy towing our Jeep than our '04 6.0L Suburban did, and the truck had 35" tires.

That's certainly not to say that the power/torque isn't a big draw as well, but of the oil burnin guys I know, I'd wager to say that economy is just as important as power. Luckily though, with diesels the two pretty much go hand in hand anyway.


First step, get something better than a 4,5,6 speed automatics.
Use 7,8,9 speed automatics. The new VW Touareg/Porsche Cayenne has 7.2:1 ratio spread 8 speed automatic (by Aisin).
Wide ratio double clutch transmission, ala ZF model in the Porsche Panamera-which has 10:1 ratio span!
5.97, 3.31, 2.01, 1.37, 1, 0.81, 0.59
1-6 in tow/haul 2-7 when not in tow/haul

Next step, engine improvements: direct injection, VVT upgrade over VCT, fewer cylinders+turbocharging

I agree 8 speed autos sound great and I'm sure it works great in those mentioned applications, but in heavy duty applications these trucks are already 50-60K, I believe GM did look into an 8 speed with Allison but found it wouldn't be cost effective to produce at the time...I'm sure you'll see some of that advancement when it becomes cost effective to produce.

Both, of course...and I see a few guys above agree with me. Of course I want ample power...what guy doesn't?! But power is nothing if I have to fuel up every two days. So, that said, I want reasonable amount of power with reasonable fuel efficiency. I hear some of these components like Nox and DPF systems actually decrease power and efficiency both, prompting folk to take them off...Hmmm I don't know if it's legal to do such (check the local, state, federal laws), but if removing these systems increase fuel efficiency, then more power to you! No pun intended. :)

I have a car for fuel sipping with my trucks they get around 16mpg avg so that is good enough for me. Give me the power any day. It's a truck not a Prius.

MPG!!!! 700+ torque is plenty. I want 700 torque and 25 mpg. How awesome would that be?

One needs a commercial licence to fully utilize the capabilities of the current diesel pickups. More power is great for bragging rights. One should move into a class 8 tractor if current pickups are not enough.
Diesel pickup sales collapsed when the new emission systems coupled with high fuel prices came into play a few years ago.
Some people have no choice but to live with high fuel costs, but that ability to tolerate or cope with those costs will rapidly disappear once fuel costs rise again (hopefully never 8.00/gallon).
The focus should change to fuel economy while maintaining current power levels.
Chev's chief Engineer - Jeff Luke did say that "The 2015-and-beyond emissions standards are half for NOx what they are for 2011. That is drastic.”
I wonder how that will effect fuel consumption and power levels?

11-13 MPG while towing is responsible, but I want to get 17-20 when I not towing. GM is the only truck in my experience gets that

Both is Great!!
How ever, I think they should program these trucks with at least 2 modes, 1. power (around 400+ HP and around 800 TQ) with reasonable fuel economy (20+ MPG) 2. less power, but powerfull enough (around 275 HP and close to 500 TQ) with great (close to 30 mpg) fuel economy.

The benefits of fuel efficiency are more obvious when analyzed in the context of total cost of ownership.

Consider this case study, with the two important caveat emptors:

1) Both trucks perform do the required job satisfactorily. The efficiency is irrelevant if the truck is not powerful or durable enough to do the job. (See also General Motors 350 diesel!)

2) Everybody utilizes their truck a little differently so the assumptions made below must be modified to match your specific situation.

Annual Fuel Costs is expressed as ((Duty/Efficiency)*Fuel Price)

Duty: 20,000 miles
Efficiency: 15 mpg
Fuel Used: 1333.3 gal.
Fuel Price: $3.00/gal
Fuel Cost: $4000

Assuming you own the truck for five years the lifetime fuel cost is expressed as (Annual Fuel Cost * Lifetime)

Lifetime: 5 years
Duty: 100,000 miles
Efficiency: 15 mpg
Fuel Used: 6666.65 gal.
Fuel Price: $3.00/gal
Fuel Cost: $20000

Now perform the same calculation for a truck that achieves 20 mpg over the same duty cycle.

Annual Fuel Costs is expressed as ((Duty/Efficiency)*Fuel Price)
Duty: 20,000 miles
Efficiency: 20 mpg
Fuel Used: 1000 gal.
Fuel Price: $3.00/gal
Fuel Cost: $3000

Assuming you own the truck for five years the lifetime fuel cost is expressed as (Annual Fuel Cost * Lifetime)

Lifetime: 5 years
Duty: 100,000 miles
Efficiency: 20 mpg
Fuel Used: 5000 gal.
Fuel Price: $3.00/gal
Fuel Cost: $15000

Back to total cost of ownership. Despite both trucks have $50,000 window sticker, to *own and refuel* the efficient truck cost $65,000 while the less efficient truck cost $70,000.
But wait...there's more! If you finance the purchase of your truck, interest on the loan also adds to your cost of ownership.

To finance a $50,000 truck with $5000 down, you borrow $45,000 for five years at 5% interest. Over the five year life of the loan you pay $5952 in interest in addition to the $45,000 in principal.

Putting the fuel savings towards your payment, you can pay off the loan much faster and greatly reduce your interest costs. To finance the more efficient truck, you still must borrow $45,000, but financing the truck for only 4 years allows you to securing a better interest rate of 3%. Over the four year life of the loan you only pay $2715 in addition to the $45,000 in principal.

It should be noted that even considering the $83/month savings in fuel, the four year payment plus fuel was still about $70/month more than the five year payment plus fuel...except during the fifth year when their is no payment!
In total, the less efficient truck financed for a longer term cost $76,000, while the efficient truck financed for a shorter term cost around $67,000.

You feel that I used inputs skewed to favor my conclusion. I invite you to change the inputs to more closely match your situation. I also failed to include several other variables such as depreciation and maintenance, which are just too variable on a case-by-case basis to include in this analysis.

Another huge assumption in this analysis is that you pay cash for your fuel. If you have any financing costs associated with your fuel purchases, the analysis even more heavily favors the fuel efficient truck.

Finally, fuel cost is the largest variable, yet the most difficult to predict. I invite you to perform the same analysis for $4.00/gal diesel. The results are eye popping.

Remember: the fuel you burn and the interest you pay don't get your work done any faster, nor do they have any value on trade-in day!

@ Jake - good example.
Every time I've done a cost/benefit calculation on diesel vs gas I've bought a gas truck. I don't drive hard enough or long enough to make it worth while.
Fuel economy is a huge consideration for fleets.
@ Lex - what you suggest could be done. Many high performance motorcycles have variable power settings - they usually do it more for traction control. The post about Ford uping their power numbers amounted to nothing more than a ECM reflash.

yes it's all in ECM. Store both programs in ECM and switch mode depending on your driving.

We have a fleet of trucks for our construction company. Since motors hit over 300 horsepower years ago, they have had plenty of power. We would pay more for better efficiency. In fact, lower peak power, better engine and tranny life and better fuel efficiency would be best.

So, we don't care about more power. We want better efficiency and we don't just buy trucks one at a time, but in bunches.

At least we aren't changing transmissions for at tune up intervals anymore!

Note to GM and Ford-Please focus on fuel economy.
I have never found a load that my 02' F350 7.3, 05' F350 6.0 or current 08' Chevy LMM couldn't handle.
Certainly more power allowed me to accelerate a bit more quickly but I really don't care. Real world mileage will drive future HD truck purchases for me. The 08' Chevy came to live with me because the Ford 6.4's that I knew of were achieving between 10-12MPG unloaded while the Chevy could still achieve 16-18MPG.

My everyday driver is a 2009 Dodge 2500 HD Mega Cab with a Cummings 6.7 diesel and 6spd auto. I drive 8 miles to work (each way). In stock form my city mileage averaged 11.5 to 12 mpg and 16.9 highway. After installing a Banks monster exhaust and S&B Cold Air Intake the mileage is now 13.5 mpg city and 19+ highway. The power increase is noticable in terms of throttle response and acceleration. Next step: reprogram the ECU with a Hypertech Max Energy programmer and set to level 2. With the final upgrade I hope have the best of both worlds - power and mileage.
I will report back the result after the reprogramming of the ECU.

I don't mean to pick on Lou but I am getting tired of hearing this kind of BS. One needs a commercial license to tow the max of a F-450, but that doesn't mean you cannot use more power. Maybe the guy wants to use a F-250 to tow 9000 lbs. We can admit that we can use more power without being told we should be driving a semi. It is nice not having to floor the accelerator to get a load moving. The true test of a heavy duty truck is how it tows up a steep hill which means more power. Maybe the guy wants to push half way down on the pedal and not have to max it out when merging on a highway from a full stop or going up a hill. More power is also helpful when passing a slower vehicle. Or maybe the manufacturer doesn't want to hear in the reviews that his truck "feels" slower. There is nothing wrong with that. You can still drive in a respectful manner with more power. It is just nice to have a little left in reserve if you know what I mean. Maybe you do not need a heavy duty truck or more power. But not everyone is like you. And it does not mean you don't care about fuel economy or need a to be driving a semi which is borderline hate speech against heavy duty truck drivers.

Exactly. One may need a commercial license to tow the max, but that doesn't mean you can't use more power to low less than the max. I get where Lou is coming from. He is more interested in compact and light duty trucks, but he really needs to learn more about the heavy duty owners needs and not be so ignorant. Not everyone needs a light duty and not everyone who wants more power needs a semi.

No disrespect but Lou drives a van and a 2010 Toyota Sienna and doesn't even own a pickup truck. He is keeping his eye on the Nissan though. Lou is probably the last person you want to hear from on what is more important in a heavy duty pickup truck.

keep it how it is for now, And install new small diesels in the half ton's.

If they can get real world 17 mpg on highway, then let the hp/tq go as high as the tranny & chassis can handle.

My GMC 2500 Duramax is my daily driver and my weekend hauler. I average 20k-25k miles per year with most of it highway. With the power figures of these new engines, I want more focus on mileage.

I'm willing to sacrifice 2 or 3 MPG for a lot more power, but I'm not willing to sacrifice 4 or more MPG for more power. So my question is, how much better mileage could these trucks get if they tuned them down like 100 horsepower?

Why not a hybrid-diesel HD pickup where the hybrid mode is shut off for tow/haul mode. Most trucks spend their days practically empty, but when towing/hauling big power is needed. When not towing/hauling, fuel economy is appreciated.

I think economy is more important. How much power is truely necessary in a pickupt for towing and hauling. I have over 16 pickups in my fleet that do everything and there is power to spare. My thing is keep the power levels where they are and increase mileage. For me added mileage adds up fast since each vehicle averages 20-25K miles a year

Fuel economy without the need for Urea and DPF systems. Current diesel engine lineups have sufficient horsepower/torque to handle most any jobs thrown at them. Ford, GM, and Chrysler need to have their suppliers focus on improving internal combustion and stop band-aiding the system with external hardware just to meet EPA standards.

@Jake I can't get 15mpg with my F150 5.4 (2005). Maybe on cruise control down the highway doing 65. But I average about 12-13mpg. If the Super Duty 6.2 can average 15 realistically, then that is awesome.

Fuel economy is way more important to me, I think 390/735 is awesome. Sounds like it will pull 10,000 lb trailers like they aren't even there. So why should they need more power?

fuel economy should be of some importance to truck owners. Are you saying that if you turn the key and it empties a 36 gallon tank in 5 seconds, I shouldn't care "because it is a truck?" Obviously there is a point at which everybody cares how much fuel it is using. What good is a crap load of power if you have to stop for fuel more often? You can still only tow at the speed limit, and obviously they are powerful enough to do that right now.

Fuel economy.

Far too much emphasis has been placed on the need for more power. All the HD trucks have plenty of power. The only reason to ask for more is for winning a bragging rights war—and a lotta good that'll get ya.

Let's face it. 300hp + 600ft/lbs is more than enough for the majority of truck uses. Despite the squakings from the more juvenile members on this board, if a manufacturer could provide those numbers but significantly improve the fuel efficiency over the competition, they would have a home run. That is why so many people have been eagerly awaiting the light duty deisels.

Most business owners would jump at the chance to demonstrate big savings at the pump. Give me 20mpg over 15mpg and you can keep your thousand ft/lbs.

All the emissions stuff is pretty stupid if you ask me. So what if we get cleaner exhaust coming out of the tail pipe. We have to burn more fuel to get that clean exhaust, so its a catch-22 for the environment imo.
With that said, I want 15-20 mpg.


Not even close. We don't NEED more power. Let those that want it so bad pay for the 'tune'. Most trailering done by non-professionals ( meaning earning thier daily bread) is light duty. Boats, horse trailers, campers and the like 80-90% of those don't even make the 3/4 tons breath hard. Now if you can afford to buy the outsized boat/5th wheel camper ext. then you can afford to fuel the 450/550.
Buy what you need.

Fuel Economy is the most important to me. IMHO...the hp and torque figures have reached levels that are beyond what is needed with a 3/4 or 1 ton truck. If you are towing...it should not be a race, but a slow steady pace.

Just think...if the Big 3 could produce engines with less hp and torque numbers, but increase the fuel efficiency to reach mid 20 numbers, then I would buy one is a second! Especially with all the EPA requirements on diesels...which I 100 percent support.

Leave the hp and torque figures for the tuner market…

Give me the mpg's...please.

The new engines have to use extra diesel fuel in order to incenerate the soot in the particulate filter.

If the old Freightliner I use to drive could go down the highway at 65 mph with 80k in the trailer and achieve 6 mpg which according to Ryder is fantastic, all at a whopping 230 hp, the why does my F250/350 need 400 or more hp? 300 to 350 hp with 20 plus mpg (could we hear maybe 25 mpg) should be the goal of the automakers. I love that I can buy a VW all day long for around $26k with a diesel and get 45 to 50 mpg. Should be able to do that also, with at least a half ton pickup and maybe another $5k for a basic 3/4 ton. So keep your leather seats and off road packages that are really only skid plates and heavier shocks, trim the fat from the truck and get down to business again.

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