Texas Truck Showdown 2016: MPG Overview

MAX MPG Group 4 II

By Mark Williams, PickupTrucks.com

Competition has never been fiercer in the light-duty pickup truck segment, and the current Pickup Wars are being waged on many fronts. With all the money and time spent on aerodynamics, lightweight materials and high-tech powertrains, it's clear that fuel economy and efficiency are important topics for truckmakers as well.

That's why we broke our Texas Truck Showdown 2016 into two separate tests, asking manufacturers to send us their best max-tow crew-cab two-wheel-drive pickups and their best fuel-economy-biased trucks, however they defined that. While we had some rigid criteria for the max-tow contenders, we were more lenient with the fuel-economy competitors. We were curious as to what model each pickup maker thought best represented what shoppers want. We invited each of the half-ton truckmakers to participate in both Showdowns, but GMC and Nissan declined to participate in this one.

Our competitors ran the full range of engine choices. We didn't get any base-level, naturally aspirated V-6 pickups, but maybe that makes sense given how low their volume typically is and how incredibly efficient some of the V-8 and turbo-diesel options are. The outlier in our group is the 2016 Toyota Tundra, which offers an aging 4.6-liter V-8 as its base engine and has EPA fuel economy ratings similar to the more technologically advanced and powerful 5.7-liter V-8. It's worth noting this group had two V-8s (Chevrolet and Toyota), one twin-turbo V-6 gas engine (Ford) and one single-turbo V-6 diesel (Ram).

All of these two-wheel-drive trucks had relatively spartan interiors and optional features. Because pricing was not one of our criteria for this contest, it was not scored, but that doesn't mean each of these pickups isn't value packed, from the least expensive Tundra SR ($31,714) to the most expensive 2016 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LTZ ($46,545).

Although this test is centered on fuel economy, we did our usual battery of acceleration and brake testing (empty and loaded) as well as comparative engine dyno results, sound testing, payload and gas-tank-range calculations. In all, we have 18 scored tests (all equally weighted) along with judging from four experts who evaluated each combatant in six key categories: mpg performance, seating comfort and ergonomics, tech and entertainment, ride quality, visibility and value.


The Contenders

2016 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LTZ 5.3-Liter

Chevy Silverado 53 Ext II

Our Siren Red double-cab Silverado was fairly well equipped and carried the highest price at $46,545. A base-level LTZ is closer to $42,500, but our test truck had a few options such as the 20-inch chrome wheels ($1,495), tube side steps ($750), a soft-cover tonneau ($625), a spray-in bedliner ($475), an integrated trailer-brake controller ($275), in-bed LED lighting ($125) and four movable tie-downs ($60). The blazing red paint job cost $495. Interestingly, our test truck came equipped with the EcoTec3 5.3-liter V-8, which offers direct injection, cylinder deactivation and a new optional eight-speed automatic transmission, all of which work together to deliver mpg numbers similar to those of a four-wheel-drive midsize pickup. The Silverado gets a five-star overall crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and has EPA fuel economy ratings of 16/22/18 mpg city/highway/combined. The Silverado was the only player in our mpg contest that had a calculated payload high enough to comfortably accommodate our test load of 1,500 pounds and a normal-size driver, and still be less than its gross vehicle weight rating.


Chevy engine II

A Chevy Silverado DBL (2)

For a larger version of the 2016 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Monroney, click on the picture above.


2015 Ford F-150 XLT 2.7-Liter

Ford F-150 SC 27L II

The Green Gem Metallic F-150 SuperCab Ford sent came in the basic XLT trim ($2,150), which gave us, among other things, a rear window defroster, satellite radio and a backup camera. Other options on our test truck included the impressive twin-turbo 2.7-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine ($795), the upgraded 3.31:1 axle gears ($420), running boards ($250), power-sliding rear window ($350), rubber floormats ($95), LED side-view mirror spotlights ($175), behind-cab bed-access steps ($325), tailgate step ($375), reverse sensing system ($275), LED bed lights and BoxLink ($80), a spray-in bedliner ($475) and an extra 110-volt, 400-watt outlet ($200). The smaller V-6 engine combined with the lighter overall weight of the truck (between 500 and 800 pounds less than the other competitors) provided a great power-to-weight ratio and good fuel economy. The idea is efficiency when empty and twin-turbo when hauling. The F-150 has a five-star overall rating in federal crash testing and has EPA fuel economy ratings of 19/26/22 mpg city/highway/combined. The F-150 was the rocket ship of the group, making our track driver work hard to keep the rear tires from spinning at launch.


Ford Engine II

Ford F-150 2.7L MPG (3)

For a larger version of the 2015 Ford F-150 Monroney, click on the picture above.


2016 Ram 1500 HFE 3.0-Liter

Ram 1500 30 ED QC II

The quad-cab Ram 1500 came with Flame Red paint and a Diesel Gray interior. The popular 3.0-liter V-6 EcoDiesel under the hood was mated to an eight-speed transmission. The High Fuel Efficiency trim started out as a simple add-on order package, but now it's a separate trim level. It delivers better aerodynamics, more efficient gearing and a bed tonneau cover, which minimizes mpg-robbing air turbulence. The EcoDiesel-equipped HFE has a base price of $38,880 (including destination). Given that Ram wanted to keep pricing as close to or less than $40,000, that meant it could add one option, the Customer Preferred Package 28F ($695), which includes fog lamps, body-colored front and rear bumpers, and front and rear floormats. The Ram 1500 HFE gets a four-star overall crash-test rating from NHTSA and EPA fuel economy ratings of 21/29/24 mpg city/highway/combined, the best in our test (and in the segment). The Ram 1500 has been a runaway success with this engine and tranny combination, and fuel-economy numbers on our relatively flat test routes were exceptionally good.


Ram ED engine II

C Ram 1500 EcoDiesel (2)

For a larger version of the 2016 Ram 1500 Monroney, click on the picture above.


2016 Toyota Tundra SR 4.6-Liter

Toyota Tundra 46 AC II

The Super White Toyota Tundra we received was about as basic a pickup as we've ever seen. Not only did this Tundra have the lowest price in our contest, it didn't have a single option. This literally is the most stripped-down Tundra you can buy — a double-cab SR trim with the base 4.6-liter V-8 with a column shifter and hose-out-friendly rubber floors. As a result, the SR trim delivers a solid value proposition with a fairly peppy 32-valve V-8, a manual thumb-shifter button on the column, four-wheel disc brakes, an easy-drop and lift tailgate, 40/20/40-split front seats with three seat belts and a strong set of rear leaf springs. The Tundra, when equipped with this V-8, has dismal EPA fuel economy ratings of 15/19/16 mpg city/highway/combined, and it gets a four-star overall crash-test rating from NHTSA. The Tundra, although upgraded in 2014, has an interior and exterior look that's aging faster than the competitors. Still, there is a good amount of value here if you're looking for good payload numbers, and it is quite composed when driving around town near its max GVWR limits. Don't let the plain-Jane looks deceive you; for a truck that is $8,000 to $15,000 less than its competitors here, it's a pretty nice package.


Toyota engine 46 II

D Toyota Tundra SR5 (2)

For a larger version of the 2016 Toyota Tundra Monroney, click on the picture above.


The Judges

The judges for this contest include auto writers from inside the Cars.com/PickupTrucks.com family as well as expert truck-loving freelancers. The judges spent a great deal of time in each vehicle and engaged in comparative discussions throughout the week. Our judges were:

Bruce Smith — A longtime automotive magazine editor, Smith is skilled in the art of towing, four-wheeling, and wide-mouth bass and walleye fishing.
Kent Sundling — Known to the world as Mr. Truck, if it has a trailer or pickup bed, it's likely Sundling has driven it over the Rocky Mountains.
Mark Williams — A veteran automotive journalist and editor of PickupTrucks.com, Williams sometimes wakes up at night with new comparison test ideas.
Brian Wong — One of the newest additions to the Cars.com editorial staff, Wong is a longtime Mazda MX-5 Miata fan; he came to this test without any biases.

To see the comparison specs of these pickups, click on our What You Get chart below.


MAX MPG Group 1 II


Cars.com photos by Evan Sears and Angela Conners

Overview | Acceleration | Braking | Mileage | Results


Toyota Tundra 4_6 on dyno II



Toyota's 5.7 is older than the 4.6 V8.
The 4.6 V8 has VVT on the exhaust camshaft, like the 5.7, but it also has cooled external exhaust gas recirculation.
Tire on the Tundra are supposed to be 255/70 18.

Can't believe that Ford would actually sell a F150 with such wimpy tires.

HI y'all

Good job on taking the time to do empirical testing in the real world. We need more of that and less my truck is better than your truck because you're stupid, not from below the equator, etc.

Now I live at elevation, about 3,500 ft give or take.

I drive a 2.7 ecoboost, I find that I get about 8.5L/100km thats on highway. That's about 27 and a half lies per US gallon. 3.55 gears. My buddies 2014 5.3 cannot ever get above 24 even with active fuel management on.

I never put premium in my truck and I actually read the ownership manual. It only says premium recommended for sustained maximum towing which is kinda common sense.

Don't know anybody who's driving the ecodiesel but I can believe those numbers. Just to much efficiency in the thermal cycle.

Anyways I love my truck.

Oh yeah just to let the flame wars start in earnest, when we have gone toe to toe...my 2.7 absolutely walks my buddies 5.3 with any type of launch


The 4.6 and the 5.7 Toyota V8s are from the same engine family and basically feature all the same tech (the EGR thing is news to me. Technically, the 4.6 is the oldest in the series, but the 5.7 is in no way MORE advanced.
The interesting move will be if Toyota follows the same formula as in the Tacoma- switch to a wide VVT (pseudo Atkinson) version and add the new AB80 trans from the Landcruiser- they didn't develop that trans just for the couple thousand 5.7 Land Cruisers and LX570s.

The title of your latest competition contains MPG in it but you fail to give the "crown" to the truck that whipped all others...(and I'm not even a Ram fan). WTH?

Where was the Colorado diesel?

If the car makers were asked to send their most fuel efficient truck and GM didn't send their V6, that is telling.

Everyone brace yourselves for BARFo and his Frod commentary. One must keep in mind that YES the Ford engine is a 2.7 litre but it puts out 325 hp at 5,750 rpm and 375 lbft at 3,000. The Chevy 5.3 in contrast is 355hp at 5600 and 383 at 4100.

Cue the usual parade of blogidiots........

I do think if this was touted as an Ecomomy and FE test more bias in the scoring toward mpg's should of been made.

The EcoThirst F-150 has proven that I'm correct regarding Ford small engine trying to be a "big engine". The only way to do it is by more fuel being pumped into the engine.

The Ram has great FE, but what else can be expected. The diesel shows it is the best work truck engine with the loaded tests as well.

The diesel also shows it isn't a slouch and is more than acceptable for day to day driving in a pickup.

The diesel fading above 70mph seems to be odd from my experience with diesel engines. This is the territory where they shine.

Maybe the gas engines dropping down several gears is the advantage, but if the Ram goes to 6th gear it would of been acceptable.

I wonder if the transmission mapping was "tampered" with to offer the testers better FE? ie, locking the lowers gears out??

Sort of sounds like a VW issue.

In the end for the price of the vehicles I would choose the vehicles in this order;

1st (equal). Silverado/Ram. I do like the Chev for some reason, even after reading the previous tow challenge. The Ram is a great daily drivers if you are after one.

3. Frod F-150 2.7 EcoThirst. EcoThirst by name and EcoThirst by nature. What a let down of a pickup in my mind.

This vehicle is a hot rod for sure. But as this vehicle has been written up, it seems the most interested people in it would be a teenage Ford Fan. It's nice, expensive, competitive. But not competitive enough to take out the Silverado/Ram in my scoring.

4. The Tundra is cheap, old and very "Toyota", that is old school. Toyota will start to feel the pain if it doesn't start to produce really competitive vehicles.

The next Tundra must be above and beyond what the competition is offering. Every Toyota pickup, even globally is alway half a generation behind, and normally the most expensive.

Toyota is feeling this pain in Australia now with the Ranger at it's heels and sometimes in front.

Did the same guy drive each vehicle on the 120 mile route? Do you weigh all the same or one 140lbs and heavy guy at 240lbs, it makes a difference in gas mileage....great write up....

"The EcoThirst F-150 has proven that I'm correct regarding Ford small engine trying to be a "big engine". "

BARFo - its mpg is no where as bad as you say it is. It does deliver based upon combining mpg AND performance.

I wouldn't buy any of these trucks since they are all 4x2 and double cabs.

The 5.3 8 speed is impressive. GM has always managed to get good mpg from their V8's. The only negative is they need to be revved.

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

The 5.3 8 speed is impressive. GM has always managed to get good mpg from their V8's. The only negative is they need to be revved.
Posted by: Lou_BC | Feb 15, 2016 1:01:33 PM

And half the cylinders need to be deactivated. So technically GM gets good mpgs from 4 cylinders. And if we do account that its running in 4 cylinder mode during the mpg runs maybe its not that great for a 4 cylinder.

LMAO - get with the program....... tin foil is vastly superior to aluminum foil.

@Rolling can of beer, I detect a note of insincerity in your cautions. It seems to be much more related to insecurities related to your fanboyism. I can only guess that you have had a personal poor experience of ownership, or possibly a friend /neighbor that shamed or belittled you with a truck superior to yours
@Big AL from Oz, you engage in vast amounts of pontificating, with seemingly little experience in driving in North America spec. trucks.Do you have difficulty with your keyboard, or perhaps suffer from dyslexia. I have noticed that when outcomes differ from your view you go to conspiracy or flat out distortions . If it is purposeful misspell and nomenclature distortions this suggests some form of personal embitterment- were you denied employment, girlfriend leave you for a guy driving another brand , etc.

@Rolling simply confirming my earlier post. It's not about caution, but about you.

@PUTC, An MPG showdown implies saving money, so why no point deductions for higher vechicle cost?

Consumer Reports Annual Auto Issue is coming out next month and they will tell us what full size pickup is the best.

you guys keep forgetting the F-150 eco-boost IS NOT a flex fuel vehicle
When Hillary gets elected she may start a VAT Tax on pickup trucks (she will tax anything she thinks you don't need)
I know for sure Bernie Sanders with do that but Hillary has adopted many of Bernie's ideas to get elected and Bernie will not win against Hillary.

@roadram - the only thing Republicans currently have going for them is the fact that 2 term parties have a 17% chance of a 3rd term.

@ LOU, does politics really matter? The only reason I say that is, I dont see 1, not 1 candidate I like and will vote for, that is sad to say

you should never be allowed to run for President if:

-you already did and lost
-your spouse already was
-you are under anykind of investigation
-you claim to know about FE

That leaves big Al and Hillary out.....

2016 Loaded up F150 XLT Supercrew 6.5 ft bed 4x4 with 3.5L twin turbo, not going to say that dumb eco term. Took off all the emblems. I drive 65-75 on the fwys here in phx. and coast to red lights and try to time all lights to avoiding stopping in city traffic. I am avg 19 mpg hand calculated. Computer is always one mpg higher (20mpg) .
(If we didn't have all the methanol ethanol junk additives in our gas, would probably get another 2-3 mpg. those additives add cost and reduce mileage / cause more fuel consumption. another wonderful idea from this socialist govt that does nothing but cost us more $$ and higher maintenance cost & higher MSRP. My next vehicle will probably be electric to avoid all this crap fuel and all the complex emissions systems with higher maintenance costs.)

Coming from a 14-15 mpg tundra, i am happy and though the 2010 tundra was rock solid for 5.5 years, i really appreciate all the features in this F150.
1) Can get a super crew with a 6.5 ft bed, and the bed in this ford is longer than in the 6.5 ft bed in the tundra dbl cab i had, the longer bed is much appreciated.
2) the flat load floor in back & limo leg room / storage space
3) how quiet this vehicle is inside and out. I am done with Roaring V8s though i have to admit, i miss the sound at times.
4) the 120v & usb plugs Front & Rear
Having a column shifter and a center console with more storage since the shifter is on the steering column.
5) all the tie down points in the bed (8) and the bed ramps option, very well thought out option where the ramps lock on to the tail gate, no more shooting out the ramps if you ride your dirt bike into the bed of truck !
6) smooth ride, the tundra had the bed bounce ride in back i could never fully get rid of unless i had at least 300lbs in the bed.
7) i looked at and test drove all the trucks and the ford f150 fits me best, has the best possible combinations of features and cab bed configurations imo and appreciate the power and Fuel economy of that little twin turbo v6, it goes when you mat it (like a V8) but is a lot less thirsty if you drive conservative.

Nitro - too funny. I'm not usually the one that brings up politics but it is a fun topic to beat around.

roadram - and the Republican side is so much better in terms of candidates? LOL

Is there "other' as an option on the ballot box?

"I wouldn't buy any of these trucks since they are all 4x2 and double cabs."

I wouldn't have any problem with any of these trucks as 4x2, though I have a serious problem with the efficiency of their cab layouts, except for the Ford. I won't comment on their size since you all already know my opinion of full-sized pickups in general. As for their "double-cab" layout, I really don't understand how GM, Toyota and Ram can consider putting front-hinged half doors on their models as anywhere close to efficient. The doors themselves block easy access into the back for almost every purpose up to and including any passengers attempting to climb in. Moreover, a driver wanting to access anything in the back seat or on the floor or move things back and forth between front and rear areas has to go around that back door and out into the traffic lane every time when Ford's "suicide door" means the driver doesn't even need to move his feet to work front and back. The suicide door also makes climbing into that seat area much easier than having to crawl over the cushion and stuff their feet down between the cushion and the front seat-back when they do have to carry a passenger back there. I give Ford the credit for a better design at this point, though I'm not a fan of Ford as a brand for other reasons.

"... and the Republican side is so much better in terms of candidates? LOL
Is there "other' as an option on the ballot box?"

As a matter of fact, there is. It's called "Write In Your Candidate"

Honestly if fuel consumption is VERY important you are going to have to punt on capability to some degree or another. When lightning struck me and I realized I didn't NEED a little truck to drive me around daily, and that it didn't have any real FE advantage over a real full size truck I got a car and wow did the money add up. These are trucks for people who insist on driving trucks daily but honestly really don't need to. Yea they are all capable of some work (especially the Fiat with the ED) but if your worried about FE you have already decided to sacrifice capability and if you are sacrificing capability for daily driving FE you aren't working the truck enough to justify real capability. For those insisting on the compromise... They all "deliver" unless you need real towing, put your foot into it. or realize that a good used car can get you over 30MPG for 1/4 the cost of one of these trucks new. I have a truck for truck things... and I have a car for car things. Together both of them cost less than any of these trucks new. My truck is larger and more capable that any of these trucks and my car is more comfortable, maneuverable, more fuel efficient, and has much lower operating costs (tires especially). I found life so much better when I stopped trying to make cars to truck things and trucks do car things and with the prices on new trucks its not hard to do at less cost.

So this is a "best fuel-economy-biased trucks" test, and you disabled a fuel economy device to "make it even" (FORD), then proceeded to not give the title to the truck with the "best fuel-economy" (DODGE). Not even worth reading.

@Lou_DC--There is as much chance of a VAT tax on pickups as Bernie Sanders becoming a Republican. Do you honestly think any tax increases will be passed by a Republican majority in Congress? I know who Lou_BC is but I don't know who you are?

@Jeff S

VAT? Why worry about taxes? Washington spends more than it takes in every year.

It does not matter what form of tax you approve--they'll still end up borrowing billions of dollars per day to fund the out of control government.

"There is as much chance of a VAT tax on pickups as Bernie Sanders becoming a Republican."

I wonder how many people remember that Bernie Sanders originally entered Congress as a Republican?

@papa jim--I never said I worried about taxes, I was replying to Lou_DC's remark. Anyway a VAT tax on pickups would lead to a protest rally of truck owners in DC. Bush Sr. proposed a VAT tax when he was running for US Senate in Texas in 1970. The mere mention of a VAT tax probably cost Bush the election to Benson.

@Road Whale--Never heard of Bernie being a Republican, that must have been when the Republican Party was more moderate than it is now. Today's Republican Party would find Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan to be too liberal. Even today's Republican Party would label Honest Abe a left wing extremist. Fox News would definitely be against Abe especially on the issue of State's Rights.

@Jeff S you're smoking that Kentucky Kush again.

GOP leadership today is so mild mannered that they can't even object effectively to the most radical appointments that Obama's made since 2012.

Please go outside of the establishment press if you want real information about American politics. You act as if Fox or today's GOP represent a conservative wing of our scene.

@papa jim--It is obvious you have not been listening to the Republican debate. I was raised in a Republican family and today's Republican party is far different and much more extreme than it has been in the past. As for smoking I have not smoked anything in over 30 years. Fox News has had a strong hold on the Republican Party up until Donald Trump, who is not Rupert Murdoch's anointed candidate. I am not necessarily agreeing with everything Trump is saying but it is good to see someone yanking Fox's chain. Also most people are not as extreme as the Tea Party or Fox News but the difference is most who are extreme will vote. Many of the younger generation do not want to be bothered to vote.

The Republican Party of yesterday was more concerned about fiscal policy and did not stick their noses in issues such as abortions, gay rights, and a host of other issues that do not effect most people. Marco Rubio is not a good one to speak about balancing a budget.

Getting back to the issue of pickups the auto industry is having enough of a challenge meeting the stricter EPA and Department of Energy standards which in turn increase the price of all trucks. Both Democrats and Republicans do not have the will to put a VAT tax on vehicles and further cause problems for Ford, GM, and Chrysler. Vehicle sales are at an all time high and a VAT tax would hurt sales of new vehicles.

You even gave Ford the handicap (turning off a built in MPG increase, the auto-start stop), yet ran 2 other trucks with a tonneau cover which greatly helps MPG when cruising. And Ford still won.. Congrats to the Ford, maybe next time they should have the 2.7L 4x4 with the max payload package and higher gearing vs a 6.2L 4x4 8-speed, seeing as how the little 2.7L made more torque on their dyno. GM fans would hate to see that LOL!

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