The success of the full-size pickup is almost a given for the domestic manufacturers. Especially General Motors and Ford. The F-series has been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for so long, that its reign is older than most current college freshmen. But the respective approaches GM and Ford have taken in maintaining this lead could not be more different. Ford gave its F-150 line an all-new engine lineup for 2011. That's right, not one single engine was carryover from 2010. Chevy and GMC, on the other hand, continue to soldier along with proven engines and drivetrains, some dating back more than 20 years. The marketplace has responded accordingly, begging the question if GM needs to update its half-ton powertrain offerings.
In a surprising turn for the full-size market, Ford is reporting V-6 engines are making up more than half of 2011 F-150 sales, between the 302-horsepower base 3.7 and the turbocharged, direct-injected 3.5 EcoBoost.
GM’s ancient 4.3 pushrod lump, on the other hand, wheezes out only 195 horsepower. To add insult to injury, the 5.3 liter Vortec V-8 actually gets better fuel economy than the old V-6, and has 115 more horsepower! Part of that is attributable to the ahem… “proven” 4L60-E four-speed transmission behind the V-6, but also its outdated design and architecture, which actually pre-dates the introduction of the modern Gen III and IV smallblock V-8s, and can trace its ancestry back to 1985.
Many thought when the Chevy TrailBlazer midsize SUV was introduced, that its modern, dual-overhead cam inline six would also become the standard engine in the pickups. Alas, the newer engine’s complexity and cost conspired against it. The old pushrod 4.3 Vortec V-6 has kept kickin’ in the base Silverado and Sierra now two years after the TrailBlazer (as well as the 4.2 DOHC straight-six’s) cancellation.
Should the Silverado have a V-6 option at all, or should it go to an all V-8 engine lineup, with the 4.8 (upgraded with Active Fuel Management and backed by a 6L80-E? Before the introduction of the new 3.7 and EcoBoost V-6s, Ford’s F-150 lineup went all V-8 for two years. Or should both the 4.3 and 4.8 be replaced by GM’s 3.6-liter direct-injected V-6? Perhaps a twin-turbo variant to go toe-to-toe with Ford’s EcoBoost?
In terms of the V-8s, it’s likely GM’s all-new fifth-generation smallblocks will feature direct injection, as well as possibly slightly smaller displacement, but greater power and fuel efficiency relative to the current lineup.
Speaking of fuel-efficiency, let’s not forget about GM’s stillborn 4.5 liter “baby” Duramax V-8, that was supposed to go into the half-ton Silverado just prior to GM’s bankruptcy. The output was targeted at a tasty 310 hp and 520 lb-ft, as well as rumored fuel economy of around 18 city/25 highway. The current, (and seemingly, ignored by most buyers) hybrid manages 20 city and 23 highway, but has a relatively low 6100 pound maximum towing capacity. The diesel would likely match the combined economy average while delivering a full-fledged 9000-10,000 pound towing capacity.
So, taking all these options and possibilities into consideration, what engine options would you like to see on the next Silverado? 3.6 DI V-6? Half-ton turbodiesel? Direct-injection gas V-8s? And let’s not forget the virtual disappearance of the manual transmission among half-tons. Would you like to see a manual transmission option once again on half-tons?