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Old 01-13-2016, 06:51 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Needing and wanting a pickup truck for eleven years, I recently settled on and took delivery of an aluminum-bodied F150, regular cab, 2wd, short-bed, in the highest gearing that can be optioned @ 3.31, and in the highest EPA estimate version in a 2.7 V6 Ecoboost. As someone who is not at all an ecomodder but does have an insatiable interest in high mpg, but without going through great lengths to achieve high mpg (a.k.a. hypermiling), I went through all kinds of self battles before settling on a gas-powered F150, as I am no fan of gas power.

Most of the battles in my mind stems from the fact that I'm a huge fan of diesel power, or electric power, or anything but spark ignition power, but could wait no longer for the kind of technology and achievable fuel economy I'd like to see come to market in the pickup truck segment. I waited on a small diesel in a pickup truck and when Ram brought in the 3.0 V6 Ecodiesel, I got excited until I realized that Ram was not going to offer one in a base-level and regular cab configuration truck. I was willing to give $5K more for a diesel over a base-powered truck but not $11.5K more and did not want a full size with an extra cab, as I really don't want a truck that size.

But in concept it was good news for me with smaller, more reasonably-powered diesels for pickup trucks being an option from at least from one company. Gone were the days of proposed, more powerful, more fuel-consuming, likely much pricier V8 diesel concepts for 1/2-ton pickups that were supposed to arrive around 2010 that were killed by the recession. Now it seemed, marketers understood better what consumers wanted in a diesel pickup, and that is to turn from offering the most capable versions of a truck with the use of a 300+ horsepower diesel, to the fuel-economy champ in the class using diesel technology. And certainly Ram has proven it with a 29 highway mpg estimate in a very heavy truck and 420 peak lbs foot of torque. The high initial price offering though was disconcerting with respect to Ram's Ecodiesel at a $38.5K starting MSRP in a truck line that starts at $26.5K.

So I waited another year to see if something else could come up that would be acceptable to me. Two things happened:

First GM came out with a twins Colorado and Canyon; all-new mid-size trucks that has acceptable size and an acceptable configuration for my wants and needs at the same time announced that the next year, for 2016, they'd add a 4-cylinder diesel to the line up.

The second thing that happened was that Ford was going to build an all aluminum-bodied truck slashing wait and improving mpg. The GM diesel though, I thought, was going to be my truck. A four cylinder diesel, in an extra cab, with a 6' bed was going to be as close to perfect as I'd ever see; and it had a starting price at under $22K MSRP, so I figured I would pay as much as $6K more, which would be it at $28K or less, and since I started finding out that GM had taken some cost-saving measures with this entry, i.e. using solenoid injectors, which had all but gone away since the piezo revolution, using an all cast-iron block, and setting up a global, state-of-the-art production facility for the new 2.8 I4 in Thailand, I thought they may even be able to bring me a diesel truck for even less than that $28K.

It was going to be somewhat less refined that some other diesels with more advanced features and building processes and more advanced materials like graphite composite iron, but it would certainly be acceptable for my tastes and could certainly be reliable and durable using those components. I felt confident that GM was taking extreme measures to finally make a diesel affordable in America, and it would fall in my price range, and since it was going to be a 4 cylinder, it would be offered in the lower trims and configuration levels. Ended up I was wrong on all accounts!

Imagine my let down when they made the announcement. The first part sounded great. They said only $3730 premium for the diesel over the V6, and then later a 31 highway mpg rating. But then they shut the door when they gave the details that could only be found by trying to configure one online. Only in a crew cab, and only with just about every imaginable towing and active safety feature; raising the price to at least $34K MSRP for a truck that starts at under $22K. A crew cab means that you've got to settle for a 5' bed or pay even more money and end up with a pretty huge truck and opt for the longer wheel base crew cab with a 6' bed. And what makes no sense at all about this offering is the fact that they'll let a customer configure a 181 horsepower diesel in only the trucks configured for dedicated towing.

There is only one other direction to go for a diesel truck in America not counting the house-puller, heavy-duty trucks, and that is the new, Euro-style commercial vans: Sprinter with an MB 3.0 V6; Ram Promaster 3.0 I4; and Transit 3.0 I5. But to turn one of those into a truck starting with a cab chassis and then having a body built and mounted on it, would put one in the $45K price range.

So then I reluctantly turned to Ford and the all-new aluminum-bodied truck, and the all-new 2.7 Ecoboost. A regular cab, 2wd, short-bed came in at only 4168 pounds of curb weight for 2015, and the torque curve peaking at 375 at only 3000 RPM also met my diesel-like standards, though the 325 peak hp is way over kill. I knew that Ford had made a monumental engineering effort with this truck and knew that it would be well-built and would be a good value as long as I could get a lowly-featured trim level and configuration, but I was going to have to get cruise control, and so I knew that meant I'd have lots of features that would be meaningless to me.

The problem though was the real-world fuel economy reviews. Most were with respect to the 4wd and most were with rear axle ratios of 3.55 and up; and most were with the super cab or crew cab, and most were in the 17 to 19 range versus the EPA estimate for the 4wd, standard payload of 18/23. But I did a lot of thinking about this...what if I got my preferred configuration that would be lighter? what if I opted for the highest gearing at 3.31? and what if I let the high low-end torque drive the truck keeping light pedal pressure while driving understanding the fuel-to-air ratio requirement of spark-ignition? maybe, if I could find a regular cab configured the way I want and pay less than $28K; this truck would work for me and get at least 21 mpg.

The verdict is in. The EPA estimate for my truck is 19 city / 26 highway, and I can easily achieve and even exceed the city limit and can come close to the highway estimate and have so far garnered 23.6 in my real-world commute, and unlike a Colorado Duramax, which of course could have done better for me with regards to fuel consumption, with the F150, I paid a mere $795 premium for their most premium engine and I got a reasonably-sized truck that fits in my carport and my lifestyle.

The only problem is that, unlike a fuel-frugal diesel that one can drive practically anyway one wants and still get decent mpg, my 325 capable horsepower truck is ready to suck the fuel anytime I even think about putting modest pressure on the accelerator and using much of that available horsepower. But since the torque does come in pretty low with the twin turbos and direct injection, it provides that V8 refinement level. I can put light pressure on the accelerator, the truck will seamlessly accelerate, staying under 2000 RPM, even up a 3% grade, and unlike a weasley base V6, while cruising on the highway, there is none of that constant downshifting in the hills of Tennessee.

An F150 with the 3.0 I5 Powerstoke in an all-aluminum-body would have been my ideal choice at 185 hp and 350 lbs foot of peak torque at only 1500 RPM and mpg in the upper 20s. But the costs for selling diesels in America is still too high, and I don't see it going down anytime soon, and of course Ford knows that the average buyer won't settle for 185 horsepower in a full-size truck, and so they are experimenting with a more expensive, 3.0 V6 that will--if introduced in the market--have an astronomical price.

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Old 02-09-2016, 12:06 AM   #2 (permalink)
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nice write up
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Old 02-09-2016, 12:51 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by gregsfc View Post
I waited on a small diesel in a pickup truck and when Ram brought in the 3.0 V6 Ecodiesel, I got excited until I realized that Ram was not going to offer one in a base-level and regular cab configuration truck. I was willing to give $5K more for a diesel over a base-powered truck but not $11.5K more and did not want a full size with an extra cab, as I really don't want a truck that size.
Not that this will help you now, but you can find Ram Ecodiesels in regular cab Tradesman configuration (cheapest trim level); they're few and far between, but they're out there. Cars.com shows 16 in the country right now, all in California except for one in Indiana.


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