Car and Driver
In the age of electrification, autonomy, and Uber, the sales of good old-fashioned full-size pickup trucks continue to thrive. Last year Ford sold more than 100 F-Series pickups globally every hour, and the half-ton pickup market in the United States, populated only by the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra, and Nissan Titan, is as cutthroat as ever.
But the fight for class supremacy has evolved. Once it was only horsepower, towing capacity, and maximum payload that mattered. These days a truck’s ability to stretch a gallon of gasoline has become a very big deal. Exotic materials, turbocharging, diesel engines, and 10-speed transmissions are fast becoming the norm as manufacturers try to deliver ever-increasing capability and better fuel economy. For some trucks, however, gas-mileage improvements aren’t coming as fast they are for others. Here are the thirstiest full-size half-ton pickups you can buy.
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9. 2021 Nissan Titan – 18 mpg
With sales of about 7207 so far in 2020 the second-generation Nissan Titan is the worst selling full-size pickup in the U.S. It’s also among the least fuel efficient. Like its rival the Toyota Tundra, every Nissan Titan gets the same engine, and it’s a big V-8. A 5.6-liter gasoline-gulping machine. This year Nissan has retuned the engine for more expensive 91-octane gasoline, increasing its output from 390 hp and 394 lb-ft of torque to 400 hp and 413 lb-ft. That’s strong for this class, but if you fill the tank with 87 octane, the engine’s power will revert to last year’s ratings. Nissan has also replaced the Titan’s seven-speed automatic transmission with a nine-speed unit. It has also shortened the rear-end gears radically to improve acceleration.
- Base price: $38,145
- Engine 400-hp 5.6-liter V-8 engine, seven-speed automatic transmission
- EPA Fuel Economy combined/city/highway: 18/15/21 mpg
8. 2020 Ford F-150 – 18 mpg
Attempting to lower the weight and increase the fuel efficiency of its trucks while also increasing their safety and capability, few companies have invested as heavily or thought as radically as Ford. Its F-150 remains the best-selling truck in this class, and it leads the way with technologies such as turbocharged engines and an aluminum body and bed. But some habits die hard, and to keep the truck’s price low and its abilities high, Ford still offers the F-150 with a naturally aspirated double-overhead-cam 5.0-liter V-8 pumping out 395 horsepower, and it’s a thirsty beast. Paired with Ford’s new 10-speed automatic transmission, however, it has a combined EPA rating as low as 17 mpg. Depending on the truck’s configuration and body style, that number can also be 18 or even 19 mpg, which is the same rating it gets with the turbocharged 3.5-liter, 10-speed combination. The world is still waiting on EPA fuel economy ratings for the next-generation 2021 Ford F-150.
- Base price: $30,440
- Engine: 395-hp 5.0-liter V-8 engine, 10-speed automatic transmission
- EPA Fuel economy combined/city/highway: 18/15/21 mpg
7. 2020 Ram 1500 – 17 mpg
That thing got a Hemi in it? Oh yeah, and it’s mighty thirsty. The least fuel-efficient versions of the Ram 1500 two-wheel or four-wheel drive are powered by the 395 horsepower 5.7-liter V-8 with an EPA combined rating of just 17 mpg. With the available eTorque hybrid system, the Hemi’s output remains the same, however, its combined EPA rating climbs to 19 mpg. All Ram 1500 models get an eight-speed automatic. Ram 1500s powered by the base 3.6-liter V-6 are rated 21, 22, or 23 mpg, depending on the truck’s configuration, while the Ecodiesel V-6 is rated 24 mpg with four-wheel drive and 26 mpg with two-wheel drive. With the available PowerStroke turbo diesel, the Ford F-150 is rated 25 mpg, while the diesel versions of the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra not only make the most torque, they’re rated 27 mpg combined in two-wheel-drive models.
- Base price: $30,145
- Engine: 395-hp 5.7-liter V-8, eight-speed automatic transmission
- EPA Fuel economy combined/city/highway: 17/15/21 mpg
6. 2020 Ford F-150 Raptor – 16 mpg
The Ford F-150 Raptor is a desert racer ready for the Baja 500 with heated leather seats and air conditioning. Standard hardware includes Fox Racing shocks, the most wheel travel in the industry, and a locking rear differential. And like every other full-size Ford truck, its entire body and bed are made of aluminum instead of steel. Under the hood is the most powerful version of Ford’s 3.5-liter Ecoboost V-6, which makes 450 horsepower, and it’s backed by its latest 10-speed automatic transmission, which was developed in partnership with rival General Motors. That’s right, it’s the same transmission used in the Mustang and Camaro, as well as Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. Despite all of that technology, however, the all-mighty Ford Raptor, which is offered in extended cab or crew-cab body styles, loves gas pumps as much as the trail.
- Base price: $54,800
- Engine: 450-hp twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6, 10-speed automatic transmission
- EPA Fuel economy combined/city/highway: 16/15/18 mpg
5. 2021 GMC Sierra – 16 mpg
GMC now offers several engines in the full-size Sierra 1500, including a turbocharged 2.7-liter inline-four. Most of its engines are also backed by an eight-speed or 10-speed automatic transmission, which improves its fuel economy. However, some models and trim levels are still available with a 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V-8 paired with a dated six-speed automatic, which truly depletes fuel efficiency. With a combined estimate of just 16 mpg, this configuration is the thirstiest of the bunch with either two- or four-wheel drive. However, 2WD models with the 4.3-liter V-6, six-speed combination and two- and four-wheel-drive trucks with the 6.2-liter V-8, 10-speed powertrain aren’t much better with combined ratings of just 17 mpg. When the 5.3-liter is backed by the eight-speed its mileage jumps to 18 mpg, and it goes up to 19 mpg with the 10-speed.
- Base price: $29,295
- Engine: 355-hp 5.3-liter V-8 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission
- EPA Fuel economy combined/city/highway: 16/14/18 mpg
4. 2021 Chevrolet Silverado – 16 mpg
The Chevy Silverado outsells the GMC Sierra, but the two are virtually mechanical twins. Their parent company, General Motors, equips both with the same chassis, engines, and transmissions. Like GMC, Chevrolet also offers the Silverado with several engines including the same turbocharged 2.7-liter inline-four and a 3.0-liter turbo diesel. And most of its engines are also backed by an eight- or 10-speed automatic transmission, which improves its fuel economy. However, some models and trim levels, including the popular Trail Boss, are still available with a 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V-8 paired with a dated six-speed automatic, which depletes its fuel efficiency. Just as it is in the GMC, this configuration is thirsty, with a combined estimate of just 16 mpg with either two- or four-wheel drive. When the 5.3-liter is backed by the eight-speed, its mileage jumps to 18 mpg. It gets 19 mpg with the 10-speed.
- Base price: $31,290
- Engine: 355-hp 5.3-liter V-8 engine, six-speed automatic transmission
- EPA Fuel economy combined/city/highway: 16/14/18 mpg
3. 2021 Toyota Tundra 4WD – 14 mpg
To say Toyota has struggled in the full-size truck segment is to be kind. The Tundra is easily outsold by its rivals from Chevrolet, GMC, Ford, and Ram, and the 2020 Tundra, which features a naturally aspirated 5.7-liter V-8 engine, is the least fuel-efficient factory-stock pickup you can buy. Four-wheel drive models have a combined fuel efficiency rating of just 14 mpg, and two-wheel-drive models aren’t much better at 15 mpg. Even the slower-selling Nissan Titan, which is also only offered with a V-8, has higher fuel economy estimates. The Tundra’s strong 381-horsepower engine is only part of the issue here. The real culprit is the pickup’s dated six-speed automatic transmission, which surely sabotages its efficiency.
- Base price: $35,270
- Engine: 381-hp 5.7-liter V-8 engine, six-speed automatic transmission
- EPA Fuel economy combined/city/highway: 14/13/17 mpg
2. 2020 Ford F-150 Roush Performance – 12 mpg
With either two- or four-wheel drive, the supercharged Roush Performance F-150 is available at hundreds of Ford dealerships across the country, but it’s a bit of a hot rod, a tuner special modified by Roush, a company based in Michigan. Founded by motorsports legend Jack Roush, an owner of NASCAR’s Roush-Fenway race teams, the company has been around since 1995, selling a line of tuned Mustangs, individual parts, and an expansive selection of popular crate engines. Its Roush Supercharged Package, which costs $24,900 above the cost of the supplied F-150, adds a roots-type supercharger to the truck’s 5.0-liter V-8 as well as suspension mods and exterior upgrades. The supercharger makes 12 pounds of boost, which Roush says drives the engines output from 395 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque to 650 hp at 6300 rpm and 610 lb-ft of torque.
- Base price: $61,715
- Engine: 650-hp supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 engine, 10-speed automatic transmission
- EPA Fuel economy combined/city/highway: 12/11/15 mpg
1. Ram 1500 TRX – 12 mpg
FCA puts its supercharged 6.2 Hemi into vehicles like it’s required by the No-Engine-Left-Behind Act. It’s in Chargers, Challengers, Durangos, a Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, and, finally, in the Raptor-eating Ram 1500 TRX. There’s more to this truck than its 702-hp powertrain, though that does help it fly. The TRX hit a top speed of 118 mph, and it is 3.3 inches taller, 5.9 inches wider, and 1100 pounds heavier than the more civilized Ram 1500. We pushed the TRX hit 60 mph in 3.7 sec, making it the quickest truck we’ve ever tested. Numbers like those require a lot of octane, and the TRX doesn’t try to hide its drinking habit. We observed just 9 mpg during our time with the truck.
- Base price: $71,790
- Engine: 702-hp supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine, 10-speed automatic transmission
- EPA Fuel economy combined/city/highway: 12/10/14 mpg
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