It has taken years, but at last, diesel engines are back in light-duty pickups.
USA Today reported that Chrysler Group’s Ram division has a new six-cylinder diesel that will go into the 1500 pickup early next year. Nissan plans to follow with a V-8 diesel engine for its Titan pickup. And surely, Ford and General Motors are watching from the wings.
“They’ve all got their toes in in the water,” says Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, a diesel advocacy group.
But diesel engines are more costly, and it’s yet to be seen whether truck buyers will swallow the higher sticker price in exchange for fuel savings.
Yet, the advantages can’t be ignored. Diesel engines are more fuel efficient, even after accounting for the higher cost of diesel fuel. They have better low-end torque, which means better towing power, often a critical factor in pickup purchases.
Buyers of full-size trucks look up to owners of heavy-duty pickups, or even huge commercial trucks, the majority of which are diesels. Call it a macho thing.
Automakers tried diesels in light pickups a generation ago, from Chevrolet to Isuzu. But they came in era when fuel prices were lower, and technology to get the most out of them had yet to come along.
Today, big improvements are giving diesels another chance. For instance, the 3-liter V-6 Ram diesel will be paired with an eight-speed transmission, which is aimed at taking greater advantage of the engine’s lower-rev pulling power.
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