Some of the most significant improvements for all pickup trucks have come in fuel economy during the past several years, starting with Ford's EcoBoost engine. Now others are making serious noise about their accomplishments.
Our fuel economy drive loops were designed to give us a chance to see how well this current crop of competitors could do in head-to-head driving comparisons. And we mean head-to-head. All vehicles were driven with air conditioning on, in Drive or "D," and following the lead truck as a caravan. The only difference in our driving when trailering would be that each towing pickup engaged the Tow/Haul settings. Additionally, to calibrate the test for any differences in driver weight or driving styles, all drivers rotated into each truck at each of the six stops on the loop.
The easiest way we've found to accomplish this type of "variable-less" empty and trailered mileage driving is to have half the test trucks (three) run with the trailers on the first 180-mile loop, then swap the trailers once we got back to our start/finish loop (a Shell gas station in Ann Arbor, Mich.), and then we did the same loop with the same drivers. This made for a long day, but it also allowed our judges to get real-world feedback from each truck in real-world towing and empty cruising in around-town and highway conditions.
At the beginning of each loop we topped off each of the gas tanks at the same pump, using the same "two-click" method.
Our full drive loop had us visiting a slew of Michigan towns, starting in Ann Arbor, then heading into Garden City, Auburn Hills, Flint, Perry and Stockbridge, then back to Ann Arbor. We should note that more than two-thirds of our driving loop was done on two-lane highways and freeways, where our average speed was right around 50 mph, with the rest of the mileage through small towns and on major city streets (with plenty of stoplights). No, this wasn't an attempt to duplicate the EPA test routes, so you shouldn't be surprised to see numbers that are quite different from the government ratings. And that's exactly what happened.
The winner of our "empty" drive loop, with an observed fuel economy of 23.1 mpg, was the GMC Sierra 1500. The F-150 was in second place with 22.3 and the Ram 1500 was not far behind with 21.7. The Silverado recorded 21.4, the Toyota 18.2 and the oldest engine of the segment, the Nissan Titan, a 16.6.
When trailering at or near maximum towing capacity, the results were a little different. Winning the trailering section of our fuel economy testing was the Chevy Silverado with an impressive 12.6 mpg, and its sibling Sierra was right behind with 12.5. In third and fourth place were the Tundra with 11.8 and the Titan with 11.4. Maybe the biggest surprise here was finding out the fastest trucks in our performance testing were the worst in our trailering mileage drive. At the bottom of the group was the Ram with a dismal 10.4 while towing; the F-150 wasn't much better at 10.9.Overview | Judges' Impressions | 0-60 Acceleration | 60-0 Braking | Mileage Drive | Hill Climb | Autocross | Payload and Towing | Results