2010 V-6 Shootout Truck Specs and Testing Approach

2010 V-6 Truck Specs and Testing Approach
Words by Mike Levine and Mark Williams, Photos by Ian Merritt and Joe Bruzek

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Like Rodney Dangerfield, V-6 two-door trucks get no respect: Over the past decade, almost all of the significant power, fuel economy and technical advances have been made to fancier trucks, with eight-cylinder engines and four-door extended and crew cabs. These changes have left regular cab, six-cylinder haulers in the dust. That is, until now.

For our comparison, which we did with our partners at USA Today, we’re testing the base engines that propel the anonymous two-door, short-bed fleet and work trucks you pass by every day but never seem to notice. With vinyl floors and cloth seats, V-6 half-tons are some of the hardest-working pickups used daily to haul tools and machinery to job sites around the country, next to diesel-powered heavy-duty pickups. Six-cylinder work trucks are hardly used as commuter or recreational vehicles.


According to RL Polk’s vehicle registration data, during the last five years there have been two significant trends in regular cab full-size pickups that both coincide with the introduction of the 2009 Ford F-150, which dropped a six-cylinder engine from its lineup all together.

First, from 2005-2008, the mix of regular cab V-6 to V-8 trucks was split almost evenly in half. After 2009, the split shifted to one-third V-6 and two-thirds V-8. Second, from 2005-2008, regular cabs made up about 12 percent of all half-ton sales. After 2009, regular cab share dropped dramatically. In 2010, year-to-date, regular cab trucks now make up just 7.6 percent of all truck sales.


Ford has introduced two all-new six-cylinder engines for the 2011 F-150 that promise to have many half-ton truck buyers reconsidering what it means to have a V-6 beating under the hood of their half-ton.

The V-6 getting most of the spotlight is 3.5-liter EcoBoost. The twin-turbo gasoline direct-injection engine is the top-of-the-line choice for the 2011 F-150. With power ratings of 365 hp and 420 pounds-feet of torque and a maximum towing rating of up to 11,300 pounds, the EcoBoost 3.5 can do the work of a V-8 engine with two fewer cylinders. But the EcoBoost V-6 won't be available until the first quarter of 2011.

Truck Specs

We gathered three 2011 V-6 entry-level pickups from Ford, GMC and Ram for our first Work Truck Shootout. Each truck has a naturally aspirated engine in a regular cab, two-wheel-drive, short-bed configuration.

Ford and GMC stepped up quickly with trucks. Ford provided an early build 2011 F-150 while GMC built a truck (and allowed us to watch) for this competition because V-6 work trucks aren’t exactly in high demand with other automotive media.

Ram declined to provide a truck, so we acquired a brand-new 2011 Ram 1500 that met our test specs from a Chrysler dealer.


For the most part, the trucks we tested are identical except for rear axle ratios because of configuration, production and availability constraints. They are all two-wheel drive because that’s the only driveline available from Ram and Toyota. The 2011 Ford F-150 regular cab V-6 and 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 V-6 are optionally available with four-wheel drive.

For our competitions, each pickup was matched with an appropriate load, either 1,200 pounds of ballast in the cargo box or a 2,300-pound trailer pulling a cement spreader.

Where's Toyota?

Toyota also provided a truck, but unfortunately it was badly damaged while being transported across the country to our test site.

Toyota Tundra light-duty pickup trucks equipped with six-cylinder engines will see an increase in power for the 2011 model year. The 4.0-liter V-6 is now rated at 270 horsepower and 278 pounds-feet of torque, up 34 hp and 12 pounds-feet from the 2006-2010 Tundra.

We'll have a comprehensive test of the 2011 Tundra 4.0-liter V-6 in the near future.

Test Locations

All of our testing took place in Michigan in the Detroit metro area.

Ford let us spend a day at its Michigan Proving Grounds in Romeo, where we used a 1,400-foot, 7-percent grade for hill climb testing and a multi-acre skid pad for ride, handling and brake testing.


Why test at Ford’s proving grounds? First, we wanted controlled conditions to run select standardized performance tests to compare the results of each truck. Second, comparative testing on public highways is a crapshoot. You'll likely get stuck behind slower-moving traffic, and finding an exit to turn around and repeat a test can require scores of extra miles and lots of extra time, which we didn't have.

Our second closed venue was at Milan Dragway, about 20 miles south of Ann Arbor, to run our quarter-mile level-ground tests down the International Hot Rod Association-sanctioned asphalt. We spent a full day racing the trucks with and without a 2,300-pound utility trailer carrying a cement spreader.

Finally, we ran our fuel economy and long-distance ride and handling tests on a public road loop around Detroit that included highway, rural roads and urban roads.

Test Approach

Ricardo Logo

We partnered again with engineering firm Ricardo to measure each truck’s performance. In pictures and on video, you’ll see the vehicles running side-by-side in drag contests for subjective comparison, but Ricardo collected data only one truck at a time with the same driver behind the wheel for each test.

Ricardo’s engineers brought an RT3102 computer from Oxford Technical Solutions to capture and process data. It contains three accelerometers and three angular rate sensors, as well as GPS and a Pentium processor. From this, Ricardo engineers collected three types of acceleration (lateral, longitudinal and vertical), three body movement rates (roll, yaw and pitch) as well as position, velocity, orientation and slip. Time was recorded, too. The RT3102 outputs a host of other data, including pitch and roll angles, and the three acceleration figures in either body or frame orientation.

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Wow, I didn't realize the competition was so underpowered, especially the Sierra. There's no reason why the Sierra is sporting an engine UNDER 200 hp for a basic motor. GM could had shoved its LNF turbo 4 under the hood and used that as a basic engine. Tundra also has around 275 horses. I hope that the Ram will get a new multi-air v-6 from fiat, they'll need it. I also can't believe that GM can't scale their "High Feature" V6 to be used in the Sierra...

All three trucks look awesome. I like them all.

"Ram declined to provide a truck, so we acquired a brand-new 2011 Ram 1500 that met our test specs from a Chrysler dealer."

Well that blows!

I think the Ford is the loser because it has power goodies on it work trucks do not have power windows and door locks ! and who the h**l pays 22 to 28 thousand dollars for a 4x2 base model truck ? I paid $18,500 OTD for my 2004 Silverado RCLB 4x4 with a v6 5 speed .

@Taylor: As we note in the story, Ford provided an STX truck that it's showing to consumers and dealers. It costs $4,000 more than the XL truck which wasn't available. The XL would have had crank windows, manual locks, etc.

"The STX trim is one step up from the F-150’s base XL trim, but that step added almost $4,000 to the starting price, even though the truck still had cloth seats and a vinyl floor. On the outside are upgraded wheels and tires, exterior paint and trim. Inside, you get power windows and door locks, plus additional power ports and improved lighting. The price as tested was $28,565."

This is why the Ford cost more than the others... if they got the XL then it would have been more inline with the others.

@taylor how is ford a loser for having a better option?

C'mon Fiaodge....why didnt you supply a truck! Lame.

@taylor. agree work trucks don't need all that, but, you paid that WHEN?? 2003? 2004?? 2005?? And that's with a manual, which was always cheaper, so I guess that offsets some of the cash you paid for the 4x4 option! Wish one of them had such an option though! Yup, that Ford is one spendy WORK truck!

have an upgraded trim for testing in the ford does not change with power output or handing and towing capabilites of the test

The shortbed Dodge and GMC reg cab cannot be had with 4wd?did I read that right?

@David w: Correct. The GMC and Ram V-6 reg cab trucks only offer two-wheel-drive. If you get either of those trucks with a V-8, then you can get four-wheel drive.

Thanks for a very informative test. Well written and well done. All of us cant afford or need the fancy 4 door 4x4 with all the options. I am quite impressed with the Ford!

You can get a Chevrolet Silverado or GMC Sierra RC V6 with four-wheel drive, unless they deleted that option for 2011. The others like Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra and Ford F150...no such luck.

"Ram declined to provide a truck, so we acquired a brand-new 2011 Ram 1500 that met our test specs from a Chrysler dealer."

If Dodge wasn't kind enough to give you a truck, how come you didn't leave them out entirely and go acquire a Toyota to replace the one they sent to you?

All that tough talk from Dodge about "never backing down" and they don't even give you a truck to test? That is freaking ridiculous.

@Billy: Thanks for the catch on the GM truck. I've corrected that information. Sorry about that.

@ThatGuy: I would have gladly picked up a 2011 Tundra 4.0-L V-6 from dealers but when we did the testing they hadn't been shipped from the factory in Texas.

It had to be a 2011 Tundra because the 2010 Tundra has a less powerful V-6 and I would have been raked over the coals for testing a truck with an older engine -- so we didn't test it at all.

I stand corrected. Mike says the 2011 F150 V6 can also be had with 4-wheel drive, in regular AND short-bed extended cab configurations. Here is the information to back his claim.

The Silverado/Sierra V6 can be had with 4WD for '11, but in regular cab only.

2003 was a long time ago. What cost $18,500. in 2003 would cost $22,000. in 2010. All due to inflation.

Plus you are including rebates in your calc and using MSRP on the other.

Compare apples to apples. The prices are not that far off plus you are getting a lot more than the old trucks. Times have changed.

@ Billy
@ Mike Levine

It is possible to get a V6 4x4 F150. Check out the Fordvehicles.com website and you will see that it is possible. Regular Cab with 6.5 ft. bed, Regular cab with 8 ft. bed, and extended cab with 6.5 ft. bed are all the possible options for a V6 4x4 F150.

@Andrew: You're correct and we say that. It's the Toyota and Ram that don't offer a V-6 4x4.

Ford 3.7L V-6 is 4WD optional for every model except SuperCrew, which is 2WD only.

@Mike Levine

My fault! I didn't catch that part where you said that in the article and where Billy said it in his comment. I am aware of it now. But either way, great article and comparison put together by you and your co-workers! Will there be a 2011 Light Duty shootout? If so, which F150 engine will be tested?

Very thorough and informative comparison. Exciting to see work trucks get a little respect.

We reviewed some V8 models and came out with different results:

I also have the same question as andrew, will there be a 2011 or 2012(perhaps waiting till after ecoboost release) full light duty shootout?

This test should not have been done until all manufacturers had updated their entry level drivetrains. Since at the present time only Ford had updated their base offering, this test does come off as biased, even though your tests and methods were as fair as always. A well executed test? Yes. Timing? Not so much. But for what it's worth, you will have a great sequel test ready when the other companies offer their new modern engines and updated transmissions!

@RHP: You betcha, we're going to do a sequel! We'll work it into our growing set of Shootouts.

The problem with waiting is all manufacturers do not update their trucks at the same time. You wait for every model to be redone, you'll never do any testing.

People asked for a base engine test. Should Mike have waited 2 years for GM to maybe come out with a new engine? What about Ram? What about Ford? Then people would say he should have waited for the 2014 Ford and Ram?

People want the information now so they can use it now, not 3 years from now. What is biased are those who think we should wait around for every truck to catch up before testing. That is not how it is done.

Following the we should not test until everyone has updated equally logic, does that means there should not have been an 09 light duty shootout? Because Ford had carryover engines. Sshould they have waited a couple years for Ford to update their engines? Oh wait, they can't do that because RHP says GM hasn't updated theirs yet. They must wait to 2014, then it will be fair without "bias".

Should there have not been a 2011 HD shootout because Ram had carryover engines? What about Chevy being only 60% new? Should they have waited for job 2 from Ford? Why not wait to job 3? Or should they have waited to 2014 when the Super Duty is all new? See how silly the "wait to everyone does this" logic is. You test what is available and get the results. The results are what they are. This is not bias.

at least GM's 4.3 engine is proven to last, i've seen them with 450k miles without any major problems.

Well if the site did the tests last model year, with V6 only work trucks just like now, people would have lost it when Ford was inevitably excluded because of their lack of such an engine choice, and no doubt they would just tout the awesomeness of Ford for offering the 8 for 'real' work truck users! haha Happens all the time, so I'm just saying the 'bias' is how this test came about now that there are all players accounted for, even though it clearly isn't biases, and that it was pretty much a given that the new, modern drivetrain would prevail, regardless of make. Also, I don't feel pickuptrucks.com is biased at all, just to clear that up! So of course testing can't wait until every manufacturer is 'ready' because of course they don't have the same development cycles, which is why I mentioned the obvious sequel test. Keep up the great writing and testing!

Why couldn't Ford make it available in XL, they are not built yet?? They knew before hand, right? You go on about the great Ford stuff (higher trim level), and dog the Ram out, but at the same time, no score for price?? If you actually did compare the XL Ford to the ST Ram, the Ford would be pretty well stripped...Like uhm, a work truck! What, the Ford woulda had what 235/75/17s?? Or maybe 235/70s?? I wonder how that would do on your autocross (braking is important, but come on, pushing trucks to the MAX, and grading them on that?) Just basic driving. I don't think some companies would want their trucks seen flying around turns that fast....In the real world. I don't think most companies or workers are so worried with how fast they can get from A to B. Tow rating, well, that's good for a light duty truck. If most were gonna tow heavy they'd just get a v-8 (or take the ecoboost GAMBLE-see if it lasts) You praise the stereo in the Ford...the XL gets am/fm, not even a cd player or satellite radio...(like what is standard in the Ram?) Isn't the whole purpose of the V-6 work trucks for budget minded people? Hey, I can appreciate the Ford stepping up the V-6 program, making the same power as some v-8s, decent mileage (good for a truck) and the six speed is a major deal for hauling heavy, and mileage. Good for Ford on that! But everything has a cost. I see the Dodge made some vibration...wouldn't know bout that as my Hemi is smooth and quit, when I want it to be, until I floor it, which I don't do much....Didn't buy mine for racing, I appreciate the smoother ride, don't get the feeling I will lose the back end on a rough road as some of the leaf spring trucks can-Ford, Toyota. While you were looking over the bolt patterns, didn't happen to notice although the Dodge has 5 bolts, they are the biggest among them, the Tundra, Ford, and the GMs? Yeah, the Tundra, less than a half inch thick right?, with it's 5x150 pattern. Believe the Ford is smaller pattern and thickness although 6 bolts too, and the GMs, same 6x139 with their little bolts. You can see the srews holding the panels on the Dodge doors, JUST WHEN OPEN though, right? Wow, that's big! Oh no! I totally expected the Ford to beat out the Dodge's old set up...Looks like atleast the Dodge was closer to it's gas mileage ratings then the Fords optimistic ones....but, of course, their pentastar v-6 can't be their quick enough!! And they need a 6 speed like now!

Oh, note to Ford, the website says the 3.7 liter is 277 CID! That would without a doubt be the BIGGEST 3.7 ltr! We all know it's not that, just saying....

There was no bias in how the test came about. It had nothing to do with there all being V6's now. It came about because people were complaining in the forum about how every test was between the most expensive highest trim levels, King Ranch and Denali. People wanted to start seeing tests between XLT's, something the average joe can afford, etc. Mike offered to test the lower level trims and it just happened that they all had V6's. Everyone agreed it was a good idea. I didn't hear you complaining when Mike did tests on the carryover Ford engines. Please just stop whining about bias. It has no place here.

So because gm nor dodge update their trucks we shouldn't have a comparison? Then why was Ram in the HD shootout? Why GM's new suspension in the shootout against Ford's old suspension? Ford is bringing out all new engines so this is a big deal. People want to see comparisons. Why should we have to wait 2 years for GM to update? Then it will be an all new GM vs a two year old Ford engine on a platform at the end of it's lifecycle. You should have been calling it "biased" when they didn't use an updated Super Duty... I am not serious @mike levine, just proving a point.

So Ford uses the same V6 from the Mustang and GM does not use the V6 (3.6L 312 hp) from the Camaro...Why is that?


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