If you're interested in a new full-size pickup truck, you might be wondering whether you should choose a V6 engine or a V8. For years, most shoppers wouldn't even consider a full-size pickup without a V8, but modern technological advances (and modern gas prices) have made V6s far more appealing than they ever have been in the past. So which one should you go for? We have some tips to help you decide.
V6 or Turbocharged V6?
Most truck shoppers who wouldn't consider a V6-powered full-size pickup probably base their opinions on past V6 engines, which were slow, noisy and -- most importantly -- not as capable as their V8 counterparts.
But times have changed, largely thanks to turbocharging. Two modern full-size pickups use turbocharged V6 engines: the Ford F-150, with its EcoBoost powerplant, and the RAM 1500, which offers a turbodiesel V6. In both cases, the V6s put up impressive numbers: The F-150's EcoBoost powerplant produces 365 horsepower and an impressive 420 lb-ft of torque, while the RAM is rated at 240 horses and 420 lb-ft.
Interestingly, those numbers are stronger than V8 versions of the same pickups, especially when it comes to torque, which is important for towing. The 5.0-liter V8-powered F-150 only puts out 360 horses and 380 lb-ft, while even the RAM's muscular HEMI V8 only makes 410 lb-ft. In essence, turbocharging has proven that a V6 doesn't need to be a disability in the world of full-size trucks.
Better for Towing?
While some pickup shoppers are won over to the realm of the V6 as soon as they hear the power and torque figures of the Ford EcoBoost V6 or the RAM's turbodiesel powerplant, many still prefer V8 engines. One reason is that many shoppers still think V8s are better for towing. So, is that true? Not quite.
For example, Ford's EcoBoost V6 is rated to tow up to 11,300 pounds in any configuration: regular cab, extended cab or crew cab. The brand's 5.0-liter V8 can't crack 10,000 pounds. And even the muscular 6.2-liter V8, which returns 411 hp and 434 lb-ft, can only match -- but not beat -- the EcoBoost when it comes to towing capacity.
It's a similar situation when you consider the RAM. Although a HEMI-powered RAM pickup truck does indeed out-tow the EcoDiesel, the gap isn't as big as you might expect: Properly equipped V8-powered RAM models can pull up to 10,400 pounds, while the EcoDiesel can tow a respectable 9,100 pounds.
Another benefit offered by V6 engines in today's full-size pickup trucks is fuel economy. No, the RAM EcoDiesel can't quite out-tow the HEMI, but its 20 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway far outshine the HEMI's 14 mpg city/20 mpg hwy. Not surprisingly, it's the same story with just about any V6-powered truck, whether you choose the EcoBoost F-150 or the newly redesigned Chevrolet Silverado, which doesn't use diesel or turbocharged technology. In the Silverado, the all-new 4.3-liter V6, which makes a respectable 285 hp and 305 lb-ft, manages to beat the 5.3-liter V8's gas mileage by 2 mpg in the city and 1 mpg on the highway.
When Should You Get the V8?
We primarily advocate choosing V6 engines in pickups when you're focused on fuel economy, city driving or light-duty use, which is the way that most shoppers use their pickups. Even then, drivers who use their trucks for more substantial chores might benefit from V6 power, as we've seen with the towing capacity and torque numbers from the F-150's EcoBoost engine and the RAM's EcoDiesel.
But even in spite of big advances in V6 power, torque, gas mileage and towing capacity, we would still recommend choosing a V8 some of the time. Primarily, we'd choose a V8 if you often tow and haul and if the truck you're considering doesn't offer a turbocharged or diesel engine option. This is true of the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra. A V8 is also often the only way to go if you're interested in certain high-end trim levels, such as the Silverado High Country, the Sierra Denali or the Tundra Platinum.
But while we concede that a V8 is the better choice for some pickup-truck shoppers, we strongly suggest that you don't count out a V6 just because it doesn't have as many cylinders as a V8.