General Motors’ 4.3-liter V6 isn’t a new displacement, but an all-new generation of the engine promises to offer the highest torque in the V6 truck engine showdown, according to the automaker.
A press release from GMC said the engine, known by the trademarked name EcoTec3, will be available in GMC pickups “later this year,” after the initial launch of 2014 models delivered with the most-popular 5.3-liter V8 engine option. Pricing on trucks equipped with the new V6 will start at $25,085 after destination charge.
But about that “highest torque” claim: The release said the engine will offer up 305 ft-lbs of twist– beating the Ford F-150’s 3.7-liter V6 by 27 ft-lbs and the Ram 1500’s 3.6-liter V6 by 36 ft-lbs. However, both Ram and Ford beat the EcoTec3 V6 handily in the horsepower race, churning out 305 and 302 horsepower, respectively, compared to the GM engine’s 285 horsepower.
That being said, I think GM’s on the right path here. After driving a 301-horsepower version of the General’s own 3.6-liter V6, I was left feeling like it was fairly gutless unless I really stomped on the skinny pedal. It seems that to squeeze those kinds of impressive horsepower numbers out of a relatively small-displacement V6, you’ve got to make them high-strung– or, as Ford will tell you, turbocharge them. By offering more torque at the expense of an easily marketable horsepower number, GM is signaling to truck shoppers that the Silverado and Sierra will be work-capable trucks with plenty of pulling power.
About that pulling power: GM has rated the trucks equipped with the EcoTec3 V6 to tow up to 7,200 lbs– which is 500 lbs more than the highest-spec Ford F-150 V6 and 700 lbs more than the highest-spec Ram 1500 V6. Those numbers, in GM’s case, come from a four-wheel drive, regular cab, short cargo box-equipped model. Expect two-wheel drive models to carry a lesser rating.
But perhaps the make-or-break category for a lot of V6 truck shoppers– weekend warriors like myself who spend the majority of any week driving around with a completely empty cargo bed– is fuel economy. At this point, those numbers are completely unknown for the GM engine. It’s got a pretty tall order to fill if it expects to be competitive with Ford’s 23 MPG highway and Ram’s 25 MPG highway. GM has not released EPA estimates for the engine, but said they will be announced later.
The real burning question in terms of fuel economy is whether the engine will pay a mileage penalty for ostensibly making more torque all over the rev range than the Ford and Ram V6s. Gobs of torque that come on low in the RPMs can be a real blessing for doing trucky things– hence why the V8 is the volume engine in GM’s trucks– but in gasoline engines, that low-RPM power often comes at the expense of fuel economy. The GM truck twins won’t be without their fuel-saving tricks– a six-speed automatic transmission will surely be tuned to maximize fuel economy, and technologies including direct fuel injection, cylinder deactivation, and continuously variable valve timing will surely be welcome ways to save fuel.
But how much will they save? Will it be enough to beat Ram’s current 25 MPG highway estimate? Being that GM hasn’t been bragging about beating that number with its own V6 the same way it did when EPA testing found its 5.3-liter V8 beat Ford’s EcoBoost V6 mileage figures, I’d guess no. But I’ll be keeping my eye out for updated information about this engine, which should help keep the V6 truck battlefield interesting in the near future.