Build It Your Way: Chevy Silverado - Should V-6 be dropped?

June 2011 News
The full-size pickup is a uniquely American institution. Outside the NAFTA area, full-size trucks are a relative rarity, and if they are seen, they're purely workhorses. Many trucks in the U.S. are daily drivers that are rarely subjected to a payload or a trailer. Of course, with fuel prices persistently hovering close to the $4 a gallon range, casual pickup buyers are becoming a little rarer.

In a surprising turn for the full-size market, Ford is reporting V-6 engines are making up more than half of 2011 F-150 sales, between the 302-horsepower base 3.7 and the turbocharged, direct-injected 3.5 EcoBoost.

GM's ancient 4.3 pushrod lump, on the other hand, wheezes out only 195 horsepower. To add insult to injury, the 5.3 liter Vortec V-8 actually gets better fuel economy than the old V-6, and has 115 more horsepower! Part of that is attributable to the ahem. "proven" 4L60-E four-speed transmission behind the V-6, but also its outdated design and architecture, which actually pre-dates the introduction of the modern Gen III and IV smallblock V-8s, and can trace its ancestry back to 1985.

Many thought when the Chevy TrailBlazer midsize SUV was introduced, that its modern, dual-overhead cam inline six would also become the standard engine in the pickups. Alas, the newer engine's complexity and cost conspired against it. The old pushrod 4.3 Vortec V-6 has kept kickin' in the base Silverado and Sierra now two years after the TrailBlazer (as well as the 4.2 DOHC straight-six's) cancellation.

Should the Silverado have a V-6 option at all, or should it go to an all V-8 engine lineup, with the 4.8 (upgraded with Active Fuel Management and backed by a 6L80-E? Before the introduction of the new 3.7 and EcoBoost V-6s, Ford's F-150 lineup went all V-8 for two years. Or should both the 4.3 and 4.8 be replaced by GM's 3.6-liter direct-injected V-6? Perhaps a twin-turbo variant to go toe-to-toe with Ford's EcoBoost?

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