This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue.
How did we get here? Is it just me, or did these half-ton diesel pickups kind of sneak up on the industry? A few years ago we started reporting on future plans and rumors from the auto industry and now I’m starting to see these half-ton diesels driving around my town. I remember the first time I spotted an EcoDiesel 3.0L in a RAM 1500 in a parking lot. I had seen this truck on display at shows as well as one at Bully Dog headquarters, but seeing one parked outside an Olive Garden just blocks away from where I work got me excited. I must have snapped a least a dozen photos with my phone that day of the Laramie Long Horn edition, but now you can find these EcoDiesel trucks everywhere.
Just behind RAM, Nissan also started making some noise a few years back with talk of a 5.0L Cummins in a Nissan Titan. It was unveiled at the 2015 North American International Auto Show and I got my first glimpse when I saw a couple of them on display at SEMA last November. When we heard a rumor that the first diesel-powered Nissan had arrived at our local dealership you would have thought a fire broke out in our building. The Diesel Tech staff made a quick exit so we could take it out for a spin before someone had a chance to buy the Titan XD.
Of course GMC had to jump in the game too. GM is now offering its Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups with a 2.8L Duramax diesel engine for the 2016 model year. As of February we were still scanning the streets hoping to see one, but we’re told they’re coming.
You could describe the Ford F150 as rugged, reliable, as well as the top-selling vehicle in the U.S. for more than three decades, but what it's not—at least not since the 1980s—is a diesel. However, that could soon change. Diesel versions of the F150 were spotted at Ford's testing facilities in Michigan back in January, and analysts believe production models could roar into showrooms as early as next year.
I must admit I was a little closed-minded when I first started hearing about diesel engines going into half-ton trucks. From a weekend warrior perspective I was excited to see what kind of quarter-mile times these lighter trucks are capable of, but I’m guessing we’re still a few summers away from seeing these trucks heavily modified as the aftermarket companies scramble to keep up.
The increase in fuel economy has me looking twice, but I’m still not sure how I feel about these trucks. I would think daily drivers who use their trucks to commute to work each day would be tempted, but for towing and really using a truck for what it was truly built for I just don’t think I could ever give up my one-ton diesel.
That’s how I feel today and that could all change once shops get a hold of these trucks and they start throwing up crazy horsepower numbers. And really the aftermarket companies are doing their part to make these trucks more tempting too by not only offering upgrades to increase the power, but exterior mods too. I’ve seen RAM EcoDiesels that looked just as impressive as a 2500 or 3500; if not for the emblem on the side, I wouldn’t have believed they were 1500s.
Times are changing and if nothing else the excitement of these half-ton diesels is good for our niche in the auto industry. I’m not ready to throw down on one just yet, but I must admit they’re starting to look more and more tempting.