Editor's note: The horsepower and torque ratings on the Ford F-150 with V-6 engines were incorrect in the chart accompanying earlier versions of this story.
DETROIT -- It’s rare when Toyota admits defeat and folds -- especially when it comes to engines and fuel economy.
But that’s what happened last week when Toyota introduced the 2015 Tundra pickup and revealed that its big truck would be available only with V-8 engines.
How did that happen when truck buyers are purchasing more V-6s than ever?
Simple: Led by Ford, Detroit’s automakers have invested in V-6 truck engine technology and found ways to deliver V-8 performance with V-6 fuel economy. And U.S. buyers have responded.
Today, more than half of Ford F-150s sold in the U.S. have the base 3.7-liter V-6 or the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. Since GM improved the V-6s in the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra last year, V-6 sales have grown from the low single digits to nearly 20 percent of the mix, according to GM.
The story is similar at Chrysler. The Pentastar V-6 gasoline engine and the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 together account for more than 25 percent of Ram pickup deliveries these days, up from less than 10 percent in 2013.
Detroit’s automakers have boosted the appeal of their V-6-powered pickups by offering cutting-edge technologies such as transmissions with six or more speeds, turbochargers and displacement on demand, which shuts down select cylinders when the truck is in cruising mode.
Toyota has done nothing significant to its 4.0-liter, V-6 powertrain in years. And that’s why the company’s V-6 can’t compete with Ford, GM and Ram.
The numbers tell the story: While Detroit’s big trucks are closing in on 30 mpg highway, the 2014 V-6 Tundra’s EPA rating was 16 mpg city/20 highway/17 combined -- lowest among full-size V-6-powered pickups.
The Tundra V-6’s horsepower rating also was lower than those of its rivals, although its torque rating was competitive.