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One of the biggest changes in the truck market over the last five years has been the growth of turbo-charged V-6 engines. While turbochargers can offer considerable efficiency benefits and are generally quite reliable, thoughts of replacing a truck's V-8 with a turbo V-6 often elicited a laugh.

Then Ford's EcoBoost F-150 came along, and conventional wisdom began to change. Ford's EcoBoost V-6 was the first turbocharged gas engine offered in a mainstream pickup truck in years, and consumers bought them in droves. Today, Ford has sold hundreds of thousands of trucks with a turbocharged V-6 in place of a standard V-8. This shift in the market - combined with a significant increase in federal fuel economy requirements - likely means that most pickup truck manufacturers will follow Ford and introduce turbocharged V-6 engines in the next few years, reports Tim Esterdahhl from TorqueNews.com.

The Turbo-Charged V-6 Truck That Changed the Industry

When rumors of turbo-charged V-6 F-150 began to surface, many people questioned whether these engines would have sufficient performance for towing and hauling. While a turbocharger can greatly increase an engine's output, turbos have a tendency to lag. Turbo lag leads to a distorted torque curve, where an engine doesn't begin to generate serious torque until a few seconds after the driver hits the gas pedal. In a car, turbo lag is a bit annoying. But in a truck (particularly one pulling a trailer), turbo lag can be downright dangerous.

Yet Ford's EcoBoost equipped F-150s have done great. Offering the same type of power truck owners expect from a larger V-8, the EcoBoost V-6 has a better fuel economy rating and only a slightly higher cost. What's more, millions of miles of use have shown Ford's EcoBoost V-6 to be generally quite reliable. Today, Ford boasts some impressive stats:

• Retail registrations of light-duty trucks with V-6 engines grew more than 600 percent, largely as a result of Ford's new engine
• The EcoBoost V-6 represents 45 percent of F-150 pickup truck sales – the EcoBoost is the best-selling engine in the Ford truck lineup.
• More than 56 million gallons of gasoline have been saved as a result of Ford truck customers choosing an EcoBoost V-6 over a standard 5.0L V-8

Ford has so much confidence in turbo V-6 truck engines that they've going to go even smaller in 2015 - Ford is going to offer a tiny 2.7L EcoBoost engine in their 2015 F-150. That's an incredibly small displacement for a full-size truck, especially when you consider that it's only slightly bigger than 4-cylinder engines offered in the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier.

The Rise of The Turbocharger and A Cloudy Future for The Standard V-6 and V-8

When you look at Ford's success with the EcoBoost, it's logical to wonder if Ford will drop the standard V8 at some point in the future. After all, Ford has already dropped the V-8 on the Expedition (all 2015 Expeds will have a 3.5L EcoBoost V6), and upcoming fuel economy standards are pushing manufactures to adopt more fuel efficient engines. Rumors are swirling that Fiat Chrylser will create a turbocharged version of their new Pentastar V-6 engine in the near future, an engine that could likely replace or supplant the Ram 1500's 5.7L HEMI. Ford's new "Nano" 2.7L V-6 is likely to replace the existing 3.7L V-6 (which is naturally aspirated).

Toyota might join the turbo bandwagon as well, only they'll likely start by eliminating the standard V-6 rather than the V-8. The recently announced Lexus LF-NX crossover will debut with a turbo-charged 4cyl engine – a first for Toyota. Rumor has it that this engine will make it's way into an updated Tacoma in the near future, replacing or supplanting the existing 4.0L V-6. There are rumors of a turbo V-6 engine making it's way into General Motors pickups as well.

Of course, it might be premature to predict the death of the naturally aspirated V-6 or V-8. Toyota plans to make extensive use of their Atkinson cycle/variable displacement engine technology, which essentially allows a standard V-8 or V-6 to behave like a much smaller engine. This technology offers a lot of the benefits of turbocharging without the increased complexity or expense, and it seems like a natural fit for the Tundra.

However, outside of Toyota, the future of the naturally aspirated V-6 and V-8 pickup trucks is up in the air.

Don't Forget Diesels

Nearly all modern diesel engines have turbochargers, and that makes them part of this discussion as well. Ram's new 3.0L V-6 diesel seems to be a big hit with Ram 1500 buyers who might otherwise have chosen a large 5.7L HEMI V-8. GM's 2015 Chevy Colorado will offer a highly anticipated 2.8L Duramax turbo-diesel, which will compete head to head with a 3.6L gas V-6. It remains to be seen if consumers will opt for the baby Duramax over the traditional V-6, but there are certainly reasons to suspect that consumers will like the diesel more.

When you add it all up, it seems relatively certain that naturally aspirated V-6s and V-8s will be competing with turbocharged 4-cylinders and V-6s, as well as diesels. While trucks equipped with naturally aspirated V-6s and V-8s will have a lower asking price, turbocharged alternatives with smaller displacements (and diesels) will offer better fuel economy (and therefore lower operating costs). Toss in government fuel economy regulations that become increasingly stringent year after year, and there's plenty of reason to wonder if the naturally V-6 and V-8 pickup is headed for extinction.
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