Feb 22, 2021 by Jared Rosenholtz Engine / 8 Comments
We drove a ton of trucks this year, but the engines impressed us the most.
To the surprise of no one, 2020 was a huge year for pickup trucks with the launch of a new F-150, the first Raptor rival, and much more. We reviewed dozens of new trucks over the past 12 months, and wanted to start the new year by talking about the best ones on the market. With tons of upcoming electric models from Bolinger, Ford, GMC, Rivian, Tesla, and more, trucks may not be gas-powered forever.
That is why instead of simply ranking our five favorite trucks based on their interiors or overall capability, we wanted to pay special attention to the engines that sit under the hoods. We've picked out the five best truck engines that we tested in 2020 from all three size classes, including one honorable mention that we hope to drive in 2021.
1. Ford PowerBoost
Electric trucks are coming, but not all buyers will be ready for such a dramatic change, which is why the 2021 Ford F-150 is offered with a PowerBoost hybrid drivetrain. Ford pairs its potent 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 engine with a 35-kW electric motor, with the two combining to produce 430 horsepower and 570 lb-ft of torque. Until the Raptor arrives, the PowerBoost is the most potent F-150 available and the most torque-rich F-150 ever built.
Not only does the hybrid system provide smoothness, but the power delivery is near-instantaneous. It truly rivals the best V8 engines on the market in terms of acceleration.
What's most impressive about the PowerBoost drivetrain isn't its massive grunt, it's the efficiency. Only a handful of diesel engines can outmatch the hybrid's fuel economy of 25/26/25 mpg city/highway/combined, and none of those can sip fuel while also pinning the driver back into their seat.
2. GM 6.2-Liter V8
It's called General Motors for a reason because the company still knows how to build a great truck engine. We tested the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 in its luxury Denali trim with the optional L87 EcoTec3 6.2-liter V8. This brutish engine produces 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, making it the most potent naturally aspirated V8 in its class.
Paired with an excellent 10-speed automatic transmission, GMC's V8 delivers smoothness that rivals almost any other truck on the market along with impressive acceleration. Take our word for it, GM currently builds the best V8 engine in the full-size truck class.
We love the 2021 Ram 1500, but its 5.7-liter V8 pales in comparison to Ford's PowerBoost and GM's 6.2-liter V8. However, earlier this year we tested a Ram 1500 with the optional 3.0-liter turbocharged EcoDiesel V6. What it lacks in power with just 260 hp on tap, it makes up for with 480 lb-ft of torque. It's not the quickest truck engine on this list, but it delivers stellar fuel economy of up to 22/32/26 mpg city/highway/combined.
We also tested this engine in the Jeep Wrangler, where we found it just as impressive. The low-range torque made off-road crawling easy, and we can't wait to try out the Jeep Gladiator with this engine.
4 & 5. Ford Power Stroke & Godzilla
The 2021 Ford F-250 Super Duty is so great, it deserves two engines on this list. We first and fell in love with the 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel engine. It packs best-in-class output figures of 475 hp and 1,050 lb-ft of torque, giving it the ability to tow up to 37,000 pounds. Ford doesn't quote 0-60 mph times for its trucks, but the Power Stroke is capable of laying down some massive burnouts on the skidpad.
We also had a chance to spend the week with a gas-powered F-250. Ford's new 7.3-liter V8 is dubbed Godzilla, and for good reason. This engine is impressive in its own right, delivering 430 hp and 474 lb-ft of torque. While not the towing champion of the lineup, Godzilla can pull more than most owners will ever need.
Honorable Mention: Ram TRX
We didn't have a chance to test the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX this year, but we hope to get behind the wheel soon. The TRX is the first true Raptor rival from a major OEM, and Ram didn't mess around when it decided to shove the 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat V8 under the hood.
It may boast some of the worst fuel economy on this list, but with 702 hp on tap, the TRX can rip off 0-60 mph in under four seconds. Of all the trucks that are coming out next year, the Ram TRX is the one we want to try out first.