The trouble: hybrids are boring. While they may improve fuel economy, they don’t generate many smiles per gallon. Batteries are heavy, forcing hybrids to slag themselves along the roadways and roll around corners like a ’75 Cadillac. American automakers finally seem willing to admit this and are on a quest to find an alternative. Performance and efficiency. Can it be done? With this week’s announcement of a diesel Ram 1500, the Big Three are all on board. Here’s what they’ve come up with:
GM – While the General continue to promote the Chevy volt and its hotter sister, the Cadillac ELR hybrids, they’re not putting all their eggs in one basket. At Chicago last week they pulled the sheet from a Chevy Cruze. It looks exactly like every other Cruze you’ve ever forgotten about – until you open the hood to see that it has a 2 liter Ecotec diesel. The mill makes 148 hp, 280 lb-ft of torque, and 42 mpg.
We’ve also known for a few months that Cadillac is working on a 3.6 liter, twin-turbocharged V6, and that it will probably nestle into the upcoming ATS-V. Estimates are hovering just under 400 hp. Why is this so awesome? Read on.
Ford – The Blue Oval could probably be credited with starting this whole mainstream alternative shift among American manufacturers. Their EcoBoost systems have been flying off the shelves, especially the 3.5 liter, twin-turbo V6 in the F-150. This would be old news if Cadillac wasn’t putting the aforementioned very similar engine in a mid-size car.
Well, surely Ford won’t put that F-150 engine in the Taurus? They already have, for the SHO, and don’t call me Shirley. Ford has, however, announced that the next line of Mustangs, to be released next year, will have an EcoBoost option. We’re pretty sure at this point that it will be the 250-ish hp four-pot you can find in the Focus ST. But what if Ford looked up Woodward Avenue to their Nemeses at GM and said, “Why not?” We’d love to see a twin-turbo’d V6 Mustang, and a little competition from Cadillac might help Ford see it our way.
Chrysler – For years, Dodge and SRT have been building their brands on a single, four-letter word, usually pressed into a strip of chrome: HEMI. Mopar means big, heavy engines, prodigious power figures, and single-digit MPG numbers to be brag about. But they’ve shifted things with the Dart, which you can get with a Fiat-sourced turbocharger.
In the Ram division, they’re not playing by Ford’s rules to go up against the F-150. Just yesterday they announced a new weapon entirely for the 1500 – diesel. Apparently the new turbocharged 3.0 V6, again sourced from Italy, will produce 240 hp and 420 lb-ft when it’s eventually plugged into the Jeep Grand Cherokee, though Chrysler is still mum on the specs for the Ram. The diesel Ram 1500 will be the first half-ton of its kind in decades.
Even if you hate turbos, diesels, direct injection, and/or unconventional powertrains, you have to admit that competition in this arena is a breath of forced induction for an industry long choking on the smog of hybrid promotion. It seems that companies aren’t just in a war for miles per gallon, but power per gallon. It’s a more comprehensive look at efficiency than the gimmick-laden push toward hybrids, and as fun-loving Americans, we think it’s awesome.
Images courtesy Ram, Ford