After towing a 4,200-pound boat trailer with Volkswagen’s fantastic Touareg TDI, I was amazed at the fuel economy. By keeping the cruise engaged at 60 mph, I was able to coax 19.7 mpg out of it over hilly Mojave Desert terrain—yet the engine was barely broken in. Surely, after it loosened up a bit, I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to get, say, a solid 20 or even 21 mpg out of it.
VW’s TDI V6 is a marvelous little diesel. Displacing just three liters—some 180 cubic inches—the V6 delivers 225 horsepower at 3,500 rpm and 406 pound-feet of torque at 1,750 rpm. I kept thinking how great it would be to have that engine in my personal tow vehicle: a 2005 half-ton GMC Sierra crew cab.
The sad part is, no manufacturer that sells trucks in the United States offers a half-ton pickup with a diesel engine. The heavy-duty diesel trucks they do build are awesome, but for a lot of people, they are just overkill in terms of towing needs. General Motors’ Duramax, Dodge’s Cummins, and Ford’s Power Strokes are all powerful and refined diesel engines, but I don’t need 600-plus pound-feet of torque or 15,000 plus pounds of towing capacity. I’m guessing a lot of trailer boaters don’t need that much, either.
So here’s the truck I wish someone—anyone—would build: a half-ton model, with regular, extended, and crew cabs available, with a small diesel engine from around 3.5 to 5 liters, six cylinders or a small V8, about 250 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. It should deliver an EPA average of about 18 mpg in the city and at least 25 mpg on the highway. It should have common-rail injection, lots of sound-deadening materials and, if possible, it should be clean enough to meet all 50 states’ emission standards without the need for diesel exhaust fluid (urea).
We already know truck buyers aren’t afraid of diesels, and I think if the Big Three were to offer such an engine in their half-ton models, the line to order one would stretch out of the showroom and around the block. It would be as handy and drivable as any half-ton pickup, which already make up half the U.S. market of new auto sales, and they’d be ideal for the kind of towing most boaters do.