The diesel engine is an endangered species – again

It is the last call for the diesel engine in light vehicles.

Ford dealers have been told that last Friday was the last day to order an F-150 with the optional 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 diesel engine. This will leave only four diesel engines available in pickup trucks and SUVs with a gross vehicle weight of 8,500 pounds or less.

Above that weight are rugged versions of pickup trucks, such as the Ford F-250, Ram 2500 and Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 and up. And these vehicles will likely be the final stand for diesel engines in North America.

We’ve said the last rites for diesel before, only for it to make a comeback thanks to some dazzling new technology, like the turbocharger combined with high pressure fuel injection or, more recently, selective catalytic reduction. But that won’t happen again.

The reason: The cost of electrification is falling, while the price of diesel engine compliance with emissions rules increases as air quality standards tighten. And with diesel engines dying in record numbers in Europe – home of diesel since the 1980s – there will be far less investment in new technology that could make the oil engine cleaner.

Ford’s light diesel has never had much luck against, frankly, the best engines from General Motors and Stellantis.

Ford’s V-6 dates back almost 20 years to a joint venture with Peugeot that produced the Lion V-6, an engine used in Jaguars and Land Rovers. Ford heavily redesigned the Lion V-6 for the F-150, but it has never run so smoothly or quietly as GM’s 3.0-liter inline-six that is available in Chevrolet pickup trucks and light SUVs and GMC. It wasn’t that fuel efficient either. The 2021 F-150 diesel carried an EPA rating of 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined, while the most fuel efficient The Chevrolet Silverado diesel has a combined rating of 23 cities, 33 highways and 27. The most fuel-efficient Ram 1500 diesel is also the best of the F-150, at 23 in town, 33 on highway, and 26 combined.

But Ford isn’t giving up on pickup truck fuel economy. The F-150 PowerBoost hybrid is EPA rated 25 city, 26 highway, and 25 combined, and it costs a few hundred less than diesel on most trims. Still, diesel vans have legions of fans, and some will miss the engine.

As the 2021 model year draws to a close, here are the lightweight diesel engines that remain on the market in North America:

  • 2.8-liter four-cylinder in the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon
  • 3.0-liter inline-six in Chevrolet and GMC pickup trucks and full-size SUVs
  • 3.0-liter V6 in the Land Rover Range Rover and Range Rover Sport
  • 3.0-liter V6 in the Ram 1500, Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator

There are no longer any diesel engines available in the cars sold here. And we’ll know soon if the 2021 model year will mark the end of one of the remaining four light diesel engines.


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