There were at least two things missing when General Motors debuted its new line of SUVs in New York last month.
The first is an expected eight-speed automatic transmission that will bolster GM’s fuel economy to better fight turbocharged products from Ford. It isn’t clear when the more generously geared slushbox will surface, but news reports of the company’s multi-million-dollar investment in its Toldeo, Ohio plant set to assemble them have been hard to miss. The “hydra-matic” six-speed unit found in the newest trucks and SUVs is looking older by the day as automakers move to eight- and even nine-speed transmissions.
That isn’t the only way GM can offer its customers a fuel-saving option without sacrificing the capability that comes with a fully-boxed frame. The 2014 Chevrolet Silverado offers a V6 with 285 hp, 305 lb-ft of torque and up to 24 mpg on the highway with rear-wheel drive models.
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While it’s obvious where the eight-speed is – or isn’t, as it were – the lack of a V6 in the Tahoe and Yukon as a fuel-saving option might seem strange to some.
Jeff Luke, General Motors executive chief engineer for global full-size and mid-size trucks addressed the issue on the sidelines of Cadillac’s Escalade unveiling in New York City.
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Luke says that for now, General Motors’ customers aren’t interested in a real SUV with a V6. That could change as preferences lean increasingly toward improved fuel economy. There are precious few body-on-frame people haulers with fewer than eight cylinders, none of which directly compete with the Tahoe or Yukon. There’s the Jeep Wrangler, Nissan Xterra, Toyota 4Runner and the FJ Cruiser, although the last one is rumored to be cut after 2014.
Slipping the smaller V6 into either of its SUVs would go down easier than Bud Light at a country music festival. The trucks and SUVs share their underbits, and a six-cylinder mated to the fabled eight-speed would probably offer one hell of a fuel economy play. A marketing blitz is all that’s missing…
Luke confirmed that General Motors would entertain the possibility of a V6 option but didn’t offer any sort of timeline for that to happen. It needs to.
General Motors’ 4.3-liter V6 was built specifically to be a workhorse. It’s also a sophisticated motor with direct injection, variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation. It offers 305 lb-ft of torque and 285 hp. That’s 10 horses shy of the previous Tahoe’s base V8 with equal twist. The fact that GM is using lightweight materials including an aluminum hood and liftgate panel make the V6 option even more enticing.
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