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NASCAR truck race featuring a Dodge, Chevrolet, and Silverado. Which V8 is the best truck engine?

Battle of the 5.7-Liter V8 Truck Engines: Toyota I-Force VS Dodge HEMI VS Chevrolet 350

Three of the world's most popular V8s share a displacement of 5.7-liters--but their similarities end there. So is the best truck engine Toyota's high-tech I-Force, Dodge's surprisingly fuel-efficient HEMI, or the immortal Chevy 350? Read more here...

Three of the world’s most popular V8s share a displacement of 5.7-liters–but their similarities end there. So is the best V8 truck engine Toyota’s high-tech I-Force, Dodge’s surprisingly fuel-efficient HEMI, or the immortal Chevy 350?

Toyota’s I-Force is the Best V8 Truck Engine for High-Tech Gearheads

A Toyota Tundra pickup with one of the best V8 truck engines, the i-force 5.7. At a car dealership in San Jose, California, United States on Tuesday, November 19, 2019. T (Photo by Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto)
2019 Toyota Tundra pickup at a dealership | Photo by Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto

Toyota offers its full-size Tundra with a 5.7-liter V8. The 5.7 is the third generation of Toyota’s “UR” engine family. Toyota packed this engine, known internally as the 3UR-FE, with the advanced technology Toyota fans expect. 

In 3UR-FE, the suffix F stands for economy narrow-angle valve double overhead cams (DOHC), and the suffix E stands for electronic fuel injection. The 3UR-FE also features Toyota’s proprietary Dual Variable Valve Timing (VVT-i) technology. The result is one of the best truck V8 engines: capable of 381 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 401 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm.

Toyota offers the 3UR-FE in the Sequoia, the Lexus LX 570, the Land Cruiser 200 Series, and the Tundra. In the U.S., Toyota advertises the engine as the I-Force V8.

The Tundra’s V8 is cast out of Bodine Aluminum and assembled at Toyota’s Huntsville, Alabama manufacturing plant. Tundras once came with several engine options, but so many Tundra buyers preferred the 5.7-liter V8 that, as of 2020, it is the only powerplant available.

In a 2WD 2021 Tundra, the 5.7-liter V8 achieves 13 city/17 highway mpg for a combined EPA rating of 15 mpg. In addition, the Tundra’s maximum tow rating is 10,200 pounds.

Dodge’s HEMI is the Best V8 Truck Engine for Fuel-Efficiency

2015 Black Dodge Ram 1500 with a Hemi 5.7 liter engine--one of the best truck V8 engines--at the Denver Auto Show  in Denver,  Colorado on April 9, 2015. The show has over 500 cars and 40 different carlines shown in 400,000 sq. feet at the Colorado Convention Center.  The show runs through Sunday. (Photo By Helen H. Richardson/ The Denver Post)
2015 Dodge Ram 1500 with a 5.7-liter HEMI | (Photo By Helen H. Richardson/ The Denver Post

The Dodge HEMI engine is a living legend. The HEMI engine’s long history began in the 1940s when Chrysler coaxed 2,500 horsepower out of an experimental V16 fighter plane engine by installing hemispherical combustion chambers. Engineers hoped for a better fuel-air mixture and found the walls of the unorthodox cylinder head also maintained a more consistent temperature and had room for larger valves–thus allowing more airflow.

A HEMI V8 first debuted in Chrysler’s 1951 models. Drag racers throughout the 1950s used the new engine, and modern championship drag racers base their engines on the original HEMI. Dodge launched the second generation of the HEMI with the NASCAR-dominating 426. Then, in 2003, Dodge debuted the third-generation HEMI, a modern aluminum, fuel-injected V8.

NASCAR truck race featuring a Dodge, Chevrolet, and Silverado. Which V8 is the best truck engine?
A V8-Powered Chevrolet, Dodge, and Toyota competing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series | Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Today, the Dodge HEMI lives on in naturally-aspirated 5.7-liter and 6.5-liter variants, as well as a 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI built by SRT. Stellantis offers Rams with several engines, though many buyers opt for the 5.7-liter HEMI, one of the best V8 truck engines.

For the 2009 model year, Dodge engineers updated the 5.7-liter HEMI with Variable Camshaft Timing (VCT)–the Dodge version of variable valve timing. In the Ram 1500, this V8 is rated for 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft. of torque.

One perennial complaint about the HEMI is that its large combustion chambers prevent it from being fuel-efficient. Dodge engineers solved this problem with a multi-displacement system (MDS) which shuts off half the cylinders whenever possible. In addition, Ram trucks are available with a mild-hybrid system branded as eTorque. This system includes an electric starter/launch engine to save gasoline. The resulting 2021 Ram 1500 is rated for 17 city/23 highway mpg and 19 mpg combined. The 5.7L HEMI-equipped Ram 1500 is rated to tow 11,610 pounds.

Chevrolet’s 350 Small Block is the Best V8 Truck Engine for Modifying

Keith Erwin, owner of Keith's Automotive in Fresno California beside his Chevy 350 engine, one of the best V8 truck engines.
A Hotrodder and a Chevrolet 350 engine | Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP

The Chevy 350 is a small-block V8 that displaces 350-cubic-inches, or 5.7-liters. It is the only engine on this list that is not available in a production pickup truck. But the Chevy 350 (also known as the SB 350) is one of the most popular hotrod engines of all time and is still installed in countless custom trucks.

When Chevrolet launched its Camaro in 1967, the top-trim Z28 came with a choice of big-block engines. But GM engineers wanted one high-output small block available for buyers seeking a more balanced Z28. So they lengthened the stroke of the already formidable 327 engine, increasing its displacement to 349.85 cubic inches, and the Chevrolet 350 was born.

1957 Chevrolet Model 3A Truck | Photo by Simon Clay/National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The lightweight and powerful 350 became so popular that GM soon produced variants for nearly every vehicle in its lineup. With countless used 350s available, generations of engine-builders called on the mighty small block to make big power. No engine has more aftermarket modification options than the 350. Because. of its sheer adaptability, it is one of the best V8 truck engines.

GM continued to build variations of the 350 for nearly forty years, finally retiring the engine in 2005. The final version of this first-generation small-block was the Vortec 5700 L31. The stock L31 produces 255 horsepower at 4,600 rpm and 350 lb-ft. of torque at 2,800 rpm. The final Chevrolet pickup truck available with the 350 was the 1998 Chevrolet C1500. The automatic transmission 2WD 5.7L C1500 is rated for 13 city/17 highway mpg for a combined 14 mpg and can tow 7,000 pounds.

Sources: It Still Runs, MotorTrend

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