Real hauling takes real power, and that means fuel economy takes a hit. But help is on the way, in the form of huge gas-mileage improvements-in the neighborhood of 20 percent-within the next five years. Right now, the Big Three are in a dead heat to build hybrid SUVs-trucks that'd use electric power in short boosts to supplement smaller gas engines. Clean diesels, which would likewise improve fuel economy, are also on the drawing board.
In the meantime, General Motors is launching a series of high-tech gas engines, including an inline six-cylinder as powerful as many V8s. The engines, which will appear in the 2002 Chevy Trailblazer, GMC Envoy, and Olds Bravada, also get better fuel efficiency. In addition, next year GM will unveil an engine that closes four cylinders of a V8 under light loads to raise economy. At DaimlerChrysler, the 2002 Dodge Ram gets two new V8s that produce more power from smaller displacements.