To explore the measures that can be used to improve the fuel economy of internal combustion engines, we investigated how friction at the piston ring-cylinder liner interface is influenced by the boundary lubrication performance of engine oils. We formulated several engine oils with varying boundary lubrication performance and tested them for ring-liner friction by using a floating liner friction tester. We used friction modifiers (FMs) to modify the boundary lubrication performance of engine oils. We found that ring-liner friction is well correlated with the friction coefficients in boundary lubrication regimes when measured by a laboratory friction tester. We also found that the impact of the boundary lubrication performance of engine oils was emphasized in low viscosity engine oils. It makes it possible for improved boundary lubrication performance to inhibit or overcome the viscosity reduction-induced increase of friction energy. These results suggest that FM formulation is as important as viscosity modification for next-generation engine oils to achieve better fuel economy.