Muscle Machines

October 27, 2010 09:55 AM
F10411 2011 F150 SKV 5025 HR

The 2011 Ford F-150 comes with a twin-turbocharged, direct-injected gasoline engine. The four new engines available with this model are designed to boost fuel efficiency by 20% compared with last year’s model.


Muscle-car mania has entered the world of trucks. Ford’s 2011 F-150 heads to the farm with four new, sophisticated gas engines that blend power with 20% improvement in fuel efficiency.
The all-aluminum 5.0-liter V8 is a heavy-duty version of what you’ll find in a Ford Mustang. It has the Mustang sound and is quick off the line. The base 3.7-liter V6 also roars with surprising power.

However, the most talked about engine is the 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost. This twin-turbo, direct-injection engine has great numbers: 365 hp and 420 ft.-lb. of torque. But Ford rates the EcoBoost to tow 11,300 lb., and that’s where it gets confusing.

Recently, Ford invited journalists to Dallas, Texas, to try on these new half-tons. We towed 6,700-lb. trailers with the EcoBoost and measured them against competitors with similar horsepower, torque and axle ratios. The EcoBoost didn’t tow quite as well as its numbers suggest.

Ford is determined to pull the best fuel economy from these new engines, but it could loosen the reins a bit where towing is concerned. The torque curve on the EcoBoost is better than most diesels, with 90% of torque coming on at 1,700 rpm. This makes the truck a hot rod when driving it empty.

But the 6.2-liter V8 is the engine you want for towing. Rated the same as the EcoBoost, it’s the same engine as in the Ford Super Duty, with 411 hp and 434 ft.-lb. of torque. However, it is available only in Raptor, Platinum, Harley-Davidson and Lariat Limited models.

Give it the gas. The EcoBoost model I drove came in at 29.1 mpg and didn’t even win the efficiency contest during the media drive. I’m betting that when EPA’s numbers come out after this issue goes to press, these engines will be rated in the mid-20s for highway driving.

I like that the EcoBoost is priced at only $750 over the 5.0-liter V8. Diesels have gone to the back burner for half-tons, but this is as close as we can get. The price of gas compared to diesel and the $7,000 premium for a diesel engine, coupled with the EcoBoost’s power ratings, make it a no-brainer.

If you need a full-size truck to carry tools and fuel to the field, the V6 lineup offers both fuel economy and payload advantages. Equipped with a heavy-duty package, a regular cab
4x2 EcoBoost V6 can have a payload of 3,060 lb. Yes, that’s a ton and a half in a half-ton.

All the new engines are matched to the 6R-80 six-speed automatic. The low 4.17 first-gear ratio with well spaced stack and double overdrive knows what to do on its own. In auto, you can toggle the manual switch and the middle dash offers a gear readout.

The new SelectShift lets you stay in a gear as long as you want—think of it as a manual transmission with brains. If you still feed hay bales out the tailgate or feel a need to control your trailer coming down the fast side of a mountain, the SelectShift auto will make you smile.

Electric rack-and-pinion steering. You still have all-mechanical linkage, but the pump and hoses are gone. An electric motor drives a belt to the rack. This is tight steering, with computers measuring road surface to give you the kind of feedback that makes it easy to center your lane with light steering.

Ford introduced Trailer Sway Control in the F-150 in 2009. If your trailer goes into a severe sway, a computer brakes it separately from the truck to avoid a pendulum action.

The F-150 with integrated trailer brake controller now works with the truck’s ABS. Trailer sway as minuscule as a fast lane change is sensed by the computer. It’s incredible to feel the trailer brakes kick in and the truck straighten automatically. Towing a chemical tank, sprayer or livestock trailer will never be the same.

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