- a 3.5 liter V6 with direct injection; turbo charged (ECO Boost)
- a 3.7 liter V6
- a 5.0 liter V8
- a 6.2 liter V8
While the 3.5 V6 and the 5.0 V8 share some parts with engines used in the Mustang and other Ford vehicles, they are not the same engines -- these guys are specifically designed to handle the demands of a truck. Unique piston, cylinder head, camshaft and intake designs allow the pickup truck engines to perform well when towing, hauling and cruising down the highway.
All of the engines are backed with a 6-speed automatic transmission, and two of those speeds are overdrives. The 6-speed tranny offers immproved fuel mileage on the highway, but without sacrificing the gearing needed to pull a heavy load away from a stop or making 1-2, 2-3 and 3-4 shifts such big jumps that the truck can't keep its momentum.
So how well do the 2011 F-150s really perform? Ford set up test drives for the public in several cities around the country and included a day at each for the media. Set-ups included courses designed to test acceleration and towing, and another for normal driving.
This course started on Atlanta's city streets and took us to the Interstate -- not a comprehensive, long distance drive, but a good chance to check acceleration from a stop, on a ramp and when already cruising at highway speeds.
My drive started with a 2011 F-150 equipped with the 5.0 liter V8, and pulling a large trailer. Acceleration from a stop was good, and the truck cruised easily at 65 mph. The tow/haul mode worked smoothly to control the upshifts and downshifts. As I merged into traffic, I had no concerns about getting up to speed, and when I accelerated from 55 to pass, the truck responded with plenty of power.
The 5.0-liter has more horsepower and torque than my 2003 F-150's 5.4 engine, and with the 6 speed transmission (plus tow/haul) there's less gear hunting on uphill grades when compared to my 4-speed automatic. Another plus, this truck offers improved fuel economy.
Next, I drove the 3.5-liter V6 with direct injection and turbo charging. I had read reports about this engine and was anxious to try it out myself (and admit I was a little skeptical about its capabilities). But I was very pleasantly surprised with its capabilities -- impressed is probably a better word. The course we drove was somewhat limited, but the V6 with ECO Boost handled every part of the test drive as well or better than the V8.
The large trailer had no impact on the truck's braking or handling -- the brakes are large enough to stop that type of set-up with ease and the Roll Stability Control (RSC) system senses when a trailer with electric brakes is connected, correcting for trailer sway or additional braking needs. I really had to work to make the RSC kick in.
Acceleration TestsTo test acceleration, Ford set up a drag strip in a parking lot, complete with starting lights and timing and speed recording. We each paired off with a different F-150 for the tests, and then ran against Chevy, Dodge and Toyota trucks.
- The 6.2 liter V8 is definitely a powerful engine that moves the F150 with ease (reinforcing the truth in an old saying: "there is no substitute for cubic inches").
- The 5.0 liter V8 outran the Chevy and Dodge pickup trucks and was a pretty even match for the Toyota.
- The 3.7 liter V6 was a surprise, moving the F-150 quickly and easily; the V6 produces 302 horsepower (more than many V8s did a couple of years ago). The engine was not blown away by any of the V8s.
- The most impressive showing was by the ECO Boost 3.5 liter V6. This engine just kept surprising me. In the drag races, the little engine pushed the F-150 faster than the V8s (with the exception of the 6.2 liter, and it gave that engine a good run).
Driving the ECO Boost V6 EngineWe took the ECO Boost V6 truck on a short drive to get a feel for its fuel economy. The truck was a 2-wheel drive model and we used the on-board display system to monitor fuel consumption. Heavy traffic and stop-and-go conditions made it somewhat difficult to get a true reading, but most of the trucks involved in the drive produced numbers in the mid 20 mpg range. Ford has not released fuel mileage specs for the ECO Boost V6, but if they come in near the mid 20s the package will be excellent in all respects.