Among the best of Ford's latest innovations for the F-150 is the integrated trailer brake controller first introduced in the Super Duty three years ago. Now available in the 1/2-ton, this feature will be of particular interest to the more than 50 percent of owners who tow regularly (GM has this now, but Dodge and Toyota still do not). This F-150 also adds another new towing feature-a Trailer Sway Control that can sense yaw motion in the trailer (fishtailing) and apply precise braking and less power to bring the truck and trailer back into line.
In keeping with the current trend of fuel conservation, Ford invested a considerable amount of development dollars in powertrain and fuel economy improvements for the new truck. The net result is fuel economy gains as high as 12 percent, versus the previous generation (equipped with the high-volume three-valve 5.4L V-8). Including the other engines, fuel economy across the line averages out at around eight percent.
Other engineering that has made these gains possible includes a new six-speed automatic transmission and an optional 3.15:1 rear axle. These in tandem contribute to a 4- to 6-percent fuel economy improvement over the old four-speed gearbox. With a slew of options, including the tires, skidplating, Max Trailer Tow package (with brake controller), power trailer mirrors, pickup-box and tailgate access steps, rear-view camera, and Lariat trim package, our test F-150 listed an MSRP of $53,499.
Toyota Tundra Double-Cab
The current Toyota Tundra is the second generation to sport that name-but it's the third attempt by Toyota to enter the full-size North American pickup market in a meaningful way. Who remembers the T-100? Well, success is really no longer a question-they have established a foothold in the market. Now it's more a question of what they will do with it. Specifically, when will Toyota ramp up to offer what the others offer?
To recap: The second-generation Tundra launched as a 2007 model to much fanfare and managed to nearly double its sales from the previous version. Part of that success was because of a new engine-the snorting 5.7L V8 with 381 horsepower, which outgunned its competition. But as a very real lesson of "timing is everything," that advantage turned out to be short-lived. With the upward trend in gas prices in 2008 and the subsequent collapse of the auto market (a 27-percent overall decline in pickup sales in 2008 alone), the Tundra (like all the trucks) went for a spill after its honeymoon debut.
As the '09 model year approached, the new generation of Ford and Dodge pickups magnified one of the problems confronting the Tundra-namely, a lack of engine choices. And while originally it offered the i-Force 4.7L that made 271 horsepower and 313 lb-ft of torque coupled to a five-speed automatic, the older engine had fallen behind its competitors and was only a stop-gap measure. This observation makes even more sense when looking at the fuel economy ratings of the 4.7L, which turned out to be poorer than the company's predictions for the new and larger 5.7L.
With the release of the 2010 Tundra, Toyota has now addressed the problem. The 4.7L is gone in favor of a brand-new 4.6L V-8 engine that's now the base-model standard. Unlike the old 4.7 though, this new motor actually offers benefits for its smaller displacement. In addition, Toyota has packaged two new versions of the Tundra around this engine. This engine's performance is attributed to two technologies that are new to the Tundra. The first is a Cooled Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) System which reduces smog-forming emissions and improves overall fuel efficiency. The second is an Acoustic Control Induction System (ACIS) that optimizes power and torque output. These technologies help the engine produce 310 horsepower and 327 lb-ft of torque, while still offering a combined fuel consumption rating of close to 20 mpg. Compared to the outgoing 4.7L engine, this is a 12-percent increase in horsepower and an 11-percent increase in fuel economy.
The new engine is now coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission instead of the old five-speed. So while this powertrain combination is the key change for 2010, Toyota has also done a bit of housekeeping (so to speak) on the truck itself, with some modest fascia changes and added safety and standard features.