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2011 Ford F-150 - First Drive

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on February 1, 2011
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Photographers: Ford Motor Company

Hang on to your lug nuts because Ford has unveiled four new powerplants for the 2011 Ford F-150. This is a pretty big deal because it's the most extensive powertrain makeover in the truck's 62-year history. In addition, Ford says that these new engines make the 2011 F-150 up to 20 percent more fuel-efficient than the 2010 Ford F-150. So, say goodbye to the two- and three-valve 4.6L and 5.4L V-8s because they're sailing off into the sunset. Say hello to the new hotness; the 3.7L V-6, 5.0L V-8, 6.2L V-8, and 3.5L EcoBoost V-6. How hot are they? We had a chance to drive all of them in Texas recently, and here's the lowdown.

3.7L V-6
This is the base engine in the F-150. Ford says it's the latest application of the award-winning Duratec V-6, with upgrades for the light truck application. They tout that it's designed to be the most powerful, capable, and fuel-efficient base V-6 of any truck in its class. This Cleveland-built, four-valve, E85-capable engine is all-aluminum and has six-bolt bearing caps, a forged steel crankshaft, piston cooling jets, die-cast aluminum deep-sump oil pan, tuned composite upper and lower intake manifolds, and twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT). It punches out 302 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque and can to tow up to 6,100 pounds. It's rated at 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway in two-wheel drive configuration (four-wheel drive mpg numbers were not available at press time). We were surprised at the get-up-'n-go of this engine. As a point of reference, during testing on a timing light-equipped 640-foot track (which is 20 feet shy of 1/8-mile), we logged a best run of 9.7 seconds at 64.4 mph. The engine is light years ahead of V-6 and I-6 truck engines we've experienced in the past in terms of refinement and power. It's perfect for those who want good mpg and decent performance.

5.0L V-8
This all-aluminum, four-valve, dual overhead-cam engine is similar to the 5.0L powering the 2011 Mustang GT, but it has undergone a number of enhancements for light truck service. The camshafts were tuned to improve low-speed torque; the 10.5:1 compression was optimized to reduce knock tendency at lower engine speeds while towing; an oil cooler was added to increase the life of the oil; the fuel injectors are foam-covered to reduce NVH levels; and the exhaust manifolds are cast for improved durability. The Windsor, Ontario, Canada-built engine has Ti-VCT, unique intake camshafts, a forged-steel crankshaft, piston-cooling jets, a composite intake manifold, 8-quart oil capacity, and E85 fuel capability. Compared to the outgoing 5.4L V-8, the engine block is 70 pounds lighter. According to Ford, the engine has a number of best-in-class specs including 360 horsepower, 380 lb-ft of torque, and a 10,000-pound maximum towing capacity. In 4x2 configuration, the 5.0L engine is rated at 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway. The engine emits a nice exhaust burble, and it willingly wound through the rpm's. We turned 75.3 mph in 8.8 seconds on the 640-foot track. We speculate that this is the engine that will power the majority of F-150s. Ford says that in models where it doesn't come standard, it'll cost $1,000 to upgrade to the 5.0L from the 3.7L V-6.

6.2L V-8
This is the largest-displacement engine available in the F-150, and Ford calls it the "premium engine offering." It's a version of the 6.2L base engine in the 2011 Super Duty and 2010 Raptor and it has been proven at the '08 Baja 1000 and the '09 Best In The Desert off-road racing series. This Romeo, Michigan-built, two-valve, single overhead-cam engine utilizes a large bore to allow for larger intake and exhaust valves. It has a shorter stroke to allow for higher engine speed, which translates to increased horsepower. Features include a high-strength deep skirt cast-iron block, aluminum heads, dual spark plugs, cast-iron crankshaft, deep sump stamped-steel oil pan, piston cooling jets, cast exhaust manifolds, six-bolt main bearing caps, cam torque-actuated dual equal variable cam timing, and a tuned, composite, single-plenum intake manifold. If you want bass rumble, this is your engine. The eight-cylinder choir produces a sweet big-bore sound at startup, and that harmony continues throughout the powerband. It produces 411 horsepower, 434 lb-ft of torque, and has an 11,300-pound maximum tow rating. In 4x2 versions, the truck is rated at 12 mpg city and 17 mpg highway. Max torque and horsepower roll on within 1,000 rpm of each other, so this engine produces versatile power whether you're looking for speed or grunt. On the 640-foot track, the 6.2L propelled us to 68.18 mph in 8.92 seconds. The 6.2L is standard on a few models, like the Harley Davidson and Raptor, but where it's not, it'll cost you $1,995 to play.

3.5L EcoBoost V-6
Designed to offer the power of a normally-aspirated V-8 while delivering the fuel economy of smaller-displacement engines, the high-tech EcoBoost V6 relies mainly on a pair of turbochargers to work the magic. There's a Borg-Warner turbo on each side of the engine, and each works in conjunction with three cylinders. Each fixed-geometry turbo has wastegate control, and they're water- and oil-cooled. Further, there's a thermal siphoning feature built in to cool the turbos after the engine is shut down. Maximum boost is 13 1/2 psi.

The engine itself is all-aluminum and features a forged steel crankshaft, die-cast aluminum deep sump oil pan, six-bolt main bearing caps, cast exhaust manifolds, Ti-VCT, one-piece composite intake manifold, direct-acting mechanical bucket valvetrain, and a direct-injection fuel system. The Cleveland, Ohio-built EcoBoost produces 365 horsepower, 420 lb-ft of torque, and has a maximum towing capacity of 11,300 pounds. During our drive, Ford sponsored the "Ford EcoBoost V6 Fuel Economy Challenge," which involved trying to squeeze the most mpg out of the EcoBoost-powered trucks equipped with 3.15:1 axle gears. The Challenge took place on an approximately 20-mile course while being monitored by Ford representatives via the Ford Work Solutions onboard computer. The top mpg winner in our group of 24 drivers logged a shocking 32.5 mpg. Bear in mind, this was full-on "hypermiling" and not normal driving, but it's impressive nonetheless. While the rest of our group focused on actually trying to get good fuel mileage, we ignored the challenge completely and put our foot-to-the-floor at every opportunity, which earned us a dead-last finishing position. But here's the amazing thing: we still got 19.4 mpg.

And though its first name may be "Eco," its last name is "Boost," and boost it does. When asked, the EcoBoost V-6 pulls impressively strong. We think this is a performance engine that just happens to get good mileage. At press time, official mpg numbers weren't available, but pricing was, and it'll cost you $750 to step up to the EcoBoost from the 5.0L engine and $1,750 from the 3.7L engine. The EcoBoost will be available on 90 percent of the F-150 lineup.

What's Hot:
Four new engine choices, fuel mileage increase, easy drivability.

What's Not:
Needs a front locker option on 4x4 models.

Our Take:
Great truck with enough configurations to keep just about everyone happy.

Six-speeds for Everybody
The Ford 6R80 six-speed transmission will be standard for each of the four new engines in 2011. The transmission has been "optimized" for each engine, and an example of that is that the 6R80 behind the 3.7L engine has fewer clutch plates compared to how the 6R80 is configured for other engines. The 6R80, which is now linked to the engine computer, offers features such as SelectShift Automatic capability, a new one-way clutch for smoother 1-2 and 2-1 shifts, and a recalibrated Tow/Haul mode.

Another new feature of the 2011 F-150 is electric power-assisted steering (EPAS). This system is available with all engines except the 6.2L and eliminates hydraulic lines and fluid, helps improve fuel mileage, and is quieter than a standard system. The rack-and-pinion-based system includes computers and an electric motor. It is speed-sensitive and can help correct for road irregularities and crosswinds. The steering gear can be tuned and the tuning is software-based, so the steering can be programmed to each model based on powertrain, wheelbase, etc. After experiencing it, we can say it's an amazing achievement. It's very confidence-inspiring and helps to make the F-150 a very stable, easy-to-drive truck.

But Wait, There's More
In addition to the engine and mechanical changes, the F-150 also sports a variety of new standard and optional items. Seen here is the optional new 4.2-inch LCD message center that's navigated via a five-way button on the steering wheel. Other new features include a larger screen for the rear view camera; a three-way safety belt and head restraint for the middle passenger in the front seat; express up and down front windows; 110-volt outlet; remote start; telescoping steering wheel; HD radio; and perimeter alarm.

Vehicle: 2011 Ford F-150 4x4
Base Price: $26,785-$51,140
Engine(s): 3.7L V-6, 5.0L V-8, 6.2L V-8, 3.5L EcoBoost V-6
Transmission: 6R80
Transfer case(s): Model 44-19 (two-speed electronic), Model 44-18 (two-speed manual), Model 44-17 (one-speed)
Low range ratio: 2.64:1
Frame type: Ladder
Suspension, f/r: Coil-on-shock, long spindle double wishbone independent, stamped steel lower control arm/Hotchkiss-type live axle, leaf springs, outboard shock absorbers
Ring and pinion (:1): 3.31-3.73
Max crawl ratio: 41:1
Steering: Rack-and-pinion, electric power-assisted steering (N/A with 6.2L V-8), hydraulic power-assisted steering (6.2L V-8 only)
Brakes f/r (in): 13.8x1.34 vented disc with dual-piston calipers/13.7x0.79 vented disc with single-piston calipers
Wheels (in): 20 (FX4)
Tires: P275/55R20 (FX4)
Wheelbase (in): 125.9-156.5
Length (in): 213.2-250.4
Height (in): 76.0-76.7
GVWR (lb): 6,650-8,200
Base curb weight (lb): 4,925-5,866
Max towing capacity (lb): 5,700-11,300
Fuel capacity (gal): 26-36

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