First Look: 2011 Ford F-150 Powertrain

Traditionally, pickup trucks were sold with a combination of brand bravado and bragging rights. But paradigm seems to be shifting. According to Ford, 70 percent of full-size truck buyers wish for an improvement in fuel economy, and a whopping 32 percent are willing to abandon their loyalties and buy another brand.

The folks at Ford viewed that as a wake-up call. For 2011, the F-150's entire engine portfolio has been revised to not only offer additional power, but also deliver roughly 20-percent better fuel economy than the 2010 engine range.

Base Engine? Six Cylinders, Not Eight
To start, an eight-cylinder engine is no longer the base engine. While entry-level 2010 F-150s used the aging 4.6-liter, two-valve V-8, that engine is superseded by a 3.7-liter, DOHC V-6.

First launched in the 2011 Mustang, the aluminum-block six-cylinder features twin independent camshaft timing, and has been slightly re-tuned - notably in its intake and exhaust systems -- to be less rev-happy and more towing-friendly. The truck-tuned 3.7-liter is rated at 300 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 275 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm, a slight drop from its Mustang-spec form, which was rated at 305 horsepower and 280 pound-feet. It is, however, comparable to the old two-valve 4.6-liter V-8, which cranked out 248 ponies and 294 pound-feet of torque. In two-wheel-drive, regular cab trucks, the 3.7 reportedly is capable of towing as many as 6100 pounds.

Don't expect this engine choice to be limited to stripped-down work trucks. All two-wheel-drive XL, STX, and XLT models will carry this engine as standard equipment, regardless of cab choice or bed configuration.

Big Five-Oh
Unsurprisingly, another Mustang engine worms its way into the new 2011 F-Series, albeit with a few tweaks. The vaulted 5.0-liter, DOHC V-8, launched in the 2011 Mustang GT, is available in virtually every F-150 trim between the XL and Platinum lines. For the most part, the engine is identical to that used in the pony car, but slight revisions -- including re-tuned intake camshafts, decreased compression, and an additional oil cooler -- shift its output in favor of delivering more low-end torque.

In F-150 form, the 5.0 churns out 360 horsepower at 5500 rpm, and 380 pound-feet of torque at 4250 rpm. That's a little less than the 412 horsepower and 390 pound-feet offered in the Mustang, but most truck drivers like will appreciate a broad, flat torque curve. Regardless, those figures are still a substantial upgrade compared to last year's mid-grade V-8 (the three-valve 4.6-liter was rated at 292 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque), but it also knocks on the door of 2010's premium engine, the 5.4-liter Triton V-8 (320 horsepower, 390 pound-feet of torque).

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Edward A. Sanchez
No question about it, Ford's on a roll. The one disappointment of the last refresh of the F-150 was the powertrains, and now that that's been addressed, I'd say we have the definite leader in the half-ton class now.

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