Wow, what a huge difference Ford’s new 5.0-liter V-8 makes in the F-150. I never really liked the old 5.4-liter V-8 because it was slow to rev, sounded a bit old and coarse, and didn’t ever feel as good as the rest of the F-150. The 5.0 sounds great, revs very quickly, and completely changes the character of the most popular pickup in America.
I’m disappointed by the 14/19 mpg ratings of the 5.0 when equipped with 4wd, but it does improve upon the 14/18 mpg ratings of the old 5.4-liter. That single mpg improvement should save owners $213 per year according to the EPA’s web site (at an average of $3.38 per gallon). As fuel prices climb, even one mpg can make a difference. So, Ford, let’s hope for 20+ mpg on the highway with 4wd soon. Chevy manages 15/21 mpg ratings with a 5.3-liter V-8 and 4wd. And the 5.3-liter V-8 in the Silverado is much older than Ford’s 5.0.
When you take into account the F-150’s new electric power steering system, and the Silverado’s old hydraulic power steering, the difference in fuel economy is even more disappointing. While the steering feels very natural, what’s the point of having electric power steering without a benefit in fuel economy?
The F-150 Raptor can’t use EPS; it needs hydraulic power steering, to handle the increased stress associated with its huge front tires and the desert racing expectations of its owners. The 5.0 lacks provisions for running a hydraulic power steering pump, so it cannot be used in the Raptor.
In summary, the F-150 is a great truck with the 5.0-liter V-8. It’s just too bad the best F-150, the Raptor, can’t use my favorite F-150 engine.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Producer
Ford’s 5.0-liter V-8 is a brilliant engine, as first demonstrated in the 2011 Mustang and now confirmed with the 2011 F-150. It’s so good that it makes me sad-sad that we’ll never have a 5.0-liter rear-wheel-drive sedan or an Explorer with this new engine. But I should be grateful for what we have, which is a smooth and lively, powerful yet refined V-8. This is the engine that America’s best-selling vehicle deserves.
Along with the new engine, the F-150’s road manners are improved with the excellent six-speed automatic transmission that selects gears and shifts with a confidence and smoothness that weren’t found in the previous five-speed. The new electric power steering didn’t need to be great to do better than the overboosted, lifeless hydraulic setup, but it is. The steering wheel offers natural-feeling assist without being too heavy at low speeds. The only 2011 change that I’m not keen on is the digital readout in the gauge cluster adapted from the Super Duty. It could be a very nice touch if Ford toned down the design for more driver-friendly displays, but as it is I find it extremely distracting.
The F-150 also appears to be a demonstration of how Ford has mastered the product lifecycle. While the F-150 received a major update in 2009, the new engines (there are four of them) and other upgrades are enough to make the 2011 model feel like a new vehicle.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
We’ve had quite a few performance-tuned (i.e. Raptor) and luxurious (i.e. King Ranch, Harley-Davidson, etc) F-150s come through here in the past, so it was refreshing to drive a more modestly equipped example this time around.
As my colleagues have noted, the big news for 2011 is the powertrain. F-150s receive four new engine offerings (including the EcoBoost twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6), but the addition of the all-new 5.0-liter V-8 is perhaps most welcome. It’s powerful, responsive, and a vast improvement on the previous, anemic 5.4-liter.
Apart from the underhood revisions, the majority of the truck is essentially as Ford launched it back in 2009. That isn’t a bad thing — the current truck rides and drives rather nicely, and incorporates a number of subtle yet smart design cues (the outer door skins, for instance, almost wrap around the door sills to keep them clear of mud).
One new feature is the new in-cluster display screen. Not only does it provide the typical oil and transmission temperature readouts, but it also allows owners to preset trailer brake controller settings (if so equipped) for a number of different trailers. Neat.
Continual refinements like these improve on an already impressive product.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
It’s too bad for this perfectly nice F-150 that it was overshadowed by the outrageous orange Raptor SVT that (just barely) parked in our garage a week later. Taken on its own merits, this F-150 XLT is pretty damn good.
The 5.0 is all the engine most drivers will ever need, even in big crew cab model like this. The truck is composed on rough rural roads and highways alike, and the cabin is comfortable and well laid out.
Ford seems to have settled down and gotten the F-150’s chrome and trim under control after a few awkward years when this current model was introduced. While I prefer the blacked-out grille and bumpers and flared panels of the Raptor, this F-150 is a handsome machine.
Assuming the purchase of a pickup like this is one of utility, I’d opt for the slightly more compact SuperCab over the SuperCrew, and get a larger, 8-foot bed instead.
Matt Tierney, Art Director
2011 Ford F-150 4×4 SuperCrew
Base price (with destination): $36,870
Price as tested: $38,120
5.0-liter V-8 engine
6-speed automatic transmission
2-speed transfer case
Electric shift-on-the-fly 4×4 system
Tire pressure monitoring system
Trailer sway control
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
AdvanceTrac with roll stability control
Front tow hooks
Locking removable tailgate
Tilt steering column
Options on this vehicle:
XLT convenience package — $950
Power adjustable pedals
Sync voice activated systems
Power signal heated mirrors
Power driver’s seat
Trailer tow package — $375
3.73 Ratio limited slip axle — $300
Cloth captains chairs — $300
Keyless entry keypad — $75
Key options not on vehicle:
XLT in-dash computer convenience package — $1875
XLT plus package — $495
Rearview camera — $450
Power sliding rear window — $422
Auto-dimming rearview mirror — $393
14 / 19 / 16 mpg
Size: 5.0L V-8
Horsepower: 360 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 380 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
Curb weight: 5577 lb
Wheels/tires: 17-inch alloy wheels
265/70R17 all-terrain tires