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 While entry-level 2010 F-150s used the aging 4.6-liter, two-valve V-8, that engine is superseded by a 3.7-liter, DOHC V-6.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.
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).
EcoBoost For Economy
Interestingly, the premium option for most F-150s won’t be an eight-cylinder. Long a poorly kept secret, Ford is stuffing its twin-turbocharged, direct-injection 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 under the hood of its full-size truck. First seen in the likes of the Taurus SHO and the Flex crossover, the twin-turbo-six will be blessed with a number of revisions — notably tied to the intake, exhuast, and turbochargers — that will ready the engine for its first longitudinal application.
Ford has remained surprisingly mum on the engine, but we’ve heard whispers that the truck-tuned EcoBoost will produce in the realm of 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, and return a highway MPG figure in the mid-20s. Ford did reveal that the maximum towing capacity of a boosted F-150 will be close to 11,300 pounds, matching that of its biggest V-8.
The Big Boss
That big V-8 is none other than the SOHC 6.2-liter “Boss” V-8, first launched as an option in the 2010 F-150 SVT Raptor and as a standard gas engine on the 2011 Super Duty. For the 2011 F-150, the engine remains unchanged; power is still rated at 411 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 434 pound-feet of torque. Don’t, however, expect to see this engine offered in every trim level. It’ll be the sole engine offering in both the Raptor and the new 2011 Harley-Davidson F-150, but it may appear as an option only in premium models like the Platinum or King Ranch.
Six Speeds for All
In contrast to the variety of engines, 2011 F-150s will come with only one transmission: Ford’s 6R80 six-speed automatic. Although we’ve seen this transmission in use for a few years, the gearbox has been re-tuned for better performance and control. A range select mode allows drivers to limit the span of gears used, while another mode allows full manual shifting.
More Features and Numbers?
Although we expect a few new touches to appear in the production truck (the productivity screen, found in the 2011 Harley-Davidson model, for instance), most of the 2011 F-150’s revisions will circle around its engine compartment.
Although Job One for these 2011 trucks is quickly approaching, Ford has refrained from providing firm fuel economy (and in the case of the EcoBoost, horsepower) figures, saying its engineers are still working on finalizing the calibration and certification for each engine. Those numbers will have to come soon – production of 3.5, 5.0, and 6.2-liter trucks is expected to begin in late September, while the EcoBoost F-150 will launch later in fall 2010.