First Drive: 2011 Ford F150 (V-8s)

Don Sherman

When pump prices soar and the economy dives, full-sized pickup truck sales plummet. With jobs and mortgages in jeopardy, who needs an expensive gas guzzler's fat monthly payments? This calamity and the bankruptcy experienced by two out of Detroit's (formerly) Big Three would normally send truck engineers straight to early retirement. Ford, however, never got that memo. A thorough overall for the 2011 F-150 pickups kept right on truckin'. In the teeth of troubled times, the class leader kept its head high and prospects bright for the post apocalypse.

So, while Chrysler and GM are barely back on their 4x4 feet and Nissan and Toyota are still decoding their big-pickup game plan, Ford is rolling out the most new the F-150 has ever seen in its 62-year history: 4 engines, one transmission, significant chassis upgrades, and an instrument cluster that bares this truck's soul. To show serious intent, the F-150s even have new ignition keys that combine lock and remote-control functions in one convenient unit.

We'll focus on the V-8 half of the story in this report because tradition dies hard and most customers will gravitate towards the satisfying thump and steady pull only eight cylinders can deliver. (See an accompanying F-150 Web Driven for V-6 engine details.)

The smart part of Ford's comprehensive F-150 powertrain upgrade is that the Mustang shares two out of the four engines and a version of the new 6-speed automatic transmission.

The workhorse engine which will likely power more F-150s than its three teammates put together is a 5.0-liter V-8 that provides an astute balance of initial cost, power, torque, and fuel efficiency. (Regrettably, Ford has not yet divulged EPA ratings, so the most we can currently report about mileage is 'up to 20-percent better' than the retired 4.6-liter V-8 provided. Plan on roughly 19 mpg combined.)

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Edward A. Sanchez
I agree that the 5.0 is going to be the bread-and-butter of the F-150 powertrain lineup. I think it's a great engine, and frankly, just as impressive as the 6.2, seat-of-the-pants.

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