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

Don Sherman

Damper calibrations new for 2011 accommodate changes in powertrain mass. While all-around ride quality is good, the F-150s still don't top Ram pickups equipped with well located coil-sprung rear axles. Also, there's some quiver in the Fords' chassis over severely racked pavement. Brake calibrations have been adjusted to key response more to pedal pressure versus pedal travel.

One of the nicest upgrades this year is the addition of a 4.2-inch LCD screen positioned between the speedometer and the tachometer. While a similar display in the Ram may have prompted this move, Ford used the opportunity to do an excellent job of providing more information than most drivers will ever need. A square switch on the steering wheel is programmed to intuitively cruise through six menus. In gauge mode, the permanent transmission temperature dial is supplemented by a digital readout in degrees F. The trip computer provides time, mileage, and fuel consumption information for two distinct journeys. The fuel economy choice gives you detailed histories of consumption and instantaneous mpg info. The settings option allows you to disable such irritating features as automatic door locking. In information, you can read the oil life remaining, various warning messages, and the number of hours the engine has been running. The truck applications menu provides watch over differential and transfer case settings, roll and pitch angles, and electric trailer brake programming. The only down side is that the alphanumeric display for time, compass heading, and outside temperature located at the top of the center-dash stack now cries out for an upgrade.

A slew of new engines and supporting improvements are just what Ford needs to flush reluctant full-sized pickup truck owners out of hiding. While the competition dithers, the F-150 offers the tantalizing prospect of gains in both performance and fuel economy. That combo is sure to stretch Ford's lead over arch-rival Chevy and increase the F-150's market share, now at 39-percent and rising. So saddle up truck fans and hitch your hauler to the US economy. We need to yank business out of the ditch and back into the productivity lane.

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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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