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

Don Sherman
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While the 6.2 is a member in good standing of Ford's modular V-8 family, it's the least sophisticated engine offered in the F-150. The deep-skirt block is cast iron and the valvetrain is an SOHC configuration with intake and exhaust timing variable but locked in synch. There are but two valves per cylinder; twin spark plugs per hole help eliminate misfiring. Fuel economy in the mid- to high-teens is within reach with low twenties possible on the highway. Already in service powering the remarkable F-150 SVT Raptor, this engine will surely be a favorite for heavy haulers and owners who never hesitate to move any house requiring a new address. While the 6.2 doesn't feel nearly as eager as the 5.0, it does show mid-range strength and a stirring howl on the way to its 5500 rpm power peak where it delivers a class-leading 411 horsepower.

The unsung hero behind these engines is a new 6-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission fitted to each and every 2011 F-150. (Our sincere condolences to stick shift fans.) Labeled 6R80, this box offers a 6.0:1 ratio spread between first and sixth, two overdrive ratios, and four distinct operating modes: regular automatic operation, a tow-haul program, driver-controlled manual shifting, or what Ford calls Progressive Range Select. An M slot in the shift gate offers command over upshifts with each gear held until a +/- switch on the lever is tapped. Toggling that switch with the lever in D allows blocking out upper gear ratios to avoid unwanted automatic shifts while towing heavy loads on aggressive grades. When this choice is activated, the current gear and available gears are displayed at the right side of an LCD window built into the central instrument cluster. Shifts are well orchestrated and free of shock and vibration.

While other brands offer comparable automatics, the F-150 is the only full-sized pickup with six speeds standard. Two tactical errors: only a few of the F-150 tachometers are marked with a redline and trucks equipped with column shifts have the all-important +/- switch hidden behind the steering wheel rim.

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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