Driven: 2012 Ford F150 Ecoboost

Ford recently built its 100,000th Ecoboost-equipped F-series pickup, ten months after the engine was first introduced in February. By any measure, the turbocharged V-6 has been well received by F-series buyers, who it was feared might look askance at an engine that wasn't a V-8.

The impressive part is that they paid $895 extra (over the 5.0-liter V-8) to get the Ecoboost V-6. They will save some money on gasoline, but the fuel economy difference between the two engines really is not that great. With rear-wheel drive, the Ecoboost F-150 gets 16/22 mpg, which beats the V-8 version by 1 mpg, both city and highway. The four-wheel-drive Ecoboost is rated at 15/21 mpg, which betters its V-8 counterpart by 1 mpg city and 2 mpg highway. Ecoboost owners who drive 15,000 miles per year will save a little less than $200 annually at the pump (with gas at $3.23 a gallon).

Besides fuel economy, the Ecoboost engine also increases towing capacity slightly, by about 500 pounds, which judging by TV commercials, is something that's always on the minds of pickup truck buyers. The turbo V-6 also might have better resale value come trade-in time.

After spending a week with an Ecoboost-equipped F-150 Lariat SuperCrew, I can say that buyers do not sacrifice driveability. The engine is torquey and responsive. It makes 40 more pound-feet of torque than the V-8 (420 pound-feet total) and does so at a lower RPM. Although the throttle isn't jumpy, it takes only a light pressure to smartly accelerate this big boy, accompanied by a slight whoosh from the turbo. Nice.

In other thoughts, the four-door cab is stretch-out spacious; the fancy Lariat trim level is suitably deluxe although the fake wood adorning the massive center stack is particularly unconvincing. The electrically assisted power steering could be tuned better; it's springy and overboosted.

Finally, I couldn't help but marvel at the F-150's sheer hugeness. A SuperCrew with a 5.5-foot box (a 6.5-foot can be had), its wheelbase spans 145 inches, and the truck is a challenge to berth and maneuver. Unless you'll be parking it in a field, consider the optional backup camera a necessity. The widespread gigantism of today's full-size pickups also means that even six-foot adults have to climb up to get aboard, and loading cargo into the bed requires a big lift. Full-size pickups weren't always this overgrown. There was a time when they weren't much taller than regular cars, and they still managed to get the job done. Now they've gone all steroidal and ridiculous.

But maybe the fact that F-series buyers have embraced a turbo-boosted smaller engine when it was feared that they were wedded to V-8s is a signal that they're smarter than manufacturers' give them credit for. Maybe, just maybe, truck makers could step back from the race to build ever-more-gargantuan pickups, and focus instead on making the best possible tool to helps truck buyers do what they need. The EcoBoost V-6 could be a start.

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second or third owners may regret buying a turbo. They need care and feeding much more so than a non-turbo motor. regular synthetic changes are a must and would cancel out any gas mileage advantages.

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