Ford's 5.0-liter V-8 is a brilliant engine, as first demonstrated in the 2011 Mustang and now confirmed with the 2011 F-150. It's so good that it makes me sad-sad that we'll never have a 5.0-liter rear-wheel-drive sedan or an Explorer with this new engine. But I should be grateful for what we have, which is a smooth and lively, powerful yet refined V-8. This is the engine that America's best-selling vehicle deserves.
Along with the new engine, the F-150's road manners are improved with the excellent six-speed automatic transmission that selects gears and shifts with a confidence and smoothness that weren't found in the previous five-speed. The new electric power steering didn't need to be great to do better than the overboosted, lifeless hydraulic setup, but it is. The steering wheel offers natural-feeling assist without being too heavy at low speeds. The only 2011 change that I'm not keen on is the digital readout in the gauge cluster adapted from the Super Duty. It could be a very nice touch if Ford toned down the design for more driver-friendly displays, but as it is I find it extremely distracting.
The F-150 also appears to be a demonstration of how Ford has mastered the product lifecycle. While the F-150 received a major update in 2009, the new engines (there are four of them) and other upgrades are enough to make the 2011 model feel like a new vehicle.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor