Turbo Truck May Shove Ford to Top of Light-Pickup HeapBy Bill Visnic August 11, 2010
Ford Motor Co. promised its EcoBoost suite of high-tech engine technology would start to spread throughout its lineup, and today announced another significant application for the power- and fuel-efficiency-enhancing EcoBoost V6: the 2011 F-150 pickup.
The turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost joins Ford's snarly 5-liter V8 and a normally aspirated 3.7-liter V6 as new additions to the F-150 powertrain portfolio as Ford at once tries to make the half-ton pickup more relevant - and sellable - in a U.S. market that turned its back on pickups after a fuel-price scare followed by a deep and stubborn recession.
Only now are pickup buyers hesitantly returning to the market; those who are, like just about every other new-vehicle buyer, increasingly are looking for better fuel economy. The F-150's heavily revised engine lineup for 2011 is Ford's answer, one that company engineers today claimed will boost the entire F-150 lineup's fuel economy by 20 percent compared with 2010 and will be "class-leading" for all but the F-150's largest engine choice, the 6.2-liter V8 that's already been seen in the special F-150 Raptor.
Ford's new engine strategy is a telling symbol of how attitudes and market conditions have changed since the current-generation F-150 launched for 2009 with a V8-only engine lineup that eschewed 6-cylinder power even for base models.
Turbo + Pickup = Premium
In the past, turbocharged engines and pickups haven't been seen as much of a match and this rare packaging means 3.5-liter EcoBoost will be the F-150's premium engine choice - although it will be available in all trim levels when it comes on stream early next year.
The EcoBoost concept centers on three technology features: turbocharging, direct fuel injection and variable camshaft timing for both intake- and exhaust-valve camshafts.
Ford engineers said final fuel-economy figures haven't been calculated for the new EcoBoost-propelled F-150, but said it will deliver a 20-percent improvement over a 2010 F-150 with the 5.4-liter V-8, which in rear-drive configuration is rated at 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. Ford also said it hasn't finalized power and torque numbers for the F-150 EcoBoost application, but it will be interesting to see if the EcoBoost can deliver a 24-mpg highway rating the 20-percent-increase claim suggests.
Ford's 6R80 6-speed automatic backs all engines. It has two new features related to pickup duty: a manual-shift mode and a "select shift" setting that permits certain gears to be locked out, easing gear "hunt" in demanding driving situations.
In addition to strong claims for power and fuel economy, Ford engineers also said the new engines will be capable of serious tugging. The tow rating for the EcoBoost and 6.3-liter engines is 11,300 pounds; the 5-liter V8 (360 hp and 380 lb.-ft.) can tow up to 9,800 pounds and the 3.7-liter V6 (300 estimated horses and 275 lb.-ft.) will tow up to 6,100 pounds.
Expected now is a riposte from chief competitor General Motors Co. and perhaps even Toyota Motor Corp. General Motors already has said it is preparing major power and efficiency advances the longstanding small-block V8s that are a mainstay of its Chevrolet and GMC light-duty pickups.
Photos courtesy of Ford
1. 2011 F-150 Harley-Davidson edition
2. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 trimmed for F-150 application.